Issue 3 | Autumn 2022
YOUR NATURE CONSERVATION STORIES
NEO WILD Raising awareness about wildlife in Suriname
UBUNTU’S FIRST YOUTH CONSERVATION CHAMPION: PEAE Peae and Moshudu, a story about a special bond between a young girl and a young elephant
MOSSY EARTH A greener, wilder and more biodiverse world through rewilding and reforestation
BEARS IN MIND Creating better conditions and better welfare for bears
YOUR NATURE CONSERVATION STORIES
JOIN US ONLINE Get inspired on ubuntumagazine.com and our socials:
@ubuntu.magazine.official @ubuntumagazineofficial @ubuntumagazine
Ubuntu Magazines raises awareness on nature conservation issues and projects. We stand for a better understanding of what’s happening on the frontlines of conservation globally. We do this by sharing fair, transparent and easily accessible stories that are published in an online magazine. With the urgency to save nature, there is also an urgency to bridge the gap between conservation efforts and the public. Providing knowledge in the shape of inspiring stories will bridge this gap. We believe that the personal stories from conservationists will give people a deeper understanding of nature, which will inspire them to take action themselves.
Emerge yourself in the articles and become inspired.
Sloth Conservation Project
Introduction Let’s live Ubuntu.
Sloth conservation project Rebecca Cliffe about the Sloth Conservation Foundation.
Wild Tomorrow Fund A story about the sand forest.
Bears In Mind creating better conditions and better welfare for bears.
Sahara Conservation The surprisingly rich sahara biome.
Youth conservation champion Peae and Moshudu, a story about a special bond between a young girl and a young elephant.
Bees For All How managed honey bees can play a role in the conservation of wild pollinators.
Mossy Earth Rewilding and reforestation.
Frank Landman Are we all sitting like a frog in a pot waiting for it to boil?
Bears In Mind Our general goal is to use our knowledge, expertise, and financial abilities to protect bears in the wild and improve the welfare of bears in captivity.
Youth conservation champion | Peae
“A story about a special bond between a young girl and a young elephant.”
Stargazer Selina Guckenbiehl. The magnificent Southern Right Whales. NEO Wild The threats to jaguars and the impacts of mining and hunting large cats.
Mauritian Wildlife Foundation saving the endangered wildlife from extinction.
Wildlife conservation in Japan Challenges of human-animal coexistence.
64 Mossy Earth
Mauritian Wildlife Foundation
LET’S LIVE UBUNTU Right in front of you is the 3rd edition of Ubuntu Magazine. It has been one year since our first meeting started, where I shared my ideas with a few of our team members. From a small seed and a big, audacious dream, we reached this point today. My own life has changed a lot since one year ago. I used to work at my desk all day long, with the occasional trip to explore the outdoors, but now I’m on the biggest trip of my life. Travelling overland, I will drive from the Netherlands to South Africa. I want to learn more about the feeling of Ubuntu – I am because we are – and I want to implement it in my day to day life. Although it will take a while before we reach the townships in Africa where Ubuntu was born, this trip has already given me much to think about. Thoughts I would like to share here as an inspiration to you. I have realized that we all have a different perspective on life and therefore on conservation. That realization happened during one of our overnight stays, where we met a Roma family who had their roots in Yugoslavia. After both spending the night there, our camp spot was clean while theirs was full of water bottles and plastic wrappers. As we spoke to them the night before, I realized they live different lives with different needs. Their needs are basic: water, food and a place to sleep,
whereas our needs are often more luxurious. However, our core values at that exact moment were the same. We both wanted to enjoy time outdoors with family and friends. Thinking about the trash, I could not point my finger at them. We have differing baselines in life and therefore different perspectives on conservation. With Ubuntu we keep saying ‘I am because we are’. It’s a way of saying that we are shaped by mother nature, the people surrounding us and the environment in which we grow up. You are therefore a ‘product’ of these three variables. But, I believe that who we are constantly changes. We continue to develop ourselves through the people we meet in life. Looking at someone else, what they do and why they do it can often teach us a lot about our own beliefs. By stepping into someone else’s shoes, we can change our point of view on life, but also on conservation. I would not have understood the family who left their trash on the beach, hadn’t I known how they lived their lives and that their struggle was to have a place to sleep that night or what they were going to eat tomorrow. By talking to them I was able to shift my point of view into one that understood where they came from and as a result, the gap between us became smaller. In conservation it is important to have a steady set of principles that you live up to, but with this
introduction I dare you to open up your mind and change your current perspective by talking to people who challenge your beliefs or who live life differently than you do. It can only enrich you in how you view the world and perhaps it can be an important step in closing the gap between you and other people.
Instagram @ubuntu.magazine.official Website www.ubuntumagazine.com
CONSERVATION PROJECT When sloth scientist Rebecca Cliffe was studying zoology at Manchester University in England, the opportunity came up to spend 12 months on a research experience in a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica. As the position was very competitive, Rebecca decided to learn everything she could about sloths to prepare herself for the interview – and she got the job.
After spending a few years in Costa Rica, Rebecca decided to start the Sloth Conservation Foundation (SloCo) in 2017. She’s been working with sloths for 14 years now, and her non-profit has been growing over the years.
There are six different species of sloths, but they’re split into two different types: the 2-fingered sloth and the 3-fingered sloth
COSTA RICA WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO START THE SLOTH CONSERVATION FOUNDATION? When I was doing research on sloths through a rescue center, I noticed how many sloths were arriving at the center and the awful things that were happening to them. I also noticed that nobody was working directly with them in the wild – there were a lot of people doing rescue and rehabilitation work, but in terms of scientific research, no one knew much about them. It was the same in terms of conservation in the wild, nothing was really happening there either. I got really inspired by this and felt that I could help, so that’s why I never really left after that first year.
For about 5 years, I self-funded my research and based myself out there. Then I graduated with my PhD and I knew I could take two directions: either go into academia, which is a more predictable future, or try to build a non-profit and see if I could make a difference. I felt the latter was the next step I had to take, although it was riskier. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT SLOTHS? Absolutely! There are six different species of sloths, but they’re split into two different types: the 2-fingered sloth and the 3-fingered sloth. These are very distantly related and don’t have that much in common, so when we’re talking about sloths, we’re talking about two very different animals.
TOP 3-fingered sloth BOTTOM 2-fingered sloth
Rebecca and one of her team members
“Because they’re so well hidden, predators can’t see them, but scientist and conservationists can’t see them either.” Sloths are the slowest-moving mammals on the planet. Everything they do is about conserving energy and remaining hidden so that predators don’t see them because they can’t run away. They spend their entire lives living upside down in the rainforest canopies of South and Central America.
Because they’re so well hidden, predators can’t see them, but scientists and conservationists that are trying to help them can’t see them either. It’s therefore very difficult to research sloths, and a lot of information that’s out there about them is incorrect as well. One of the important things we don’t know is how many there are. This is important to know in terms of conservation and ensuring healthy populations for the future. One of the biggest problems with that is that four out of the six species of sloths have been listed as ‘least concern’ on the IUCN Red List, which perhaps should be changed to ‘data deficient’ since we don’t have accurate numbers.
They’re so good at camouflage that it’s almost become a double-edged sword for them.
“This is very dangerous and we shouldn’t be snuggling wild animals.” What we want to do is to conduct the first-ever sloth population counts and surveys. But, we can’t do it as human beings because we can’t see the sloths. That’s why we just trained our two first sloth detection dogs to detect sloths’ feces so that we can accurately start to build up an idea of how many of them are living in different areas. We’re going to start counting them in particular areas and we will combine this with visual surveys and thermal drone images to build up all the data. It’s ambitious but exciting! WHAT PROBLEMS ARE THE SLOTH POPULATIONS FACING IN THEIR DAILY LIVES? The problem we deal with primarily in countries like Costa Rica and Brazil is the general urbanisation of the rainforest. Sloths rely heavily on the trees connecting with each other because they can’t run or jump. They need to move from tree to tree by using the branches. As soon as you start having any level of development in the forest, sloths are the first ones that start to suffer because they have to try to find alternative ways to move around. They try to climb on the power lines and get electrocuted, for example, or they try to cross roads and get hit by cars.
Another problem is that, when they move around on the ground, they get attacked by dogs and they don’t have any defence mechanism against that. Another growing problem is poaching for the pet trade and tourists taking sloth selfies. It’s a big problem that people put selfies with sloths on social media because then everyone else sees it and thinks it’s okay. Then, everyone wants to do it and it gets normalised. This is very dangerous as it’s not normal and we shouldn’t be snuggling wild animals. THE GOAL OF SLOCO IS TO DEVELOP SUSTAINABLE WAYS IN WHICH HUMANS AND SLOTHS COEXIST. HOW DO YOU DO THAT? It’s all about helping local people and giving them the tools, knowledge, and resources they need in order to coexist with wildlife. We work in very economically disadvantaged areas with a lot of families below the poverty line. There’s a low literacy rate too, so if people have to choose between saving the sloths and feeding their families, then they will choose to feed their families.
We do many different things, but one of the most important ones is getting everyone who owns property and land to make it as environmentally friendly as possible while still being able to develop it for the reason they need it. We do something called ‘The Connective Garden Project’ and we do it for free. People just have to be willing to accept our help. We’ll plant trees and give people advice on how to develop the land in the least impactful way for wildlife. We also educate school children through the local school system, have a castration project for dogs and offer free dog training services to local communities.
These sloths are often taken out of the wild to use for tourist photo opportunities until they die, and then, they’re replaced. People make up all sorts of convincing stories as to why the sloths are in their houses. They will tell you they rescued it and will put it back in the wild once the time is right, for example. The second one is zoos. Some zoos will allow you to come into the enclosure with the sloths and feed them, which is generally okay. However, if a zoo allows people to touch and hold sloths, that zoo doesn’t have the animal’s best interest in mind and they’re not doing it for the right reasons.
YOU HAVE A LOT OF DIFFERENT PROJECTS GOING ON. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT THESE? One of my favorite projects is called the Sloth Crossing Project. Essentially, each sloth crossing wildlife bridge is a rope strung up between two trees and it helps wildlife move around in urban areas. These bridges are relatively cheap and they’re easy to make; we put up hundreds of them and people can sponsor one. When they do, we put the bridge up for them and put a sign on it that says who sponsored it. We also put a motion-activated camera trap on the bridge to monitor what animals use it. The sponsor will then get the footage in their mailboxes, and we will use the data to improve our bridge designs.
WHERE SHOULD WE GO TO SEE SLOTHS IN THE WILD IN AN ETHICAL WAY? You really have to know where to look because sloths live in very particular areas. In Puerto Viejo, for example, it’s not uncommon to see sloths sitting by the side of the swimming pool or climbing on the roof of a house. This local town is a beautiful example of co-existence because the people really love them here and they protect them as well.
