The WildLife: Detection Dogs and Wildlife Conservation, Megan Parker

Megan Parker, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Working Dogs for Conservation, reveals the secrets of using detection dogs for wildlife conservation. She tells "The WildLife" host Laurel Neme how she trains dogs to detect animals, plants and their seed and scat. Frequently, the dogs uncover what wildlife biologists can't easily see or find, and they do it in a more efficient and non-intrusive way, meaning without baiting, luring, trapping, handling or radio-collaring the animals. She also tells stories of the dogs in action, and shows how her dogs have sniffed out dwindling populations of cheetahs in Kenya, assisted with population surveys of endangered snow leopards in eastern Russia, and uncovered invasive cannibal snails in Hawaii. This episode of The WildLife originally aired on WOMM-LP, The Radiator, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on January 3, 2011 and was reposted on September 26, 2011.


The WildLife: Nature Iraq, Anna Bachmann and Hana Ahmed Raza

Anna Bachmann, Director of Conservation for Nature Iraq, and Hana Ahmed Raza, their mammal 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. This episode originally aired on March 28, 2011 and was reposted on September 12, 2011.


The WildLife: Once and Future Giants, Sharon Levy

Sharon Levy, author of Once and Future Giants, discusses what Ice Age extinctions teach us to help today’s megafauna, like elephants and bears, avoid the same fate. She tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme that North America was home to a menagerie of massive mammals, like mammoths, mastodons, camels, giant beavers, sloths and lions, until about 13,000 years ago, when the first humans reached the Americas. She notes that today’s large mammals face an intensified replay of that great die-off, and that these large animals need to be able to move in times when they need to adapt to a changing climate.

Sharon Levy is the author Once and Future Giants: What Ice Age extinctions Tell Us About the Fate of Earth's Largest Animals. For the past nineteen years, she’s covered environmental issues of all kinds, including the ecology of top predators, bioengineered mosquitoes, and archaeological evidence of ancient human impacts on wildlife and fisheries. She is a contributing editor at OnEarth magazine, and writes regularly for National Wildlife, BioScience, Audubon and the New Scientist.  Her work has also appeared in Natural History, Nature, Wildlife Conservation, High Country News and Discovery Channel Online. This episode of “The WildLife” was posted on August 1, 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


The WildLife: Wildlife Filmmaking, Chris Palmer

Chris Palmer, veteran filmmaker and author of Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom (Sierra Club Books, 2010), exposes the dark side of wildlife filmmaking. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme about his experiences in wildlife filmmaking, its conservation impact, and how audiences are deceived as filmmakers take shortcuts to get their “money shot.” Did you know the famous shots of lemmings hurling themselves over a cliff in the 1958 Disney documentary "White Wilderness" was faked, and that the film crew actually threw the animals to their doom? Chris Palmer reveals the motivations for this type of trickery and why these deceptions can be both helpful and problematic. He’ll also discuss the implications of intrusive, on-camera hosts like Jeff Corwin, Steve Irwin and Bear Grylls, and what the sensationalized “fangs and claws” type shows, like Man vs. Wild, mean for wildlife conservation.

Chris Palmer has produced more than 300 hours of original programming for prime-time television and theatrical release over the past 25 years. His films have been broadcast on the Disney Channel, TBS Superstation, Animal Planet and PBS, as well as in IMAX theaters. He has many awards, including two Emmys and an Oscar Nomination. In 2004, he founded the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University’s School of Communication, which he now directs. Profiles about Chris and his book have appeared in many different media outlets, including National Public Radio (NPR), the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, as well as on Nightline, Good Morning America, the Today Show, the Fox News Channel, and other networks. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on November 15, 2010.


The WildLife: Bear Behavior & Emotions, Else Poulsen, Part II

Else Poulsen, bear expert and author of the book SMILING BEARS, shares her insights into bear behavior and emotions through stories about some of the bears she has known. She also details to “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how she uses this knowledge to improve the lives of bears in captivity in this second of a two-part interview. Else Poulsen has worked at the Calgary and Detroit zoos and is known internationally for her captive bear husbandry and rehabilitation. In 2000 she won the Zookeeper Research Excellence Award from the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Bear Taxon Advisory Group. She currently lives in southern Ontario, Canada and works as an animal management consultant for zoos, sanctuaries, wildlife rehabilitators, and other animal welfare groups. She’s written about her experiences in an engaging narrative non-fiction book, SMILING BEARS: A Zookeeper Explores the Behavior and Emotional Life of Bears, which has been short listed for the Edna Staebler Literary Award for Creative Non-Fiction . This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on September 27, 2010. (Part I aired on September 20, 2010.)

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