George Wilson was one of over ten thousand participants including many Australians who attended the WCC in Hawaii in September. The overall theme was ‘Planet at the Crossroads’ building on the Paris Agreement on climate change, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the ‘Promise of Sydney’, Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the Earth Charter, and The Honolulu Challenge on Invasive Alien Species. During the 10 days of both the discussion sessions and then subsequent voting assembly.
In particular the Congress discussed
- The nexus between biological and cultural diversity, and how their conservation and sustainability requires a combination of traditional wisdom and modern knowledge.
• Indigenous rights to hunt clashed with animal rights opponents
- The significance of the world’s ocean for biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods.
• Ocean conservation issues were prominent because the Congress was in middle of the Pacific Ocean. President Obama announced enlargement of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument to 2 million sq km
- The threats to biodiversity from habitat loss, climate change, invasive alien species, unsustainable exploitation, and pollution.
• Invasive weeds, cats and mongooses huge problem in Hawaii
George had a particular focus on the Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group (SULi) chaired by Rosie Cooney.
He also met with the leader of the Great Elephant Census, Mike Chase and the funders of the project. The results were announced during the Congress. Melanie Edwards and he had reviewed aerial survey data from 10 regions of Africa. The results concluded there are some 370000 elephants in the 18 countries surveyed. A few populations had increased but most were suffering from poaching and competition from the expanding human population
The resolutions passed by the General Assembly are at congress/assembly/motions
The Congress concluding statement was the ‘The Hawaiʻi Commitments’. They propose solutions covering
1. Culture and conservation
2. Youth engagement
3. Sustainable food supply
4. Health of oceans
5. Wildlife trade
6. Engaging the private sector and
7. Climate change
Kangaroos have long competed with pastoral production systems on the rangelands. They move onto spelled paddocks and it is therefore essential to manage them to control total grazing pressure. By cooperating across property boundaries, landholders should be able to undertake more sustainable land management, convert a liability into an asset by earning income from kangaroo products, and carbon and biodiversity credits. Doing so would follow overseas precedents of devolved responsibility and proprietorship of wildlife. It would improve welfare outcomes. See Fairfax article by Kim Arlington
AWS continues as a member of Technical Advisory Team assessing the results of aerial surveys of African elephants. A National Geographic article reveals some results showing a 53 percent fall in elephant numbers in Tanzania—from an estimated 109,000 animals in 2009 to 51,000 in 2015. There have also been huge declines in Mozambique which has seen a 48 percent loss of its elephants in five years. Botswana’s elephant population has remained stable, with an estimated 130000 recorded in 2014 (similar to 2013).
Uganda showed a surprising rise from fewer than 1,000 elephants during the 1970s and 1980s, when poaching was rampant, to an estimated 5,000 today. Overall, Zimbabwe has lost only 6 percent of its elephants since 2001, which could be worse considering the country’s economic and political woes.
There has also been some some good news from West Africa – on the border of Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
George Wilson met with Threatened Species Commissioner Greg Andrews on 16th of December. They discussed Georges project and draft paper on greater private sector involvement in the conservation of threatened species. Greg was interested in overseas practice in South Africa and Europe which enables private investment, proprietorship and regulated trade to operate as market-based incentives to conserve wildlife. See European Wildlife Bank operated by Rewilding Europe.
The complexities of kangaroo management and competing objectives are covered in an entertaining article published in the American magazine Outside. AWS provided information and guidance for the author during his visit.
Woylie at Karakamia behind feral fence
Impact of feral cats on threatened species was major conference theme. What is cat’s role in the decline of the Woylie, which is now back on critically endangered lists? Is the rise of cats an example of meso-predator release following too successful fox (and dingo) control?
Other discussions were management of the insurance populations of Tasmanian devil’s both on mainland Australia in zoos and Tasmanian islands.
AWS is supporting the Great Elephant Census by conducting technical reviews of aerial surveys that have been conducted in Uganda and the Congo. Dozens of researchers are flying in light aircraft to capture comprehensive observational data of elephants and elephant carcasses. The project supported by the Paul Allen Foundation is designed to provide accurate and up-to-date data about the number and distribution of African elephants using standardized aerial surveys of tens of hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. A standardized method of data collection, requires validation by independent advisors.
There has not been a pan-African census in over 40 years, and none have been completed using a standardized process and an independent validation process. The resulting database is designed to provide valuable information to governments, scientists, NGOs and all wildlife stakeholders in Africa so they can make strategic decisions on how to manage and protect elephant populations. More information is available here.
Strip transect methodology – great elephant count
Elephant bulls – great elephant count
A herd of eland counted on a computer
George Wilson attended the International Wildlife Diseases Association conference on Sunshine Coast, opened by Threatened Species Commissioner Gregory Andrew. There was a great turn out and many enlightening presentations.
The major theme was emerging human and wildlife diseases that result from spill-over of pathogens to other hosts, such as Hendra, Ebola, SARS, MERS.
Other interesting discussions took place, including diseases in koalas, frogs, Tassie devils and cats. A report was also given by Tim Portas, on the improvements of condition and health to the Mulligans Flat bettongs.
Abstracts can be found here.
Here is a link to an article on Cecile the lion: RIP Cecil the lion – what will be his legacy? And who should decide?
It discusses whether a ban on hunting would indeed improve the conservation of African species or lead to further decline.
“Bans on trophy hunting in Tanzania (1973-78), Kenya (1977) and Zambia (2000-03) accelerated a rapid loss of wildlife due to the removal of incentives for conservation. Early anecdotal reports suggest this may already be happening in Botswana, which banned all hunting last year.”
It is an important conversation to be had. Authored by Rosie Cooney, Chair of the IUCN’s CEESP/SSC Sustainable Use and Livelihoods Specialist Group
If you come across any injured wildlife in the ACT (excluding snakes and kangaroos) please call
ACT Wildlife on 0432 300 033.
For snakes and kangaroos contact Canberra Connect on 13 22 81.
For the areas surrounding the ACT, including Queanbeyan, please call Wildcare Queanbeyan on 6299 1966.