Nepal introduces a climate-smart plan to protect snow leopards

Nepal introduces a climate-smart plan to protect snow leopards

In August 2017, Nepal made conservation history by becoming the first country to launch its climate-smart snow leopard landscape management leading the way in safeguarding the species and its habitat.

Nepal’s conservation plan, made under a joint initiative that aims to conserve snow leopards and valuable high mountain habitat called the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP), addresses key current and emerging threats to snow leopards, including climate change, and is seen as a model for other range countries to adopt.

 “This is the first climate-smart landscape management plan for snow leopard conservation in the world and is evidence of the Government of Nepal’s high level of commitment to this goal,” said Prakash Mathema, secretary at Nepal’s Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. “It could not have been possible without the support of local communities, conservation organizations and other committed partners.”

The plan addresses even the toughest challenges including tackling the complex impacts of climate change, and Nepal has once again established itself as a leader in conservation, showing much-needed ambition despite facing some of the toughest environmental, economic and political conditions.

With the plan, Nepal has set a strong precedent and paved the way to achieve the ambitious GSLEP goal set by all 12 snow leopard range countries— to secure 20 snow leopard landscapes by 2020.

In doing so, these nations are not only safeguarding the future of the snow leopard, but also its habitat, the headwaters for rivers on which hundreds of millions directly depend as a source of freshwater.

The development of the snow leopard landscape management plan of Nepal was supported by the WWF Conservation and Adaptation in Asia’s High Mountain Landscapes and Communities (AHM) project, funded by USAID. The AHM project has also supported snow leopard research, watershed management, and livelihoods programs in snow leopard territory to safeguard the cat’s future in this Himalayan nation.

Published January 22, 2018 at 06:00AM

A Persian leopard makes her debut into the wild—for the second time

A Persian leopard makes her debut into the wild—for the second time

Meet Victoria. She was among three Persian leopards released in 2016 into the wild of the Caucasus Nature Reserve—a place where the species had gone extinct. Last June, she went off the grid, only to reappear six months later in November in the village of Lykhny. Residents found traces of a leopard entering the community at night, so local authorities notified the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment of Russia about the animal’s approximate location.

The specialists who came to safely capture and examine the leopard quickly realized it was Victoria. They brought her to the leopard reintroduction center in Sochi. After examinations showed she was in great health, experts decided to re-release her with a new GPS collar.

Take a look at Victoria bounding back out into the wild!

Published January 19, 2018 at 06:00AM

New weather stations support climate and water research in Bhutan

New weather stations support climate and water research in Bhutan

Researchers have set up four weather stations in a preserve in the mountains of north Bhutan for the first time, allowing them to monitor conditions at various altitudes over the long-term. Data collected by these stations will help determine the best ways to help wildlife in the region adapt to climate change.

The Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER) set up these hydro-meterological (hydromet) stations at elevations between 9,100 feet and 13,400 feet along a slope in the institute’s research preserve to monitor weather data, and help gauge long-term climate trends. These weather stations, set up with support from WWF’s Conservation and Adaptation in Asia’s High Mountains (AHM) project and funded by USAID, are part of an integrated, climate-smart approach to conservation and adaptation in the region.

The hydro-meteorological data collected—such as daily precipitation, temperature, and the volume of water moving down a river or stream during a given period—will fill a gap in climate information at the edge of snow leopard range in Bhutan, and complement ongoing studies at the institute. The institute currently assesses animal and plant life; sets and monitors camera traps; safely captures and tags birds; and studies tree growth and the amount of energy stored in forests.

Data from these weather stations will be at the core of new studies on the impact of climate change on the water cycle and stream ecosystems. Researchers have already mapped 350 water sources around the research preserve with AHM support, and this new data will provide the needed climate angle.

AHM has also established two climate-smart demonstration villages in partnership with UWICER, that provide remote communities with biogas, greenhouses, water source management, and solar fencing to help them adapt to the climate changes they are already experiencing. The project has also supported the development of the institute’s expertise in water and climate science.

By building weather stations to collect climate data, establishing demonstration sites that allow the testing of adaptation interventions, and organizing events at which researchers can come together and share both their research and practice, WWF is helping UWICER lay a foundation for better climate research and interventions for years to come.

Learn more about Asia High Mountains.

Published January 18, 2018 at 06:00AM

Doubling Tigers in Bhutan's Royal Manas National Park

Doubling Tigers in Bhutan's Royal Manas National Park

In less than a decade, Bhutan’s Royal Manas National Park has achieved a big win for tiger conservation. From only 10 tigers in 2010, its population has now grown to 22.

