WWF, the Center for Large Landscape Conservation and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas’ Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group today launched a new initiative to conserve nature’s connections: Wildlife Connect. The initiative aims to secure ecological connectivity, defined by the Convention on Migratory Species as the “unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on Earth.” From great migrations of wildlife across landscapes and continents to river flows from mountain to sea, nature’s circulatory system of connections is essential for a healthy planet. Yet they are rapidly disappearing, destabilizing ecosystems and the essential benefits they provide for us all.
People who are cat people know that cats have their own agenda. People who are dog people recognize that dogs want to share their agendas with you. We get to mix these agendas when working a detection dog to find scat from an elusive cat in Costa Rica. In the high forests of this beautiful country, hide a suite of cat species—from jaguar and cougar, to ocelot, margay and jaguarundi. And while always there, but rarely seen, is a small, spotted, nocturnal cat called oncilla. So little is known of this cat, that their scat—or poop—holds precious genetic information that can help us learn more about this declining species, and well… dogs are good at finding hard-to-find things and telling us about it.
A steady rain drenched us head to toe, and as it neared midnight I started to wonder when we would finally head back to camp. The herpetologists, though, were unconcerned with the elements. They scrambled up and down steep muddy slopes in search of reptile and amphibian specimens. In all likelihood, the fruits of their labor would be the discovery of species completely new to science! When the group finally called it quits for the night, the transect had yielded a half dozen frogs, a plump lizard, and a beautiful, non-venomous false coral snake to be documented and photographed.
This past weekend, I visited the newly established Parque Nacional Río Negro Sopladora, a national park that covers more than 30,000 hectares of undisturbed habitat in Ecuador, ranging from high peaks at 12,800 feet above sea level eastwards into the humid Amazon basin, at 2,600 ft. A highlight of hiking in this lesser-known park was seeing hours-fresh footprints of mountain tapir and a large cat (my guess is cougar). It was nice to finally get my boots muddy after two weeks in the city, getting situated in the country I will call home for a month and a half.
Emma Spence has been busy circling the globe with one goal in mind: to help answer the question, “Do corridors work?” She recently returned to the US from Poland and Italy, where she and local collaborators collected data and genetic samples at wildlife corridor sites. They want to see whether these linkages between areas of habitat are helping promote gene-flow for native mammal species such as the European pine marten and the yellow-necked mouse. As the Wildlife Corridor Field and Lab Manager at the Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Spence is utilizing her expertise in GIS and conservation genetics to identify what factors make a corridor successful.
An international group of more than 25 elephant biologists and infrastructure ecologists released a report today with an urgent message: All efforts to avoid key Asian elephant habitats and their migration corridors need to be made when developing linear infrastructure like roads, railways, and canals. If this is not possible, wildlife crossings are key to providing safe passage for this endangered species. The report comes in response to an explosion of new linear infrastructure across Asia that is increasingly blocking elephant movement and leading to deadly collisions.
Asia is home to many iconic wildlife species—such as Asian elephants, Bengal tigers, and Sumatran orangutans—along with some of the world’s richest biodiversity and most complex ecosystems. Yet, as Asia experiences unprecedented economic growth, the region’s natural heritage is threatened by the rapid expansion of linear infrastructure like roads, railways, and power lines. That’s why, over the last 14 months, the nonprofit Center for Large Landscape Conservation has helped USAID build a knowledge base to support Asian countries in planning wildlife-friendly linear infrastructure.
Wildlife-vehicle collisions take a toll on our environment and society in many ways. They endanger wildlife populations, cause human injuries and deaths, and cost US taxpayers billions of dollars a year. Well-designed wildlife road-crossing structures are a proven solution but are not without challenges. Two reports recently published by the US Forest Service—with contributions from Center for Large Landscape Conservation staff—address these challenges while providing useful information on costs, benefits, and planning of crossing structures.
Protected lands and freshwaters cover approximately a sixth of the world’s surface according to the new Protected Planet Report 2020. This online publication provides insights on the status of global progress toward achieving the goal of protecting at least 17% of land by 2020. It also highlights opportunities for goals and actions toward halting and reversing the biodiversity crisis before 2050. The Center is proud to have contributed to this leading global assessment on the state of protected and conserved areas around the world.
The Center is increasingly engaging with partners across Central Asia to build capacity, promote research, and implement connectivity conservation efforts in the countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. We are proud to be part of growing collaboration across this globally important biodiversity hotspot that has, among other progress, yielded important scientific evidence about the presence of an endangered and charismatic species—the Persian leopard—in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan.