Followers of the Cecil Appeal
Another amazing opportunity for conservation as a result of your donations, says David Macdonald, WildCRU’s Director: we are striving to keep our donors and supporters up-to-date with developments. Two exciting developments have unfolded overnight. First, thanks to the remarkable generosity of Ty Beanie Babies, who have decided to donate the profits of a Cecil Beanie to WildCRU, we see the opportunity for a new conservation education campaign. The future lies with young people. You may know that WildCRU is already deeply involved in training and education. For example, in Zimbabwe, we have produced in English and Ndebele languages, a wonderful comic book on circulated to every school in our study area – explaining our findings to children whose parents live in impoverished communities around the park, and for whom lion predation on their cattle is a big issue (I think all of our followers already know about our Long Shield community programme to help conserve lions and advance the wellbeing of local communities). By the way, we have similar educational material associated with our projects on giant otters in Peru, jaguars in Brazil , clouded leopards in Sumatra and many others. Anyway, our excitement today is the possibility that the Cecil Beanie Baby will stimulate interest in millions of children, and will enable us to reach out to them as a future generation of conservationists.
A second exciting development is that today the BBC News announced that, in the wake of the coverage of Cecil (and obviously as part of policy thinking that far pre-dated that), the world community would be interested to learn that the UK government was today announcing that it would spend £5million on tackling poaching and illegal wildlife trade. This is great news, although the problem is vast. Nonetheless, for those of you who are eager to learn more about WildCRU’s work globally, this is a moment to tell you that we are busy all over the world studying wildlife trade in its various forms. Of course, you know that at Hwange we run a dedicated anti-poaching unit, and indeed, you might have seen that just last week Andy Loveridge and I published a report with TRAFFIC and our colleague Dr Viv Williams on the trade in lion bones out of South Africa to China (there’s a news item about this below). More widely, my colleague Dr Sandra Baker and I, supported by, amongst others, the Humane Society of the US, have completed a survey on animal welfare in wildlife trade, on which topic Sandra recently spoke in a symposium on Compassionate Conservation in Canada, whereas I gave Plenary presentation the week before in Zagreb on our work on the impact of tourism on wild animal welfare (organised by the University’s Federation for Animal Welfare). At a practical level, Dr Christos Astaras and I are leading a programme for the UK government’s wonderful Darwin Initiative on a crafty new technology to detect poachers in the remote forests of Cameroon (it works by using miniature microphones which record gunshots). Our Ruaha project, led by Dr Amy Dickman, has been providing materials to help an American non-profit, WCS, in their training of detection dogs for ivory, guns and bushmeat, which is important as the majority of poached elephants come from southern Tanzania, with Ruaha the new hotspot according to a recent report. Meanwhile, working with Dr Neil da Cruz, seconded to WildCRU from World Animal Protection, I have been busily documenting trade in the skins of beautiful clouded leopards in Asia. I have mentioned in several interviews in recent days that WildCRU’s work spans from groundedness to geopolitics – nothing could be more practically down-to-earth than our Long Shield community guards in Hwange, helping local farmers protect their cows from the unwelcome attention of lions, but higher level solutions lie in national policies and the affairs of nations, so we have recently published a novel paper on the different capacities of nations worldwide to deliver conservation. Anyway, as people wonder more about our work, these are just a few additional examples of the bigger picture.
Donations can be made at http://www.campaign.ox.ac.uk/wildcru