Monitoring wildlife snaring in Southeast Asia and a review of related legislation

Poaching wildlife with snares is considered a primary driver of declines in tropical forest vertebrates in Southeast Asia. There is no standard method for monitoring snaring patterns over space and time and assessments rely largely on expert opinion and anecdotal data. Legislation restricting the use of snares is generally regarded as insufficient in Southeast Asian countries, however there has been no formal review to summarize strengths and weaknesses. We will create a baseline measure of snaring prevalence in Southeast Asian IUCN protected areas. We will gather data from a representative sample of IUCN protected areas within 11 Southeast Asian countries using a standardized questionnaire sent to biologists with first-hand knowledge of each protected area. With this questionnaire, we will generate information on the status of wildlife snaring across core habitat in Southeast Asia and highlight at-risk areas where there are high levels of snaring and low levels of law enforcement. Our questionnaire will be a platform with which to monitor trends in wildlife snaring over time. A review of national legislation pertaining to wildlife snaring will identify gaps or weaknesses and lead to recommendations for improvement.

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.

Saving Delacour’s langur in Vietnam

hreatened by the loss of their forest habitat, primarily for agriculture and limestone (cement) quarrying, and hunting, for the creation of the ‘monkey bone balm’, a traditional Chinese medicine, Delacour’s langur are one of the world’s 25 most threatened primates. Van Long Nature Reserve in Ninh Binh province, northern Vietnam, is home to around 120 individuals and until last year there was no other viable population known to exist.
In late 2016 FFI surveys discovered a second significant population of around 40-50 langurs in Kim Bang forest in Vietnam’s Ha Nam province. Following the discovery, FFI immediately developed a ‘rapid response’ programme aimed at improving protection and gaining political support for forest and langur protection. With limited funds, FFI has trained and operationalised a six person community conservation team to undertake forest patrols and basic monitoring to protect these langurs, and has gained formal approval for the establishment of a new protected area in Kim Bang to conserve this critical population. A unique opportunity now exists to significantly contribute to the survival of this species by supporting the operationalisation of this new protected area and linking the population here to the population in Ninh Binh province.
Our vision for Delacour’s langur is to increase the population in the two remaining sites for the species to over 350 individuals in 20 -25 years.
Over the next three years we aim to enhance the formal protection of the species, reconnect key habitat and observe an increase in the total population of at least 10%. Our priority activities over the next three years are to: 1. Enhance habitat protection through the establishment of a new protected area; 2. Increase habitat availability and reduce risk of inbreeding through creating habitat corridors; 3. Establish community led conservation initiatives to support habitat conservation and species monitoring

Saving the Tonkin Snub Nosed Monkey in Vietnam

Endemic to Vietnam, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey once occupied the forests across much of the north-east of the country. Loss of habitat and hunting – for both local consumption and the traditional medicine trade – have driven a precipitous decline in this species. Until their rediscovery in 1992, the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey was believed to be extinct; we now know that fewer than 200 individuals remain.
In 2002 FFI identified the largest known subpopulation, around 90 individuals at the time, at a site called Khau Ca and began work to conserve it. Thanks to the work of FFI the site has received formal legal protection and our concerted conservation efforts have enabled this population of Tonkin snub-nosed monkey to stabilise. Based on FFI field surveys, the population here has increased to around 121 individuals.
Recognising that working at a single site would always present inherent risks to the longterm survival of the species, we actively sought other sites where we hoped to find the species had survived. In 2008 FFI discovered a second site, Tung Vai, with around 30 monkeys which we have subsequently worked to protect.
Our Longterm vision: to increase the population in our two focal sites to over 500 individuals in approximately 25 years.
In the short term, ensuring the integrity of the habitat at our two local sites will be critical to the survival of the species. In the next three years we aim to maintain the growth of Khau Ca\’s Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys and at least stabilise the Tung Vai population. Our priority activities over the next three years are to: 1. Enhance habitat protection through improved law enforcement; 2. Increase habitat abailability through creating habitat corridors; 3. Balance the conflicting priorities of conservation and agriculture faced in Tonkin snub-nosed monkey habitats; 4. Address capacity gaps within the relevant agencies to tackle the illegal wildlife trade in primates and timber.

West African Primate Conservation

he West African Primate Conservation Action (WAPCA) is an NGO working to safeguard four highly threatened primates in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. An initiative of Heidelberg Zoo, and supported by currently 18 Zoological Collections, WAPCA has been active since 2001 working closely with the Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission of Ghana to establish long term sustainable conservation programmes, both insitu and exsitu.

