In 2007 fellow Girl Scouts Madison Vorva and her friend Rhiannon Tomtishen embarked on a campaign to save the orangutan by targeting unsustainable palm oil production and the many products that use it, including Girl Scout cookies. Both young women have been featured on major media outlets and have won several awards for their activism, including the United Nations Forest Heroes award.
Since she was in 6th grade, Rhiannon Tomtishen has been passionate about orangutans. As a Girl Scout, that passion led her to fight for deforestation-free palm oil together with her friend Madison Vorva. The story of these two girls inspires young and old alike and shows how simple actions can make a big difference. Now 19 years old, this eloquent young women shares her experience and advises us all to follow our passion.
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.
Michelle Desilets, Executive Director of the Orangutan Land Trust, discusses the rehabilitation of rescued orangutans and new approaches to help save this species in the second of a two-part interview. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how a rescued orangutan learns to be wild with mesmerizing stories of the "school" at Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project in Kalimantan, Indonesia. She also explores innvoative ways to help protect orangutans and their habitat. Michelle Desilets has been working on orangutan conservation alongside Lone Droscher Nielsen, the internationally well-known champion of these apes, for over 15 years. Together, the two women founded the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project which now has over 600 orangutans in its care, making it the largest such center in the world. Michelle also founded the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK (BOS) and served as its Executive Director and initiated a number of international campaigns to help orangutans, such as campaigns to end the illegal trade of orangutans and to repatriate known smuggled orangutans, as well as the campaign for sustainable palm oil. Currently, she is the Executive Director of the Orangutan Land Trust. She also sits on several working groups in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and spends a good deal of time at the Nyaru Menteng project. This episode of “The WildLife” originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 12, 2010, and was repeated on November 29, 2010.
Anna Nekaris, an expert on nocturnal primates, discusses Asia’s slow and slender lorises. She reveals to “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme what makes these creatures so special and why they’re sought after both as pets and as a key ingredient in traditional medicine. Did you know that the lovable, furry Ewoks in Star Wars films were modeled after slow lorises? But unlike Ewoks, lorises can’t jump or leap, which means they can only move through the forest canopy by using branches that touch.That makes an intact forest vital to their survival. Lorises are also one of the only venomous primates. They have a form of biological venom that’s produced by a gland in their elbows, which they mix with saliva to create a powerful toxin. These unique characteristics are what make them a sought after ingredient in traditional medicine across Asia. In fact, Anna and her research team recently completed the first major study of the use of lorises in traditional medicine in Asia and found a multitude of uses -- as a tonic for women after childbirth, for stomach problems, for healing wounds and broken bones, and in the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. Lorises are seen as “an animal with 100 uses,” akin to aspirin in Western medicine.
Anna Nekaris is a Reader and Course Tutor in Primate Conservation at Oxford Brookes University in the United Kingdom. She is also a member of the IUCN/SSC Primates Specialist Group, the Conservation Working Party of the Primate Society of Great Britain, and on the editorial board of Endangered Species Research and Folia Primatologica. Anna’s main research interests fall under the areas conservation, ecology, and speciation, with her fieldwork taking her to Trinidad, Senegal, Utah, India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Indonesia, Uganda and Kenya. Although she has conducted fieldwork on bats, small carnivores (including civets and cats), mouse deer, and giant squirrels, her primary research focus is on primates. She has conducted many long-term studies of Indian and Sri Lankan slender lorises. Her current research project, on the diversity and conservation of Asian slow lorises, is being undertaken by Anna and postgraduate students in Java, Sumatra, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore and Malaysia, where at least five species of slow loris are found. The team is using morphological, behavioral and vocal analyses to uncover diversity within this group. She has written several articles on the loris trade, including in Endangered Species Research and the American Journal of Primatology, contributed an article on the Javan slow loris to the IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Groups Top 25 Most Endangered Primates, written a book that includes myths and legends on slender lorises, and contributes to the Loris Potto Conservation Database. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on September 13, 2010.
