Bat Week 2020

By Sarah Olson | October 27, 2020

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A pair of Townsend’s big-eared bats (Corynorhinus townsendii), a species found in the western U.S., show off the size of their ears which they use to locate insect prey (Credit: N. Fuller).

Bat Week represents an international effort to raise awareness and appreciation for the role of bats in our world. At a moment when bats have captured our attention because of their association with the viral disease spillover responsible for COVID-19, it is time for us to reimagine and build a healthier relationship with nature and these magnificent winged mammals.

The mid-twentieth century marked the historic end of WWII, and it was also the time when scientists think SARS-CoV-2 probably diverged from its closest-known bat virus relative. Since then, the world’s urban population has grown 600 percent, from 750 million to 4.2 billion. Globally, 4.5 …

By David Wilkie, Susan Lieberman & James Watson | October 19, 2020

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In northeastern DR Congo, as in many places around world, the forest produces a bounty of delicious and nutritious caterpillars that are a seasonally important food for Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities. Photo © David Wilkie/WCS

[Note: this story was originally published at Mongabay.]

Humanity today face multiple crises. A pandemic grips societies around the globe and with each passing year greed, poor governance, and naivete push us further toward a climate change forced sixth great extinction and the collapse of ecosystems.

It may already be too late to prevent the looming catastrophe of climate change. But there is an overlooked and undervalued blueprint for our survival. …

To reduce the likelihood of crises like COVID-19, a comprehensive national approach is essential

By Christian Walzer & John Calvelli | October 19, 2020

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Live animal market in Bali, Indonesia. Credit: Amilia Roso Getty Images

[Note: this story was originally published at Scientific American.]

It is no small task to predict which of the hundreds of thousands of unknown pathogens existing naturally in animals will spill over to people and cause the next pandemic. But one thing is clear: A major factor driving spillover events such as the current COVID-19 pandemic is the trade in live and fresh wildlife for human consumption (whether legal or illegal).

Removing wild animals from nature and transporting them to commercial markets where the close proximity of animals and people poses a significant public health risk is a practice that can no longer be tolerated. Zoonoses-the term for infectious diseases that pass between people and animals-affect millions of people each year, with three quarters of new human pathogens identified in the past three decades originating in animals. …

International Sawfish Day

By Jamia Rahman Khan Tisa & Elisabeth Fahrni Mansur
October 17, 2020

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Like most other rays and sharks, sawfish grow very slowly and have only few offspring. Their saw makes them particularly prone to getting entangled in fishing gear. Credit: ©WCS Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh

A saw is an essential tool in carpentry, but how can a saw be used for fishing? Sawfish use electro-receptors in their long saw-shaped snout to detect their fish prey living on the bottom of the sea. Then, they trap the fish on the bottom and kill it with their saw, sometimes breaking the fish in half before eating it.

This efficient way of catching fish has allowed sawfish, or “carpenter sharks” as they are widely known, to survive on Earth for about 60 million years — surviving the mass extinction that wiped out dinosaurs. But even though sawfish outlived the dinosaurs, the question we must ask today on International Sawfish Day is whether they can survive the fishing activities of man. …


Boar found and freed from illegally set snare in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary

October 6, 2020

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Wild boar briefly trees WCS conservationist after the rescue CREDIT: WCS Cambodia

Mondulkuri Province, Cambodia

A dramatic video just released by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Cambodia Program shows a team of three WCS conservationists releasing a wild boar (Sus scrofa) caught in an illegally-set snare in Keo Seima Wildlife Sanctuary.

The team can be seen cutting down the snare attached to tree sapling. Then they remove the snare from the boar, which is seen breathing heavily. Eventually the boar jumps to its feet and chases one of the conservationists up a tree. The boar clicks its teeth and circles the tree before running into the forest. …

International Vulture Awareness Day 2020

By Rob Wallace | September 5, 2020

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Palca, an adult female Andean condor, launches into flight equipped with a satellite tag that is revealing the incredible ranging behavior of this culturally iconic and threatened species that is Bolvia’s national bird. Photo: Rob Wallace/WCS

[This week, an important analysis of the Andean condor was published in Spanish and English. “Saving the Symbol of the Andes: A Range Wide Conservation Priority Setting Exercise for the Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)” presents the work of 38 specialists from seven countries participating in an in-depth systematization of studies carried out on the distribution, ecology, and conservation status of the species along the Andean mountain range — from Venezuela to Argentina and Chile. The objective is to promote a conservation strategy at a continental level that ensures healthy populations of condors and recognizes the importance of working across boundaries for the high-flying and wide-ranging condor. …

By Bruce J. Weissgold, Peter Knights, Susan Lieberman & Russell Mittermeier | August 29, 2020

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[This story was first published at Scientific American on August 24, 2020.]

In reaction to the global COVID-19 pandemic, attention has focused on the potential role of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to further regulate-or ban-various form of the wildlife trade. Banning the wild animal trade, particularly for human consumption, means stopping the movement of some zoonotic diseases-infections that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

There have also been suggestions that the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), or the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) could be instructed by governments to collaborate to prevent future zoonotic epidemics and pandemics. Other options include a protocol to the Convention on Biological Diversity (an umbrella treaty, adhered to by all but one party to CITES) or a protocol under the U.N. General Assembly. But with little experience dealing with transport of terrestrial wild animals, these bodies simply lack the expertise and infrastructure needed to regulate the international trade of wild animals. …

Shark Week 2020

By Jonathan Booth | August 14, 2020

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[Note: this commentary, which was originally published at The Revelator, is the sixth and final essay in a series by researchers with WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) during Shark Week documenting challenges and successes in shark and ray conservation today.]

“We saw two swimming past our canoe the other day as we came to shore!”

“Yes, we saw one over towards the mangroves not so long ago…”

“There was one in our net near the big river…”

Scientists love having a mystery to solve and gathering clues to find out if something is real or not. Since January 2019 my organization, the Wildlife Conservation Society, has been collecting evidence to confirm whether highly endangered sawfish and their relatives — the wedgefish, guitarfish and giant guitarfish (collectively and affectionately known as “ rhino rays “) — live in the coastal waters of New Ireland Province, Papua New Guinea. …

Shark Week 2020

By Een Irawan Putra, Dwi Yuwandana & Benaya Simeon | Aug 13, 2020

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A wedgefish in its inshore habitat. Photo credit: ©Matthew D Potenski/The Pew Charitable Trusts

[Note: this is the fifth in a series of commentaries by researchers with WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) during Shark Week documenting challenges and successes in shark and ray conservation today.]

Wedgefish and giant guitarfish comprise a group of highly threatened shark-like rays. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species assessed them as Critically Endangered in 2019 due to recent rapid declines, primarily caused by overfishing. …

Shark Week 2020

By Rhett Bennett, Dave van Beuningen, Mike Markovina | August 12, 2020

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[Note: this commentary, which was originally published at The Revelator, is the fourth in a series of commentaries by researchers with WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society) during Shark Week documenting challenges and successes in shark and ray conservation today.]

Gunter Pauli famously developed his Blue Economy concept, a global business model for marine resource use, based on the principles of using local resources in a responsible manner and injecting money back into the local economy. This has been widely applied to fisheries around the world. …


Wildlife Conservation Society

WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature.

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