The Rhino DNA Index System (RhODIS) is a secure database containing DNA profile data of individual rhinoceros. The extraction method has been optimized and is now used to individually identify rhinoceros horns from stockpiles and to link recovered horns to poaching cases. The information contained in this database has assisted in a number of convictions in South Africa and also one in the United Kingdom. This podcast contains a presentation on the Rhino DNA Index System that was made at the Society of Wildlife Forensic Science’s first triennial meeting in May 2012 by Cindy Harper, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.
Anna Bachmann, Director of Conservation for Nature Iraq, and Hana Ahmed Raza, their mammal 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. This episode originally aired on March 28, 2011 and was reposted on September 12, 2011.
Robin Brockett, former director of the Wildlife Care Center in Belize, talks about howler monkeys in Belize. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how her research into their diet and habits has helped her with rehabilitate howler monkeys captured as pets for release back into the wild.
Howler monkeys are the loudest land animal in the world. They’re known for their loud, guttural, barking howls, which can be heard over three miles away. But did you know that they smell like steeped black tea? Or that they are picky eaters? While howler monkeys in Belize will eat 75 different species of leaves, they’re very particular about the age of the leaves. There are only a few types of leaves they’ll eat year-round. For example, (ficus) fig leaves appear the same all year long but sometimes the howlers will avoid it. That’s because these leaves have a high latex content, and at some point it becomes less palatable and less digestible.
Robin Brockett spent 16 years in Belize first researching howler monkeys in the wild and then spearheading the rehabilitation of confiscated pets back into the wild. Her work led to establishment of the Wildlife Care Center of Belize in 1999, where she served as director for over a decade. Over that time, Robin has nursed and released over 30 howler monkeys back into the wild. Before moving to Belize, Robin Brockett was a primate keeper at Zoo Atlanta for three years where she became involved in behavioral research. Prior to that, Robin spent three years at the Bronx Zoo in both the bird and mammal departments and also time in zookeeper positions at the Franklin Park Children's Zoo and the New England Science Center. She’s currently Assistant Bird Curator with the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. She still works with the Belize government on issues related to the pet trade. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on June 27, 2011.
Megan Price, author of Vermont Wild, shows the wacky side of being a state game warden. She relates to “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme several amusing anecdotes about true close encounters veteran Vermont game warden Eric Nuse had with gun wielding poachers, love struck moose, hungry bears and raucous raccoons.
Eric Nuse, the hero of these campfire tales, is well-known to many Vermonters. He spent 32 years patrolling the woods and waters of the Northeast Kingdom and organizing outdoor education and is currently the executive director of Orion-The Hunters' Institute. Author Megan Price is an award-winning journalist who was also elected to serve three consecutive terms in the Vermont Legislature in which she championed wildlife issues. She first met Eric while attending Vermont’s Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) program and later organized and led the program for several years under his leadership. Megan is currently at work on Volume 2 of Vermont Wild, which is scheduled to be released in the fall of 2011. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on May 23, 2011.
Veteran Florida state game warden, Bob Lee, shares his experiences over 30 years of protecting Florida’s natural animal resources. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how his patrol of Florida’s inshore and offshore wilderness areas led to many high-speed boat chases and hair-raising adventures. He also relates how, after retirement, he befriended one of the state’s most notorious poachers.
Bob Lee began his career as a Florida state game warden in 1977 under the auspices of what was then the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission (GFC). Twenty-two years later, in 1999, that agency (GFC) merged with the Florida Marine Patrol to form the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), where Bob continued to work until he retired in 2007. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has about 725 sworn law enforcement officers. From what Bob can tell, it’s the largest state conservation agency in the US. By comparison, California has the lowest ratio of game wardens to population in all of North America, with its Department of Fish and Game having only 240 field-level game wardens, but twice the population at 37 million. Like other state game wildlife agencies, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission enforces rules to protect the state’s fish and wildlife and to keep waterways safe for millions of boaters. Its law enforcement officers are often among the first on the scene to help when natural disasters occur. They are also often the sole law-enforcement presence in many remote parts of the state. Veteran agent Bob Lee was first stationed in Putnam County, in northeast Florida, where he remained for his entire career. He worked the St. Johns River for twelve years before being promoted to lieutenant and extending his reach to Putnam, St. Johns, and Flagler Counties. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on May 16, 2011.
