Gerald Durrell, The Stationary Ark, And A 2021 Maverick

Gerald Durrell, somehow, has escaped mention in 11,281 previous posts over the last decade+ on this platform. Today is the day to begin correcting that oversight. His novelist brother Lawrence is worthy of his own post here another day. And the family name was recently popularized on television. While Gerald’s own legacy is not easy to categorize, a good starting point is to look at Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and his related conservation work. Books are a big part of the legacy and the one to the right has had a tangible influence:

An Ark for Vanished Wildlife

Derek Gow’s maverick efforts to breed and reintroduce rare animals to Britain’s countryside.

Derek Gow wants his farm to be a breeding colony, a seedbed for a denuded island. Photograph by Jonny Weeks / eyevine / Redux

Derek Gow decided to abandon conventional farming about ten years ago, not long after the curlews left. At the time, Gow, who is thickset and white of beard, had a flock of fifteen hundred breeding ewes and a hundred and twenty cows, which he kept on a three-hundred-acre farm of heavy clay close to the border between Devon and Cornwall, in southwest England. He was renting an extra field from a neighbor, and a pair of curlews had come to forage for a few days. A farm worker spotted the distinctive brown birds; they have long beaks that slope downward, like violin bows. “He didn’t even recognize what they were,” Gow told me.

Curlews are Europe’s largest wading bird. Continue reading

Animal Bridges, Saving Lives & Protecting Species

A wildlife overpass in Banff national park, in the Canadian Rockies. Photograph: Ross MacDonald/Banff National Park

Protecting wilderness–for broad reasons related to the value of biodiversity as well more narrow reasons related to mankind’s  basic requirements–have been a constant theme on this platform since we started; animal bridges, per se, have not. Here is a look at why these bridges matter:

How creating wildlife crossings can help reindeer, bears – and even crabs

Sweden’s announcement this week that it is to build a series of animal bridges is the latest in global efforts to help wildlife navigate busy roads

Reindeer viaducts in Sweden will keep herds safe from traffic as they roam in search of grazing. Photograph: Pawel Garski./Alamy

Every April, Sweden’s main highway comes to a periodic standstill. Hundreds of reindeer overseen by indigenous Sami herders shuffle across the asphalt on the E4 as they begin their journey west to the mountains after a winter gorging on the lichen near the city of Umeå. As Sweden’s main arterial road has become busier, the crossings have become increasingly fractious, especially if authorities do not arrive in time to close the road. Sometimes drivers try to overtake the reindeer as they cross – spooking the animals and causing long traffic jams as their Sami owners battle to regain control. Continue reading

Smile-inducing Nature Photos

Hide and seek Photograph: Tim Hearn

Thanks to Matt Fidler’s display of the work by photographers in the right place at the right time to induce a needed smile in this contest’s audience.

Comedy Wildlife Photography awards 2020 finalists – in pictures

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Restorative Stories Are Welcome Here

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Tamara and Steve Davey’s woodland, on the fringes of Dartmoor national park. Photograph: Courtesy of Woodland Wildlife

Thanks to the Guardian for this story about the contentments of ecosystem restoration:

‘It’s good for the soul’: the mini rewilders restoring UK woodland

By buying and managing small wooded plots, enthusiasts are bringing biodiversity back to the countryside

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Woodland owners Steve and Tamara Davey. Photograph: Patrick Greenfield/The Guardian

Tamara and Steve Davey cannot help but grin at the suggestion they are “miniature rewilders”. Standing proudly in the weak sunlight on the fringes of Dartmoor national park, the full-time grandmother and taxi company owner delight in their eight-acre woodland.

Robins, tits and siskins chortle in the trees. Nightjars are welcome visitors in the summer. Seven bat species have been recorded in their small plot. There’s a badger’s sett somewhere in the hillside scrub. And the couple feel at peace.

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 The Daveys, like many woodland owners, are replacing fast-growing conifer trees with diverse native species to support wildlife. Photograph: Courtesy of Woodland Wildlife

“It’s good for the soul,” says Tamara, speaking before the coronavirus lockdown. “It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done,” Steve agrees. “If we can make a difference and help what’s here, I’ll be happy.” Continue reading

Things with Wings in Akagera National Park

The Lilac-breasted Roller is the star of Akagera, in my opinion (at least for the bird life), as a reliable and beautiful species that you can’t miss while visiting.

Over the last month and a half I’ve been immersed in my Gishwati bird research, so I have not been able to take as much time to write about experiences from the Rwanda Study Tour as much, but now that I’m back in the US, I have some better bandwidth to share media from places like Akagera National Park.

Akagera has the highest bird species richness in all of Rwanda, with literature about the park normally citing either high 400s or low 500s as the total tally. On eBird, there’s a number of different hotspots for the park, but the top three hotspots in the country are all in Akagera, with another two hotspots within the top ten.

