Since its inception, the six class of EWCL participants have worked on 24 conservation projects.
We are happy to report that the impact of each project has been tremendous and many continue to make a lasting impact such as the Bat Project.
The focus for the EWCL Bat Conservation Team was to develop guidelines for the sustainable harvest of bat guano. For as ecologically important as they are, bats are highly misunderstood. Their numbers are dropping worldwide, invasive guano harvesting being one of the culprits. With the guidance of Bat Conservation International, the team decided to focus their energies on the Southeast Asia region. In forming, then collaborating with an advisory committee of international bat specialists, a set of draft guidelines were developed, adapted into posters for educational outreach use, and tested at two field sites in Cambodia. This work was presented at a conference hosted by the Southeast Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit and was enthusiastically received. In order to continue to improve this work and make it universally applicable, a research agenda was created and will be made accessible on a forthcoming online resource page.
The project groups of the 2013/2014 Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders class have been busy working on their species conservation projects. The Freshwater Turtle Team is working to reduce mortality from entanglement with fishing nets in areas with high densities of endangered freshwater turtles in India. Working with partner groups Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA) and the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, EWCL’s turtle group is working to identify alternative types of fishing nets, raise funds to obtain and deploy those nets, and monitor their success.
The group is focusing on eight sites in the Ghaghra and Sarju rivers in northern India’s Tarai region and two sites in the Yamuna River near Chambal River Sanctuary. They are conducting both in-person and telephone conversations with specialists, researchers and academics to identify the most effective, and non-lethal, nets for various fishing practices and water conditions. The team’s goal is to purchase and ship 20 nets to India, as well as develop guidance and recommendations on use of nets and necessary modifications to reduce turtle mortality. TSA will conduct tests and work with the team to modify the nets as necessary. Assuming the nets reduce turtle bycatch substantially, the team will assist TSA in planning and holding workshops to teach villagers to use, and ideally make, turtle-safe nets.
EWCL’s Giant Armadillo Team is working on a very under-studied species. However, these ant and termite eaters are known to be an important “ecosystem engineer” and an indicator species for ecosystem health. They are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and have experienced a 30% decline in recent years.
Working with partner group Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project, which is conducting the first long-term study of the species in their native Brazil, the team’s goal is to get this “weird and wonderful” animal the attention it deserves in order to foster more conservation measures for the species. They are taking a two-pronged approach, a media campaign centered around the 2014 FIFA World cup being held in Brazil, and developing materials for zoos in North America, South America and Europe to help build awareness of this important animal.
The Snow Leopard Team is also working to raise awareness of a beautiful, but also little-known, species. Residing in Asia’s high mountains, the charismatic but endangered snow leopard has the potential to generate significant interest in their conservation status and threats to their survival. Some threats to snow leopards, including climate change, are shared by other high mountain habitat species. Snow leopards are also threatened by poaching, and habitat and prey loss.
Partnering with the World Wildlife Fund, the Snow Leopard Trust and the Snow Leopard Conservation Fund, the EWCL team’s project goals are to address the conservation needs through both a U.S.-based fundraising and public awareness campaign as well as an education and outreach campaign in Mongolia. The U.S. campaign, “Climbing for Snow Leopards,” is comprised of education events at climbing gyms nationwide. The team has created beautiful posters of snow leopards and climbers and are planning and holding events that will provide the general public with information about snow leopards and how they can help. The team is also working to raise awareness among Mongolia’s youth by developing teacher training materials and a curriculum for a five-day summer camp for Mongolian students. The team is supplying the camp with education and camping materials required for key lessons on snow leopards.
With only 3,000 to 5,000 left in the wild, another endangered species being assisted by this year’s EWCL students is the African Painted Dog. Major threats to this species include habitat fragmentation, infectious diseases, conflicts with livestock owners, and incidental killings from snares and cars. The African Painted Dog Team’s goal is to reduce the threats of human-induced fatalities and injuries, particularly from snares and vehicle collisions, in the dog population in around Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. They are also working to increase international awareness of painted dog conservation needs.
To achieve these goals, the team has been working on a design, production and testing of collars that will help protect dogs from snares, as well as organizing a Painted Dog Day zoo event around the United States. Working with partner group Painted Dog Conservation (PDC), the group has been busy developing various designs of collars that the wild dogs would wear to help protect them from snares. The collars contain a clip to contain the snare on the collar and allow the dog to break the wire as they struggle. The group is deploying ten collars in a pilot study, and after testing and any adjustments plan to deploy 100 collars. They team is simultaneously developing educational materials, interactive activities and painted dog items for sale for their North American Painted Dog Zoo Day. They are working with many zoos to plan this fun and informational event.
The 2013-2014 Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders class is actively working on their group conservation projects. The four species being helped by this class are:
The Snow Leopard Group is partnering with Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation and 2012 EWCL graduate Nadia Mijidorj to educate youth in Mongolia whose daily life choices directly impact the future of snow leopards and to educate targeted North American audiences who can influence long-term conservation of the species.