Marcela Uhart, Wildlife Conservation Society’s field veterinarian in Patagonia, Argentina, talks about the impact of lead ammunition on wildlife. She reveals to “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how spent ammunition remains in the environment where it can then be ingested by animals, especially waterfowl. Because they have no teeth, these birds swallow stones and seeds whole to help grind the food in their stomachs.
Argentina is known for its waterfowl hunting, and every year the number of birds killed is huge. However, switching from lead shot is a slow process because hunters have to accept the new ammunition and lead-free alternatives have to be available. In the United States, lead shot to hunt waterfowl in wetlands has been banned since 1991. This regulation came about mostly because bald eagles that preyed on the waterfowl were being poisoned. In addition, there are some more localized bans. For instance, California has banned the use of lead ammunition in the range of the endangered California Condor and Arizona has a voluntary ban. Also, early in 2010, the National Park Service announced a plan to ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle in the parks. Currently, twenty-nine other countries have adopted voluntary or legislative restrictions, with some of the most aggressive regulations having been adopted in Europe.
Dr. Uhart is trying to get similar restrictions in Argentina by studying the impact of lead pellets on waterfowl in Patagonia. Her research on recently-killed ducks has found lead in their blood, which indicates recent exposure, and their bones, which shows lead accumulation over time. Because she is sampling ducks who were healthy enough to fly and be shot, her research probably underestimates the full effects of lead toxicity. Consequently, her next step will be to assess sub-lethal impacts, such as changes in bone density.
Born and raised on a ranch in the Argentine pampas, Marcela Uhart has been a veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society's (WCS) Field Veterinary Program since 1996. She spends much of her time in the field and often collaborates with numerous non-governmental organizations and researchers in Argentina while providing veterinary expertise in wildlife handling and immobilizations, translocations and health monitoring of wildlife populations. She has worked on a variety of species, including sea lions, elephant seals, penguins, small carnivores, caiman and raptors, as well as "agricultural-conflictive" species such as rheas, large rodents and large ungulates, including guanaco and pampas deer. Marcela has helped to introduce new policy measures to benefit wildlife, such as the establishment of a program to control agricultural pesticide use, implemented with the support and endorsement of an Argentine government research agency known as INTA. Marcela also acts as a consultant to field researchers and local conservation groups and has traveled to Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and other Latin American countries to provide her services. In November 1998, she became one of the founding members of the first Association of Latin American Wildlife Veterinarians. She is also the IUCN’s Wildlife Health Specialist Group (WHSG) coordinator for South America. In this role she hopes to reinforce and revitalize the relationship between wildlife specialists from the developed and developing nations. In fact, since she started at WCS, Marcela has worked tirelessly to address the critical shortage of training opportunities for young veterinarians in Latin America. Professional outreach remains a major focus of her work, as does collaborating with local universities and leading workshops in several Latin American countries. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 25, 2010.
Stephanie Vergniault, Founder and Executive Director of SOS Elephants, talks about elephant poaching in Chad. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that the situation is spiraling out of control. In just two-weeks, in February 2011, 20 elephants were killed in Chad for their ivory. All were killed outside of protected areas, making them easy targets. Vergniault notes that if poaching continues at this rate, “not a single elephant will be alive in Chad in three years time.”
Vergniault is doing all she can to stop this trend. For example, SOS Elephants has developed a network of 100 to 200 local people who inform the NGO about poaching activity, including providing positions of poachers or elephants. It then can alert Chadian government forces, (namely Mobile Forces of Protection of the Environment,) about the incidents. In fact, in mid-March 2011, government forces apprehended the poachers involved in the February incident. They also seized AK-47s, horses and 15 ivory tusks.
