New report confirms global carnivore conservation at risk

Shrinking habitat, increased conflict projected in regions critical to survival of threatened apex predatorsLion4

Helsinki – A new study confirms that the global conservation of carnivores is at risk. Published (01/04/2016) in Scientific Reports, the report models future global land conversion and estimates this will lead to significant range loss and conflict with local people in regions critical for the survival of already threatened carnivore species.

Organized by researchers from the University of Helsinki in collaboration with an international team of conservation and land use change scientists the study concludes that immediate action is needed to prevent habitat loss and conflict with humans in priority areas for carnivore conservation.

Lead author Dr. Enrico Di Minin of University of Helsinki explained, “We assessed how expected land use change will affect priority areas for carnivore conservation in the future. The analysis revealed that carnivores will suffer considerable range losses in the future. Worryingly, it seems that the most important areas for carnivore conservation are located in areas where human-carnivore conflicts are likely to be most severe.”

Di Minin continued, “Presently, South American, African, and South East Asian countries, as well as India, were found to contribute mostly to carnivore conservation. While some of the most charismatic species, such as the tiger and giant panda were found to be at high risk under future land use change, smaller, less charismatic species, with small ranges were found to be equally threatened by habitat loss.”

Carnivores include some of the most iconic species that help generate funding for biodiversity conservation and deliver important benefits to humans. Protecting carnivores will conserve many other bird, amphibian, reptile and mammal species that live in priority areas for carnivore conservation.

Dr. Luke Hunter, President and Chief Conservation Officer of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and a co-author of the paper shared, “Carnivores like big cats have been squeezed out of their ranges at alarming rates for decades now, and we can now see that habitat loss and its shock waves on wildlife are only on the rise. In order to protect our planet’s landscape guardians, a far greater financial investment from the international community is needed for range-wide conservation approaches, both within and outside of protected areas where carnivores roam.”

Professor Rob Slotow from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, another co-author in the paper, in South Africa emphasizes that reducing conflict with humans outside of protected areas is pivotal. “Most priorities for carnivore conservation are in areas in the global south where human populations are increasing in size, agriculture is intensifying, and human development needs are the highest. There is need to implement conservation strategies that promote tolerance for carnivores outside protected areas and focus on the benefits that people derive from these species.”

Interactive visualizations and data: http://avaa.tdata.fi/web/cbig/carnivores

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Banning trophy hunting could do more harm than good

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Trophy hunting shouldn’t be banned but instead it should be better regulated to ensure funds generated from permits are invested back into local conservation efforts, says a team of international researchers.

Dr Enrico Di Minin from the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences, along with Professor Corey Bradshaw from the University of Adelaide and Professor Nigel Leader-Williams from the University of Cambridge argue that banning trophy hunting would do more harm than good in African countries that have little money to invest in critical conservation initiatives.

Dr Di Minin says trophy hunting brings in substantial money and can be less disruptive than ecotourism.

“Conserving biodiversity can be expensive, so generating money is essential for environmental non-government organisations, conservation-minded individuals, government agencies and scientists,” says Dr Di Minin.

“Financial resources for conservation, particularly in developing countries, are limited. As such, consumptive (including trophy hunting) and non-consumptive (ecotourism safaris) uses are both needed to generate funding. Without such these, many natural habitats would otherwise be converted to agricultural or pastoral uses.

“Trophy hunting can also have a smaller carbon and infrastructure footprint than ecotourism, and it generates higher revenue from a lower number of uses,” he says.

Professor Bradshaw says that we should focus more on the practical outcomes for biodiversity than the morality of hunting in general.

“The story of Cecil the lion who was killed by an American dentist in July 2015 shocked people all over the world and reignited debates surrounding trophy hunting,” says Professor Bradshaw.

“Understandably, many people oppose trophy hunting and believe it is contributing to the ongoing loss of species; however, we contend that banning the US$217 million per year industry in Africa could end up being worse for species conservation,” he says.

Professor Leader-Williams says there is however a need for the industry to be better regulated.

“There are many concerns about trophy hunting beyond the ethical that currently limit its effectiveness as a conservation tool,” says Professor Leader-Williams. “One of the biggest problems is that the revenue it generates often goes to the private sector and rarely benefits protected-area management and the local communities.

“However, if this money was better managed, it would provide much needed funds for conservation,” he says.

The researchers have developed a list of 12 guidelines that could address some of the concerns about trophy hunting and enhance its contribution to biodiversity conservation. Their paper was published in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

GUIDELINES TO MAKE TROPHY HUNTING MORE EFFECTIVE FOR CONSERVATION:

  1. Mandatory levies should be imposed on safari operators by governments so that they can be invested directly into trust funds for conservation and management;
  2. Eco-labelling certification schemes could be adopted for trophies coming from areas that contribute to broader biodiversity conservation and respect animal welfare concerns;
  3. Mandatory population viability analyses should be done to ensure that harvests cause no net population declines;
  4. Post-hunt sales of any part of the animals should be banned to avoid illegal wildlife trade;
  5. Priority should be given to fund trophy hunting enterprises run (or leased) by local communities;
  6. Trusts to facilitate equitable benefit sharing within local communities and promote long-term economic sustainability should be created;
  7. Mandatory scientific sampling of hunted animals, including tissue for genetic analyses and teeth for age analysis, should be enforced;
  8. Mandatory 5-year (or more frequent) reviews of all individuals hunted and detailed population management plans should be submitted to government legislators to extend permits;
  9. There should be full disclosure to public of all data collected (including levied amounts);
  10. Independent government observers should be placed randomly and without forewarning on safari hunts as they happen;
  11. Trophies must be confiscated and permits are revoked when illegal practices are disclosed; and
  12. Backup professional shooters and trackers should be present for all hunts to minimise welfare concerns.

Banning Trophy Hunting Will Exacerbate Biodiversity Loss, artikkeli Trends in Ecology and Evolution -julkaisussa

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