The WildLife: Polar Bears, Global Warming and CITES Decision, Steven Amstrup

Dr. Steven Amstrup has been studying polar bears and their habitat since 1980, and much of what we know about them, and even how scientists study them, comes from his work. For instance, he was the first person to apply radio telemetry to the study of polar bears, which allowed scientists to understand the immense distances that polar bears travel, and that knowledge of their movements is vital to understanding polar bear ecology. He also developed studies to quantitatively describe denning habitat and developed the ability to locate dens under the snow with Forward Looking Infrared Imagery (FLIR). That allowed him to uncovered – quite literally – information about polar bear maternal denning. He made the unexpected discovery that over half of historic polar bear maternity dens in Alaska were on the drifting pack ice, and then, subsequently, he led work that showed that polar bears increasingly opted to den on land because of sea ice deterioration due to global warming.

Over the three decades he’s been studying polar bears, Amstrup has observed a profound change in their Arctic habitats and the threats they face, and he often speaks out about the need to mitigate greenhouse gasses if polar bears are to survive as a species.

Dr. Amstrup is currently senior scientist at Polar Bears International. He led the international team of researchers that prepared nine reports that became the basis for the decision, by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior in 2008, to list polar bears as a threatened species. He is a past chairman of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and has been an active member of the group throughout his career. Prior to joining Polar Bears International staff, he was the Polar Bear Project Leader with the United States Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK.


The WildLife: A Lifetime with Elephants, Iain Douglas-Hamilton

Iain Douglas-Hamilton reflects on a lifetime studying elephants and discusses the current surge in ivory poaching.

At age 23, Iain Douglas-Hamilton pioneered the first in-depth scientific study of elephant social behavior in Tanzania's Lake Manyara National Park. During the 1970s he investigated the status of elephants throughout Africa and was the first to alert the world to the ivory poaching holocaust. He and his wife have co-authored two award-winning books and have made numerous television films. In 1993, he founded Save the Elephants, a Kenyan conservation organization dedicated specifically to elephants. In 2010, he was named the recipient of the prestigious Indianapolis Prize, in recognition for his lifetime achievements.


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: Wildlife documentaries, Carol Foster

Wildlife filmmaker Carol Foster reveals her secrets for filming wildlife in a manner that captures natural actions in a manner that does not disturb the animals.  She tells "The WildLife" host Laurel Neme, about the special jungle studio that she and her filmmaker husband, Richard Foster, have constructed in the Belize which allows them to film wild behavior that would not otherwise be possible. For instance, they've captured on film a baby cantil viper wriggling the green tip of its tail over its head to attract and capture frogs.  They've also filmed flower mites hitchhiking on the nostrils of a hummingbird.

This episode of "The WildLife" originally aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on April 18, 2011.  It was reposted on September 19, 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: 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.


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.


The WildLife: Common Terns, Chris Boget

Chris Boget, Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust talks about common terns and land conservation. He tells “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme how the Common Tern is one of Vermont’s greatest wildlife conservation victories, due to protection of its breeding habitat.

While common terns are the most widespread tern in North America, in many states, including Vermont, they’re threatened or endangered. Habitat loss from either human activities, erosion or even gulls and other critters taking over has led to the concentration of colonies on a smaller number of suitable nesting sites. Consequently, more and more often common terns were nesting at marginal locations where the quality of their habitat was low and the risk of predation – from raccoons, skunks, opossums, gulls and even ants – is high. In Vermont’s Lake Champlain basin, for example, the number of common terns dropped from almost 400 nesting pairs in the 1960s to only 50 in 1988. As a result, in 1989 the Common Tern was placed on the state of Vermont’s endangered species list.

Common Terns are extremely sensitive to disturbance during the breeding season. Adults will attack human intruders in the nesting colonies, often striking them on the head with their bills. The problem is that, the more they have to protect their chicks from intruders, the less time and energy they have to care for their young. The Lake Champlain Land Trust recognized that problem early on and, since 1978, worked to permanently conserve and protect several important Common Tern nesting islands in Lake Champlain. It started by reaching out to the landowners of the few islands with nesting Common Terns and educating them about the value of the birds and the problems they face. The Lake Champlain Land Trust then led the effort to purchase and protect the only possible island habitats for terns. Through the protection of breeding habitat, along with continual monitoring and management efforts of its partners at the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, Green Mountain Audubon Society and Audubon Vermont, the story of the Common Tern is now one of Vermont’s greatest wildlife conservation victories. Their numbers have soared by over 300 percent, from just 50 breeding pairs at the end of the 1980’s to close to 200 today.

Chris Boget, is the Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust. The mission of the Lake Champlain Land Trust is to save the scenic beauty, natural communities, and recreational amenities of Lake Champlain by permanently preserving significant islands, shoreline areas, and natural communities in the Champlain Region. Chris Boget has more than twenty years of experience in land conservation, including positions with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Vermont Land Trust, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. Before becoming Executive Director of the Lake Champlain Land Trust, he previously served as their Director of Land Protection and also as Assistant Director. Chris has extensive experience with landowner outreach and education. He received a Master of Science degree in Natural Resource Planning from the University of Vermont and an undergraduate degree in Biology from the College of William and Mary. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont aired on June 6, 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: 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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