20
Jun
2011

The WildLife: Bear Bile Trade in Asia, Kaitlyn Foley

Kaitlyn Foley, senior programme officer at TRAFFIC Southeast Asia, talks about the bear bile trade in Asia. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how recent research by TRAFFIC shows that the illegal bear bile trade continues unabated across Asia on a large scale.

The poaching and illegal trade of bears is driven largely by the demand for their bile, which is used in traditional medicine and folk remedies. Research by TRAFFIC, published in the report Pills, Powders, Vials & Flakes: The bear bile trade in Asia, found bear bile products on sale in traditional medicine outlets in all but one (Macao) of the 13 countries/territories surveyed, suggesting a complex and robust trade in bear products. Of particular note were mainland China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Myanmar and Viet Nam, where bear bile products were most frequently observed. While bile from bear farms in China is legal if sold domestically, TRAFFIC found this Chinese bear bile being illegal sold across the border. It also noted that “Mom & Pop” bear farms were popping up in Laos and Myanmar, making these countries new potential hubs for this trade.

Kaitlyn-Elizabeth Foley is a senior programme officer at TRAFFIC Southeast Asia.  She holds a BA in Anthropology from the University of Rhode Island and a Master of Science in Primate Conservation from Oxford Brookes University.  Her main research interests include wildlife trade, conservation, and animal behavior and welfare.  For the past nine years, Kaitlyn has lived and worked abroad in Italy, the United Kingdom and Malaysia.  Most recently her work and research interest has been focused on the conservation and mitigation of trade in bears and the pet trade of mammals in Asia. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on June 20, 2011.

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6
Jun
2011

The WildLife: Common Terns, Chris Boget

Chris Boget, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust talks about common terns and land conservation. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how the Common Tern is one of Vermont’s greatest wildlife conservation victories, due to protection of its breeding habitat.

While common terns are the most widespread tern in North America, in many states, including Vermont, they’re threatened or endangered. Habitat loss from either human activities, erosion or even gulls and other critters taking over has led to the concentration of colonies on a smaller number of suitable nesting sites. Consequently, more and more often common terns were nesting at marginal locations where the quality of their habitat was low and the risk of predation – from raccoons, skunks, opossums, gulls and even ants – is high. In Vermont’s Lake Champlain basin, for example, the number of common terns dropped from almost 400 nesting pairs in the 1960s to only 50 in 1988. As a result, in 1989 the Common Tern was placed on the state of Vermont’s endangered species list.

Common Terns are extremely sensitive to disturbance during the breeding season. Adults will attack human intruders in the nesting colonies, often striking them on the head with their bills. The problem is that, the more they have to protect their chicks from intruders, the less time and energy they have to care for their young. The Lake Champlain Land Trust recognized that problem early on and, since 1978, worked to permanently conserve and protect several important Common Tern nesting islands in Lake Champlain. It started by reaching out to the landowners of the few islands with nesting Common Terns and educating them about the value of the birds and the problems they face. The Lake Champlain Land Trust then led the effort to purchase and protect the only possible island habitats for terns. Through the protection of breeding habitat, along with continual monitoring and management efforts of its partners at the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Green Mountain Audubon Society and Audubon Vermont, the story of the Common Tern is now one of Vermont’s greatest wildlife conservation victories. Their numbers have soared by over 300 percent, from just 50 breeding pairs at the end of the 1980’s to close to 200 today.

Chris Boget, is the Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust. The mission of the Lake Champlain Land Trust is to save the scenic beauty, natural communities, and recreational amenities of Lake Champlain by permanently preserving significant islands, shoreline areas, and natural communities in the Champlain Region. Chris Boget has more than twenty years of experience in land conservation, including positions with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Vermont Land Trust, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Before becoming Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust, he previously served as their Director of Land Protection and also as Assistant Director. Chris has extensive experience with landowner outreach and education. He received a Master of Science degree in Natural Resource Planning from the University of Vermont and an undergraduate degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont aired on June 6, 2011.