SLOTHS LOOK PRETTY CUTE, WE CAN IMAGINE THAT THERE ARE TOURIST PLACES WHERE YOU CAN HOLD SLOTHS AND TAKE PICTURES WITH THEM. CAN YOU TELL US WHAT THE IMPACT ON A SLOTH IS? It’s very well known that sloths don’t like physical contact with humans. They get very scared and stressed out because they’re not very social. When they’re put into situations like this, it often kills them. So, if an organization allows you to hold or touch sloths, it’s a red flag. There are two different things. First, there are organizations and individuals that allow you to hold a sloth and have a picture with them in exchange for money.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP SLOCO? You can help us by raising awareness or by volunteering remotely – for example, volunteering to help us translate our educational material into different languages helps us to reach more people. We also offer fun fundraising packages like adopting a sloth or sponsoring a wildlife bridge. Do you want to learn more about sloths, adopt a sloth, or sponsor a wildlife bridge? Check SloCo out on the links below.
Instagram @slothconservation Facebook @slothconservation Website www.slothconservation.org
Msinene River in Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve
A STORY ABOUT THE SAND FOREST
TOMORROW FUND Scattered through South Africa, you can find an endangered habitat type called ‘the sand forest’. It’s a habitat known for its unique, rich biodiversity and geographical sparsity. Unfortunately, more and more sand forests are lost due to agriculture and human expansion. Thanks to the work of John Steward and Wendy Hapgood from Wild Tomorrow Fund, one patch of sand forest, located in the Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve, got a chance to revive. In this article, we talk to them and to Greg Canning, the reserve manager on site.
“Any kind of abrupt change will most likely damage the sand forest.” If we look at the sand forest as a habitat, it is a wonderful creation of nature. Sand forests are fossilized sand dunes, where total ecosystems came to life. Historically, the sand forest has never been very abundant across South Africa. However, in north-eastern South Africa (the Maputaland region and biodiversity hotspot), where the Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve is located, which surrounds the Greater Ukuwela Nature Park, there used to be a fair amount. Over the years, habitat destruction, deforestation – in particular for agricultural purposes - and an expanding human population have become major threats to the sand forests. In addition, the impact of climate change has been an increasing threat. As the habitat has a very narrow environmental range, any kind of abrupt change will most likely damage the sand forest. Now that Wild Tomorrow Fund has acquired the area of land - which includes this specific patch of sand forest - it is time to restore it to its original glory. With its previous use for agriculture, however, there are many elements that need changing. When cattle roamed around in the area, undergrowth has gotten destroyed. Due to this, alien and invasive species got the chance to thrive, with a totally different ecosystem as a result. To restore the area, these alien and invasive species have to be removed.
The Green Mambas.
Wendy tells us about the Green Mambas, who help them to do this. The Green Mambas started with a group of local women - who worked in a regional government wildlife reserve - who were eradicating invasive species by hand. With the aim to eradicate the invasive species in their reserve manually instead of chemically, John and Wendy reached out to some of the women from this group to ask if they could train local women from their area to do the same. In a country with extremely high unemployment rates (45% in the entire country, with the percentage rising in rural areas), hiring these local women is a benefit for both parties. As soon as the total eradication is done, it is time to replant the original and native species to recreate the sand forest. Once again, John and Wendy partnered with local organizations. Local nurseries provided them with their native sand forest species. Here, they were given care: the right amounts of water at the right timing and shade cloth when needed. It’s a luxury to have these kinds of nurseries, says Greg, but many people don’t take into consideration that the young trees in the sand forest face many threats, such as herbivory by the local fauna. So, before replanting these trees, Greg, the Green Mamba’s and the other people working on site make sure they are toughened against unpredictable rainfall and they have to be at least one meter tall before planting, against herbivory. Besides that, a nearby reserve donated the endangered pepperbark trees - which are grown from seeds - so that they can be reintroduced in the reserve.
With cattle roaming around, it wasn’t just the undergrowth that suffered. Fauna that belonged to the sand forest has been taken away to improve the area for agriculture. In their attempt to restore the sand forest, wildlife will be reintroduced as well. There’s an entire list of species that belong to the sand forest, which Greg enthusiastically sums up. To name a few, the yellow golden mole – which is the most endangered mammal species in the country – and the suni antelope – which is regionally endangered – are worth mentioning. Besides that, the sand forest is known for its abundance of orchids, lichens and other epiphytes (plants that grow upon other plants). The habitat only occurs in regions with relatively low rainfall and fairly dry conditions, though you will always find them in close proximity to the ocean. With the mist and fog rolling in, these are the perfect conditions for these floral species to grow. Looking at the bigger picture, however, it is important to note that the sand forest belongs to the entire Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve, where multiple ecosystems come together. Due to herbivory, large mammals that roam around the Nature Reserve form a direct threat to the sand forest. Also, local communities have to be taken in mind when working on the restoration of the sand forest and the surrounding Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve. “You cannot carry out successful conservation work without community involvement”, says Greg, “particularly in areas where communities and communal lands lie adjacent to protected areas.”
The Suni is a small antelope
Sand Forest orchids
“If you look at it from another point of view, local people are direct neighbors to the protected area. We have the ability to help them, so why wouldn’t we?” It takes a look back in history, to understand why the latter is so important. Especially in South Africa. In the past, conservation was very exclusive here. There were specific areas set aside for conservation, and local people would be excluded from the whole process. If you want to get local communities involved, you need to show them that they can get something tangible out of it. It needs to be a collaboration in which it is clear for everyone that you will get the furthest without poaching, without trespassing and without human-lit fires. “And”, Greg says, “if you look at it from another point of view, local people are direct neighbors to the protected area. We have the ability to help them, so why wouldn’t we?” Wendy elaborates more on that when she explains how they got started. Actually, people were their first and foremost focus when they got started with Wild Tomorrow Fund. It was John, who went to South Africa to volunteer for a couple of years before launching their foundation. During those visits, there was one particular moment that he couldn’t forget. Day after day – while working in the protected areas himself – he would see rangers surveilling to protect the area. One day, none of the rangers were seen. It appeared that there weren’t any spare tires, so they couldn’t drive their patrol vehicle to the surveillance location. It was a lack of money that caused this issue.
When Wild Tomorrow Fund was founded a couple of years later, only donations in the shape of goods were sent to the reserve. It could be spare tires, shoes, clothes or other goods directly related to the work of the rangers. The foundation grew and the donations coming in were becoming more abundant. One day, however, they got a message that a patch of land - in the area where John volunteered and where they now sent their donations – was up for sale. Although it was a mere invitation to come and see the area, the urgency was added that if they wouldn’t buy it, local pineapple farmers would probably turn it into a monocultural area. Even though (the lack of) money was their first worry, the decision of whether to buy the land had to be made wisely. Therefore, emotional attachment to the area had to be left out of the equation. It would be a matter of biodiversity and ecological value, which would decide whether the land was worth buying, elaborates John. For this specific area, it became clear that the river bordering the northside of the property, feeds into a UNESCO world heritage wetland. The chemical run-off from a potential pineapple farm would be devastating. There was only one option left: collect a down payment, talk to the owner of the land and acquire the land with payments spread across multiple years. They were able to buy the area and start their restoration work.
Rangers finding snares during their patrol
Giraffe and her young on Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve
Wild Tomorrow Fund started small, with the intent of helping rangers on site with their work and their much-needed goods. Within just several years, they were able to diversify their work from only donating equipment and supplies to rewilding work on-site. It is far from done yet, though. Asking John and Wendy what their main future plans are, is almost impossible. There are simply too many topics to talk about. One goal, however, is to create corridors between neighboring protected areas. Right now, the elephants of the area are contracepted to decrease the number of births and to keep the number of elephants stable. The carrying capacity of the enclosed area is simply not large enough to sustain a growing population. With the connecting corridors, contraception can become history again. According to Greg, future projects will be initiated to better understand and conserve the Greater Ukuwela’s ecosystems. One of these projects will be the introduction of bee hives to the sand forest. The bees will form a live barrier to scare away the elephants who would otherwise trespass and demolish the undergrowth of the sand forest. In the end, all insights gathered from monitoring the area can be used for better conservation actions – perhaps even in other protected areas and sand forests around South Africa. It is the aim to let wildlife be wild again. To have a Wild Tomorrow for every species on earth. The Greater Ukuwela Nature Reserve and John and Wendy’s conservation efforts reach far beyond this story. Therefore, Wild Tomorrow Fund will come back to Ubuntu Magazine in the future. If you can’t wait to learn more about John, Wendy and Greg, or Wild Tomorrow Fund, the Greater Ukuwela Nature Park and the sand forest, please visit them online: Instagram @wildtomorrowfund Website www.wildtomorrowfund.org The pictures are a courtesy of Martin Meyer, who is an ambassador of Wild Tomorrow Fund. Instagram @martinmeyer_wild 27
IN MIND Being able to make a difference, whether big or small, is what it is all about. As a director, Ingrid Vermeulen thrives on the knowledge that she is creating better conditions and better welfare for bears in general. It is of great importance to her to raise more awareness of the situation of bears when she talks with other people. Koen Cuyten, Project Manager at the organization, gets his energy from working with conservationists worldwide. Though the situations are often very controversial, it is great to be able to make a difference. Leaving a better place behind for his daughters is his ultimate wish. Both of them work at Bears In Mind, an international organization based in the Netherlands. Their general goal is to use their knowledge, expertise, and financial abilities to protect bears in the wild and improve the welfare of bears in captivity. They achieve these goals through various projects that focus on conservation, welfare, and education. It’s a diverse organization, to say the least.
Director of Bears in Mind: Ingrid Vermeulen
Project Manager at Bears in Mind: Koen Cuyten
THE START OF BEARS IN MIND The inception of Bears In Mind goes back almost 30 years. In 1993, Greece and Turkey banned the use of bears for street dancing. Dozens of bears were saved, but they needed a place to go. Though Greece and Turkey established sanctuaries for displaced dancing bears, many bears still needed a new home. A collaboration between the European Union (EU) and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) sought to locate the best country or zoo that had the capacity to accommodate these rescued bears. Ouwehands Zoo in the Netherlands ultimately was the answer. They created the Bear Forest and additionally the International Bear Foundation was founded to manage this special project. In the many years since then, the foundation has had multiple names, but ever since 2016 they have been operating under the name Bears in Mind. THE BEAR FOREST The Bear Forest still exists today, mainly as a hands-off project where the bears are free to live how they want. Physiologically, they don’t need much adaptation, but mentally it can be difficult. Due to how they were treated growing up, each bear suffers from trauma. Some bears are unfamiliar with the new environment of a forest. With the new sensations of grass under their paws and a wide expanse in which they are now free to roam, many bears are apprehensive to rehabilitate and explore the wild for the first time in their lives. Bear Forest is also home to a pack of wolves as a way of simulating bears’ natural environment.