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Mammals of Akagera National Park

Impala, zebras, topi, and waterbuck share this savanna scene in Akagera National Park

The next park we visited on the Rwanda Study Tour after Nyungwe was Akagera National Park. Although the park was created in 1934, it’s only been run by a partnership between the Rwandan government and an NGO called African Parks—which helps manage about fifteen parks on the continent—since 2010. At this point, a change in operation style and protection started to help wildlife bounce back as well as increase visitation to the park. Back in 2010, the park hosted around fifteen thousand visitors per year and only made about $200,000 (while losing money), but last year the park received thirty-six thousand visitors and made $2,000,000 (getting out of the red for the first time).

A zebra gives itself a dustbath while a impala, two topi, and a warthog watch on

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Primates of Nyungwe National Park

from the Uwinka Visitor Center of Nyungwe National Park

The first national park that the Yale FES Rwanda Study Tour visited was Nyungwe, in the south of the country bordering Burundi’s Kibera National Park. A montane tropical forest spanning over a thousand square kilometers, Nyungwe is quite biodiverse, and while it used to host elephants, water buffalo, and leopards, many other mammals are still present in the forest, including thirteen species of primate. Of these, we were able to see eight: vervet monkeys, l’Hoest’s mountain monkeys, blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys, mona monkeys, a single olive baboon, and eastern chimpanzees. This was fairly lucky, as the only primates we missed were the owl-faced monkeys, which are shy and restricted to the bamboo groves in a remote part of the park, red-tailed monkeys, which I know nothing about, and three species of galago, which are very small nocturnal primates sometimes called bushbabies, of controversial cuteness. I’ve included some of my photos below:

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Night Vision

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After my first few nights at Chan Chich, I quickly learned that the jungle activity changes a bit in the night time. Bats swoop through the air, the sounds of howler monkeys reverberate off of the trees, and cane toads hop across my path.

So of course, when the opportunity arose to go on a night ride I was eager to see what would be in store for me. While I knew it would be foolish to hope for a jaguar sighting, I set out taking comfort in the fact that at least my chances would be higher than if I had stayed in for the night. What I didn’t count on, however, was my inherently poor ability to spot wildlife in the darkness.

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Wolf Wars Waning

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In 2007, a family of wolves in Idaho’s Sawtooth National Forest killed nine sheep. Ranchers who owned the sheep asked government wildlife managers to kill the wolves; but local wolf supporters and conservationists protested, asking instead for a non-lethal solution. So began what became the Wood River Wolf Project, a landscape-scale, multi-year experiment in how ranchers, livestock, and wolves can live together peacefully. Continue reading

Borneo Bridge Not Needed, Thank You

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Pygmy elephant males play-fighting near the Kinabatangan river in Borneo. Photograph: Alamy

What he said:

David Attenborough attacks plan for Borneo bridge that threatens orangutans

Endangered pygmy elephants and orangutans threatened by scheme for Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary

David Attenborough and Steve Backshall have joined conservationists and charities asking officials in Borneo to reconsider a bridge that threatens one of the last sanctuaries of the rare pygmy elephant.

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Saving Snow Leopards

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A snow leopard in the Himalayas eating its prey. Credit Madhu Chetri

The New York Times’ always-appreciated Science section, once a Tuesday feature, has been joined by many features made possible by the wonders of modern technology, and the news organization has also responded creatively to the competition made possible by all that wondrous technology. This article by Nicholas St. Fleur is a good example of why we check in on the Trilobites feature of the website daily:

How Do You Save Snow Leopards? First, Gather Their Droppings

Pigs Provisioned Properly

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This wild hog from Hawaii was raised at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo. Feral pigs in the wild tend to eat anything containing a calorie — from rows of corn to sea turtle eggs, to baby deer and goats. Rae Ellen Bichell/NPR

We appreciate the excellent science produced by employees of the federal government of the USA, both the theoretical and applied problems they tackle depending on their specialty. Thanks to those who deal with creatures like this, who have in common with their feline counterparts in some locations the misfortune of bumping up against human interests. Figuring them out and accommodating them humanely seems a worthy scientific cause:

Scientists Get Down And Dirty With DNA To Track Wild Pigs

by Rae Ellen Bichell

In the foothills of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, a gravel road leads to a 10-foot-tall fence. Type in a key code, and a gate scrapes open. Undo a chain to get behind another. Everything here is made of metal, because the residents of this facility are experts at invasion and destruction. Continue reading

Puma, Puma, Puma

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A lion known as P-45 has killed scores of domestic animals—and attracted passionate fans. Courtesy National Park Service

I favor a walk in the woods where pumas feel naturally at home. That said, the world has been changing faster than we like, and faster than pumas can adapt. We have had so many wildcat stories in these pages since we started in 2011, it is impossible to count at this point; also not possible to link back to one that matches the content of Dana Goodyear’s wow piece in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker:

LIONS OF LOS ANGELES

Are the city’s pumas dangerous predators or celebrity guests?

