Featured Weekly News — July 11, 2012

The Wildlife Society (TWS), has teamed up with  the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (WESSA), South African National Parks (SANParks), and EZEMVELO KZN Wildlife to present the IVth International Wildlife Management Congress (IWMC) this week in Durban, South Africa. This marks the first time that the conference has been held in Africa, with previous conferences in Costa Rica (1993), Hungary (1999), and New Zealand (2003).

This year’s conference centers on the theme of cooperative wildlife management across borders and has attracted more than 400 registrants from 42 countries.

Keep an eye on TWS’s news page for updates from the conference including reviews of sessions and workshops, photos, and more.

Shane Mahoney presents his keynote speech at the IVth IWMC (Credit: Darryl Walter)

A Powerful Keynote

The IVth International Wildlife Management Congress in Durban, South Africa got off to a great start on Monday. Shane Mahoney, International Liaison to TWS and Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Biodiversity, Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, echoed the theme of the conference in his keynote, calling for cooperative wildlife management across borders. “His basic message is for a world model of conservation that considers a broader range of stakeholders that represent the population and their views,” said TWS President Paul Krausman.

The ultimate goal, according to Mahoney, is to sustain wildlife populations on the planet. That mission is more attainable when it’s rooted in the hearts of people, rather than viewed as a cold science. “We need something different. And that is in reaching individuals and making conservation an issue of nationalism, culture, and pride,” Mahoney said (IOL News).

Other keynote speakers included Norman Owen-Smith, Emeritus Research Professor in African Ecology at the University of Witwatersrand, who described the challenges of wildlife conservation in South Africa; A.J.T. Johnsingh, one of India’s leading naturalists and a biologist with the Nature Conservation Foundation and WWF-India; and Boguslaw Bobek, Head of Department of Ecology, Wildlife Research and Ecotourism, Pedagogical University of Krakow.

South Chinese tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis) (Credit: J. Patrick Fischer/Wikimedia)

Guidelines Released for Reintroducing Tigers into the Wild

During the second day of the IWMC, Save China’s Tigers (SCT) — a charity based in China, the US, and the UK — announced the release of guidelines for re-wilding the endangered South China tiger.

The organization takes a unique approach to tiger conservation, training zoo-born tigers and their offspring to adapt to life in the wild. Through an international agreement, China and South Africa built the 81,500 acre Chinese Tiger Rewilding Center at Laohu Valley Reserve in Philippolis, South Africa, from former sheep farms. Since 2003, five South China tigers (Panthera tigris amoyensis) have been relocated there from China zoos, and since 2007, 11 tigers have been born at the facility and are learning survival skills from their mothers. Fewer than 100 individuals of this species remain on Earth, and the vast majority lives in zoos. The subspecies is thought to have given rise to all nine tiger subspecies—three are now extinct and the rest are critically endangered.

The re-wilding guidelines were presented by five SCT members including the tiger re-wildling project’s scientific director Gary Koehler and SCT founding director Li Quan. They include enclosure specifications such as gradually introducing the tigers to larger enclosures, providing them with appropriate game species to stimulate hunting instincts, and other hunting and survival training methods. In the project’s second stage, tigers will be released into habitat reserves in the tiger’s home range in China.

Road Impacts on Wildlife Need More Study

Road construction and vehicle impacts can have a devastating impact on wildlife, but in Africa, the problem is not well researched. Monkey Helpline, a wildlife advocacy group based in South Africa, reported collecting up to 500 monkey carcasses off of Durban, South Africa, roads in a year. In addition to deaths by vehicle collisions, road construction fragments wildlife populations and disturbs breeding behavior, leading to low genetic diversity.

In spite of this evidence, many obstacles to curbing this trend remain, according to IOL News. Speakers at the IWMC on Monday identified these obstacles as incomplete information about road networks across Africa, research funding limitations, lack of ecological consideration during road construction, and public apathy.

South Africa Depends on Wildlife Tourism

In an address to IWMC participants, Tokozile Xasa, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Tourism, expressed her support for wildlife conservation as a way to protect a growing wildlife tourism industry, according to a press release issued by the South African government. An estimated 50 percent of global wildlife tourism dollars are spent in Africa and the South African market is expected to grow between 8 and 10 percent per year over the next decade. Xasa said that the tourism industry should be actively involved in conservation efforts including setting “responsible tourism” standards.

Conference photos!

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