Conservation of the Critically Endangered Large-antlered muntjac: a site-based project in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area, Laos

The Large-antlered Muntjac is native to Laos and Vietnam (and possibly marginally in Cambodia) where it is largely restricted to the Annamite Mountain range. Its current occurrence across this range is uncertain, and the global population is scarce and scattered in isolated populations, which, in Vietnam, are all small or have recently faced local extinction. Since the remarkable scientific discovery of the species in 1994, there have been no project specifically focusing on the species. The species was up-listed from Endangered (2008) to Critically Endangered in 2016. Its global conservation status has been assessed based on the few post-2000 (direct or indirect) records across its geographic range compared to record rates pre-2000; evidence-based declines in the most healthy populations; the considerable increase in commercial and recreational wildlife hunting in the species’ range; the considerable reduction in suitable habitat for the species and the fact that the species is associated with mainly lowlands, which are systematically in close proximity to human settlements, where hunting for local consumption and trade has increased in the past decade. These compiled evidences have led to the conclusion that the Large-antlered Muntjac’s global population has faced a decline of over 90% in the last 20-30 years, and will continue to decline at the same rate until total extinction if no urgent action is taken to reverse current trends. The chore global population of the species (which has already experienced important declines) occur in Laos and notably in the Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area (NNT NPA), where it is imperative to act now to ensure a sustainable population. This project aims the population in NNT NPA to develop Conservation Action Plans at the global scale.

Large Mammals of the Cayambe Coca National Park, Ecuador

The Large Mammals Project in the Cayambe Coca National Park, is studying the largest mammals of the Andes of South America, Andean Bear, Mountain Tapir and Puma. Since 2010 we have deployed Iridium / GPS collars to 5 Andean bears and 10 mountain tapirs. Some scientific articles on the ecology and biology of these species have already been published. Three years ago we received the request for help from the Oyacachi indigenous community, which since 2000 is suffering the loss of its cattle due to the predation by bears and pumas.
To reduce the conflict, we have created a small compensation program through a mutual agreement signed with the Oyacachi community, they are committed to respect and protect the life of the problem carnivores, especially bears, in exchange for our project returning calves to change of predated cows, training of the community´s young people on environmental issues, review and veterinary medication of their livestock, these points we have more or less covered with donations coming from Ecuadorian people.
Our project now seeks through the research is to capture one or two predatory bears to deploy on them satellite collars and study their movements, so we can create a predict model about bear predation, never before conceived in the region, which will be delivered to the community and to the environmental authorities, so we think we will reduce the human-bear conflict and achieve a peaceful coexistence.

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.

Marking behavior, population density estimates, and terrain use of Andean bears Tremarctos ornatus – generating knowledge for conservation of a threatened umbrella species

The Andean bear is endemic to South America, and has the status of an umbrella species. Andean bears are classified as ‘Vulnerable to extinction, decreasing’ according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened species and locally as ‘Endangered’. The general ecology and status of local populations of Andean bear remains poorly understood. Two important reasons explain this knowledge gap. First, the Andean bear is a challenging species to study, because it has an elusive nature and inhabits inaccessible habitat. Secondly, resources for wildlife research are very scarce in South America. During a pilot project in 2012-2015, we used remote video cameras to study marking behavior of Andean bears near the Sumaco Biosphere reserve in Ecuador. Besides interesting preliminary results, we identified several key-research needs for the management and conservation of Andean bears. I) The functional significance of marking behavior of Andean bears remains unclear. II) Local population status is typically unknown. III) Virtually nothing is known about the spatial features of Andean bear marking and habitat selection. IV) An open biological sample database for Andean bears is currently lacking. Additionally, V) we intend to enroll Filipczykova into a PhD program at the Central Queensland University (CQUniversity).
Since 2016, we work on the above-mentioned key research-needs and objectives using camera trapping and GPS mapping of bear sign data in two study populations in Ecuador. In addition, we established collaborations with other research groups, local communities, and governmental and non-governmental organizations in order to reduce human-bear conflict. Currently we are searching for funding that would support our field work for the season 2018/2019, especially extensive habitat measurements; i.e. camera traps, camping equipment, guide salaries, other technical equipment. Also, Filipczyková got accepted as a PhD student at CQUniversity focusing on conservation of Andean bears through their marking behavior and data obtained from this project. CQUniversity approved a fee waiver, which means that we are still looking for funding to support Filipczyková\’s salary.

Black Rhino Conservation

The Chyulu Hills rhino population is of critical value to rhino conservation at an international level. The population is one of the very few genetically independent populations of Eastern Black rhino (Diceros bicornis michaeli) left in East Africa today.
Of additional significance is the habitat itself, highly suitable to Black rhinos in terms of forage and space availability. The entire hill range represents an opportunity for the growth of the population and offers a significant step in rhino conservation on a national level.
The Chyulu Hills cover an area of over 400 km2, the 4th largest National Park in Kenya, with a huge potential for the future of rhino conservation. This National Park belongs to the Amboseli-Kilimanjaro ecosystem and offers next to rhinos also a large variety of other species feeding grounds during the dry season.
Approximately 80% of the rhinos’ range falls within the Chyulu Hills National Park, a heavily vegetated line of volcanic hills; the remaining 20% falls on the neighbouring Mbirikani Group Ranch, a Maasai collective comprising about 10,000 households and their livestock, which is part of the greater Amboseli- Kilimanjaro – Tsavo Conservation Area. The Chyulus’ rhinos are monitored and protected by rangers from the Big Life Foundation. BLF works in tandem with the Kenyan Wildlife Service (KWS) and has been operating successfully in this area for the past 20 years.
Given the above mentioned facts, the Chyulu Hills represent an exciting opportunity for progress in terms of rhino conservation and growing the Kenyan meta-population to targeted level. During the next year, the aim for the Chyulu Hills is to become an Intensive Protection Zone (IPZ). This step is necessary to facilitate the translocation of other rhino to this unique population and therefore the ongoing survival of the remaining population.

