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Tropical Conservation Science
September 2013 | Vol. 6 | Issue 4 | pages 468-591

Opinion Articles
    The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve: conceived but never delivered
    pages 468-476
    Jean-Philippe Puyravaud and Priya Davidar
    Biosphere reserves of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Program were designed with a core zone with maximum protection, a buffer zone with regulated activities, and a transition zone outside the reserve proper where management options to promote sustainable development could be developed. The Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve (NBR), which straddles a major zone of contact between the Western and Eastern Ghats of India and is critical for the conservation of biodiversity and of several endangered species, has a core zone, a buffer zone but no transition zone. The absence of a transition zone disconnects protected areas (PAs), and creates hard boundaries between reserves and other land uses thereby inadvertently promoting human-wildlife conflict. Lack of a transition zone has enabled promoters to try and establish mega projects at the heart of the NBR, encourage non sustainable tourism operations and ultimately promote land use that disrupts connectivity between forests. Landscape ecology and econometrics can provide useful tools and guidelines in creating a transition zone that could be progressively put into place on safe economic principles. Does the will exist to do so?

    Legalizing environmental exploitation in Brazil: the retreat of public policies to biodiversity protection
    pages 477-483
    Roberto Leonan Morim Novaes and Renan de França Souza
    Brazil is the country with the most biodiversity in the world and also hosts the largest rainforest on the planet. Although Brazil was a pioneer of public policies for conservation of biodiversity and natural resources, it has recently jeopardized all biome conservation through questionable environmental policies. Over the past four years, the government has drastically altered its environmental legislation, removing vast areas from protection and encouraging overexploitation of natural resources,, which will result in loss of biodiversity, reduction of forest cover, and increased pollution of soil and water. The current development model of Brazil also disregards ethical principles on the conservation of culture and territory of traditional peoples. Gradually a worrying scenario is designed for political decisions favoring the private sector and the agribusiness. Meanwhile, the population is not being included in discussions of such action and the panorama becomes more critical.

    Local community involvement as a basis for sustainable crocodilian management programs in Protected Areas of Central Amazonia: problem or solution?
    pages 484-492
    Boris Marioni, Robinson Botero-Arias and Sinomar F. Fonseca-Junior
    Amazon floodplains have a long history of exploitation of crocodilians species and the legal, but uncontrolled, trade resulted in a drastic decline of wild populations, followed by a collapse in commercial activities. Although wildlife hunting has been outlawed in Brazil since 1967, caiman meat is still widely commercialized, representing the largest illegal trade of caiman by-products in the world. However, protective legislation has permitted caiman populations to slowly recover across much of their original range. The creation of Sustainable Development Reserves in Brazil has made it possible to manage wild populations for commercial use. This category of protected area was established to improve welfare of local residents and strengthen their participation in conservation. Sustainable management of caiman, where wild adult individuals are harvested in their natural habitat, should be possible as long as programs are associated with population monitoring activities and adaptive harvest levels. In addition to scientific activities, the engagement of local stakeholders is essential for building participatory management plans. The potential use of wildlife must be evaluated in terms of ecological, economic, and social sustainability. A frequent obstacle in development of sustainable use programs is that they are usually dependent on continuous external subsidies. Although government agencies and the private sector are promoting management activities, economic incentives for local residents’ participation in these activities are minimal. We believe that inclusion of traditional knowledge is fundamental to improve the experimental harvesting initiatives that have been carried out thus far by local authorities. Community-based monitoring programs, that reflect local reality, will give greater autonomy to local communities to use their natural resources and conserve Amazonian landscapes.

Review Articles
    Bottom-up and top-down control of large herbivore populations: a review of natural and human-induced influences
    pages 493-505
    Edson Gandiwa
    A major focus of ecology is to investigate the influence of top-down and bottom-up controls and attempt to disentangle the interactions between them in controlling animal population sizes. This review addresses two questions: 1) how do top-down and bottom-up controls influence large herbivore populations? 2) How do human activities and control systems influence the top-down and bottom-up processes that affect large herbivore population dynamics? The review shows that primary consumers (herbivores) generally appear to be principally limited by their food resources, although there are exceptions, where some species are limited by disease and predation. Rainfall variability appears to have a great influence on both bottom-up and top-down controls by influencing resource availability. Predators may shift their prey selection depending on the susceptibility and abundance of herbivore species as influenced by seasonal rainfall variations. Moreover, human activities can potentially affect both top-down and bottom-up controls in natural ecosystems by acting as a generalist super-predator which can top-down harvest any animal species and as a keystone species that can bottom-up alter terrestrial ecosystems structure and composition through activities as setting fires and livestock grazing. Human control systems that influences human behavior in relation to negative effects on natural ecosystems through voluntary compliance (which is internally or externally motivated) or compulsory enforcement mechanisms, provides a means of mitigating negative impacts of human activities in and around wildlife conservation areas. The review suggests the need for further research in order to generate more information on animal population controls in human-dominated terrestrial ecosystems.

