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Tropical Conservation Science
September 2012 | Vol. 5 | Issue 3 | pages 245-416

Opinion Article
    Trade bans: the perfect storm for some species | pages 245- 254
    Kirsten Conrad
    When the Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species (CITES) was ratified nearly 40 years ago, trade bans seemed like a logical way to protect species that are in danger of extinction. By prohibiting trade, demand would fade away, enforcement would be feasible, and humans and wildlife would co-exist peacefully. While some species have benefitted from trade regulations, for others, who share a certain set of attributes, a trade ban may actually backfire. This phenomenon is illustrated with the tiger, rhino and elephant, whose wild populations, despite being subjected to total or partial trade restrictions for many years, continue to plummet. Their common attributes, which collectively create the conditions for a “Perfect Storm” for poaching, include: strongly entrenched demand for their parts (e.g., tiger bone, rhino horn, ivory); a long and culturally engrained history of use (e.g., traditional medicine dating back thousands of years); a lack of clarity in who “owns” and/or benefits from the species (the answer: it depends); negative incentives for local populations to conserve the species (e.g., livestock loss or threat to humans), and inadequate enforcement of the ban (“lack of political will”). Under these circumstances, a trade ban effectively hands a monopoly to the black market. As CITES turns 40, it is time to move from reliance on trade bans as the prevailing policy response, to one which evaluates alternative approaches that are informed by, and rooted in, fields of science, some of which have evolved since CITES inception. Without this, the tiger, rhino and elephant—and perhaps others—will face a Perfect Storm, leading to extinction.

Research Articles
    Local knowledge and perceptions of animal population abundances and trends by communities adjacent to the northern Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe | pages 255-269
    Edson Gandiwa
    Knowledge that local people, especially those living in and/or near protected areas, acquire through daily interaction with ecosystems is increasingly being seen as a potential source of information for sustainable natural resources conservation and management in tropical ecosystems. This study examined the local ecological knowledge (LEK) held by local people bordering the northern Gonarezhou National Park (GNP), Zimbabwe, concerning domestic and wild animal species abundances and perceived population trends, in order to evaluate the possible contribution of LEK to wildlife conservation and management. Data were collected through interviews using a semi-structured questionnaire from 236 local people in communities adjacent to the northern GNP from December 2010 to May 2011. The study results showed that respondents expressed mixed perceptions on qualitative population trends of domestic animals between 2000 and 2010, with 44% of the respondents perceiving an increase, 36% perceiving a decline, and 20% perceiving that domestic animal populations had remained the same. About 76% of the respondents perceived that wild animal abundances had increased, 15% perceived that wild animal abundances had declined, and 9% perceived that wild animal abundances had remained the same between 2000 and 2010 in GNP. Strikingly, responses on perceptions of wild animal population trends were to a great extent in line with recorded population trends from conventional scientific studies. It is therefore, suggested that LEK may serve as a valuable source of ecological information and could compliment scientific information for wildlife conservation and management.

    Anthropisation et effets de lisière : impacts sur la diversité des rongeurs dans la Réserve Forestière de Masako (Kisangani, R.D. Congo) | 270-283
    Léon Iyongo Waya Mongo, Marjolein Visser, Charles De Cannière, Erik Verheyen, Benjamin Dudu Akaibe, Joseph Ulyel Ali-Patho et Jan Bogaert
    The study of the impact of human activities on the richness, diversity, abundance and density of rodents was conducted in four habitats (primary forest, secondary forest, fallow and transition zone fallow / secondary forest (edge) ) of the Masako Forest Reserve in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of Congo from May 2009 to April 2010. In total, 1275 rodent species distributed among 24 families and five were captured. These data demonstrated that the composition and abundance of rodents are different between primary forest and anthropic environments, and a transition zone between the circles and it separates. Our results show that rodents are not evenly distributed across the four quarters. The border region has more species by cons, primary forest harbors fewer species. Densities vary from one community to another. They are higher in secondary forest and fallow but lower in primary forest. Statistical analyzes show that the abundances differ between these media, except between secondary forest and fallow. Richness, diversity, abundance and density in the edge region are different from those environments it separates, which proves the existence of the influence of the edge. Some species dominate in all habitats, reflecting the instability of the Reserve result of human activities. The study also showed that the abundance of rodents to Masako vary both "seasons" that "human activities".

