Wildlife Conservation Society

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do do through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitude toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth.
Jul 23, 2014

WCS Helps Safeguard Belize's Barrier Reef With Conservation Drones

Deploying a conservation drone
Deploying a conservation drone

Thank you for your amazing support of the Wildlife Conservation Society's efforts to save our oceans! Some great conservation news from Belize:

Seeking to gain a high-tech edge over illegal fishers, the Government of Belize will use “eyes in the sky” to enforce fishing regulations in the biodiverse Glover’s Reef Marine Reserve and other reef systems in what is the first use of conservation drones to monitor marine protected areas.

With technical assistance from WCS, the Belize Fisheries Department initiated a new monitoring program using unmanned aerial vehicles (i.e. conservation drones) to curtail unsustainable levels of illegal fishing. Besides coastal development, unregulated and unreported fishing are some of the largest threats to Belize’s fishing industry.

Conservation drones also are being used for wildlife monitoring and for support in the enforcement of terrestrial protected areas. The unmanned aerial vehicles can fly autonomously for over an hour at a time with a range of more than 50 kilometers, and are capable of taking high-resolution photographs and video.

Program participants from WCS, the Belize Fisheries Department, and Conservation Drones.org fully implemented the drone program in early June, following testing that began last July. The drones will enable government officials to remotely locate fishing vessels illegally operating in marine protected areas or in areas with seasonal closures. Once located, patrol vessels can conduct seagoing searches more efficiently.

Drones will also allow government officials to monitor for illegal activities in coastal areas, which are often hidden from view by mangrove forests. Fishers have been known to hide illegal conch catches in these coastal forests.

“This exciting new enforcement tool will help the government and local communities protect their most valuable assets—the fisheries and coral reefs of Belize’s coastal waters,” said Dr. Caleb McClennen, Executive Director of WCS Marine Conservation. “The world’s oceans are in dire need of low cost innovations for improving the cost efficiency and effectiveness of enforcement efforts.  This represents an exciting pilot program for Belize, the wider Caribbean, and nearshore marine parks and fisheries around the world.”

Photo credit: Julio Maaz/WCS

May 30, 2014

Securing wildlife habitat in Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve and Kudremukh National Park

We are proud to report that WCS has been very active on land purchase efforts in the past few months. In March, after much negotiation, WCS was successful in purchasing the lands of the three families that live in Naifed village, which is located in Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve. These families – the first to ever voluntarily relocate out of Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve – moved out immediately, and with assistance from WCS they have found new homes outside of the Tiger Reserve. Their houses (see photo above of one of the houses) have since been demolished and the lands have been handed over to the Government of India. These lands are now incorporated into Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve and are reverting back to a wild state.

The purchase of these lands in Naifed by WCS achieved something we very much hoped for, and which was the key aim of our efforts in Dandeli-Anshi: catalyzing the movement of other families out of the Tiger Reserve through the Government of India’s voluntary relocation mechanism. In April, after seeing the positive results for the families in Naifed, 30 families scattered across four villages in Dandeli-Anshi requested and received voluntary relocation funds from the Government of India to move out. These families are now 100% on the track to voluntary resettlement and they are scheduled to do their final house demolitions and move out of the Tiger Reserve in September, after the summer monsoons.

There are about 2,000 families living in Dandeli-Anshi and we believe it will require a long-term commitment by WCS for their voluntary relocation. However, we are confident that these 30 families are just the first of many who will voluntarily move out of Dandeli-Anshi, now that they have seen it done successfully. We know this because WCS has applied the same approach before with great success in Nagarahole National Park, where the very first relocation efforts in the early 2000s of just a few families resulted in the resettlement of over 400 families outside the park during the subsequent ten years, freeing up large areas for tigers and elephants to return. With your help, we have been able to move the first families out of Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve – a critical first step in the process.

In addition to efforts in Dandeli-Anshi, WCS also continued land purchase efforts in Kudremukh National Park. In contrast to Dandeli-Anshi (where the primary aim was to catalyze others to move out), lands were purchased in Kudremukh to ensure that large, critical regions of Kudremukh were freed from human enclosures. In particular, there is a small cluster of just a few houses in an enclosure called the “SK Border.” Only two families live in SK Border, which is the only human enclosure in a region that is otherwise tens of square kilometers of forested lands (home to tigers, elephants, and many other endangered species). In March, one of the two families sold their land and demolished their house and moved out, followed by the second family in April. The lands of SK Border have since been handed over to Kudremukh National Park.

It has been a very productive few months and we hope you enjoyed this good news from Dandeli-Anshi Tiger Reserve and Kudremukh National Park. From all of us at WCS, thank you for your contribution to saving wildlife and supporting local communities in India. We couldn’t do it without your help!

Top photo: One of the houses in Naifed village that was demolished after the families voluntarily moved out.
Bottom photo: The cluster of houses that make up SK Border. In April 2014 they were all demolished.

Photo credits: WCS.

Feb 25, 2014

Indonesia Protects Manta Rays

Photo credit: Rachel Graham/WCS
Photo credit: Rachel Graham/WCS

From all of us at the Wildlife Conservation Society, thank you for your support of our marine conservation efforts!

Some good news to report: the Government of Indonesia has taken a major step to protect the world’s largest ray species, the giant and reef manta rays. Both are now considered protected species under Indonesian law, with fishing and trade prohibited.

In 2013, the two species were included in the list of species regulated under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). In order to preserve these animals, all 178 CITES countries will have to implement laws and regulations to protect the rays, as well as certain species of sharks. “By fully protecting these fishes, the Government of Indonesia has demonstrated its commitment to these new CITES rules while offering real hope for these species’ future in Indonesia and beyond,” said Dr. Stuart Campbell, Director of WCS’s Indonesian Marine Conservation and Fisheries Program.

Among the world’s largest fishes, manta rays have “wingspans” that can exceed seven meters. They are long-lived, reaching ages of 20-30 years, mature late, and typically give birth to a single pup every two years after a one-year gestation period. They are among the least productive of fishes and, thus, exceptionally vulnerable to overfishing.

Although manta rays have faced pressures from the commercial fishing industry in Indonesia, they are far more important economically to the country’s dive tourism industry. Recent reviews of the tourism value of manta rays have provided irrefutable evidence that these animals are worth far more alive than dead, with a single animal estimated to generate from $100,000 to as much as $1.9 million in dive tourism revenue over its lifetime, as compared with as little as $200 paid for a dead manta at a fish landing site.

“Manta rays are a huge draw for divers seeking out wildlife encounters along Indonesia’s coasts as well as in other parts of the world, such as the Maldives, the Philippines, and Mozambique,” said Dr. Caleb McClennen, Director of WCS’s Marine Program. “We expect that other governments will now follow Indonesia’s lead by capitalizing on the non-extractive value of these fishes and conserving them as a renewable resource for the future.”

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