Tag Archives: endangered species

The Conversation: Into the jungles of Papua New Guinea – a personal journey

Much of my time as an ecology lecturer has been spent teaching students about the wonders of this planet’s biodiversity, but also regrettably, how much of this biodiversity is under severe threat. Hundreds, if not thousands, of species become extinct each year.

With such a disastrous outlook for the species with which we share Earth, it’s easy to get disheartened about where we’re headed. More personally, I often question whether my own fields of science (ecology and conservation biology) are really enough to help stem the extinction tide.

But this week I’m embarking on a journey to Papua New Guinea’s remote Torricelli Mountains. It’s part of a crowd-funded project, Discovering Papua New Guinea’s Mountain Mammals that is a partnership between myself at Deakin University and Jim and Jean Thomas of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance. Together we will count and identify mammals as part of conservation efforts in the region, including some very special species of tree kangaroo.

Just how many Tenkile tree kangaroos are left and where are they found? Our cameras will provide these answers Tenkile Conservation Alliance

Just how many Tenkile tree kangaroos are left and where are they found? Our cameras will provide these answers Image credit: Tenkile Conservation Alliance

Who or what is a Tenkile?

The Tenkile (pronounced ten-kee-lay) is one of 14 tree kangaroo species found in the tropical rainforests of New Guinea and Australia.

In 2001 there were only 100 Tenkile left in the Torricelli Mountains of PNG. To put that in perspective, there are thought to be around 1600 Giant Pandas in the world today. That made the Tenkile one of the world’s most endangered animals. The reason they’re still with us today is largely thanks to the work of the Tenkile Conservation Alliance.

The conservation alliance sets itself apart from many others by focusing on causes rather than symptoms of extinction. The Tenkile had become endangered due to over-hunting, so rather than ignore the needs of local people, the alliance places a strong emphasis on these communities who share the region with the Tenkile.

The reason for the bounce back of Tenkiles is a switch from hunting to more sustainable and reliable sources of protein, including farmed rabbits and chickens. Along with improved education about the local community’s wildlife, and health and living conditions, there has been a real reversal in the once dire trajectory of the region’s wildlife. Thanks to these actions there are now more than double the number of Tenkile there were in 2001.

Professor Tim Flannery, himself no stranger to the wilds of PNG, wrote:

A decade on, the Tenkile Conservation Alliance is the most successful conservation organisation in Melanesia … and no other organisation I know of in a developing country has had anything like this degree of success.

What do we hope to achieve in PNG this time?

Our upcoming trip will take us to the northwestern Torricelli Mountains near the Waliapilik area in Sanduan Province. Over two weeks we’ll place 35 remote, motion-sensing cameras out along lines and an elevation gradient ranging from 500 to 1500 m above sea level. These will help us determine a number of things, including:

  • Are tree kangaroo species (including the Weimang, Tenkile and Yongi) found within the region?
  • If present, how many individuals of each species are there?
  • What habitats are most important for each species?
  • Are species only found at specific elevations and in particular climates, and hence how susceptible could species be to the impacts of global climate change?

To say this trip is full of anticipation is putting it lightly. Along with the critical information we aim to collect on tree kangaroos, we also suspect new species are to be found in the area, including miniature wallabies and echidnas.

When we retrieve our cameras in a few months time it’s going to be exciting to see what we find, and it’s almost guaranteed that there will be many firsts for science. Because camera traps detect and record anything that moves past them, we’ll collect valuable data on a large range of species.

Thanks to all who have helped get us this far. This is just the beginning, and if you’d like to contribute or stay in touch please contact me here.

This article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Science Alert: Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?

Another attack on Fraser Island — the flashpoint for dingo management issues — has highlighted our complex relationship with Australia’s largest terrestrial predator.

The Fraser Island Dingo is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Image by Glen Fergus [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

The Fraser Island Dingo is in the news for all the wrong reasons. Image by Glen Fergus [CC-BY-SA-2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

When wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995 park after a near 90-year absence, the balance of an entire ecosystem shifted. Grazing by overabundant elk dropped leading to recovery of native aspen, willow and cottonwood trees. Beavers returned, small predators and scavengers increased and coyote numbers dropped, indirectly benefiting the threatened pronghorn antelope.

Recent research from around the globe is demonstrating that large predators, like wolves and dingoes, play a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems.

Read more at Science Alert

Australian Geographic: Extinction – is it really that bad?

Perhaps society’s biggest challenge, and arguably our largest failure, is the continuing loss of species from Earth.

We still have little idea of how many species exist on Earth. Only a fraction have been formally described, and even fewer assessed for their conservation status.

How do we conserve what we don’t know exists?

Thylacinus cynocephalus, the extinct Tasmanian Tiger

Thylacinus cynocephalus, the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, or Thylacine

If Earth were a house, it would be as though we had listed the contents of only one room, and even then were not aware of their true value, while simultaneously the house was being demolished.

Read my article in Australian Geographic

The Conversation: Extinction – just how bad is it and why should we care?

The state of extinction, what we know about declining species, and why biodiversity is so important.

Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island Tortoise. Image:  putneymark [CC-BY-SA-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island Tortoise. Image: putneymark [CC-BY-SA-2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

“Dad, the world is missing amazing animals. I wish extinction wasn’t forever”.

Despite my wife and I working as biologists, our five-year-old son came to make this statement independently.

He is highlighting what I and many others consider to be society’s biggest challenge, and arguably failure: the continuing loss of species from Earth.

Read more at The Conversation

Australian Geographic: Australia’s most endangered species

Home to some of the most extravagant, eccentric and dangerous animals, Australia also has some of the most endangered wildlife in the world.

Our unique marsupials and monotremes are a source of pride, but Australia also has the dubious honour of the highest extinction rate of any nation.

The orange-bellied parrot, Neophema chrysogaster, is one of Australia's most endangered species. Image: JJ Harrison [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The orange-bellied parrot, Neophema chrysogaster, is one of Australia’s most endangered species. Image: JJ Harrison [CC-BY-SA-3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

“Importantly, research clearly shows that biodiversity contributes significantly to our survival, well-being and enjoyment of life, so when we lose species at the rates that we’re currently witnessing, we should be gravely concerned,” says Dr Euan Ritchie an ecologist at Deakin University in Melbourne.

Read about Australia’s 10 most critically endangered species, and why keystone species are often apex predators.

The Conversation: Farming endangered species to save them – extinction by another means?

When we talk of conserving an animal species, what do we actually mean? We might think of a rhinoceros (or any other species, for that matter) pursuing its natural way of life in its native environment, perhaps in a reserve or national park. And why should we want to conserve species? Our thinking may not go much beyond the idealistic position that they have a right to exist and that we (and our children and grandchildren) have a right to see them.

Is the only way to save the rhinos to commodify it? Image by Trisha M Shears [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Is the only way to save the rhino to commodify it? Image by Trisha M Shears [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This is all well and good, but behind the scenes and out of the range of the spotlight there surely lurks a shadow. Do we conserve a species because we value it in its own right? More often than not, a declining species may be saved because it offers a tangible commodity to be exploited; and it recovers simply because we have found a different way of exploiting it.

Read more at The Conversation