The relationship between the two animal groups is beneficial and allows the bears to experience a natural interaction with another predator. Due to their different diets, they rarely cause serious harm to each other. Wolves consume meat, while bears prefer to consume a seasonal diet of alternative foods that they find in the wild. All is well in The Bear Forest. Looking at The Bear Forest, it is clear that there are many people interested in these animals. Approximately one million visitors come to The Bear Forest every year to learn more about Bears in Mind. They learned that only European Brown Bears live there, as different bear species cannot be kept in the same enclosure. This species is most suited to the environment in the Netherlands, which is vital for their well-being in the sanctuary. BEARS IN CAPTIVITY Today, using bears in circuses or for dancing purposes has been banned in many countries. Nevertheless, there are still many cases in which bears are kept in captivity. Due to bears’ natural charisma, they are often captured as household pets. Some countries even elevate bears to a status symbol, which only increases their likelihood of being captured and placed in miserable conditions next to hotels, gas stations, and in small confinements. Captive adult bears can be found, for instance, under miserable conditions next to a hotel or a gas station in very small, unsuitable enclosures. Bear cubs, however, come from various places. Most are orphaned and found in the forest after their mother is killed or abandoned the den due to disturbance by human activity such as logging.
“Creating awareness and educating people is key!”
Some are orphaned as a result of the mothers being poached for their body parts, mainly bile, used in traditional (Chinese) medicine in Southeast Asia. The cubs are then sold off to circuses or zoos. The use of bear bile has existed for thousands of years already. Today, China still holds an excess
of 10,000 bears in farms under horrible conditions where bile is drained daily from the live bears. Bear bile is an ingredient in traditional medicines to help dissolve gallstones and treat liver disease. Alongside that, it is marketed as a cure for cancer, colds, and hangovers and used in household products such as shampoo, and toothpaste or to help treat acne.
This way, the use of bear bile expands beyond traditional medicine and appeals to a broader consumer market. At Bears in Mind, they help confiscate and rehabilitate wild bear cubs whenever possible. Unfortunately, there are also situations where cubs end up in captivity for the rest of their lives, in a sanctuary or zoo. That’s because some of them can’t get used to living in the wilderness again. Most often, they associate people with food due to habituation. Rescuing bears from bad circumstances in captivity is therefore one way to help the individual bears out, but if nothing changes in the perceptions of the people keeping them as pets, buying them as a status symbol or promoting the use of bears for the bear bile industry, bears will always end up under miserable circumstances across the globe. Creating awareness and educating people is key!
In Pakistan, Nepal, and Laos, there are various human-wildlife confrontations and conflicts. To mitigate this problem, Bears in Mind has been working to develop education programs for local communities. As an example, in collaboration with local experts, several people from the community have been appointed to become bear guardians. These people are called when a conflict situation happens, after which they visit the location of the conflict and help receive compensation from the government. The bear guardians also help with the installation of preventive measures for bears, like electric fences and build elevated bee hives. One of the projects that will speak to mind for everyone, is the direct result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Since the war started at the end of February, a big rescue mission was initiated.
CONSERVATION OF BEARS IN THE WILD Once those different human-wildlife conflicts became clear, the conservation of wild bears has become a top priority for Bears in Mind. Within the different focal areas, Bears in Mind covers an array of projects that all have a different form of human-wildlife coexistence or conflictbased motive. In areas where crop raiding and livestock killing by bears is happening on a daily basis, livelihoods and the lives of farmers are threatened and seriously affected. Killing a bear is therefore easier for farmers than risking their own lives.
On the left page at the top you can see a bear farm in Vietnam. In the picture below the kids in Indonesia are educated about bears. 35
“If you don’t focus on people, you will never get as much done in conservation.” Together with several international NGOs, Bears in Mind helped save at least 13 bears in total, together with many more captive animals like big cats, monkeys, wolves, and other species. In collaboration with various other sanctuaries across Europe, they have been able to house most rescued animals. As of September 2022, there are still animals like bears and big cats rescued from the East and brought to the West of Ukraine.
Bears in Mind mainly focuses on bears, but it is equally important to focus on people that live in or near the habitats of wild bears. Nature and species conservation is all about people. If you don’t focus on people, you will never get as much done in conservation. So, Bears in Mind aims towards sustainable collaborations with locals and more awareness of the possible coexistence with bears.
LOOKING AT THE FUTURE In all cases, Bears in Mind joins forces with organizations and experts abroad. Besides advising these organizations on their methods and actions, Bears in Mind is also able to distribute funds to the project partners involved in bear conservation, education, and welfare projects. This happens twice a year.
With a team of three and a global conservation issue, it is unbelievable what the people at Bears in Mind do. Not even a fraction of the projects have been covered in this feature. Would you like to know more about Bears in Mind and what you can do about bear conservation? Check out their website or follow their journey online:
Although small when looking at the size of the team, Bears in Mind has big plans. The Bear Forest in the Netherlands has a limited area, and therefore the maximum capacity of the number of bears is quickly reached. A new Bear Forest sanctuary, located more towards the hotspot of bears in captivity - in this case, Bosnia - is one of their top priority goals. Besides this big future plan, there are several topics and subjects that should not be forgotten.
Instagram @bearsinmind Facebook @berenbos1993 LinkedIn @bears-in-mind Website www.bearsinmind.org
Bear cub rescued in Romania.
Bear Malysh rescued in Ukraine.
Wings for Conservation - photo by Jaime Dias
NIGER AND CHAD
SURPRISINGLY RICH SAHARA BIOME Covering an area the size of China, comprising unique and extreme environments, and specially adapted wildlife, the Sahara is a truly amazing biome. Unfortunately, the world’s largest desert has never received the conservation investment it deserves. It is considered “empty”, but in fact, it’s not! says John Watkin CEO of SaharaConservation who has some inspiring words to say about that: “To adapt to the temperature extremes many animals are nocturnal. You need to observe them at night.” That will surely change your mind about the emptiness of the Sahara.
NIGER AND CHAD
SAHARA CONSERVATION FUND Even though it is an important goal to create awareness about the beauty and simultaneously the vulnerability of the Sahara, practical conservation measurements are prioritized to save the many species on the brink of extinction. John takes us with him in the world of the Sahara and the Sahelian grasslands – the shore of grass around the sea of the Sahara desert. After living
in 13 countries, visiting over 100, following his heart all the way through that journey, he has now works in Chad, Niger, and Morocco to help conserve an extremely special ecosystem. Before John took over the CEO role in 2019, SaharaConservation had been implementing projects since 2004 aimed at conserving Endangered and Critically Endangered desert
species. Species such as the iconic addax, stunning dama gazelle and North African ostrich have been priority species for conservation action. However, in an ecosystem where an unpredictable climate prevails and the sparsity of natural resources is a problem to both humans and animals, wildlifeonly areas are difficult to realise. A new approach is needed, but let’s look at SaharaConservation’s current conservation projects first.
NIGER AND CHAD
“SaharaConservation aims for a healthy environment to sustain viable populations of reintroduced animals.” THE ANIMALS OF THE SAHARA Besides the addax and North African ostrich, several other species have received conservation attention from SaharaConservation. One of them is the majestic scimitar-horned oryx. It has been one of the most successful rewilding projects so far. The scimitar-horned oryx was declared by IUCN as Extinct in the wild in 2000. In collaboration with several zoos and private collections, a breeding population was established at the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi Deleika Conservation Breeding Centre in Abu Dhabi. Since 2016, 261 animals have been reintroduced into the wild that has risen to a minimum of 450-500 individuals in six years! Vultures should not be forgotten in this list. They are the most threatened group of birds in the world at this moment and yet they get a lot of bad press. If you think of vultures, you’ll know that they feed on carcasses – providing a vital cleaning role. Columns of vultures spiralling over a carcass can reveal the location of poachers. As a result, poachers poison carcasses to kill the vultures. Monitoring the populations and adding conservation actions accordingly is therefore a high priority. The dama gazelle is another specie that is worthy of mentioning. With possibly only 100 remaining
in the wild they are Critically Endangered, on the precipice of extinction, and desperately in need of strong conservation efforts. In January 2020, SaharaConservation captured some individuals from a genetically vital population in the Manga region in the west of Chad. These individuals were transported to the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve and held with a male dama gazelle from the reserve to establish an in-situ breeding center to keep the population’s gene pool safe and reinforce the population of dama gazelles in the reserve. DEFINING SUCCESS Defining success is something that should be discussed as well because it is relatively easy to say but rather difficult to achieve. First of all, SaharaConservation aims for a healthy environment to sustain viable populations of reintroduced animals. This is advised through a process called a “population viability analysis” that is repeated over time to determine what would be a healthy population capable of withstanding a severe drought, outbreak of a disease, or a year of extreme precipitation. The acid test of success would be IUCN Red List authority changing the conservation status from Extinct in the Wild to a lesser category of threat.
North African ostrich - photo by Abdoul Razack Moussa Zabeirou
Photo by Khalid Rahama, SaharaConservation
NIGER AND CHAD
THE THREATS THEY FACE One of the greatest threats for all desert species comes from wildfires. In Niger and Chad, the rainy season lasts from May to September. After these months, there is no rain at all. Nothing. In those five months of rain, many species of annual grasses grow from seeds to full bloom. After the rain stops in September, all these grasses dry out. There are a couple of ways in which dried grass fields can catch fire. These grasslands are shared between wildlife and the pastoralists. Sometimes when pastoralists leave an area, they set fires believing that this will improve the pasture the following year. Another cause for wildfires comes from the vehicles driving through the reserve. Their hot exhaust pipes can start a fire unintentionally. Other times, it’s simply a lightning strike that starts the wildfire. In all cases it is extremely damaging, as this removes the grazing for all. A LOCAL’S PERSPECTIVE ON WILDLIFE Even though these examples show that people do not like wildlife, there is actually a lot of respect for the animals from the local people and there is relatively little poaching. To sustain this, the team of SaharaConservation works hard to involve the five provinces around the reserve in decision-making. As there is little surface water in the reserve, the pastoralists need to be near a hand-dug well or pumping station to access water. During those visiting moments, SaharaConservation makes contact with the pastoral communities and seeks their input. Many of the local people are very proud to see these desert species returning to the wild. There is a lot of folklore around them, so people are proud of SaharaConservation’s achievements and the reintroduction of the scimitar-horned oryx and addax.
“We are all tied to the Sahara, one way or another.” FUTURE PLANS Species conservation will always be one of SaharaConservation’s priorities. However, the organizations new 2025 strategic plan seeks to make the organisation a, “Champion for the Sahara” and shift to a “landscape conservation” approach to protect the desert’s important biodiversity. With the thin line between wildlife conservation and human-wildlife interactions, a human-based approach is just as important.