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30
May
2011

The WildLife: Sun Bears, Siew Te Wong

Siew Te Wong, a Malaysian wildlife biologist and sun bear expert, divulges some interesting characteristics of this rare Southeast Asian bear and how they fit into the ecosystem. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how he became one of the first to study sun bears, which are the smallest of the bear species and also the least known. Did you know that sun bears consider beetle larvae one of their tastiest treats? When they eat them, the animals close their eyes and savor the experience, similar to humans relishing the yummiest of chocolates. Siew Te Wong also talks about his adventures researching the species, threats to these rare bears, his rescue efforts, and what people can do to help. For the last 13 years, Wong has been studying and working on the ecological conservation of the sun bear. He is one of the few Malaysian wildlife biologists trained in a western country. He did both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science at the University of Montana in Missoula, and is continuing for his doctorate degree there. His pioneering studies of sun bear ecology in the Borneo rainforest revealed the elusive life history of the sun bear in the dense jungle. Wong’s research has taken him to the most threatened wildlife habitat on Earth, where field work is exceedingly difficult. While rapid habitat destruction from unsustainable logging practices, the conversion of the sun bear’s habitat into palm oil plantations and uncontrolled poaching activities paint a bleak picture for the future of the sun bear, Wong is determined to help the present situation of sun bears in Southeast Asia. Wong is the CEO of the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo, which he founded in 2008. He was also a fellow of the Flying Elephants Foundation, which awards individuals from a broad range of disciplines in the arts and sciences who have demonstrated singular creativity, passion, integrity and leadership and whose work inspires a reverence for the natural world. Wong is also the former co-chair of the Sun Bear Expert Team, under the IUCN/Species Survival Commission’s Bear Specialist Group and a current member of three IUCN/SSC Specialist Groups. This episode of “The WildLife” originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on May 17, 2010 and was rebroadcast on May 30, 2011.

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2
May
2011

The WildLife: Wildlife Rescue in Cambodia, Nick Marx

Nick Marx of Wildlife Alliance talks about rescuing wildlife from illegal trade in Cambodia. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that since 2001, the Cambodian government has cracked down on the illegal wildlife trade with the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team (WRRT), an inter-agency wildlife crime investigation and counter-trafficking unit of the Forestry Administration and Royal Gendarmerie of Cambodia operating with technical and financial support from Wildlife Alliance. To date, the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team has rescued more than 40,000 live wild animals, raided hundreds of restaurants, markets and shops illegally selling wildlife, set up check points on roads and dramatically reduced wildlife crime in Cambodia. Whenever possible, live animals rescued by the team are released back into the wild. But when the rescued animals need medical attention or are too young for release into the wild, they are taken back to the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center for care. The Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center is situated less than an hour away from Cambodia’s capital of Phnom Penh and is currently home to over 1,200 animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade.

Nick Marx is Wildlife Rescue Director at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center. He works for Wildlife Alliance, a non-profit organization based in Cambodia and Washington, D.C. that works directly with communities and governments to improve forest management and institute good governance to comprehensively address the devastation of ecosystems and combat the illegal wildlife trade. Nick holds a master’s degree in Conservation Biology and has more than forty years of experience in animal care, especially with large wildlife. His animal experience includes large predators (such as tigers, lions, cheetahs, leopards), primates (including orangutans, gibbons), elephants, and other mammals. He has worked in park management, wildlife conservation, and animal care in the United Kingdom, India, South Africa, and Southeast Asia. He advises the Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team on dealing with human-animal conflicts and providing care for animals rescued from the illegal wildlife trade. He has lectured and published broadly on wildlife conservation and animal husbandry, and appeared on global television broadcasts on BBC, ABC Nightline, CNN Planet in Peril, and other global media outlets. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on May 2, 2011.

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4
Apr
2011

The WildLife: Winged Obsession, Jessica Speart

Jessica Speart, author of Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Smuggler, discusses illegal trade of rare butterflies. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the real-life characters in her book: Yoshi Kojima, the world’s most wanted butterfly smuggler, and the rookie US Fish and Wildlife agent, Ed Newcomer, who finally brings him down. The trade in rare butterfly species is a lucrative business. While there is much trade that is legal, the illegal butterfly trade could be worth up to $200 million each year. “Butterfly collectors with the financial means will do whatever necessary to obtain the specimens they want,” Speart says. For some, it’s like stamp collecting. For others, it’s the equivalent of collecting a Renoir or Van Gogh.

 

While habitat loss is the most significant threat to butterflies, poaching adds to the stress on these delicate insects – so much so that when criminals target the rare species, extinction becomes a real possibility. Butterfly poachers often pursue the most endangered species, and many prowl national parks where they collect butterfly eggs to raise in a controlled environment. They do this so that they can end up with perfect specimens—and a higher price. Whenever the wings are damaged, the value of the butterfly drops dramatically. As Speart describes in this interview, “The way you get a perfect specimen is to kill them shortly after they’re born.” There’s no other way to make sure its wings remain unused and in perfect condition.

