Elephant poaching increasing in Myanmar

CaptureIn 2014, George Wittemyer and colleagues published an article in PNAS highlighting that the illegal wildlife trade has reached alarming levels, with ~40,000 elephants killed annually for their ivory. These results, however, focused entirely on African elephant populations, with no reference to Asian elephants – the lesser known and perhaps more difficult to study species.

Research being conducted by Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) scientists, however, is revealing that poaching for Asian elephants could be just as high, if not higher, than their African cousins. These results were revealed from a related GPS collaring study to investigate human-elephant conflict in which 7 of 19 collared elephants (37%) were poached within a year of being fitted with a collar. Concerning is that the elephants are being poached for their skin and meat, rather than their tusks (only male Asian elephants have tusks). This means that entire populations are being targeted (males, females, and their offspring). Removing breeding females and their young from the population is the quickest way to drive a species to extinction, especially given the species’ low reproductive rate. With only a few thousand wild elephants remaining in Myanmar, the data collected by these collars is providing important information to mount a conservation response. Further information on this topic, including a very nice video, can be found on the Smithsonian’s National Zoo website.


Collaring canceled

giraffeGiraffe collaring has been canceled due to a lion researcher that felt he could fit GPS collars on animals without Kenya Wildlife Service approval/permits. I can’t blame KWS for their response, but it unfortunately means that we’ll have to postpone to a later date. Heading back to the US later this evening. What a numpty…..

Arrived Nairobi

downloadEver watch the movie ‘Gravity’?  At the end of the film, Sandra Bullock’s character climbs into the Chinese space station and tumbles back towards earth in a fiery constellation.  Interestingly, at the same time, my flight from Johannesburg to Nairobi experienced some turbulence that made the imagery even more impactful…..like a virtual reality.

Nairobi is quite wet currently, just receiving rain in the last 2 weeks……important considering the state of the livestock and vegetation.  Heading to Laikipia tomorrow to start scouting for giraffe and much needed field work.

Savannah science meeting

ElephantJust returned from a meeting outside Kruger National Park in South Africa.  Goals of the workshop were to discuss areas for future research, develop ideas for collaboration, and to find ways to better conserve Africa’s ungulates.  Along the way, we encountered this big fella….who didn’t seem to mind our presence.  On to Kenya tomorrow with the hopes of seeing some reticulated giraffe.