This landscape focus is important because SaharaConservation is working in reserves – where pastoralists and local communities have access and user’ rights - instead of strictly protected national parks. Besides simply reintroducing threatened species, the landscapes in which they live have to be safeguarded as well. Therefore, a management plan for the reserve has been developed in collaboration with the local population, administration and government authorities to protect the key areas in the reserve, respecting the stakeholders’ rights. RUNNING THE ORGANIZATION As an organization, SaharaConservation is on the cusp. It is too big to be small and too small to be big. Sustainable funding is therefore the biggest issue with continuing their conservation work. In order to commit to the requirements donors ask from them, the teams in both Chad and Niger have to be continuously reinforced. It’s about
finding the right balance, but that is easier said than done. Besides that, the most difficult part with funds is the fact that they often can only be used for the projects themselves. Not the core costs of running a conservation organization. Therefore, SaharaConservation’s goal is to increase fundraising, so that they have enough funds to sustain their projects in the future. YOU CAN MAKE AN IMPACT TOO Even though you might have never been in the Sahara or the Sahelian grasslands before, you can help SaharaConservation by donating via their website. Another way of creating more momentum is by becoming an ambassador. Explain what you learned about the Sahara –
either through this article or through the website – to your friends or family. Or share it online and let people know that there is still hope for the Sahara. These words from John will say it all: “We are all tied to the Sahara. We know when the Sirocco blows in, and the snow and the cars are covered in orange dust from the desert. But also when great winds pick up phosphate-rich dust from the old lake Chad basin that is deposited on the Amazon, fertilizing the Amazon. There are all these amazing links that show that we are all tied to the Sahara, one way or another. It’s full of special wildlife and special people. There are many things to discover and to and all of that enriches us.”
If the Sahara and Sahelian grasslands have caught your attention, that’s great! There is much more to discover online. Go check it out now!
Instagram @saharaconservation Facebook @saharaconservation Website www.sahara conservation.org
Peae is Ubuntu Magazine’s first Youth Conservation Champion. Being half British and half South African, she traveled between both countries a lot as a child.
UBUNTU’S YO CONSERVATIO CHAMPION 48
During one of these trips, when she was only three years old, Peae fell in love with a young elephant at Knysna National Park. The girl then decided to donate all of her birthday money to the elephant and she continues to do so today as a 14-yearold. In this interview, Peae’s mom tells us how the girl’s love for elephants began. PEAE VISITED THE KNYSNA ELEPHANT PARK FOR THE FIRST TIME WHEN SHE WAS JUST THREE YEARS OLD. THAT’S WHERE SHE MET THE YOUNG ELEPHANT MOSHUDU, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? Yes, Moshudu is the same age as Peae, so he was also three at the time. When we went to the park, a guide took Peae with him to see the elephants and they came back 40 minutes later. We stayed there for another day or two and then headed back to England. Once we were back, Peae kept saying that she needed to find Moshudu, but we had no idea what she was talking about. But then, when we were looking at pictures of our trip to South Africa, Peae showed us who Moshudu was in a picture.
We started organizing another trip to South Africa a little bit later, and Peae insisted that we had to find Moshudu, so we headed back to Knysna Elephant Park. Once we arrived, Peae walked straight towards a big herd of elephants to look for Moshudu. The guides of the park were telling her to be careful, as these are wild animals, but when Moshudu saw her, he put his trunk on her shoulder, and she fed him, and it was love from that moment onward. Ever since, we’ve been going back to the park every year until COVID-19 put a stop to it, but we will be back soon!
AS A FOUR-YEAR-OLD, PEAE DECIDED TO DONATE ALL OF HER BIRTHDAY MONEY TO THE ELEPHANTS. HOW DID SHE MAKE THAT DECISION? Peae had her fourth birthday a short time after we came back from our second visit to Knysna Elephant Park. She told us that she didn’t want any birthday presents and asked if Moshudu could have her presents instead. That’s how she raised £500 from friends and family. In January of the next year, we went back to South Africa and Peae handed the money over. When Moshudu spotted her, he sniffed her from her feet to the top of her head and let her feed him. Then, he laid down on the ground while Peae stood next to him. From then on, she wanted to spend her time raising money for the elephants, and every year, we went back to hand over the money. The park used the money for the enrichment and to make amazing toys for the elephants.
PEAE AND MOSHUDU SHARE THE SAME BIRTHDAY. HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? True! Moshudu was an orphan when he arrived in the park, so he didn’t have a birthday. When the staff of the park saw how much Peae loved this elephant, they gave him the same birthday as her. Every year, we send them money for birthday treats and cakes for Moshudu, and they send us pictures of him in return.
“Every year, we send them money for birthday treats and cakes for Moshudu.” Do you have a similar story to share? Email us at email@example.com and we might feature you in the next issue of Ubuntu Magazine!
BEES FOR ALL
“I want everyone to be better than me. That’s the great thing about conservation, you want people to be better than you, to all work together, and appreciate and encourage each other’s achievements, without competition.” – Peter Keilty With no prior experience in the field of wildlife conservation, Peter has been determined to contribute all the knowledge and passion he has. His lifelong passion – being a beekeeper – became much more than that when he founded Bees For All. Now he inspires others to care about bees, insects, and wildlife conservation in general. In this interview, Peter introduces us to his organization and explains how managed honey bees can play a role in the conservation of wild pollinators.
PETER, THANK YOU FOR TAKING THE TIME TODAY. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOURSELF? Hi! My name is Peter Keilty. Although I’m originally from Northern Ireland, I have been living in Austin, Texas, for over a decade. I’m the founder of Bees for All, an organization designed to facilitate pollinator conservation through beekeeping.
giant inland sea that cut through North America. This means that technically speaking, you could say honey bees, or at least the genus Apis, are native to the US. However, I don’t want people to think that all we need to do is have more bee hives in order to conserve bees, so I tend to treat honey bees as being non-native to the US, for most intents and purposes.
CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT BEES IN THE USA? In the USA, honey bees are seen as a non-native species. There is a slight caveat to this, which I’ll explain, but the general point is we should focus on native bees as much as possible. Michael Engel, the foremost bee expert in the USA, described a honey bee fossil from 14 million years ago. It crossed the land bridge from Asia that was there at the time and made it as far as what is presently Nevada before its journey was arrested by a
OKAY, SO EVEN THOUGH SOME PERSPECTIVES MIGHT DIFFER, WE KNOW WHICH POINT OF VIEW YOU HAVE ON THIS MATTER. WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT TO YOU? Apis mellifera is an introduced species on these shores, and I sometimes get asked why we focus on them in our education and outreach initiatives. It’s my favorite question and one I am always glad to be asked because it shows that the person who is asking has some grasp of the issues we are trying to address.
In the USA, honey bees are doing better than most pollinators, but still not great. We take care of them through medication and feeding and we monitor them for problems that might arise. However, native bees like the bumblebee, leafcutter, carpenter, etc. are not doing so well. These species and possibly some species that we don’t even know about yet are in danger of winking out of existence. I think honey bees can, and do, play a huge role in raising awareness of the dangers pollinators and other insects face. Honeybees are one of the few insects that humans have been working with for thousands of years – we have formed a cultural affinity for these insects. Exposing the public to the wonder of pollinators through a beekeeping “experience” as we call it, is our way of helping the plight of all insects.
THAT IS AN INTERESTING IDEA, THAT HONEY BEES CAN BE THE AMBASSADORS FOR THE CONSERVATION OF OTHER BEE SPECIES. CAN YOU ELABORATE A BIT MORE ON HOW BEES FOR ALL HELPS WITH GETTING THIS MESSAGE ACROSS? As I mentioned previously, beekeeping in and of itself is not strictly a form of conservation. It’s important culturally, economically, and agriculturally, but it’s not what people should focus on when it comes to conservation. Since colony collapse disorder surfaced, bees have been very high profile and all over the news. As honey bees were the only ones commonly known, people started to put beehives in their gardens to “save the bees”. Having a hive is awesome, but I want people to think a little deeper about the issue.
At Bees For All we organize events, share knowledge and try to engage the public through beekeeping
Our beehives are mostly used for educational purposes. At Bees For All we organize events, share knowledge and try to engage the public through beekeeping. One of the things we do is take families, kids, and groups of people to our beehives to show them how it works and to get them excited about pollinators. When you get into a bee suit and then get covered in a cloud of bees, it really hammers home the magic of these insects and puts you directly in their environment. At that moment of excitement, when people are as engaged and receptive as possible, we also try to share information on what they can do at home to help pollinators. THAT SOUNDS VERY TIME-CONSUMING, BUT ALSO VERY INTERESTING. ARE THERE MORE PROJECTS OR INITIATIVES LIKE THESE THAT YOU HAVE WITHIN BEES FOR ALL? We have another initiative which we call the ‘Pollinator neighborhood’. With this project, we place a beehive in one of the yards of the community, usually someone who is already very switched on to pollinator issues and wants to help out. After that, we put the word out that we are going to organize several activities every few months. Examples of those events could be putting new bees in the hives in spring or honeyharvesting in summer. The result of this project has been increased awareness among the neighbors in the community on questions like: “Should I use pesticides?” or “What can I personally do to change my environment for the better?”. The community has started to feel more responsible for their environment, and with more insects, there’s a knock-on effect of not only increased pollination but more prey for other animals such as lizards and birds, and on up the food web, it goes. A heightened sense of environmental awareness is great for the entire neighborhood.
Beehive, a structure in which some species of honey bees live and raise their young
“It may be that the honey bee will have an important role to play in not only our future but the future of a range of other animals and plants, too.”
IN CONSERVATION, WE TALK A LOT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF BIODIVERSITY, BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT BIOABUNDANCE, AND HOW DO HONEY BEES FACTOR INTO THAT? Something that people overlook very often is bioabundance. Besides biodiversity, which defines the number of different species, bio-abundance looks at the total weight of the animals and the number of animals within a species. Despite my focus on protecting the biodiversity of native bee species, I am currently studying whether the sheer numbers of bees could be an important buffer in the food web, given the decline in insect biomass all around, especially in places like China and Western Europe. In the USA, I believe they play a huge role in ecosystems. I don’t want to undermine the importance of native bees, as these will always be a top priority, but having 50,000 bees in a beehive must do something to increase the available food for predators and I’d like to find out more about these relationships. I’ve seen honey bees preyed upon by lizards hanging around the beehives. But I have also seen spiders who make webs right in front of the hive entrance, so the bees who try to get out of the hive are instantly caught by the spiders. It’s anecdotal evidence at the moment but, in comparison to a field without beehives, the fields
with beehives have shown to have a much higher diversity of insect predators, and I hope to have the hard evidence to back this up in the years to come. Losing biodiversity makes me incredibly sad, but what keeps me up at night is the (not all that far-fetched) possibility of total ecological collapse, and it may be that the honey bee will have an important role to play in not only our future but the future of a range of other animals and plants, too. SO THE ECOSYSTEM MIGHT BENEFIT FROM HONEY BEES KEPT THROUGH BEEKEEPING, THAT’S INTERESTING TO HEAR. ANOTHER TOPIC OFTEN MENTIONED WHEN TALKING ABOUT CONSERVATION IS CLIMATE CHANGE. HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE FOR THE BEES IN REGARD TO THAT? I am positive! Climate change is going to drive native species to places they haven’t been before. I think they will either migrate uphill or they will migrate to the poles on either the northern or Southern Hemisphere. Some of the species won’t even survive that, which is also something that I do realize. The latter sounds pessimistic, but if we look at bumblebees, that is to be expected. Their furry physiology makes them extremely fragile. Anything above 42 to 44 degrees Celsius will be too warm for them to survive.
