Tapir conservation  in Australia, Asia

In the Malaysian and Sumatran rain forests, tapirs are rarely glimpsed. Ponderous, powerful herbivores, weighing about 650 pounds, tapirs have faces like anteaters, with an incessantly sniffing mobile snout. In dim rain forests, smell and hearing are the important senses.

The Malay tapir, the largest of the world’s four tapir species, remained largely invisible to science until recently. The other three species of these odd, endearing animals all live in South America. There was just one scientific study from the 1970s on the Malay tapir.

Then, in 2002, the Malay Tapir Conservation Project was created, supported largely by the Copenhagen Zoo, and field biologists began filling in another blank page in zoology.

Traeholt is the Malayan tapir coordinator for the international Tapir Specialist Group, which is concerned with all four tapir species. For the past five years, he has used cameras with motion sensors to photograph tapirs as they move through the forest at night to feed on fruits, leaves and soft twigs. An important early breakthrough was the realisation that the patterns of wrinkles on tapirs’ necks can identify individuals.

Traeholt was recently joined by Boyd Simpson, a behavioral ecologist with experience in conservation projects in Australia and Asia, who is doing research on the Malay tapir for his doctorate.

Simpson said that the big difference in the park research “is we’re planning to reintroduce captive animals from Sungai Dusun.” Before any reintroductions, the team will check whether there is an established animal that may “boot the newcomer out,” he said.

Though Malay tapirs are listed as endangered, Traeholt is confident their habitat in Malaysia and Thailand is stable. He acknowledged that low numbers in some locations leave them vulnerable. Even in Krau, poaching could wipe out the viability of the entire population by removing just 20 to 25 animals.

For now, Traeholt hopes to create a conservation plan backed by ecology. And so this unique animal will avoid becoming either forgotten or extinct.

Anthony King
NYT News Service

Pirate fishing causing an eco catastrophe

Pirate fishing is out of control, depriving some the most world’s most vulnerable communities of food and leading to ecological catastrophe, a three-year investigation has found. “Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is one of the most serious threats to the future of world fisheries. It is now occurring in virtually all fishing grounds from shallow coastal waters to deep oceans. It is believed to account for a significant proportion of the global catch and to be costing developing countries up to $15bn a year,” says the report by the Environmental Justice Foundation.

The situation is particularly serious in African waters where pirate fishing may be now be taking nearly 30 per cent of the catch from local fishermen. “IUU operators are stealing food from some of the poorest people in the world and are ruining the lives of local fishermen in countries like Somalia, Angola. These countries do not have the resources to police their territorial waters,” says the report.

An aerial survey of Guinea’s territorial waters found that 60 pc of the 2,313 ships spotted were committing offences. Surveys of Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau waters found that levels of illegal fishing at 29 pc and 23 pc. The report recommends that a global database of high seas fishing vessels be set up and that onboard observers, aerial patrols and more patrol vessels be used.

In a separate study, international marine group Oceana reported that European seas are among the most damaged in the world due to overfishing. “According to the European Commission, 88 per cent of our fish stocks are overexploited. Of these, 69 per cent are at risk of collapse. Each day in European waters more than 55,000 tonnes of oily and bilge waters and fuel waste are spilled into the sea, more than 350,000 hectares of the sea bed is impacted by trawlers and 20,000 tonnes of fish are taken out,” says the report.

John Vidal
The Guardian

Comments (+)