WAPCA primarily concentrates on four key areas:

  1. A captive breeding programme originating from rescued and rehabilitated wild caught primates based at the Endangered Primate Breeding Centre (EPBC) at Accra Zoo and the Forested Enclosure at Kumasi Zoo.The primates, notably the white-naped mangabey and the Roloway monkey, held at these two zoos participate in the EEP and since joining have received and transferred seven animals significantly contributing to the genetic diversity of the species.
  2. Community-based field work in habitat range areas of the wild primate populations. Empowering communities to manage their natural resources, to patrol and protect the forests and the primates, create community tree nurseries for reforestation and sustainable use, facilitate transboundary activities with Cote d’Ivoire and develop sustainable livelihoods and promote green value chains.
  3. WAPCA Research Group is a collaboration between local and international Universities established to collect data in cohesive manner. Research focuses both on captive and in-situ projects allowing our conservation actions to be well informed for maximum impact and to evaluate our actions when carried out.
  4. Both the EPBC and the Forested Enclosure provide a crucial educational tool for both local and international visitors to the zoos.  This captive populations inspire,    engage and empower visitors to consider their daily actions and actively participate in the protection of the planet and the animals which we share it with.

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.

Community-based Conservation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh

The Chittagong Hill Tracts, located in south-eastern Bangladesh, falls within the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot. Our organization’s work in this area for the last six years has documented the persistence of at least 30 globally-threatened species, including two ASAP species: Chinese pangolin and Arakan forest turtle. Years of subsistence hunting, commercial poaching, and habitat destruction through logging and traditional slash-and-burn agricultural practices has led to drastic species population reductions. Hunting is the most immediate threat, and without intervention, the extirpation of Chinese pangolin in the region and Arakan forest turtle from one of their two range countries is inevitable. To prevent this, our project will empower additional traditional indigenous hunters into parabiologists and employ them to conduct forest patrols and species monitoring surveys. These parabiologists will also act as local ambassadors for wildlife conservation in the area for years to come, continuing to sensitize local communities to the importance of species conservation. Our previous work has shown that by empowering local communities we can drastically reduce hunting pressure and ensure habitat protection in a short amount of time. The project will take a holistic landscape-based approach, helping the local communities to reduce dependency on forest resources through sustainable agroforestry and livelihood support. This would not only ensure the protection of these critically endangered ASAP species, but also help conserve both the habitat and over 28 other globally-threatened species occurring in same area.

This project operates synergistically with multiple distinct components and has been bringing conservation success to the region for over six years. Funding from other sources are used primarily to support primary education, livelihood programs, such as craft for conservation, indigo dye processing and marketing, promoting sustainable agroforestry, etc. These activities are necessary to establish trust and reduce community dependence on forest resources.

The Cambodian Crocodile Conservation Programme (CCCP)

The project’s long-term goal is to re-establish a viable population of at least 5,000 wild Siamese crocodiles spread across multiple, sustainably-managed wetland sites in Cambodia. The project goal is to double the wild population by 2020 and to leverage the species as a flagship for conserving threatened rivers and wetlands in Cambodia. The project’s specific objectives are: (1) over 50% of Cambodia’s wild crocodiles in sites that are effectively protected and managed as crocodile sanctuaries; and (2) the recovery and viability of wild populations is enhanced through the release of healthy captive-bred, confiscated and headstarted crocodiles into protected sanctuaries.

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.

Reducing human-carnivore conflict, empowering communities and informing conservation planning in Tanzania\’s Ruaha landscape

Tanzania’s Ruaha landscape is globally important for large carnivores. It supports the world’s second biggest lion population, comprising 10% of the world\’s lions, one of only four large cheetah populations in East Africa, the world\’s third biggest population of endangered African wild dogs, and vital populations of leopards, spotted hyaenas and other wildlife species. However, these populations are threatened by extremely high rates of human-carnivore conflict around Ruaha National Park: this area has the highest documented rate of lion killing in the world. This conflict is driven by carnivore attacks on livestock, a lack of benefits from wildlife, cultural lion killins, and poor local awareness of wildlife or conservation issues. The Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) is working directly with local communities to safeguard their livestock, develop appropriate and meaningful benefit initiatives which are linked directly to the presence of wildlife on village land, engage traditional warriors to become lion conservationists rather than lion killers, and provide training, education and outreach on livestock husbandry, wildlife and conservation. This area is also extremely understudied, limiting effective planning and management, so RCP conducts ecological research to inform conservation planning. The project was established in 2009, and has grown from a team of 3 people to over 60 people, 95% of whom are local Tanzanians. The project has been very successful: in the core study area, attacks on livestock have been reduced by over 60%, people see meaningful benefits, partcularly in the their priority areas of healthcare, education and veterinary health, attitudes towards wildlife have improved, bans on cultural hunting have been put in place by the community, and carnivore killings have decreased by over 80%. However, this is a huge area so we need to continue our work and expand it further around Ruaha and beyond for maximum conservation impact.