Research Articles
    Large ungulates aerial survey with UAS: comparison of different methods for the sampling strips area estimation
    pages 506-520
    Lisein Jonathan, Linchant Julie, Lejeune Philippe, Bouché Philippe, Vermeulen Cédric
    Conservation of natural ecosystems requires regular monitoring of biodiversity, including the estimation of wildlife density. Recently, unmanned aerial systems, these pre-programmed flying robots equipped with a compact camera and a GPS unit, have become more available for numerous civilian applications. The use of lightweight drones for wildlife surveys as a surrogate for manned aerial surveys is becoming increasingly attractive, mainly because of the low operational cost and the high versatility of small drones. Inventory surveys of wildlife is usually designed in order to fly only a part of the total area. Flights occur traditionally in parallel transects (referred to as sampling strip) distributed across the study area and animals are counted on the images. Animal density is then computed as the number of total counted animals on the aerial images divided by the surface of the surveyed area. The estimation of the surveyed surface needs to be accurate, quick and easy to implement. In this research, two methods for measuring the sampling strip surface area were compared, both of them based on the use of the drone GPS information. One of these two methods was demonstrated to be more accurate and easier to implement. In addition, these method was also found to be less complex and less demanding in terms of image quality and overlap. Wildlife conservation is an urgent priority: the need to find fast and effective monitoring methods has to lead researchers.

    Conservation status of manatee (Trichechus senegalensis Link 1795) in Lower Sanaga Basin, Cameroon: An ethnobiological assessment.
    pages 521-538
    Theodore B. Mayaka, Hendriatha C. Awah and Gordon Ajonina
    An opinion survey of fishers, bivalve collectors and other users of natural resources was carried out in the Lower Sanaga Basin, Cameroon, to find out the current situation of manatee in that area. Little is known about manatees, especially in Africa, as they live in dark and muddy waters. However, since fishers and bivalve collectors do see manatees more often, they were asked to tell (i) whether manatees are still present in Lower Sanaga Basin, (ii) whether the number of manatees has grown, decreased or remained the same in the past five years, and (iii) what are the main problems that manatee are facing for their survival. The study found that manatees are still present in Lower Sanaga Basin; in fact 60% of the surveyed persons see them at least once a month, regardless of place (rivers, lakes, or coast) and seasons (dry, rainy, or both). According to 70-100% of the surveyed persons, the numbers of manatees has increased or remained the same, because they are not so much killed (as people become aware of their usefulness or simply lack the equipment for hunting). One problem facing manatee is that they are caught intentionally (for eating and selling) or accidentally (in nets and other fishing gears), three times more on lakes compared to rivers, with adults more likely to be caught that young ones. Another problem is water pollution by fishing enterprises, industrial plantations and individuals. Solutions include: increased law enforcement, education, sensitization, and ecotourism, amongst others.

    Remaining habitat and current distributional patterns of three wild ungulate species in tropical forests of northeastern Mexico
    pages 539-557
    G. García-Marmolejo, L. Chapa-Vargas, E. Huber-Sannwald, M. Weber, O.C. Rosas-Rosas and J. Martínez-Calderas
    The remaining potential habitat for wild ungulates in tropical forests of northeastern Mexico is fragmented and associated to mountainous areas. These forests belong to a region known as the “Huasteca Potosina”, which contains the northernmost distribution of tropical ecosystems of the east coast of America. As most tropical ecosystems of the world, these forests have been rapidly transformed into areas dedicated to agriculture and grazing by domestic animals. Consequently, nearly 40% of it’s original surface has disappeared. Three wild ungulates of great social and ecological importance are distributed at the Huasteca Potosina: the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), the red-brocket deer (Mazama temama), and the collared peccary (Pecari tajacu). Through a study at the Huasteca Potosina, we found that: (1) proportions of natural and human habitats at great scales strongly influence potential ungulate habitat, (2) the most suitable ungulate habitat is located at the mountainous region, and (3) current Natural Protected Areas will not be sufficient to maintain habitat for these species on the long term. Therefore, the maintenance of agricultural landscapes which also contain large amounts of forests is a viable alternative which will simultaneously allow preserving lifestyles of the local human populations and conserving wild ungulate habitat.

    Priority mammals for biodiversity conservation in Brazil
    pages 558-583
    Davi M. C. C. Alves and Daniel Brito
    Brazil is one of the most megadiverse countries in the world in terms of biological components; however several taxonomic groups such as mammals are experiencing dramatic declines in their species’ conservation statuses. One way to efficiently allocate conservation efforts for Brazilian mammals is to priority species according to some specific information that they present and identify areas that the most priority species occur. In general, these prioritization schemes are based solely on extinction risk, but others important factors must also be included in mammals’ conservation. These factors are: how evolutionary unique a species are; the capacity that a mammal has to attract people’s attention and the geographic flexibility that a species are to be reintroduced in the nature. So we applied a ranking scheme for Brazilian mammals that included the criteria mentioned above and the identification of the geographic localities that the priority species occur. We believed that this prioritizing approach should be taking into account by decision makers such as in the case of the production of conservation plans for mammals by the Brazilian government.

Short communication
    Large mammal survey using camera traps in the Sikre River in the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, Honduras
    pages 584-591
    David J. Gonthier and Franklin E. Castañeda
    In this study, we travelled to a seldom-visited river within the Río Plátano Biosphere reserve, Honduras to survey the medium- and large- mammal fauna using un-manned cameras. We found the site conserves a high number of mammal species that is comparable to other sites in Central and South America. Of particular interest, we documented the Giant Anteater a species extirpated from much of Central America and considered the most threatened mammal in that range. We hope our findings will help guide conservation strategies for the species documented and provide future studies with baseline data.

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