Singye Wangmo, the Royal Manas National Park’s manager, credits the increase to the great teamwork, including strong transboundary collaboration with Indian counterparts in India’s Manas National Park and partnerships with local communities and WWF, and the leadership of the Royal Government of Bhutan to protect the endangered cat.

With a global population of as few as 3,890 wild tigers, every population increase matters. The latest numbers inside Royal Manas indicate the park may hold one of Bhutan’s largest tiger populations. It is a significant step towards achieving the goal of doubling the world’s wild tigers.

Bhutan is one of 13 tiger countries that committed to doubling the world’s wild tigers by 2022. The concerted conservation efforts spurred by that goal--often known as Tx2--have already seen wild tiger numbers grow from 3200 in 2010 toto as few as 3,890 today, the first rise in populations in over 100 years. But there is still much work to be done to save this species.


Once found in diverse habitats across Asia, the world's wild tiger population has shrunk by over 95 per cent in the last century due to illegal tiger trade, poaching, and habitat loss. Today, the world is at risk of losing this iconic species completely.

WWF is working with governments and scientists on the ground to conduct scientific monitoring of tiger populations--an essential component of understanding and managing populations – in addition to supporting anti-poaching efforts, addressing the illegal wildlife trade, and preventing habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.

“This increase in tiger numbers is a testament to the commitment of tiger range states like Bhutan to protect, conserve and, double their tigers,” said Nilanga Jayasinghe, senior program officer for Asian Species at WWF, “and monitoring enables scientists and governments to assess predator and prey populations, as well as the health of tiger habitats.

Published January 16, 2018 at 06:00AM

Two friends passionate about conservation will take on Capitol Hill for Lobby Day 2018

Two friends passionate about conservation will take on Capitol Hill for Lobby Day 2018

Laura Miller dubs herself shy while Tiffany Jones is decidedly outgoing. This contrast in personality—combined with a shared interest in conservation—makes them a stronger team.

The two 30-something friends from Dallas, Texas, serve as Panda Ambassadors, helping WWF advocate for conservation-focused goals at crucial moments and educating others about wildlife and wild places. Together they’ve played on their strengths to send a stronger message, including speaking to a third-grade classroom about wildlife protection. Miller took the lead on pulling together the necessary research, while Jones managed the visual and storytelling portion of the presentation.

“We were both able to use our strengths and our talents,” Miller said. “Combining them really helps amplify the message.”

They first met at a social event in 2014. Six months later, they bumped into one another again and realized they’re both passionate about wildlife and conservation. They arranged to meet up for coffee to talk about how they could get more involved in advocating for the planet. The rest, as they say, is history.

In March, the pair will head to Washington, DC, to take on the next challenge together: Lobby Day 2018.

WWF’s Lobby Day event is a two-day experience that educates supporters about important decisions in Congress that will affect global conservation and leverages members from around the country to help influence lawmakers on WWF’s priority issues. Activists meet with their congressional representatives and staff to encourage them to support conservation and environmental protection in the decisions they make and the votes they take over the coming year.

Miller participated last year, and while she was nervous to do so, she found the day of training provided to participants before heading up to Capitol Hill helped her find her footing and prepare her for conversations with legislators. This year, Jones is excited to join her for the first time in the nation’s capital.

“There’s something in the news every day that affects the climate, that affects animals,” Jones said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to talk to legislators and get their feedback to hear what they’re thinking about these issues as well.”

Activists attending Lobby Day will focus their conversations around US government support for international conservation. WWF and our partners work to create a safer world for wildlife, protect amazing places, and stand up for communities. And many of our partners rely on international aid to fund the critical conservation work they do in the field, from protecting forests to combatting wildlife trafficking. The United States’ federal spending on international conservation programs has a direct impact on our ability to protect wildlife and our planet, so it’s crucial that we continue providing that support.

This type of funding not only helps wildlife: by protecting the natural resources that people depend on, it also can help stabilize developing communities and prevent regional conflicts.

Activists—whether they’re more reserved like Miller or more gregarious like Jones—can have their greatest impact on decisions made in Congress when they meet with their representatives in person. The more voices speaking up to urge the US government to provide support for international conservation, stopping illegal wildlife trade, and acting on climate change, the bigger the outcome.

And you don’t have to be a superhero to make a change.

“There’s nothing special about me that enables me to do this beyond just having a passion and feeling that it’s important enough to speak up for and take care of,” Miller said. “You don’t have to be a master debater or great at public speaking. You just need to have a passion and be willing to stand up for it.”

Want to stand up for wildlife and wild places? Join WWF in Washington, DC, for Lobby Day 2018!