    Diet and habitat use by maned wolf outside protected areas in eastern Brazil | pages 284-300
    Rodrigo Lima Massara, Ana Maria de Oliveira Paschoal, André Hirsch, and Adriano Garcia Chiarello
    The maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) is endangered by extinction in Brazil, where most of its geographic distribution is located. The main threat results from destruction of the species natural habitat, the Cerrado. Although there is several studies on the largest canid of South America, most of them have been carried out in parks and reserves. However, as only 2% of the Brazilian Cerrado is protected by nature reserves, it is important to understand the ecology of this species in environments lacking legal protection and that encompass the great majority of the Cerrado remnants. Here we analyzed the feeding habits of the maned wolf in a buffer zone of two nature reserves located a few kilometers from a large urban center (Belo Horizonte) in southeastern Brazil, where several anthropogenic impacts such as mining, unregulated ecotourism, city sprawl, among others exist. The study was based on fecal samples collected throughout two years (2006-2008). The results revealed that the maned wolf uses frequently the area, mainly the open fields, both natural and those disturbed by recent fires or by the proliferation of invading grasses. Overall the diet was very similar to that of protected areas being, however less diverse. The results highlight the importance of buffer zones for the conservation of this species and corroborate other recent studies indicating the ability of the maned wolf to adapt to environments modified by man.

    Birds of conservation concern in Eastern Acre, Brazil: distributional Records, occupancy estimates, human-caused mortality, and opportunities for ecotourism | pages 301-319
    John J. DeLuca
    Hundreds of bird species found nowhere else on Earth occur in the lowland tropical forests of Acre, Brazil. This southwestern Amazonian state hosts many bird species that are threatened or have a very limited distribution. Conservation biologists are only beginning to understand the distribution, abundance, and management needs of the Acre’s birds and other wildlife. Threats and opportunities associated with the completion of the Brazil-Peru Interoceanic Highway provide impetus to increase understanding of 1) the distribution, status, and natural history of rare and restricted-range birds, 2) human-wildlife conflicts, and 3) interest in ecotourism within Acre and other parts of southwestern Amazonia. In a new study published in the journal Tropical Conservation Science, you can read about the results of pioneering bird surveys and interviews with local hunters in several protected areas of eastern Acre. Results indicate that the recently discovered and globally threatened Rufous Twistwing is rare but widely distributed across Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve. The globally threatened Blue-headed Macaw appears uncommon, but it occurs throughout eastern Acre. Survey results also expand the known range of several near-threatened and restricted-range bird species. Interviews with local hunters indicate that the near-threatened Harpy Eagle and Crested Eagle are rare to uncommon and widely persecuted. However, interest in community-run ecotourism and the presence of pristine places to enjoy rare birds and other wildlife present opportunities to increase conservation in Acre. Land managers, biologists, and conservation organizations may use this study to inform wildlife management decisions, estimates of population trends, and ecotourism ventures.

    Spatial distribution of rare woody species richness of the Yucatan Peninsula and its relationship with natural protected areas | pages 320-339
    Erika Tetetla-Rangel, Rafael Durán, José Luis Hernández-Stefanoni, and Juan Manuel Dupuy
    Rare species are characterized by a small number of individuals, a very narrow distribution or very specific habitat requirements. These features alone or combined come into different levels of rarity, which lead to different levels of vulnerability to extinction. In this study we identified areas with the highest concentration of woody plant species classified into 3 levels of rarity (low, medium and high), and we evaluated their relationship with the established protected areas in the Yucatan Peninsula. Four regions were identified with the highest concentration of rare woody species. The region with the highest concentration of extremely rare species (high level of rarity) was located outside the established protected areas. Our results suggest that the current protected areas could preserve the rare species of the low and medium level of rarity, but not the extremely rare species. Therefore, it is important to establish a protected area in the region that could harbor the highest concentrations of these species, which are particularly vulnerable to extinction.

    Harvest effects on wax palm (Ceroxylon echinulatum Galeano) growth and implications for sustainable management in Ecuador | pages 340-351
    Nina Duarte and Rommel Montúfar
    The unexpanded leaves of wax palm (Ceroxylon echinulatum Galeano), a slow-growing palm distributed on Andean slopes, have been traditionally harvested and used for manufacturing handicrafts for Easter celebrations. It has been suggested that leaf harvest might threaten the survival of the species, an argument used by the Ecuadorean authorities to forbid this practice. However, a new study published in mongabay.com's open access journal Tropical Conservation Science reveals that the extraction of unexpanded leaves of wax palm could be a sustainable activity. Results from two year of observations revealed that leaf growth rate and the number of new leaves produced per individual were not adversely affected. This research suggests that the extraction of unexpanded leaves could be a sustainable activity if it follows such management criteria as harvesting biennially, reducing leaf damage during the harvest, selecting individuals with more than nine leaves and increasing the height at which the unexpanded leaves are cut. An appropriate management strategy could be to distinguish young individuals with nine or more leaves in different areas of the forest, in order to perform rotational, biennial and monitored cropping.