“One of the simple things that you can do is create a bee hotel.”
In Nevada, they have already banned “nonfunctional turf”. This is simply ornamental grass which serves no function - a manicured lawn, in other words. In the end, these lawns will only drain the precious water that we have, and the pushback on them is growing in intensity, particularly in the dry, Western states. Instead of non-functional turf, I advise allowing a little wildness that will give the bees a chance to thrive in both urban and suburban areas.
WHICH PHYSICAL MEASURES CAN WE TAKE TO CONSERVE THE NATIVE SPECIES THAT WE HAVE AND THAT WE CURRENTLY KNOW? Firstly, we can preserve large natural areas where they can thrive, with minimal human interference. In order to be sustainable, corridors in between those areas are almost always necessary. Secondly, it is time to engage private landowners, large and small. Add up all the private land and you’ll see there is an enormous area to work with.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP POLLINATORS? There are many things each of us can do to give pollinators a helping hand. Pollinator conservation is very satisfying because you can see positive results in a very short time. I describe it as “instant gratification”, because a little effort goes a long way. One of the simple things that you can do is create a bee hotel. This isn’t difficult or expensive. Start
with a wooden block, and drill holes of different sizes in it. We call it a bee block. Just put it in your garden with a little protection from the rain and leaf cutters, mason bees and other cavity-nesting solitary bees will find it. You should be aware to throw out the bee hotels after a year, so as not to encourage pathogens, and stay away from “hotels” that have tens or hundreds of holes, usually bought from stores, since solitary bees would not live in those kinds of densities in the wild and it could, again, encourage disease.
If you want to contribute even further, you can search online for “larval host plants” for your particular country or region. This creates an opportunity for butterflies and moths who are only able to breed on these specific species of plants. Even things as simple and passive as turning off your outdoor lights at night, as the artificial light will cause navigation issues for birds and insects. The big one, however, is to quit using pesticides.
Bees are tiny creatures that have a huge impact on the environment. This much is clear from Peter’s story. If you want to know more about Bees For All, check out the following links:
Instagram @beesforall Website www.beesforall.com
Get to know
MOSSY EARTH About 50% of Iceland used to be covered in trees. Nowadays, when people visit this island, they will see nearly none. With a current coverage as low as 1.5%, the number of trees has seen a massive decline. Iceland is not unique in that perspective. The number of trees has gone down in many places over the past decades, with unforeseen effects as a result. Matthew Davies and Duarte de Zoeten joined hands to counteract these effects with their organization Mossy Earth. Founded in 2017, Mossy Earth works on a greener, wilder, and more biodiverse world through rewilding and reforestation. We talked to Matthew Davies, one of the founders, to find out more about the projects they take on. Nature in general is close to Matthew’s heart, which is also the reason why he traded his job as a teacher to found this organization. Let’s find out what Mossy Earth has to say:
THE STORY OF MOSSY EARTH Mossy earth is an organization that focuses on rewilding and reforestation. We want to help mitigate climate change, improve biodiversity and create a wilder earth. Our membership is a pathway to action, empowering people to fight back and have a real impact by restoring key ecosystems and mitigating their carbon emissions. Individuals pay 10 pounds a month which plants four trees every month and help contribute to one or more rewilding projects. These can be anything from restoring wetlands to kelp reforestation or reintroducing a species to an area. As soon as you are a member, you can log in to our website or on the app. Here, you will see exclusive content about the projects, such as maps, videos, drone imagery, GPS coordinates, information and more. For us, it is about being as transparent as possible
about what we do, but moreover, it is our way of sharing our journey with our members. BEHIND THE SCENES Besides Duarte and I, the founders, you can find a team of ten people that are working with us. The first team members were biologists. We had limited prior knowledge on rewilding ourselves, so that was something we desperately wanted so that we could make a positive and thoughtthrough impact. The biologists are an important part of our team right now as they set up, implement and then monitor our research in the field. With our biologist and the rest of our team, we create projects that we call ‘100% our own’, in which we do everything ourselves. On the other hand, we also have several projects in which we collaborate. Sometimes this means we have
funding coming in from another source, but we also have examples in which the expertise of local people or researchers is brought in. Last but not least, we try to gather our tree planters locally so that we don’t have to fly them across the world. Let’s not forget volunteers, by the way. Some projects lend themselves perfectly for volunteering. When we have such a project, we put out a quest via social media and email communication. One of our latest examples is in Portugal, where we are working on an endemic plant species that live only here on the sea cliffs. The endemic species is smothered by an invasive species, so it needs to be saved desperately. Every month or two we have volunteers coming in to remove the invasive species from the cliffs.
PLANTING TREES WITH REFORESTATION I have been talking about reforestation, but it might be good to dive a little bit deeper into this topic. Planting trees is becoming more and more popular nowadays. That is a great thing as it means people are becoming more aware of protecting the planet. But, tree planting is not as easy as it seems. It can have detrimental effects on the environment if done wrong. One specific example comes from Scotland. Here, some landowners have drained their peatlands to plant trees. However, by draining the peat, carbon will be released. The total amount of carbon that the trees will sequester will not be more than the peat has released, and therefore, this way of planting trees is detrimental to its environment.
“Our aim is to restore an area with as many trees as needed and as possible.” Our aim is to restore an area with as many trees as needed and as possible. We plant them in the right place, at the right time, and with the right species. We are extremely careful with that, as it isn’t as straightforward as many people think. After planting the trees, we would ideally leave the area alone so it can thrive by itself. Some places do need some more human intervention before we reach that stage. In extremely barren areas, we sometimes create waterlines to help these saplings in the first few years. We did that in Portugal, for example, where the saplings had difficulties surviving as they were planted in an area where a forest fire had wiped out all surrounding bushes and trees. In general, we check our tree planting locations for the first 3 to 5 years after planting to maximize survival rates. SELECTING REWILDING PROJECTS For the rewilding projects that we initiate and run, we are always looking for the highest environmental return of investment for our members. That is one crucial factor when selecting projects. As we are working with nature, we do realize we can never tell for sure, but we try. In addition to that, our biologists are looking for key ecosystem processes, to improve the integrity and to improve the connectivity of our sites. It is really important for us to create areas that are interconnected, to restore biodiversity and the abundance of native species. Another aspect that we are working on is to look for great economic value for the local community. The collective of these objectives are used to find new projects.
FINDING COMMON GROUND If we dive deeper into rewilding and reforestation, it is interesting to find the common ground. Within all projects that we run – whether it is via rewilding or reforestation – we are looking for benefits for people and nature. One aspect that always comes back is the social impact that we have. With the introduction of the red kite, a bird of prey species in Spain, a foundation for nature-based tourism is being built in the area. As a result, hotels, restaurants, and other companies will benefit from the stream of bird-watching tourists. For us, that is positive as well, as the local people, who are all stakeholders, now get to experience the
positive effects of our work in their lives as well. Having them on our side is extremely important for the future of the project and the area. HOW TO HELP Let’s get back to the beginning. Becoming one of our members will always be the best way to support our work. It is a direct way to help plant trees and support our projects. Besides that, it is of great value to us if you talk about our projects and about Mossy Earth. In the past five years we have gathered a modest following, but the more we grow, the more impact we can have.
YouTube will provide you with the best footage of Mossy Earth’s projects. Be sure to check it out! Youtube @mossyearth If you are ready for more content on your feed, or if you are ready to become a member, check out these links as well: Instagram @mossy.earth Website www.mossy.earth
Sustainable travel tips: www.mossy.earth/guides
“The more we grow, the more impact we can have.” LIVING THE SUSTAINABLE LIFE There are many ways that help the world in becoming greener. Besides rewilding and reforestation, it can also be done at home. With the ‘low impact living guides’ that we created, we help people to minimize their carbon footprint. By implementing these tips, you can take immediate steps into a more sustainable life. We have articles on the subjects of diet, travel, day-today living, and more. Just take a look and start implementing the items that you like best.
If you want a unique experience in an eco-lodge close to one of our projects, I have the following tips for you: -
Star Camp in Northern Portugal Bunea Wilderness Cabin in the Southern Carpathians
These places will surely give you the feeling of being in the wild and it will give you an insight into what we do at Mossy Earth.
LANDMAN ARE WE ALL SITTING LIKE A FROG IN A POT WAITING FOR IT TO BOIL? Many people know the story of the frog in the pot. If you put a frog in a pot of hot water, it will jump out. If you put the frog in cold water and heat the water slowly, the frog will adjust its body temperature. Just before boiling, it can no longer adjust and it wants to jump out. But, the frog has put all his strength into adapting. Therefore, he cannot jump out. It’s too late. The earth is slowly warming as well and we are adapting along the way. Windmills and solar panels are installed, and heat stress programs are used to keep residential areas cool. The usage of gas gets changed for heat pumps, with which governmental buildings now get heated to maximum 18 degrees Celsius. However, the policy is half-hearted. With measurements like quitting cutting trees by 2030, we try to keep the temperature rise within 1,5 degrees Celsius. Besides that we distinguish more and more forest fires, we impose extra nitrogen standards and we compensate for flood damage with extra insurances. Looking at it from this perspective, we are not solving anything constructively.
We are now discussing the fact that the entire universe is heating up and that therefore the global heating is perhaps not the fault of mankind, as if that matters. Slowly, the temperature in the pot is rising. Many coral reefs have already died, many waters have soured, and many glaciers have melted irreversibly. It is not even a question of jumping out like the frog anymore. For us, there is no planet B to jump to. The “alternative”, Mars, will not be habitable for thousands of years because of its low temperature (-63 degrees Celsius on average) and lack of oxygen. The irony is that oxygen can be created if you emit enough greenhouse gases on Mars. If we do not have an escape plan such as a planet B and we don’t have the adaptability of the frog, there is only one choice left. We have to turn off the heat underneath the pot in order for the Earth to cool down again. But how do we do that? For the answer, we can take a look at nature surrounding us. If we dive into that, we find that almost all animals contribute positively to nature, except man. With a footprint of 1,75 earths per year worldwide, humankind has a disastrous role in nature. Unlike other animals. Biologist Leen Gorissen recently explained how many animals make a positive contribution to the ecosystem, thereby improving the health of nature. She mentioned, among other things, that whales provides nitrogen and iron for phytoplankton on the surface of oceans. This plankton uses energy from the sun to photosynthesize and this provides oxygen and stores carbon dioxide in the oceans. Together with zooplankton, it also provides food for all kinds of other organisms. Jointly, they are responsible for 50% of the world’s oxygen. And so there is a story to tell with almost every organism. Unfortunately, humans often see themselves as too detached from nature or, on the contrary, as a controller of nature, in which he does not really see the need to contribute to (restoring) nature. Ecologically, however, we are in debt. This requires a totally different attitude. One that serves nature and makes up for lost time. Out of the red figures!
