23
May
2011

The WildLife: Vermont Wildlife Stories, Megan Price

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.

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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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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
Nov
2010

The WildLife: Orangutan Rehabilitation, Michelle Desilets, Part II

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.

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23
Nov
2010

The WildLife: Orangutans, Michelle Desilets, Part I

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. 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 The Intimate Ape. Shawn is a university professor at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia, Canada as well as a writer. To write The Intimate Ape, 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” originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 5, 2010, and was repeated on November 22, 2010.

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8
Nov
2010

The WildLife: Special Agent Basics - Training for Wildlife Law Enforcement, Sheila O’Connor, Part II

US Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent Sheila O’Connor reveals what it takes to work in wildlife law enforcement. In the second of a two-part interview, Special Agent O’Connor tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about the specialized training officers go through. (Part I last week focused on her adventures stopping wildlife crime—from tarantulas to tigers.)

Special Agent O’Connor is a veteran wildlife law enforcement officer, with over 20 years of service under belt. She began her career in wildlife law enforcement as a Conservation Police Officer for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, where she served for eight years. She then moved to federal wildlife law enforcement with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, where she was first posted to Ann Arbor, Michigan, and then to St. Paul, Minnesota. During that time, she investigated several cases that led to felony convictions for violations of wildlife laws. She was recently promoted to be a training officer at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (also known as FLETC) in Georgia. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on November 8, 2010.

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