While in some regions tourism might provide an economic alternative, in Chad the prospects are limited because the elephants there have become so aggressive and often charge at people. “They are used to poachers,” Vergniault explains. “They have a good memory. To them, humans are bad.” As a result, SOS Elephants focuses on education and training in rural areas, discussing non-lethal alternatives, such as solar barriers or red pepper to discourage elephants from raiding crops and planting outside of elephant migration corridors. Vergniault knows that changing public attitudes both towards elephants and towards ivory is the only way to stop the killing, so SOS Elephants also spreads the word through sport. It’s NGO-sponsored soccer team, The Elephants, serves as an ambassador for the real elephants, furthering the message. It’s working, as more and more local teams are springing up spontaneously across the country.
Stephanie Vergniault is the founder and Executive Director of SOS Elephants in Chad. As a French lawyer specializing in elections and governance, she became passionate about her work overseas and traveled around the world to work in places like Nicaragua, Venezuela, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Ethiopia, Gabon, and Chad. She first came to Chad in 1995 to work with the government on electoral assistance. At that time, as a guest of the Head of State, she had a desire to see the elephants and was struck by their dire situation. When she returned in 2007, she was shocked by the massive slaughter that was occurring. That’s when she decided to take action and, in 2009, Stephanie created the non-governmental organization in Chad called SOS Elephants. SOS Elephants is dedicated to the preservation of elephants and their habitats in Chad and its neighbors. It works through a combination of methods including research, education, conservation and counter poaching actions. Vergniault now lives in Chad and works closely with local communities. One of the newest projects Stephanie has undertaken is building an elephant orphanage for the baby elephants who are orphaned after their mothers are poached for their ivory. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 11, 2011.
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.
Gay Bradshaw, author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity, discusses the psychological health of abused and traumatized elephants and what can be done to help them. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that elephants are traumatized by a number of events – including mass slaughter due to culling (which she compares to genocide), translocation to repopulate new areas (which she notes is akin to deportation), captivity, and the breakdown of elephant society (from poaching and targeting the largest elephants) – and consequently the mental, emotional, and social wellbeing of elephants should be considered in conservation design and policy.
Gay Bradshaw is Executive Director of The Kerulos Center. She holds doctorate degrees in ecology and psychology, and has published, taught, and lectured widely in these fields both in the United States and internationally. Dr. Bradshaw’s work focuses on the theory and methods for the study and care of animal psychological well-being and multi-species cultures. Her research expertise includes the effects of violence on and trauma recovery by elephants, grizzly bears, chimpanzees, and parrots, and other species in captivity. She’s also established the new field of trans-species psychology, upon which the work and principles of The Kerulos Center are based. Her research has been featured in diverse media including the New York Times, Time Magazine, National Geographic, Smithsonian, The London Times, ABC’s 20/20, and several documentary films. Her book, Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity, published by Yale University Press, provides an in-depth psychological portrait of elephants in captivity and in the wild. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 10, 2010.
Nancy Bazilchuk reveals reindeers’ special adaptations as she describes her dramatic cross country ski trek across Hardangervidda Plateau in one of Norway’s most famous national parks in search of this elusive animal. Traveling the same route that nearly defeated legendary explorer Roald Amundsen, she tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the slow seasonal waltz from east to west as the wild reindeer let winter storms expose the lichens they depend on for 80 percent of their winter diet and also divulges whether reindeer really can fly.
Nancy Bazilchuk is a freelance science writer and editor living in Norway. She used to work the environmental beat at Vermont’s Burlington Free Press, where she covered a range of topics such as land use controversies, invasive species and hazardous waste sites. She’s written for numerous publications, including the New Scientist, Scientific American and Audubon Magazine. This episode of “The WildLife” originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on December 28, 2009 and was rebroadcast December 27, 2010.