Egyptian vulture conservation program

This species is registered as “Endangered” on the IUCN European Red List, on the Appendix II of CITES and Annex I of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. The two main threats to the species are direct mortality caused by humans (either accidentally or deliberately) and decreasing availability of food. The main cause of unnatural death is the use of poisoned baits for carniverous pest extermination.
This vulture belongs to the scavengers group, it has a broad diet including carrion, tortoises, organic waste, insects, young vertebrate and eggs. The Egyptian vulture monitoring in the Massif Central began in 1981 conciding with the start of the first griffon vulture reintroduction project here . During this period no more than 7-8 indivuals are counted each year in the Grands Causses. In 2017 the population of Egyptian vulture in the Grands Causses is only represented by two breeding pairs. The Egyptian vulture’s uniqueness is that it is the only migratory species of the four european vultures.
The various actions regarding this project and carried out by LPO Grands Causses (technical structure of LPO France) are: home range monitoring (visual observations), breeding monitoring (fchecking established breeding pairs and detecting new pairs , the laying date and the juvenile fledging date), diet study by collecting elements near the nests, ensuring sufficient quantities of local and externally sourced food are available (livestock farms using rendering plots, fallen livestock collection to aliment a vulture feedind station run by LPO Grands Causses team), habitat protection (influence political decisions in terms of protection: creation of SPA-special protection area and other protection status), vigilance and threat management (hunting, poisoning, powerlines and wind turbines…), public awareness through various audiences.

Tackling poisoning threats in raptor populations.

Poisoning of vultures is becoming increasingly frequent and represents a worldwide threat to all vulture populations. This man-made threat can be inflicted directly or indirectly upon vultures. Certain anti-inflammatory drugs used on domestic animals and remain present in their carcasses and can be toxic or life-threatening for vultures feeding upon them. Vultures can also be intoxicated by other substances artificially found within their bodies. Illegal shooting of large raptors remains an issue, even when not fatal, the shots can inflict sequelas or the side effects of the subsequent lead poisoning can remain latent. LPO Grands Causses aims to sytematically recover any dead vultures or other large raptor species for autopsy and veterinary analysis to determine the presence of leador other toxins. The second aspect of this project involves developing a routine for daily monitoring and awareness raising with various stakeholders: livestock farmers, farming bodies, local autorities, an hunters. Trials of lead-free ammunition are underway having been developed and executed in partnership with the Cevennes National Park, LPO Grands CAusses and the Hunters Federation of Lozere within the framework of a project supported by the European Commission .

Gryphon Vulture Conservation Program

The species is registred as “Least Concern” on the IUCN European red list, on the Appendix II of CITES and Annex I of EU Birds Directive. The population and its habitat are still under a strict conservation action plan. The two main threats to the species are direct mortality caused by humans (either accidentally or deliberately) and decreasing availability of food. The main cause of unnatural death is the use of poisoned baits for predator extermination.
This vulture, belongs to the scavengers group feeding on carcasses, usually the first to arrive and to feed with soft part of the carrion.
This project of Griffon vulture conservation in the Massif Central started by a first reintroduction program between 1981 and 1986 releasing 61 Griffon vultures. It’s been a real success and the current population in the Grands Causses is counted about 550 breeding pairs, precisely 441 fledges for 2017. The various actions regarding this project and carried out by LPO Grands Causses (technical structure of LPO France) are: Home range Monitoring (visual observations), breeding monitoring (follow-up of the breeding pairs establishment, the laying date and the juvenile fledging date), demographic monitoring (reading rings and data base uses), ensuring the sufficient quantities available of local and externally sourced food (plot rendering of cattle raiser, rendering hinge run by LPO Grands Causses team), habitat protection (be actor of political decisions in term of protection: creation of SPA-special protection area and other protection status), vigilance and threat management (hunting, poisoning, powerlines and wind turbines…), public awareness through various audiences.

Biodiversity conservation in the Annamite mountains of Laos

Project Anoulak is dedicated to the conservation and research of wildlife in Laos. It is active in Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area (NNT NPA), central eastern Laos. We focus on a range of species notably on the white-cheeked gibbons (Nomascus siki/N. leucogenys), the red-shanked doucs, the large-antlered muntjac and otter species (Lutrogale; Aonyx, Lutra).
We are currently conducting a long-term behavioural ecology research on the white-cheeked gibbons and red-shanked doucs. Across their range, these species are under severe threat from (i) illegal hunting (traditional medicine, pet trade and opportunistically for its meat) and from (ii) habitat loss, which is the most severe in Vietnam (Rawson et al., 2011). The seven species of Nomascus spp. and three species of doucs are Globally Threatened under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In NNT NPA, wildlife hunting has been the main cause of animal population declines in the the past few decades and this on-going trend is rapidly leading to local extinction of the most hunting-sensitive species.
Given the current status of gibbon and douc species across their range there is a need to better understand their ecological requirements in order to improve their in-situ and ex-situ conservation management. Understanding the ecology of these species is one of the first steps in the development of conservation management plans and guidelines.
Conservation outcome 1: Gain knowledge of feeding ecology and nutrional requirements of white-cheeked gibbons and red-shanked douc to improve in-situ and ex-situ population management
Conservation outcome 2: Protection of white-cheeked gibbons and red-shanked douc at the research site with patrol teams
Conservation Outcome 3: Capacity building of lao nationals and local communty engagement and empowerment in conservation biology
Conservation Outcome 4: Knowledge sharing and building collaboration with research institutes and institutions.