Namibia: A leading model for conservation

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The country of Namibia is likely the biggest leader for wildlife conservation in Africa. This great success is thanks to a wide range of incentives for the conservation of wildlife by private citizens. Essentially, for wildlife to thrive it must have value. Many people think wildlife has intrinsic value, and I would agree with this. Simply knowing the animals are there and that I may be able to see them one day is enough for me. This, however, is a First World luxury. When you are starving and cannot afford to feed your family aesthetic values do not mean anything to you. Namibia’s conservation efforts have been extremely successful as they specifically address this issue in their wildlife management strategy.


Namibia was not always a wildlife paradise though. Before it gained independence in 1990 wildlife populations were at all time lows. Predators were seen as threats to cattle and thus were designated as vermin to be exterminated. Herbivores were seen as competition for grazing lands as well as sources of meat. During the military occupation of Namibia wildlife was illegally slaughtered by soldiers and locals for bush meat. Conservation was not a priority.

The bull

However, after Namibia gained its independence from South Africa conservation became a top priority. Namibians recognized the wildlife was part of their cultural heritage as well as an excellent source of income. Local communities could now apply to become conservancies and gain ownership of their wildlife. Communities saw opportunities to generate income from the wildlife rather than exterminate the animals to make room for their cattle. Wildlife has become one of the largest sectors of the Namibian economy through photo safaris, ecolodges, regulated hunting, and meat harvesting. Thanks to these economic incentives Namibia now has 79 conservancies covering over 16 million hectares. According to the World Wildlife Fund 44% of Namibia’s land area is devoted to conservation. The benefits of this new-found conservation mindedness in Namibia is evident. Predator populations are recovering, herbivores are found in excellent numbers, and poaching is relatively low.


To my shame I have not yet visited Namibia, but this is something I hope to remedy soon. This country is truly a gem of wildlife conservation due to its multi-faceted approach to wildlife management. Below are a few more links to information about Namibian conservation efforts.

Namibia: A Model For Conservation | First For Wildlife.

Namibian Cheetah Conservation Success Story.


Plain Talk: Let’s do a little to save a lot of birds : Ct

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As spring is upon us and migration is underway I wanted to share this article I found about birds colliding with windows. This is one of the greatest sources of mortality for birds, other than predation by feral or free ranging pet cats. The article lists a couple of ways to prevent these fatal collisions. I would take this a step further and ask that you do not let your cat run free, especially this time of year.

Plain Talk: Let’s do a little to save a lot of birds : Ct.

Tourism May Be Last Hope to Save India’s Bengal Tiger – Yahoo News

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Tourism May Be Last Hope to Save India’s Bengal Tiger – Yahoo News.

Wildlife crimes and illegal trade

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A series of articles related to wildlife crimes and illegal trafficking of wildlife parts.





Red-cockaded Woodpeckers: Declines and Conservation

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Bird species have faced serious declines since the Americas were colonized by Europeans. One of these species is the Red-cockaded Woodpecker. With estimated populations ranging from 920,000-1,500,000 groups at the time of European settlement these birds had fallen to only 10,000 individuals within 4,000 groups by the time they were listed as endangered in 1979.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

This drastic decrease in numbers was due to an almost complete loss of habitat. These birds rely on old-growth longleaf pine forests. Particularly because they burrow in trees that are infected with red heart disease. This fungus is fairly common in trees that are 70 years old or more but with few trees left in this age range there was little habitat left in which these birds could nest.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker male

Red-cockaded Woodpecker male

The bird does seem to be on the increase in recent years. Now considered vulnerable by the IUCN the birds have increased to around 6,105 breeding groups according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This increases is largely attributed to better management practices for these birds and their ecosystems. Once mostly restricted to South Carolina they have now expanded back out to cover 11 states (AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, NC, MS, OK, SC, VA, and TX).

Lesser Prairie-Chicken conservation

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Once widespread throughout the Great Plains the Lesser Prairie-Chickens, Tympanuches pallidicinctus, are now limited to a restricted range through parts of Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and Kansas. These smaller relatives of the Greater Prairie-Chicken are dependent on large areas of native prairie, particularly shortgrass prairie and sand sagebrush grasslands. However these birds have experienced a 92% reduction in range since the 1800s with similar decreases in the number of birds.

Habitat loss has been the largest driver of this decline. With the 92% reduction in range this seems like a natural conclusion. However, the way in which habitat is being lost may not seem as obvious. If one were to drive through the native range of these birds they might ask how is this habitat lost? There is very little construction through these areas. The habitat has actually been degraded by the conversion of prairie to agricultural land and through the construction of tall structures such as power lines and wind turbines.

Lesser Prairie-Chicken range map

Lesser Prairie-Chicken range map

Lesser Prairie-Chickens will not venture near tall structures as these are excellent perching places for hawks and other flying predators. Unfortunately for these birds, which are labeled as vulnerable by the IUCN, the best places for wind energy happen to be right in the middle of their remaining habitat. So as we attempt to create more green energy by harnessing wind we are inadvertently putting more pressure on a species that has already been pushed to the brink.

Fragmentation of land through fence construction has also been a threat to these low flying birds. When they are flushed and try to evade danger they often smash into these fences and die.

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

Lesser Prairie-Chicken

There is hope though. Several organizations are working to protect this species. NRCS, Natural Resources Conservation Service, has developed a program to promote conservation on private lands. This plan includes supporting better grading practices that maintain proper nesting cover for these birds, protecting and restoring large tracts of native prairie and  sagebrush grasslands, and increase connectivity of prairie-chicken habitat. So far 600 farmers and ranchers have enrolled in this program conserving around 1 million acres of habitat.

The Wildlife Society has also been involved in the conservation of prairie-chickens. Particularly several student chapters have organized work days to go out into prairie-chicken habitat and place reflectors on fences, with land-owner permission of course, to prevent these birds from striking fences by helping them see the wires from farther away.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Your Neighborhood Bear – Yahoo!

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Your Neighborhood Bear – Yahoo!.

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