It was drizzling and gray, late fall, on the old Rickards Movie Ranch, high in the Santa Monica Mountains, in rural, red-state western Malibu. Continue reading

Take Note Of NRDC

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In times that try our souls in so many ways, it helps to know that organizations like this one are prepared, and worthy of your consideration for your support:

We rely on wilderness not only to inspire and enjoy but also to protect our watersheds, clean the air we breathe, and provide a home for the diverse species that enrich our world. Continue reading

Redeeming Schemes Punctuated With Question Marks

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An impression of the town square at the Babcock Ranch development in Florida. Photograph: Babcock Ranch

For every redemption story there seems to be at least one more redemption puzzle. Conundrums. This is one of those. We want to love the scheme for some of its nobler aspects, but then realize it is impossible to do so unconditionally. And finally, simply, impossible:

The solar-powered town: a dream for the environment – or a wildlife nightmare?

Babcock Ranch, the brainchild of ex-NFL player Syd Kitson, aims to be a model of sustainability but campaigners fear it will be tragic for endangered panther

Edward Helmore in New York

Florida real estate has a bad habit of reflecting the boom-and-bust cycles of the US economy but Babcock Ranch, a new development opening early next year and designed to be the world’s first solar-powered town, is hoping it can provide the Sunshine state with a model for sustainable living. Continue reading

Albatross, Age & Egg — Keeping The Species Going

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Wisdom tends to her egg. Laysan albatrosses spend the vast majority of their lives in the air. Photograph: US Fish and Wildlife Service/AP

Thanks to the Guardian’s Environment section (and Reuters) for this news:

World’s oldest-known seabird lays an egg at age of 66 in Pacific refuge

Wisdom, a Laysan albatross, is also world’s oldest-known breeding bird in the wild and has had a few dozen chicks Continue reading

Wild Things, Health & Care

Thanks to Anthropocene’s Brandon Keim for this story about a health care revolution for wildlife:

…Researchers led by University of Florida biologist David Duffy raise that possibility in a new Global Change Biology article about “precision wildlife medicine,” an approach that would draw upon innovations in human disease treatment. Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Manú National Park and Biosphere Reserve, Peru

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Source: andeanamazonexpeditions.com

Containing much of the Peruvian Amazon’s  greatest flora and fauna, Manú National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the world and allows for once-in-a-lifetime sightings of rare and exotic animals.  The park is Peru’s biggest and consists of three parts: the “Cultural or Buffer zone,” where native communities live and tourists can enter unaccompanied, the “Reserved zone,” an area set aside for controlled scientific research and ecotourism, and the “Intangible zone,” the largest section that is strictly for flora and fauna preservation. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Manú offers adventurous travelers lush, untouched Amazon to explore and discover the unmatched beauty of virgin environments and unrestricted wildlife.

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Beware & Resist The Frack

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Countryside near the village of Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire where a planning application by Third Energy to frack was recently approved. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Many claim to tire of hearing about climate change, species extinction, threats from fracking and other environmental issues of great importance. Thanks to the Guardian for continuing to pay attention:

Majority of potential UK fracking sites are rich in important wildlife

Almost two-thirds of proposed areas have higher biodiversity, valuable for functions such as pollination and pest control, analysis shows

Many of the areas that have been recently marked as potential sites for fracking are rich in wildlife that perform crucial functions from pollination to decomposition, researchers have found.

Scientists say that almost two-thirds of the areas that have been labelled as suitable for shale gas extraction have levels of biodiversity equal to or above the national average, according to a new analysis of records collected from across the country. Continue reading

Bravo, Trip Advisor!

PHOTOGRAPH BY NORBERT WU, MINDEN PICTURES

In a world where economics often focus on the concept that “the customer is always right” it’s heartening to see even large companies re-evaluate policy, and make make changes in the face of facts.

Our work in India has often placed us face to face with the common practices of human-animal interaction written about below, and we don’t promote the  “elephant rides” that are often on travelers’ agenda. Change occurs along  with a shift in understanding, and our goal has always been to craft travel experiences that are both authentic and educational.

So “Bravo!” and a hearty welcome to any company willing to join us in achieving that goal!

TripAdvisor Halts Ticket Sales to Cruel Wildlife Attractions

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TripAdvisor, the popular travel review website, and its ticket sales company, Viator, said Tuesday they no longer will sell tickets to hundreds of tourist attractions that are widely accepted as cruel to wild animals, reversing a policy under which the companies had resisted considering the welfare of animals when promoting trips.

The move to stop selling tickets to elephant rides, swim-with-dolphin experiences, and attractions that allow visitors to pet tigers and other exotic animals comes after a one-and-a-half-year protest campaign by the London-based animal welfare group World Animal Protection and reporting by National Geographic’s Wildlife Watch, which drew attention to TripAdvisor’s continued promotion of such attractions at a time when dozens of other tour and travel companies were moving away from them.

Such attractions have been shown to cause animals psychological and physical trauma that can shorten their lives. They also result in more animals being taken from the wild for tourism.

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