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.

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.

14
Feb
2011

The WildLife: Polar Bears, Robert Buchanan

Robert Buchanan, President and CEO of Polar Bears International (PBI), shares the special adaptations of polar bears to a life on the ice. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how their huge paws, the size of dinner plates, act like snowshoes to distribute their weight and keep them from breaking through the ice. He also reveals that the thick, black pads on the soles of their feet are covered with “suction cups” to provide traction. These marine mammals depend on sea ice for most aspects of their life, including hunting, breeding, and in some cases, denning. That’s why the loss of sea ice due to climate change is so alarming. Summer ice in the Arctic has shrunk by almost 1 million square miles, an area roughly equal to the size of Alaska, Texas, and the state of Washington combined. Consequently, federal scientists believe two-thirds of all the world’s polar bears could vanish by 2050. That’s also why, in May 2008, the United States listed the polar bear as a threatened species under its Endangered Species Act.

Robert Buchanan made his first trip to the Far North and saw his first wild polar bear in the mid-1980s. He has returned every year since. After retiring from marketing for a leading global beverage company, Robert joined Polar Bears International’s board of directors in 2000 and became president and CEO of both PBI USA and Canada. Polar Bears International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its habitat through research, stewardship, and education. Its main focus is to provide scientific resources and information on polar bears and their habitat to institutions and the general public. Robert’s vision is to help the world understand the importance of the Arctic ecosystems and to inspire individuals to take action toward conserving the planet. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on February 14, 2010.

31
Jan
2011

The WildLife: Simple Things to Help Wildlife, Mark Fraser

Naturalist Mark Fraser discusses some of the simple things you can do to help wildlife--from less mowing to avoiding pesticides. Plus, he takes “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme on a "virtual tour" of New England forests to meet local wildlife. He reveals the special characteristics of fishers, coywolves, salamanders, songbirds and more so that you'll gain a new appreciation of what's in your own backyard.

Mark is the host and executive producer of “Nature Walks with Mark Fraser,” a conservation-based wildlife awareness program made for public television, cinema and online audiences. He is a self-taught life long naturalist and underwater videographer. He is also is the Executive Director of the Mark Fraser Conservation Foundation, a new non-profit working to raise awareness about the natural world through direct public education.  He has spent a lifetime studying the forests and fauna and overall biological diversity from New England to Central America and is a Public Environmental Educator at the Sherburne Nature Center in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. His films have aired on multiple media outlets as well as at museums and nature centers. You can see his work on his YouTube channel (nwwmark), or at his website, www.naturewalkswithmark.org. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 31, 2010.

24
Jan
2011

The WildLife: Whale Poop (and Whales), Joe Roman

Joe Roman, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School for the Environment and Natural Resources and author of the book Whale, discusses whale dung and its importance to the ecosystem. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that, contrary to most other marine species, whales feed at the ocean depths but defecate near to the surface, and that these whale feces, which are loaded with nitrogen, supply vital nutrients that fertilize their ocean gardens. We also discuss what whale poop looks and smells like, how to find it, and his other whale-related research.

Joe Roman was born and raised in New York and counts King Kong as an early conservation influence. He is a conservation biologist, as well as a Fellow at the Gund Institute of Ecological Economics, Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School for the Environment and Natural Resources, and research associate at the New England Aquarium. He received his PhD from Harvard University in 2003 in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology and a Master's degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation from the University of Florida. During a fellowship with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, he helped start an interdisciplinary program on Biodiversity and Human Health at the US Environmental Protection Agency. His most recent book, Whale (Reaktion Books), provides an in-depth look at the cultural and natural history of these majestic aquatic mammals. His next book, titled Listed: Dispatches from America's Endangered Species Act, will be released by Harvard University Press in spring 2011. His most recent research paper, which has been featured on National Public Radio and elsewhere, focuses on what he calls “the whale pump” and how the dung of these marine mammals enhance primary productivity in a coastal basin.This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 24, 2010.

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.

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.

3
Jan
2011

The WildLife: Detection Dogs for Wildlife Conservation, Megan Parker

Megan Parker, Executive Director and co-founder of Working Dogs for Conservation, talks about using detection dogs for wildlife conservation. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how she trains dogs to detect wildlife samples, including plants, animals, seeds and scat. The dogs are often able to uncover what wildlife biologists can’t easily see or find, and they do so more efficiently and in a non-intrusive way—that is, without the baiting, luring, trapping, handling or radio-collaring the animals. The dogs at Working Dogs for Conservation have sniffed out dwindling populations of cheetahs in Kenya, helped with population surveys of endangered snow leopards in eastern Russia and uncovered invasive cannibal snails in Hawaii.

Megan Parker grew up in Montana, where she began training dogs when she was just 10 years old. She received her B.A. from Middlebury College in Vermont and her M.S. from Boise State University in raptor ecology, studying falcons in Guatemala. She has worked as a biologist in many states in the U.S., Canada, Central America, Asia and Africa. Her Ph.D. at the University of Montana focused on researching scent marking behavior and chemistry for conservation of African wild dogs in northern Botswana. Beginning in 1996, Megan started exploring the wider potential for dogs in non-intrusive wildlife research. Her idea of training dogs to find scat of specific species in the wild coincided with the increasing capacity of biologists in the mid-1990s to extract viable DNA samples from tissue particles contained in animal scat. She is particularly interested in the international application of working dogs in conservation to help developing countries and under funded projects acquire excellent samples and reduce costs. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 3, 2010.

27
Dec
2010

The WildLife: Reindeer, Nancy Bazilchuk

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.

20
Dec
2010

The WildLife: Tapirs & Saving Scarlet Macaws, Sharon Matola, Part 2

Sharon Matola, founder and director of the Belize Zoo, discusses her work with tapirs and her fight to save Belize’s last scarlet macaws. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how her fight to stop the Challilo hydroelectric dam on Belize’s Macal River, which threatened numerous rare species, including the country’s last scarlet macaws, resulted in the government branding her an enemy of the state. This fight was documented in the book “The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw: One Woman’s Fight to Save the World’s Most Beautiful Bird” by Bruce Barcott. We also talk about tapirs and learn how one very special one, Tambo, is poised to become a true animal ambassador. This is the second of a two-part interview. Part 1 addresses what makes the Belize Zoo the “best little zoo in the world” and also her work with jaguar rehabilitation.

Sharon Matola is an American-born, motorcycle-riding, lion-taming, monkey-smuggling Air Force veteran who’s fluent in Russian and an expert in jungle survival, mushrooms and tapir biology. In 1983, she started the Belize Zoo as a home for a collection of 17 wild animals used in a documentary film she’d worked on about tropical forests. Today, The Belize Zoo and Tropical Education Center has grown to about 170 animals, including jaguars, tapirs, harpy eagles and macaws. Sharon is best known for is her work rescuing and rehabilitating rare creatures and is often referred to as the Doctor Doolittle of Belize or else the “Jane Goodall of jaguars.” In addition to serving as Director of the Belize Zoo, she hosts a regular radio program on BFBS Radio in Belize and is author of several books, including a series about Hoodwink the Owl for schoolchildren, one about Junior Buddy, one of the zoo’s most famous jaguars, and another called Tambo the Tapir, which is forthcoming. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on December 20, 2010.