To make that mind shift happen, we have to change the order of our priorities. First ecology, otherwise the rest will make no sense at all. The order in which we put ecology and all the other needs is important to solve the problem. With this in mind, you could think of a ‘Pyramid of needs for the world’, with the ultimate goal of universal well-being! In 1943, Abraham Maslow published “A Theory of Human Motivation”. Based on this, the wellknown Maslow-pyramid was developed, in which five universal human needs are arranged in a hierarchy. According to Maslow, man would only strive for the satisfaction of the needs placed higher in the hierarchy after the lower placed needs had been satisfied. Such a pyramid of needs should not only exist for individual people, but also for the world as a whole. The transitions we face right now, requires a shift in approach starting from the collective, aiming for the collective. This means that the
focus is no longer on the individual, but on the world, including all organisms. After all, humans are part of the whole. Within this pyramid of needs for the world, you only move to a higher layer after you have achieved the goals of the underlying layer. An important starting point, here, is to strive for well-being and not for capitalist development in welfare. Economics is merely an instrument serving a higher purpose. Let’s take a look at how we can strive for well-being. First and foremost, the earth must be sustainably healthy. With a global footprint of 1,75 earths per year, a temperature increase of about 1,1 degrees Celsius per year and a sea level rise of about 20 centimeters since the end of the 19th century, this is very necessary. Ultimately, well-being is achieved after the goals from the 5 underlying levels have been met. As a result, there will be peace, security and a sustainable society for people as part of the world
The 5 layers of the Pyramid of Needs for the World are, successively:
5. Education for all children. Every child should have the opportunity to receive education.
1. Healthy Earth (base level): a global footprint below 1.0. This is the only way to sustainably restore the earth.
These five layers of the pyramid provide direction for applying the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Inner Development Goals (IDGs). The IDGs are a set of competencies and talents for successfully applying the SDGs. Together, they can be applied as a strategy to achieve wellbeing for the world as a whole.
2. Health and healthcare for all. This means access to healthcare for everyone, everywhere in the world. 3. No more extreme poverty. No one should have an income below the extreme poverty level of $1.90 a day. 4. Equality for all. Including equality amongst religion, belief, political opinion, origin, gender, orientation, marital status, disability or chronic illness, age, appearance and educational level.
If we want to implement the pyramid as written above, we have to become one with the world again. The approach that we use nowadays – either looking at ‘ego’ or perhaps ‘eco’ will not be enough for implementation. Subjects which will benefit the well-being of the world, our base level in the pyramid, have to be given priority.
If we are going to look at economics differently by making it subordinate to ecology, we should also examine Kate Rasworth’s Doughnut Economy. In 2017, she presented an innovative view of the economic system in her book Doughnut Economics. The Donut Model included in her book describes how to deal with economic prosperity. The aim is to realize everyone’s needs within the carrying capacity of the earth. However, two boundaries apply here: a social and an ecological one. With the new pyramid in mind, we have to take ecology as a starting point rather than economics. Within ‘Doughnut Ecology’, therefore, a number of innovations have been implemented compared to Doughnut Economics. Firstly, and as said before, we have to focus on ecology and well-being instead of on economy and welfare. Continuing to focus on the economy with possible maximum growth, within limits, is
not sustainable and does not steer towards wellbeing. Secondly, we have to prioritize the earth above the position of humankind. The position of human must develop from Ego (human at the top of nature) to Eco (human part of nature) to Seva (human subservient to nature). Thirdly, there must be a transformation in thinking, not an improved form of an economic model. We should not go from a traditional economy to a circular economy. This still assumes there is development in economics. The current crises require an approach in which the economy is no longer central, in whatever form. Here, too, the aim must be well-being. That means focusing on (social and) ecological development and using economics as an important tool.
After that, a clear choice must be made for ecology. It is possible that friction will arise when the boundaries of social and ecological development meet. This is currently happening in the Netherlands, for example, when it comes to whether or not to use coal because of the high energy costs that lead to poverty. So, do you choose ecology (no coal) or do you choose the social side which means less poverty (coal). The current situation calls for a healthy earth, so ecology must prevail on principle. In this case: do not use coal. A rather hard but necessary choice, which of course also calls for a social safety net. Lastly, we should search for balance instead of limits. Society and economy form a balance together with ecology. However, priority is given to ecology where -with the help of IDG 5 Acting (managing change by means of courage, optimism, creativity and perseverance) and the SDGs 7, 12, 13, 14, and 15 - we strive for recovery to a sustainable healthy earth. Food for thought, you might say. The most important thing to remember for now is that in this current perspective, ecology is the key to well-being and economy is just a tool! And perhaps the Maslow-pyramid for the World can visualize how
FRANK LANDMAN Owner Everlast Consultancy
STARGAZER SELINA GUCKENBIEHL
Watching the magnificent Southern Right Whales, from the platform at the Head of Bight Whale Watching Centre, is a mindblowing experience! Every winter, a large number of Southern Right Whales visit the Head of Bight in Australia. Many of them are pregnant females who will give birth in this protected area. Once they have given birth, they usually stay until their young ones are big and strong enough for their journey to the feeding grounds.
Are you the next Stargazer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we might feature you in the next issue of Ubuntu Magazine!
NEO WILD Vanessa Kadosoe
NeoWild (Institute for Neotropical Wildlife and Environmental Studies) is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the conservation of biodiversity and the environment in Suriname. Currently, their main focuses are the threats to jaguars and the impacts of mining and hunting large cats.
Vanessa installing cameras on an ecotourism site.
“In the last 5 to 10 years, the poaching of jaguars has increased.” In this interview, Vanessa Kadosoe, the founder of NeoWild, shares what it’s like to work in the field of jaguar research and conservation. Vanessa did her master’s and thesis on jaguars, and she’s currently pursuing a PhD about the impact of human disturbance on the jaguar population. We’ve asked her a few questions about Suriname’s jaguar population and what problems these animals face.
FIRST THINGS FIRST, HOW DID YOU START WORKING IN THE FIELD OF JAGUAR RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION? My love for nature started because of my mom. She taught us to be gentle with nature, to appreciate it, and to nurture it. My interest in jaguars, however, started during my bachelor thesis research. We put cameras on an ecotourism site to determine the effect of ecotourism on wildlife. When we went through the data, we saw that we captured much data on jaguars, and that’s where my interest started.
WHAT IS THE CORE MISSION OF NEOWILD? In a nutshell, the core mission of NeoWild is to do research on and raise awareness about wildlife in Suriname. We’re doing conservation studies on jaguars to determine their population status and in which areas these animals occur the most. The status of the jaguar is not very clear in Suriname
and unfortunately, there is a lot of poaching, so we focus on conservation a lot. Although we are specialized in jaguars, we also focus on amphibians, reptiles and water quality. WE KNOW YOU WORK IN BROWNSBERG NATURE PARK. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS PLACE? Brownsberg Nature Park is one of the most popular ecotourism sites in Suriname, and it’s very easy to reach. The park was established in 1964 and today, tourism is the biggest source of income in the area. It’s quite wet most of the years and it’s very diverse, with many different species living there. It’s home to an estimated 350 species of birds, for example, so many tourists come here for bird watching.
JAGUARS CAN ALSO BE FOUND IN THIS PARK AND THEY ARE THREATENED DUE TO POACHING. CAN YOU TELL US WHY THESE ANIMALS ARE SO VALUABLE TO POACHERS? In the last 5 to 10 years, the poaching of jaguars has increased due to the ban on tiger poaching for tiger paste. People shifted their interest to the jaguar and started making jaguar paste instead. Lately, the jaguar trade has increased, but there’s also more awareness around poaching. People know that it’s illegal, so when someone kills a jaguar, it often gets reported and poachers get a fine. The problem, however, is that they don’t get a big punishment, so it doesn’t really scare them off.
The camera to determine the effect of ecotourism on wildlife.
“In traditional Chinese medicine, jaguar paste is used to enhance sexual potency or improve health.” SO JAGUARS GET POACHED TO MAKE JAGUAR PASTE. WHAT MAKES THIS PASTE SO VALUABLE? In traditional Chinese medicine, jaguar paste is used to enhance sexual potency or to improve health. It hasn’t been scientifically proven that this works, though, but many people believe it does. The poachers earn a lot of money with it too because a small amount of jaguar paste is very expensive. You need to kill one jaguar to produce just a little bit of this paste, and this has an immense impact on the ecosystem. Jaguars keep everything in balance. They’re the top predators of the food chain, and if you pluck out a few of them, the impact on the area is immense. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORGANIZED CRIME AND OPPORTUNISTIC CRIME? Organized crime is when someone on top of an organization asks a middleman to kill a jaguar. Opportunistic crime, on the other hand, is when someone comes across a jaguar, feels threatened, and decides to kill the animal because they know they can earn a lot of money with it. That person will then sell the jaguar to the people of the organized crime organization. A study has shown that gold miners are also involved in the poaching of jaguars. There’s a lot of poaching going on for the sake of making quick money, but there’s also a lot of organized crime that actively hunts the animals.
WHAT ARE WAYS TO TACKLE THE TRAFFICKING AND POACHING OF JAGUARS, AND WHICH DIFFICULTIES DO YOU FACE WHILE DOING SO? A couple of years ago, religious and nature conservation organizations joined forces and brought out a statement to the Chinese community to try to stop poaching and illegal trade. It made an impact for a few months, but after that, everything went back to what it was like before. There have also been people here who tried to infiltrate the Chinese community to gain information, but this is very difficult. You need someone who speaks Chinese, and these people are involved in illegal stuff, so as soon as they find out that you’re involved in conservation, they will stop sharing any information. So, there are a couple of ways to tackle trafficking and poaching, but it is far from easy. ARE THERE ANY OTHER THREATS BESIDES POACHING THAT JAGUARS FACE? Yes! Habitat loss due to gold mining is another problem in Suriname. Entire areas are destroyed for mining activities – forests are cut down, the soil is stirred over, etc. This is largely affecting the entire wildlife population, not only jaguars. The second threat is excessive hunting. When there is pre-depletion, the jaguar is depleted of food, and they will attempt to hunt closer to villages. Jaguars then attack a chicken or a dog near a village, for example, and villagers may then kill the jaguar.
DO THESE THREATS EVER SCARE YOU, PERHAPS AS A THREAT TO YOUR OWN SAFETY AS YOU ARE WORKING WITH THESE ANIMALS? Actually, it does. Last week, for example, two of our camera traps were stolen. You can see that poachers are feeling threatened and don’t want evidence of them walking by on camera. When we went out to check on the other cameras, we were fearing for our lives because people put out traps for animals. They attach a thin wire to a stick on one side and to a rifle on the other side. Every time an animal crosses and breaks the wire, the gun will shoot. This is illegal in Suriname but it is being used in certain areas. When we were searching for the cameras, we knew people were hunting there and that there were traps, but we had to go in order to collect the data. A few times, our cameras have been destroyed too, and another time gas was stolen from the telecommunication tower. We went to the police, but nothing happened. So we’re afraid for our lives, but also for the financial consequences because cameras are expensive. What’s even worse is when data is lost because that’s so valuable to us and our research.
what their life is like: how often they mate or hunt, at what time they are active, etc. I find that very fascinating. Although it’s quite difficult and frustrating sometimes, this kind of information gives you a sense of what the jaguar population is like in Suriname, and that’s very exciting to me. HOW CAN OUR READERS HELP YOU AND YOUR CAUSE? We’re a very small NGO, so donations surely help. We have to rely on funding otherwise, but these are very scarce. Doing research is quite expensive, so we need donations to be able to carry out our studies. Are you curious to read more about NeoWild’s projects, or do you want to make a donation? Then, check them out via the link below.