The Freshwater Turtles of India Group is identifying alternative types of fishing nets that will reduce turtle bycatch but are equally effective at capturing fish. They will also work to procure these nets for distribution on the ground in India at stakeholder workshops about protecting the local environment.
The Giant Armadillo Group is conducting a public education campaign in Brazil focused on leveraging the armadillo mascot of the upcoming World Cup in Brazil to help secure conservation measures for the species. The campaign includes outreach in Brazilian and North American zoos in order to bring attention to the plight of this rare and little-known species.
African Painted Dogs
The African Painted Dog Group is working to protect a key population of this critically endangered species in Zimbabwe by helping to redesign and fund reflective, anti-snare collars that will reduce losses from poaching and car collisions and by increasing global awareness of the painted dog’s plight through an educational campaign.
The first training session of the fifth class of Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders (EWCL) took place April 1st through April 5th, 2013 at the Houston Zoo in Texas.
The 2013/2014 EWCL class includes twenty-two impressive up-and-coming leaders in the wildlife conservation field, with representatives from the not-for-profit sector, private businesses, and government agencies. In addition to seventeen professionals from U.S.-based international organizations, five conservationists from local groups in Kenya, Bolivia and Thailand filled out the course. The participants were chosen from a pool of over 100 qualified applicants, and will take part in the two-year program comprised of three in-person trainings and hands-on group conservation projects that happen throughout the two years.
For the first training, participants gathered at the Houston Zoo for four days of intensive skills and leadership sessions, team building and personal growth exercises, and mentoring and guidance on their professional careers. Priority objectives for this session included providing participants with training in core leadership and campaigning skills, and introducing the emerging issue of climate change as it relates to wildlife conservation and adaptation strategies.
Session topics included:
The class also divided into four groups and selected four imperiled species campaigns for which they will create, implement and evaluate on-the-ground projects in order to address an identified threat to the species’ existence. These group projects will take place over the next two years and will allow the participants to use skills acquired through the EWCL trainings, and under the guidance of established conservation professionals, in order to contribute to vital wildlife initiatives. The species that will be helped by this current EWCL class are African painted dogs, imperiled freshwater turtles of India, snow leopards, and giant armadillos.
In addition to the leadership and campaign training, and project selection and planning, the participants were encouraged to strategize on their career trajectory and opportunities for professional growth under the guidance of current leaders in the conservation field. This was accomplished through one-on-one mentoring opportunities – each participant had two mentoring sessions with two different EWCL Board Members, speakers or visiting alumni. All participants also participated in a 360-degree leadership survey – acquiring feedback from eight-to-sixteen colleagues prior to the training -- the results of which were analyzed and discussed in a session with experienced EWCL trainers.
Over the next two years, the participants will continue to work on their conservation projects, come together again for two more training sessions, and continue to explore opportunities for professional networking and career growth. This year for the first time, participants have also all been given the opportunity to have a personal mentor assigned to them from the EWCL alumni group. This mentor will provide professional guidance to them over the duration of the course.
EWCL is a collaborative project between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Division of International Conservation, Wildlife Conservation Network, International Fund for Animal Welfare, U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Refuges Division, Houston Zoo, Defenders of wildlife, and White Oak. Additionally it receives support from World Wildlife Fund, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund. It is designed to build capacity for global wildlife conservation within existing conservation organizations and entities. This is accomplished by providing training in leadership and campaigning skills, offering networking and mentoring opportunities, and facilitating tangible on-the-ground conservation projects that benefit imperiled wildlife.
If you have any questions about this initiative, contact EWCL Board Co-chairs Jeff Flocken (202-536-1904) or Nina Fascione (202-772-0237).
We are pleased to announce the 2013-2014 Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders Class. We had an incredibly competitive selection process this year, with nearly 100 qualified candidates for 22 slots, so we anticipate great things from the class that was selected.
Thanks to everyone who recommended applicants and encouraged colleagues to apply. We’re sorry if someone you suggested was not selected - it was the most competitive and difficult selection process yet. However, we ended up with a very diverse and exciting group. And due to the generosity of Wildlife Conservation Network and the World Wildlife Fund Environment for Nature program, we were able to offer spots in the class to two conservationists from Kenya, one from Thailand, and one from Bolivia.
Our newest partner, the Houston Zoo, has offered to host the first training for this class, which will be from April 1st through 5th, 2013. Other returning partners include US Fish & Wildlife Services Division of International Conservation and National Wildlife Refuges, White Oak, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Society and International Fund for Animal Welfare. Additionally, we have received seed money from Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund for this group’s Class Projects.
We are also excited to announce that we will be getting some much needed help and new ideas for this class from Dave Mizejewski and Amielle DeWan, EWCL Alumni and Board Members who will be the Training Directors for this EWCL class.
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