 

Jessica Speart is a freelance journalist specializing in wildlife enforcement issues. She's been published in the New York Times Magazine, OMNI, Travel + Leisure, Audubon, National Wildlife, Mother Jones, Delta's Sky magazine, and many others. She is also the author of ten crime novels featuring the fictional character of US Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Rachel Porter. Rachel has an unwavering devotion to tracking down the enemies of rare and endangered species and, in each book, solves a mystery focused around real world wildlife crimes. Her most recent book, Winged Obsession, is Jessica’s first non-fiction book.  This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 4, 2011.

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28
Mar
2011

The WildLife: Nature in Iraq, Anna Bachmann & Hana Ahmed Raza

Anna Bachmann, Director of Conservation for Nature Iraq, and Hana Ahmed Raza, their mammals specialist, discuss wildlife and nature in Iraq. They tell “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how, after 35 years of wars and sanctions, Iraq’s environment is in dire need of care and attention. In order to rebuild the country’s natural foundation, more information is needed, and Nature Iraq aims to fill some of those gaps.

Nature Iraq is an Iraqi non-governmental organization to protect, restore, and preserve Iraq’s natural environment and the rich cultural heritage that it nourishes. It does this both by improving the capacity of Iraq’s institutions and developing scientific databases of environmental conditions and trends within the country. In this interview, you’ll hear how Iraq’s marshlands, which were destroyed by Saddam Hussein because they were the base of his opposition, have been partially restored and how Nature Iraq is working with the government to create a national park there. You’ll also hear how Nature Iraq is undertaking biological assessments to identify other key areas to protect and working to get Iraq to join the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Anna Bachmann is the Director of Conservation for Nature Iraq. Originally from Washington State in the United States, in 2003 Anna traveled to Iraq as a peace activist and subsequently moved to the Middle East to work on environmental issues in Iraq.  She has lived and worked in the region for the past six years, four of those years based in Sulaymaniyah in Iraqi Kurdistan (northern Iraq).  Anna manages the Key Biodiversity Areas Project focused on identifying areas within Iraq that are globally important for their biological diversity.

Hana Ahmed Raza is Nature Iraq’s mammals specialist. Hana was born in Kurdistan in northern Iraq. She graduated from the Biology department of Sulaimaniyah University about a year ago and then started working with Nature Iraq in the field of mammals. She’s the lead author of an upcoming report on "Animal Trade and Hunting in Iraq" and is the focal point of Nature Iraq efforts regarding the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). She also works on broader studies of mammals in Iraq. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on March 28, 2011.

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21
Mar
2011

The WildLife: Protecting Wildlife in Cambodia, Suwanna Gauntlett

Suwanna Gauntlett, co-founder and executive director of Wildlife Alliance, talks about protecting wildlife in Cambodia. Cambodia has long been one of Asia’s five main source countries for wildlife exported for traditional Asian medicine, exotic pets, and meats. Suwanna tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that when she first arrived in this southeast Asian country in the late 1990s, “you could hardly see any signs of wildlife because of the destruction.” Wildlife was sold everywhere. But that’s changing. Illegal wildlife trade has declined by about 70% in the last 10 years due to a multi-pronged approach working directly with communities and governments both to combat the illegal wildlife trade and to improve forest management. Suwanna and Wildlife Alliance often focus on fighting land development/forest conversions and instead providing alternative and more diversified and sustainable means of making a living. Already, as a result of this work, the government has avoided 28 economic land concessions and saved over 2 million acres of forestland. One of those that Suwanna talks about in this interview are her efforts in the southern Cardamom mountain range, one of Asia’s last seven elephant corridors and Cambodia’s largest remaining intact forest, where her program has reduced elephant poaching there by 95 percent, tiger poaching by 50 percent and forest fires by 80 percent. However, those successes are now under threat due to the recent approval of a land concession for a proposed titanium mine. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on March 21, 2011.