THAT SOUNDS TERRIFYING, YET YOU CONTINUE TO DO WHAT YOU DO WITH NEOWILD. WHAT DRIVES YOU TO DO THE WORK THAT YOU DO? I love the excitement when you retrieve the data from the cameras and see what you have captured. You can spy on jaguars and find out
Photo by Jacques de Spéville
MAURITIAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION
Vikash Tatayah has two roles: Conservation Director and Assistant Treasurer at Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF). We have asked Vikash about his roles within the organization and about the precious endemic wildlife that he is trying to save from the brink of extinction. But above all, he has given us precious insight into his work in Mauritius and its surrounding islands.
VIKASH, CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING ABOUT YOUR ROLE AS A CONSERVATION DIRECTOR? Yes, for sure. As a conservation director I am in charge of the conservation programs on Mauritius, Rodrigues and the offshore and outer islands that are surrounding us. Our core mission is to save native and endemic species from extinction. With our conservation programs, we try to make that happen. Right now, I have been working for the MWF for 26 years. I got to know the foundation through one of my undergraduate projects, where I chose to research an introduced mammal called the Madagascar tenrec. A couple of years later, a position became available, to which I applied. During the past years I have grown into the position that I have now. CAN YOU ALSO TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR POSITION AS AN ASSISTANT TREASURER? If we look at my position as assistant treasurer, I should mention first that above my role as conservation director, there is also an executive director and a board, which is the management committee. A couple of years ago, the board decided they wanted to have staff members on the board, so that’s when I first became a board member and later the assistant treasurer. In this position, I have an insight into the finances of our organization and to make decisions based on that. For example, I am allowed to sign checks for our employees and suppliers. Whenever we have to buy things for our conservation projects, I am also there to check the financial status, see the quotes, seek clarification and to approve those costs. As there is at least one other check signatory, I am often one of them. An expense also requires several levels of approvals. For me, this position is quite important, because I am a scientist and not an accountant. By looking into the finances, I get an insight in what’s
happening in the organization. I can now link the expenses to the right project, but I can also help the employees to improve their way of working. Everything between finances and conservation is linked, and that is great to dive into. WHAT IS THE CORE MISSION OF THE MAURITIUS WILDLIFE FOUNDATION? Saving the endangered wildlife from extinction is going to be the short answer to that. It doesn’t matter what it takes and how long it takes us to do that. The reason I’m saying this is because MWF has been here for nearly 40 years already. After all those years, we still haven’t gotten to our goal of saving the endangered wildlife from extinction, and that’s okay. We are still working on it. Recently, we created our 100- year vision, which has gotten us many comments already, as we will never outlive those 100 years ourselves. However, it is the most logical choice we can make, simply because the work we have to do will not be done in the next year or five years from now. Moreover, conservation is not getting any easier. Yes, there is more education on conservation and we have more people on the ground, but the general situation is getting worse. Climate change, deforestation, littering and development are just a few to name. Conservation is therefore getting a lot more difficult and challenging, so long term visions are needed.
“Our goal is to save the endangered wildlife from extinction.”
Mauritius Kestrel photo by Jacques de Spéville
IT SOUNDS LOGICAL THAT CONSERVATION IS NOT GETTING ANY EASIER NOWADAYS. THE MAURITIAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION HAS BEEN VERY SUCCESSFUL THOUGH IN THE PAST DECADES. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING MORE ABOUT THE SPECIES THAT YOU ALREADY SAVED FROM EXTINCTION? Yes! We have done quite a number of things already, with mostly birds as our most renowned stories. We were able to save more birds from the brink of extinction than anywhere else in the
Ile aux Aigrettes seen from mainland Mauritius
world. That includes the Mauritius kestrel, echo parakeet and the pink pigeon. With those birds we took measures such as bringing eggs and chicks into captivity to breed with them, rearing them and then releasing them back in the wild. Besides that, we have worked on reptiles from different islands. The ‘single island reptiles’, the ones that only lived on one specific island, were re-introduced to other islands as a security measurement for those species.
There is an interesting story about another one of our projects. On the island here, we used to have two endemic species of tortoise. We have lost these endemic species unfortunately, but in terms of rewilding, we have now introduced a species called the Aldabra tortoise, which comes from the Seychelles. It fills up the void that was there and we hope it helps to sustain the ecosystem. Lastly, there are many species that we didn’t or couldn’t even document before their extinction.
However, in total, we believe we have saved over a 100 species of plants on Mauritius and Rodrigues together.
“We believe we have saved over a 100 species of plants.”
Echo Parakeet, a parrot species endemic to the Mascarene Islands of Mauritius
IF WE LOOK AT TECHNOLOGY, DO YOU THINK IT WILL BENEFIT YOU IN THE FUTURE FOR SAVING ENDANGERED SPECIES AND ECOSYSTEMS? It might sound cliché, but I think we have to use all the tools that we have in our toolbox, including technology. That does not mean that our current techniques are outdated, but we have to use technology constructively. The social media platforms that we know nowadays can be used for communication, awareness, sensitization, influencing and fundraising, but also moral support or even political support can be gained through these platforms. In the field, you can use drones, for example, to search through forests to search for species. We have used DNA techniques before, in which we made a genome map from the pink pigeon to find out which individuals are the most important for saving the species. We have also deployed recorders in the forest, through which we can now hear all the birds that live there. Using technology in such ways saves us a lot of time and helps us to achieve more. IT IS GREAT THAT YOU CAN USE BOTH THE DECADES OF EXPERIENCE AS WELL AS NEW TECHNOLOGIES IN THE FIELD TO SAVE MAURITIAN NATURE. TO DIVE IN FOR A SECOND; WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON THREATS FOR MAURITIAN WILDLIFE? The biggest threat that we currently face is development. We are a fairly developed country and day by day, development is encroaching into our forest. There is a lot of pressure to build (luxury) residential housing, also on locations that are still relatively pristine and untouched. Besides that, infrastructure is increasing, which is partly a result of increasing tourism. We expect to have 1.6 million visitors next year, which is 0.3 million more than we used to have before the pandemic. So that requires quite some residency buildings and infrastructure. Alongside that, invasive alien species are a huge problem that we are facing currently.
The thing with these threats is that they threaten all animals and plants in the same ecosystem. On the one hand, there is commonality in the threats we face, but on the other hand the action that we can take to mitigate the threats is also a commonality. Ecosystem restoration is therefore extremely valuable and something that we often focus on. Although species are the building blocks that we need to save, saving an ecosystem is very effective as well. AN INTERESTING TOPIC FOR MANY CONSERVATION PROJECTS IS FUNDING. YOUR WEBSITE SHOWS THAT YOU HAVE QUITE SOME ORGANIZATIONS SUPPORTING YOU. CAN YOU TELL US SOMETHING MORE ABOUT THAT? Funding has been an important part of our conservation efforts and we can’t work without it. In the past couple of years, we have tried to diversify our sources of funding. Previously, we were heavily dependent on one source, but nowadays, we have zoos, universities and private companies that support us. Besides that, we have our own ecotourism projects, which raises about 20 to 25 percent of our funds. We also apply for grants with other funds and organizations, which has been quite successful for us. We also have corporate social responsibility (CSR) from the private sector directly or indirectly through government. Each profitable company in Mauritius has to pay a 2% CSR tax. Charity organizations like us can apply to this collected CSR and so far, we have gotten funds for several years. Let’s not forget that it takes a lot of management to have so many different forms of funding. A lot of companies and funders want to be involved more. It used to be a simple check with which you could run your projects, but nowadays delivering updates, newsletters, talks or activities are more common. So, you have to put a lot of work in to get the funds. That’s why we currently have four people working on funding.
Ile aux Aigrettes ebony
“When I pass away, I hope my kids walk in the forest, see a pigeon and think “Hey, my dad did something to save them.” THAT SHEDS A GOOD LIGHT ON THE CONCEPT OF FUNDRAISING. IT IS DOABLE AND YOU SEEM TO HAVE MASTERED IT VERY WELL, BUT PEOPLE SHOULD NOT FORGET THAT BEHIND THE SCENES A LOT OF EFFORT GOES INTO IT. IF WE LOOK ONCE MORE AT THE MAURITIAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION, WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT NOT MANY PEOPLE KNOW? There are some interesting facts, actually. One thing many people don’t know is the foundations’ background. Many people assume that we are an international organization. Sometimes we are even linked to WWF, as the Mauritius branch of them. None of that is actually true. Most people in our senior positions are Mauritians, Rodriguand or long term residents from here. That is definitely a fact that we are now trying to bring across to the public. Another thing that I want to mention again, is that we have been very successful with landbirds, which is why people often think that is the core (or perhaps the only) thing we do. They don’t recognize that we have done a lot of work on reptiles, plants, insects and seabirds as well. YOU HAVE QUITE A LONG LIST OF PROJECTS AND SPECIES THAT YOU ARE WORKING ON. IS THERE A SPECIFIC SPECIES OR PROJECT THAT IS EXTRA SPECIAL TO YOU PERSONALLY? I love all the projects that we work on, naturally. Some were even started before I was born. One species that has become special to me over time is the Mauritius kestrel. It almost became extinct in 1974, when it was the rarest bird in the
world. Only four of them were left, with just one breeding female. Nowadays, we have 300 to 400 flying around, so our conservation actions were extremely successful. The reason why this species is so dear to me has to do with their current status as a National Bird. I made this proposal last year in December, thinking it would take us years to make it happen. It was a matter of weeks. Just two, actually. Then it was declared a national bird for Independence Day on the 12th of March. THAT IS AN AMAZING ACHIEVEMENT. CONGRATULATIONS! THIS SOUNDS LIKE AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT MAKES YOUR WORK WORTHWHILE. WHAT ELSE DRIVES YOU TO DO THE WORK YOU DO? I love it! First of all, it is an immense sense of satisfaction. Yes, it is difficult and challenging, and sometimes you think: “How am I going to do this?” But, it would be boring otherwise. The second thing is that when I look back 26 years, at both myself and the organization, I can see where we came from and what we have achieved so far. Even though I forget it myself sometimes, hearing people say “You’ve done a great job on the pigeon” is enough to bring that sense of satisfaction to me. When I pass away, I hope my kids walk in the forest, see a pigeon and think “Hey, my dad did something to save them”. Doing this work creates an environment including pigeons and rare plant species. I don’t do it for myself, but for future generations.
WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT PEOPLE CAN DO THEMSELVES FOR THE MAURITIAN WILDLIFE FOUNDATION? There is one classic example–donating. But, for us, there are a number of things that are helpful. First of all, get to know more about wildlife and become concerned. As a consumer we have so many choices every single day, and it is up to you to decide where your food comes from, how it is processed and how sustainable it is for this planet. If you are able to visit Mauritius, please visit us. I can talk, but it is more effective to show you around so you can see what we do. If you decide to invest or donate, I want you to be convinced of what you invest in. That it is worth it. We want to educate the people visiting on what we do. One of those things is the problem we have faced between people and fruit bats. The fruit bats
were being culled as they eat the fruit harvest, but with MWF we are taking crucial steps to solve this problem. If you are currently in your BSc, you are also welcome to apply to volunteer with us. You will get amazing experiences out of it and it can be a great stepping stone in your career. Lastly, awareness, education and sensitization are very helpful. If you cannot visit the islands, there is surely a way you can help. For example, liking our social media posts or responding to them. If you know anything about a conservation project in your region, with problems or species similar to ours, sharing knowledge on that conservation topic will always be helpful to us and to what we do. Sharing that knowledge is extremely effective in helping us.
You can find the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation here: Instagram @mauritianwildlife LinkedIn The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation Website www.mauritian-wildlife. org
AS YOU SAID, MORE AND MORE TOURISTS COME TO THE ISLANDS. IN SOME CASES – FOR EXAMPLE WITH REVENUE STREAMS – THAT WILL BE POSITIVE, THOUGH SOMETIMES IT ALSO INFLUENCES WILDLIFE IN A BAD WAY. THERE ARE QUITE SOME ECOTOURS AND PROJECTS MENTIONED ON MWF’S WEBSITE. HOW DO THEY CONTRIBUTE TO CONSERVATION? In several ways, actually. First of all, it comes back to money. An important detail about this money is that it is unattached. A lot of funds that we get are linked to a specific project, but when a tourist comes, that excess money (everything that remains after calculating the costs of their visit) can be used for the project that needs it the most. Coming back to what I said earlier, these tours give us the opportunity to let people discover nature themselves. Once people love nature here, they will love nature everywhere. Hopefully they
will spread that love for nature with the people they know, therefore creating a ripple effect. Lastly, it helps with employability. We employ about a dozen people in the ecotours. Many of them only stay with us for a couple of years and then continue to another job. There, they talk about us and what we do. So besides helping them with their employment, it contributes to our goal of spreading the message as well. The Mauritian Wildlife Foundation is diverse, renowned for their expertise and an extremely valuable foundation for Mauritian nature. Check out their website if you want to learn more about what they do. And, as Vikash said himself: “There is always a way of contributing.” Check out their social media and let them know you read this article–anything you can do is of great importance for their organization.
Wildlife conservation in Japan
CHALLENGES OF HUMAN-ANIMAL COEXISTENCE
What if you have an important mission to accomplish but you find yourself almost an outcast? Pioneer non-profit organizations usually have to struggle with several adverse factors until they finally achieve their first outcomes. This task can get even harder when such organizations are the only ones fighting for something which is unknown to their own society.
Written by Bruno F. Fiorillo 105
Kanako Ake is a Ph.D. student from the Department of Nature Conservation at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, and her study subject is the African painted dog (Lycaon pictus). She also currently works for the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society (JWCS), tackling some of the main challenges for wildlife conservation in Japan, such as the ivory trade, the use of endangered species in traditional medicine, monitoring of fishery activities, and the pet trade of endangered species. The JWCS is the only non-profit organization in Japan concerned with biodiversity conservation and raising public awareness of its losses. Currently, there are nine terrestrial and two freshwater ecosystems classified in Japan (Olsen et al. 2001, Abel et al. 2008), all scattered across a small area (about 370,000 km², not much larger than Italy and smaller than the state of California). Although this is not usually the case, the diversity
of habitats may be correlated to animal diversity (Tews et al. 2003). Not surprisingly, such diversity is particularly evident in some groups of animals, according to Kanako. “We do not have big carnivores, except for bears. However, both middle- and small-sized animals are diversified groups, particularly if you look at mammals”. Wildlife travelers can enjoy the diversity and complexity of this wildlife going to the right places in Japan. The country offers several options for wildlife travelers but the choice of where to go depends on what you seek. “For observing marine species, I would suggest Mikura, Okasawa, or Shiretoko islands. There, you can watch whales and swim with the dolphins. These islands are animal-friendly and are open only to a limited number of people, to prevent over-disturbing the local environment. The local people enjoy the conservation of wildlife which is really great.”
Unfortunately, this is not a shared opinion by the entire Japanese population. “There is a refusal to list marine species as endangered, because they are considered ‘seafood’ for the Japanese, and especially for the government”. Kanako says the Japanese government insists that eating seafood is one of the major representatives of its culture. This reasoning has been used to explore marine species indiscriminately, to the brink of extinction. The problem is compounded by the lack of knowledge of the Japanese population in relation to its own biodiversity. “Many marine species are endangered and many Japanese don’t know about them,” says Kanako.
The controversial use of wildlife, especially endangered species, is one of the major challenges tackled by JWCS. Besides fishery activities, traditional medicine has been - and still is - a cause of concern for wildlife conservation in Asian countries. Particularly the use of ivory extracted from elephants for traditional medicine and other purposes has a long history.
“Many marine species are endangered and many Japanese don’t know about them.”
“We need to understand the Japanese position and raise the awareness of such issues in order to conserve species.” There are three species of elephants, the African Savanna (Loxodonta africana), African Forest L. cyclotis - and Asian - Elephas maximus - all of them threatened with extinction (IUCN 2022). To mitigate poaching, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned the international trade of ivory in 1989 which contributed to a decrease in this activity. After that, the populations of elephants in South African countries, such as Zimbabwe, recovered considerably. Because Japan has a stock of ivory, CITES allowed Japan to trade ivory with some countries twice over the course of history. However, after one of these episodes, the number of illegal trades in Asia (e.g., China) increased from 2011 onward. After that, CITES decided to close the legal domestic market all over the world, resulting in an agreement between all parties, including Japan, to take all necessary legislative, regulatory, and enforcement matters to close the domestic market of ivory. Due to this resolution, many Asian countries, including China, have closed their legal domestic markets, yet Japan has not. “We still have a domestic market and the claim from the Japanese government is that Japan is not contributing to poaching or illegal trade but actually, ivory is exported from Japan and Japanese are often seized in China”. On the other hand, the demand for ivory in Japan is short and the number of companies trading its derivate products has decreased every year. “This means that what the government says is not reflecting Japanese opinion. Most of the Japanese don’t understand
their government’s opinion and why it wants to keep this market so much”, says Kanako. Informing the local population about wildlife issues is is a crucial pillar for conservation. “This is why an organization like ours is needed. We need to understand the Japanese position and raise the awareness of such issues in order to conserve species”, says Kanako. She also claims that Japanese is not interested in wildlife outside Japan, such as elephants. Moreover, news and campaigns conducted in English do not seem to reach the ears of Japanese people. The challenge faced by the JWCSis to share the information coming from the world to Japan. Another source of great concern is the trade of bear gall bladders and bile, commonly used for traditional medicine purposes in Asia (Phillips and Wilson 2002). According to the last report of JWCS, medicines that use bear bile is one of the most consumed products in Japan, second only to seahorse species (Hippocampus spp.). With the exception of the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), currently classified as Least Concern (LC) according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, both the other species of bears distributed in Japan, the Asiatic black bear (Ursus thibetanus) and the Sun bear (Helarctos malayanus) are considered Vulnerable (VU). These are top predators of their respective environments their removal would almost certainly have drastic and negative consequences on their ecosystems (see Estes et al. 2010).
Satoyama is a Japanese term applied to the border zone or area between mountain foothills and arable flat land.
Fortunately, the use of animals, particularly those that are endangered, seems to be decreasing among young generations in Japan. However, a lack of knowledge and social awareness around the valuable roles that each species plays in their natural ecosystems has a negative impact on conservation goals. “We of JWCS believe that the existence of wildlife and the natural environment itself have their value, which should be commonly recognized by people, regardless of their background, gender, or the region they live. Our organization has been working to teach and stimulate people to care about and conserve them.”
Among the species exported are the Okinawan ground gecko (Goniurosaurus kuroiwae) and the Ryukyu Black-breasted Leaf Turtle (Geoemyda japonica), both endemic to Japan and currently classified as Vulnerable and Endangered, respectively. Other victims widely sought after for their “cuteness” are the slow lorises (genus Nycticebus). These animals are often seen in videos shared on social media as pets and several species of lorises are threatened (Musing et al. 2015). The irony of “cuteness” culture is that consumers who tend to be most passionate about these endangered species’ wellbeing are also inexplicably linked to their rapid decline.
Customers who consume medicinal products that actively endanger wildlife species might be perceived as insensitive or even cruel. A JWCS survey actually found that most consumers are unaware of these medicinal products’ ingredients. Additionally, there is absolutely no evidence for their effectiveness since none of those products were scientifically tested. Popular consumption of these types of products may be more directly linked to cultural ideologies, lack of environmental education, and an absence of alternative medicinal treatments in Japan, rather than the perceived insensitivity of the Japanese population.
Baby steps are being taken towards conservation in Japan as well as in many other countries. The width and number of steps that will be taken and whether they will be enough to protect wildlife before it is too late is up to all of the citizens of the world. Kanako’s answer to what we can do to make the impact of wildlife exploitation smaller is, ”We all need to reflect on our actions, as our collective and excessive consumerism is the cause for species extinction.”
In a similar way, the culture of “cuteness” known as Kawai (adorable in Japanese), encourages a culture of keeping wild animals as pets. JWCS also lists this as one of their top issues. Japan has been identified as a top consumer and trader of live reptiles (Ishihara et al. 2010, Auliya et al. 2016).
Few fully-funded wildlife conservation organizations operate in Japan. The JWCS currently has its own donation program and will gladly accept any contribution to its cause. Find out more about how you can contribute here:
DIRECTOR Manon Verijdt DESIGN Arina van Londen Suzanne Lek
ILLUSTRATOR Emma Ritzen EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT Laura Meyers Amy van Loon Bruno Ferreto Fiorillo
CONTRIBUTED TO THIS EDITION Frank Landman, Matthew Davies, Rebecca Cliffe, Peter Keilty, John Watkin, Vanessa Kadosoe, Ingrid Vermeulen, Koen Cuyten, Vikash Tatayah, Selina Guckenbiehl, Wendy Hapgood, John Steward, Kanako Ake, Peae, Mary Swing, Greg Canning. SALES Amy van Loon email@example.com PR MANAGER Judith van der Steen Judith@ubuntumagazine.com MARKETING Mira de Winter Tobias van Krieken WEBDESIGNER & CREATOR Marijn Jansen
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ISSUE 3 | AUTUMN 2022