5
Jul
2011

The WildLife: Biology of Coral Reefs, Kristian Teleki

Kristian Teleki, SeaWeb’s Vice President for Science Initiatives and former Director of the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), reveals some of the mysteries of corals. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the biology and uses of corals and how much we still don’t know. He also discusses the threats to coral reefs and what can be done to halt their decline. Kristian Teleki joined SeaWeb as Vice President for Science Initiatives in November 2009. For the decade before that, he served as the Director of the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), a unique global partnership dedicated to addressing the serious decline in the health of the world's coral reefs. During his tenure there Kristian had oversight for more than 40 coral reef projects in 35 countries. Project activities ranged from livelihood diversification and resource management to the prevention and mitigation of ecological degradation of coral reefs through management, monitoring and public awareness actions. In addition to his ICRAN duties, Kristian established and led the One Ocean Programme at the United Nations Environment Programme's World Conservation Monitoring Centre, designed to reflect the interconnected nature of the world's seas and its coastlines, the rich and varied biodiversity they support, and human reliance on its resources and services. Kristian Teleki has a diverse background in marine science and conservation, and his field experience extends from the polar to tropical environments. He is particularly interested in the relationship that humans have with the ocean and promoting the sustainable use of its resources. He has degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Cambridge University. He also is on the Editorial Board of Aquatic Conservation, is a member of the Resource Users Group for the European Project on Ocean Acidification (EPOCA) and is a Steering Committee member of the Global Islands Partnership and the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts, and Islands. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on May 3, 2010 and was repeated on July 4, 2011.

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27
Jun
2011

The WildLife: Howler Monkeys, Robin Brockett

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.

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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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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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16
May
2011

The WildLife: Florida State Game Warden, Bob Lee

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.

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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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11
Apr
2011

The WildLife: Elephant Poaching in Chad, Stephanie Vergniault

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.

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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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