Brian Tissot, marine ecologist, discusses the marine aquarium trade. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how the United States, as the world's largest importer of marine ornamental species for the aquaria, curio, home decor and jewelry industries, has an opportunity to leverage its market power to promote more sustainable trade and reduce the effects of this trade on coral reefs worldwide. The trade in coral and coral reef species for ornamental purposes is substantial and growing, with approximately 30 million fish and 1.5 million live stony corals removed from the ecosystem each year. The aquarium industry alone targets some 1,500 species of reef fish, and many die in transit, prompting collectors to gather even more animals to compensate for potential losses. With the United States accounting for over half of the ornamental trade in live coral, reef fish and invertebrates, Tissot and 17 other scientists are calling on this country to leverage its market demand—through additional regulation and enforcement, public awareness campaigns, certification of sustainable products, and assistance to spread best practices in source countries—to make the trade more sustainable.
Dr. Brian Tissot is a Professor in the School of Earth and Environmental Science at Washington State University Vancouver. His research is focused on the interface between biology, management, and policy and examines ecological interactions between habitat and commercially important marine fishes and invertebrates and the role of the community in managing marine resources. Through collaboration with state, federal and international agencies he is involved in a range of activities including basic research, research with implications towards resource management, and environmental policy development in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California. In Hawaii, he helped improve the management of an aquarium fishery along the Kona coast by being a part of a collaborative research program with state biologists and policy makers, SeaGrant extension, and the local community. On the west coast he is examining the role of continental shelf invertebrates, especially deep water corals, and how they function as critical habitat for commercially important fishes. Information from his work has been used to improve management strategies for coral reefs in the Pacific, west coast bottom trawling, and in the development of legislation in Congress. In addition to over 60 publications in scientific journals, Dr. Tissot's work has been featured in Scientific American, National Geographic News, Smithsonian magazine and in the Washington Post. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on July 26, 2010.
Bryan Christy, author of The Lizard King, talks about the illicit reptile trade and his adventures researching this underworld. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the massive challenges in stopping the trade and also what it’s like to have a monkey (literally!) on your back. Bryan Christy is an investigative journalist and author. He is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University, Cornell, the University of Michigan Law School and was a Fulbright Scholar to the University of Tokyo Law School. His most recent story, The Kingpin, profiled illegal wildlife trader Anson Wong for the January 2010 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Before becoming a journalist, Bryan was a lawyer in Washington, DC specializing in international trade law and policy. He worked on such issues as US-Japan Supercomputer negotiations, Norwegian Whaling, and sales of lightwater nuclear reactors to North Korea. He also worked in the Executive Office of the President. Mr. Christy is the author of The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World's Greatest Reptile Smugglers. In researching that book, he was bitten between the eyes by a blood python, chased by a mother alligator, sprayed by a bird-eating tarantula, and ejaculated on by a Bengal tiger. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 26, 2010.
Michelle Desilets, Executive Director of the Orangutan Land Trust, divulges the interesting biology and habits of orangutans in the first of a two-part interview. She gives “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme an insider’s look at what makes these red apes fascinating, endearing, infuriating and worthy of protection. For instance, did you know orangutans don’t like the rain? Yet they don’t complain and instead fashion roofs and umbrellas out of leaves. You’ll also gain insights into why these animals are under threat. Michelle Desilets has been working on orangutan conservation alongside Lone Droscher Nielsen, the internationally well-known champion of these apes, for over 15 years. Together, the two women founded the Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Reintroduction Project which now has over 600 orangutans in its care, making it the largest such center in the world. Michelle also founded the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation UK (BOS) and served as its Executive Director and initiated a number of international campaigns to help orangutans, such as campaigns to end the illegal trade of orangutans and to repatriate known smuggled orangutans, as well as the campaign for sustainable palm oil. Currently, she is the Executive Director of the Orangutan Land Trust. She also sits on several working groups in the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil and spends a good deal of time at the Nyaru Menteng project. In this podcast, you’ll also hear Shawn Thompson, author of a new book on orangutans called The Intimate Ape. Shawn is a university professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada as well as a writer. As a journalist, he rode a Canadian submarine, tracked down a fugitive in the Dominican Republic and was voluntarily incarcerated for a weekend in Canada's oldest maximum-security federal penitentiary. In 2001, he went to the jungles of Borneo to see orangutans and discovered a new passion in his life. His latest book, called The Intimate Ape, is about orangutans and came out in March 2010. To write it, he spent years hiking through the jungles of Borneo and Sumatra and had many adventures -- from getting chased by wild pygmy elephants in Borneo, to sleeping inside the zoo in Jakarta. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 5, 2010.