Published January 11, 2018 at 06:00AM

How climate change is turning green turtle populations female in the northern Great Barrier Reef

How climate change is turning green turtle populations female in the northern Great Barrier Reef

A new study reveals rising temperatures are turning green turtle populations almost completely female in the northern Great Barrier Reef. 

More than 200,000 nesting females—one of the largest populations in the world—call the northern Great Barrier Reef home. But this population could eventually crash without more males, according to the study published in Current Biology

How does climate change impact sex?

Because incubation temperature of turtle eggs determines the animal’s sex, a warmer nest results in more females. Increasing temperatures in Queensland’s north, linked to climate change, have led to virtually no male northern green sea turtles being born.

For the study, scientists caught green turtles at the Howick Group of islands where both northern and southern green turtle populations forage in the Great Barrier Reef.  Using a combination of endocrinology and genetic tests, researchers identified the turtles’ sex and nesting origin.

Of green turtles from warmer northern nesting beaches, 99.1% of juveniles, 99.8% of subadults, and 86.8% of adults were female. Turtles from the cooler southern reef nesting beaches showed a more moderate female sex bias (65%–69% female).

Lead author Dr. Michael Jensen, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says northern Great Barrier Reef green turtle nesting beaches have been producing primarily females for more than two decades resulting in “extreme female bias”.

The scientific research was facilitated through the Great Barrier Reef Rivers to Reef to Turtles project, led by WWF-Australia. WWF’s Marine Species Project Manager Christine Hof was also a scientific researcher in the study. 

Great Barrier Reef: On the frontline of climate change

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the world’s richest ocean environments. It’s home to more than 1,500 species of fish, six of the world’s seven species of threatened marine turtles, and more than 30 species of marine mammals. Today, it faces the impact of mass coral bleaching and now a growing threat to its northern green sea turtles.

“Finding that there are next to no males among young northern green turtles should ring alarm bells, but all is not lost for this important population.,” said WWF-Australia CEO Dermot O’Gorman

Scientists and wildlife managers are seeking practical ways to help the turtles. One possibility is a shade cloth erected over key nesting beaches that could help lower nest temperatures to produce more males.

More ambitious climate change targets must also be adopted and enforced in order to save the Great Barrier Reef, its natural treasures and unique wildlife.


Published January 09, 2018 at 06:00AM

Trump Administration to roll back crucial Arctic protections

Trump Administration to roll back crucial Arctic protections

The Arctic Ocean—the pristine home to bowhead whales, gray whales, polar bears, walruses, and other magnificent wildlife, along with many indigenous communities—could potentially lose crucial protections from risky offshore oil and gas drilling.

Every five years, the US Department of Interior creates a plan that says where oil and gas companies can purchase leases for offshore drilling. The most recent one, finalized in January 2017, excluded new oil and gas leasing in the Arctic waters offshore of Alaska through 2022. However, the Department of the Interior launched a process to change that plan last summer. Now a new draft proposal, which would apply to the years 2019-2024, calls for the removal of crucial Arctic protections and authorization of new leasing in this incredible landscape.

“It’s back to the future again with this proposal to promote risky offshore drilling in America’s Arctic Ocean,” said Brad Ack, WWF’s senior vice president for oceans. “Previous failed attempts demonstrated that the region’s unforgiving conditions are no place to explore for fossil fuels the world no longer needs.”

The Arctic was kept out of the previous five-year plan to protect the marine mammals, seabirds, and other wildlife that live there, along with their migratory paths and sensitive habitats. And native communities in Alaska continue to depend on the health of these subsistence resources for survival.

The vast size, remote location, and extreme weather conditions, combined with the complete lack of infrastructure for responding to oil spills, make drilling in the Arctic Ocean extremely dangerous. Oil spill response methods are ineffective in broken ice and other severe weather conditions in the Arctic, making any large oil spill or well blowout catastrophic for the amazing life in the area.

Opening the Arctic up for drilling would needlessly place the entire region at risk.

“Instead of rushing to open public lands and waters in support of an outdated energy strategy, the administration should be investing in the development of our country’s abundant renewable energy resources while protecting our natural treasures,” Ack said.

You can help
The administration is holding multiple comment periods during which private citizens—like you—can voice their opinions. During the last comment period, nearly 90,000 WWF supporters spoke up to keep the Arctic out of the leasing program.

Your voice matters.

Sign our public comment to President Trump and Secretary of the Interior Zinke, and demand that new offshore drilling is kept out of America’s Arctic.

Published January 05, 2018 at 06:00AM


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