    Bushmeat consumption in western Tanzania: A comparative analysis from the same ecosystem | pages 352-364
    Andimile Martin, Tim Caro and Monique Borgerhoff Mulder
    Protected areas in Africa are increasingly surrounded by people of different ethnic identities and economic specializations such that implementation of a single program to reduce bushmeat offtake may be inappropriate. We show that the pattern of bushmeat consumption differs between different groups of people exploiting the same Katavi-Rukwa ecosystem in Tanzania. Although both groups used the same hunting methods, more than 80% of the indigenous inhabitants of Mpimbwe consumed bushmeat whereas 52% of refugees dwellers of Katumba did so. We attribute these differences to shortage of affordable domestic protein in Mpimbwe and scarcity of wild mammals near Katumba. Our study suggests wildlife exploitation is not a uniform activity and it highlights the need for different intervention programs to counter bushmeat consumption even between groups living around the same ecosystem.

    Spatial turnover and knowledge gaps for African chelonians mirror those of African small mammals: conservation implications | pages 365-380
    Luca Luiselli, Fabrizio Civetta, Sabrina Masciola and Giovanni Amori
    Several species of animals show discontinuities in their distribution range. The causes of these discontinuities may be real (a species is found in two countries and not in the country lying in-between these two countries of occurrence because of habitat discontinuities) or non-natural (local extinctions, inaccurate knowledge). These species are defined as ‘gap species’. We analyzed the country checklists for African turtles in order to identify both gap species and gap countries. We also compared patterns observed in turtles with those observed in African small mammals. Species richness was highest in South Africa, Congo, Nigeria, Tanzania, Angola and Ghana, and the countries exchanging the smallest number of species with neighboring countries were South Africa and Congo. The main gap countries were Togo, Benin, and Congo. Moist savannahs, tropical forests, and swamp areas were inhabited by significantly higher numbers of gap species. The high number of gap species in Congo, Central African Republic (C.A.R.), and Cameroon may be due to suboptimal research, and in Togo and Benin may depend on the Dahomey Gap. The Dahomey Gap is a region of natural savannah placed between the West African and central African rainforest blocks. The tropical forests and the moist savannahs are the most important habitats for both groups of animals.

    What is the predictive power of the colobine protein-to-fiber model and it conservation value? | pages 381-393
    Jan F. Gogarten, Melissa Guzman, Colin A. Chapman, Aerin L. Jacob, Patrick A. Omeja, and Jessica M. Rothman
    Understanding what predicts the number of animals in an area is critical for conservation, but this has proven to be a difficult task. One model proposed to explain the numbers of leaf-eating primates in an area involves the quality of leaves in their habitat, particularly the amount of protein relative to fiber in leaves. However, there remains debate about how widely applicable this model is, on what scales it is useful, and whether the ratio of protein to fiber in leaves is really the best measure of leaf quality. Here we tested whether group size and reproductive rates of the endangered red colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus) were predicted by the ratio of protein to fiber of leaves in their habitat. We expected regenerating forests in Kibale National Park, Uganda to have leaves with higher amounts of protein and less fiber relative to leaves from old growth forests, and that this in turn would lead to higher birth rates and larger groups in these areas. While the regenerating forest did have higher quality leaves, both in terms of energy and the amount of protein relative to fiber, these differences did not to predict group size or reproductive rates. Our findings suggest that other factors are more important for predicting numbers of leaf-eating primates, questions the generality of this model, and cautions against it use for conservation

    Caça, uso e conservação de vertebrados no semiárido Brasileiro | pages 394-416
    Rômulo Romeu Nóbrega Alves
    In the semi-arid Northeast of Brazil hunting is a common practice and that has been perpetuated over time. The exploitation of the local fauna has significant socio-economic role in the region, by providing products for use as food (meat and eggs), drugs (medicinal animals used in folk medicine), leather, fur and ornamental pieces (horns, hooves, eggs and skins), besides being used for leisure and ornamentation (song birds, pets and ornamental animals). Nevertheless, for most of human communities who practice hunting, this activity is prohibited by law and occurs clandestinely. Additionally, this activity has important conservation implications, since it impacts on species exploited. In this paper, we investigate the use of hunting and wild vertebrates in two municipalities in the semiarid state of Paraíba, seeking also to evaluate the implications of these activities for conservation. Through interviews with hunters and users of products from wild animals, we recorded 81 species of vertebrates hunted in the localities surveyed, especially for mammals and birds. These animals are used primarily for use as food or folk medicine are used as pets. In addition, 21 species are pursued by threatening or harming local residents. This scenario clearly demonstrates the need for improvement and implementation of public policies directed at wildlife management, seeking a model of environmental management and conservation of animal species considering the social and cultural context of the people involved in these activities.

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