15
Aug
2011

The WildLife: Commercial Porcupine Farming in Vietnam, Emma Brooks

IUCN program officer Emma Brooks discusses illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam and her research on how commercial farming of a traded species, like porcupines, affects both the species and the trade. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how most animals in Vietnam’s wildlife trade end up on the plates of wealthy restaurant patrons. In Vietnam and elsewhere, commercial wildlife farming, meaning the breeding of wild species for legal sale, is often promoted to supply demand while preventing overhunting in the wild. However, in a study on the conservation impact of commercial wildlife farming of porcupines in Vietnam published in August 2010 in Biological Conservation, IUCN program officer Emma Brooks concluded that commercial porcupine farming is instead having the opposite effect.

Emma Brooks has been involved with numerous conservation projects around the world, from biodiversity surveys in Mozambique to Giant River Otter counts in Bolivia. She first became interested in wildlife trade issues during her MSc at the University of East Anglia, UK. Her research in the trade in porcupines formed her dissertation topic, for which she spent three months collecting data and interviewing locals in northern Viet Nam. Emma now works for the IUCN, as part of the Global Species Programme based in Cambridge, UK. Her work includes assessing the extinction risk of species from around the world for inclusion on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, as well as using the information gathered to analyze species richness, major species and habitat threats, and important areas for biodiversity. The importance of species, ecosystems and services to human livelihoods and wellbeing is increasingly being recognized, and she works in a number of areas to provide the information to support decisions for the protection of species and livelihoods. This episode of “The WildLife” was posted on August 15, 2011.

The WildLife is a show that explores the mysteries of the animal world through interviews with scientists, authors and other wildlife investigators. It airs every Monday from 1-2 pm EST on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont.

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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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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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17
Jan
2011

The WildLife: Seahorses, Helen Scales

Helen Scales, author of Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses from Myth to Reality, reveals the unusual anatomy and strange sex lives of seahorses. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that seahorses live mysterious lives, tucked away out of sight on the seafloor, and provides insights into their strange characteristics, including: kangaroo-like pouches for the males to bear the young, horse-like snouts used like straws to suck in tiny zooplankton, prehensile tails to grasp sea grasses, swiveling chameleon eyes and color-changing skin. Seahorses face many threats, including habitat loss and degradation and commercial trade. They’re used in traditional Asian medicine, and also sold as curios and as aquarium pets. Global consumption of seahorses is massive, with about 25 million seahorses sold each year. There’s so much we still don’t know about seahorses. For instance, we’re not even sure how many different species there are.

Dr. Helen Scales is a marine biologist, writer, and broadcaster who specializes in fisheries, habitat protection, and the international trade in endangered species. She has lived and worked in various countries and now lives in Cambridge, England where she works as a consultant for a number of conservation groups including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, Natural England, and TRAFFIC International. For her PhD from the University of Cambridge she studied the loves and lives of one of the biggest coral reef fish, the Napoleon wrasse, and its imperiled status due to demand from Asian live seafood restaurants.She appears as a radio host on the BBC’s The Naked Scientists show and on BBC Radio 4’s Home Planet. She also produces and presents a new podcast series, Naked Oceans, a fun and informative exploration of the undersea realm. In her first book, Poseidon’s Steed: The Story of Seahorses from Myth to Reality, she explores humankind’s thousand-year fascination with seahorses. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 17, 2010.

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10
Jan
2011

The WildLife: Elephant Trauma & Psychology, Gay Bradshaw

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.

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