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14
Mar
2011

The WildLife: The Dark Side of New Species Discovery, Bryan Stuart

Bryan Stuart, curator of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, talks about the dark side of the discovery of new species. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about his experience following his scientific discovery in Laos of a warty salamander (Paramesotriton laoensis) with striking markings. Shortly after describing the previously unknown species in a scientific paper published in 2002, commercial dealers began collecting the salamanders for sale into the pet trade. Particularly galling to Bryan was the fact that they used his geographic description as a roadmap to find the rare newt. This situation is not unique. It’s also happened with a turtle (Chelodina mccordi) from the small Indonesian island of Roti, which so heavily hunted that today it is nearly extinct in the wild. Similarly, a rare gecko (Goniurosaurus luii) from southeastern China was extirpated from its locality as prices in importing countries soared to highs of $1,500 to $2,000 each. It’s a dual dilemma. On the one hand, publishing new species descriptions may inadvertently facilitate their extinctions for commercially valuable species, yet on the other, the conservation benefits of describing the new species can outweigh this potential risk. Bryan recommends that taxonomists work closely with relevant governmental agencies to coordinate publication of the description with legislation or management plans that thwart overexploitation of the new species. In fact, Bryan and his students have worked tirelessly in this regard and, in August 2008, Laos’ Department of Forestry protected this salamander from commercial trade. Now the remaining question is enforcement. Note: Laurel first met Bryan while researching a wildlife trafficking case for ABC News Nightline that involved the illegal import of hundreds of these rare salamanders that were dried and destined for traditional medicine.

Bryan Stuart is curator of amphibians and reptiles at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. He received his Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) in biology from Cornell University, a Master of Science (M.Sc.) in zoology from North Carolina State University, and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Illinois. He also held a post-doctoral appointment at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, before returning to Raleigh to join the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in September 2008. His research interests are in the biodiversity, systematics, biogeography and conservation of amphibians and reptiles. Much of his research has focused on amphibians and reptiles of the Old World tropics, especially Southeast Asia, where he has maintained an active field program for the past decade. He has particular interest in using molecular tools to define species boundaries and unravel their evolutionary histories. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on March 14, 2011.

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28
Feb
2011

The WildLife: Botswana’s First Wildlife Vet, Steve Osofsky

Wildlife veterinarian Steve Osofsky shares his adventures as the first wildlife veterinarian in Botswana. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme some captivating stories – like how he played “MacGyver” and used locally available materials to run medical tests on eland, and when he stared down an angry elephant who’d woken up a might too soon after being darted and entered his helicopter before he did! Dr. Osofsky worked for years at the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas as the Director of Animal Health Services, where he cared for a variety of exotic game, before moving to Botswana in 1991 when he became the first Wildlife Veterinary Officer for Botswana’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (in the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism). Since leaving Botswana, his career expanded well outside the bounds of a traditional veterinary clinical career into a variety of policy positions, including at the U.S. Agency for International Development and World Wildlife Fund. Since 2002, he’s been at the Wildlife Conservation Society, first as that organization’s first Senior Policy Advisor for Wildlife Health and now as Director of Wildlife Health Policy. In addition to his current position with WCS, Dr. Osofsky is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland and has served on eight International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC) Specialist Groups. This episode of “The WildLife” originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on February 22, 2010 and was rebroadcast on February 28, 2011.

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14
Feb
2011

The WildLife: Polar Bears, Robert Buchanan

Robert Buchanan, President and CEO of Polar Bears International (PBI), shares the special adaptations of polar bears to a life on the ice. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how their huge paws, the size of dinner plates, act like snowshoes to distribute their weight and keep them from breaking through the ice. He also reveals that the thick, black pads on the soles of their feet are covered with “suction cups” to provide traction. These marine mammals depend on sea ice for most aspects of their life, including hunting, breeding, and in some cases, denning. That’s why the loss of sea ice due to climate change is so alarming. Summer ice in the Arctic has shrunk by almost 1 million square miles, an area roughly equal to the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined. Consequently, federal scientists believe two-thirds of all the world’s polar bears could vanish by 2050. That’s also why, in May 2008, the United States listed the polar bear as a threatened species under its Endangered Species Act.

Robert Buchanan made his first trip to the Far North and saw his first wild polar bear in the mid-1980s. He has returned every year since. After retiring from marketing for a leading global beverage company, Robert joined Polar Bears International’s board of directors in 2000 and became president and CEO of both PBI USA and Canada. Polar Bears International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its habitat through research, stewardship, and education. Its main focus is to provide scientific resources and information on polar bears and their habitat to institutions and the general public. Robert’s vision is to help the world understand the importance of the Arctic ecosystems and to inspire individuals to take action toward conserving the planet. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on February 14, 2010.

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