The Lilac-breasted Roller is the star of Akagera, in my opinion (at least for the bird life), as a reliable and beautiful species that you can’t miss while visiting.
Over the last month and a half I’ve been immersed in my Gishwati bird research, so I have not been able to take as much time to write about experiences from the Rwanda Study Tour as much, but now that I’m back in the US, I have some better bandwidth to share media from places like Akagera National Park.
Akagera has the highest bird species richness in all of Rwanda, with literature about the park normally citing either high 400s or low 500s as the total tally. On eBird, there’s a number of different hotspots for the park, but the top three hotspots in the country are all in Akagera, with another two hotspots within the top ten.
Impala, zebras, topi, and waterbuck share this savanna scene in Akagera National Park
The next park we visited on the Rwanda Study Tour after Nyungwe was Akagera National Park. Although the park was created in 1934, it’s only been run by a partnership between the Rwandan government and an NGO called African Parks—which helps manage about fifteen parks on the continent—since 2010. At this point, a change in operation style and protection started to help wildlife bounce back as well as increase visitation to the park. Back in 2010, the park hosted around fifteen thousand visitors per year and only made about $200,000 (while losing money), but last year the park received thirty-six thousand visitors and made $2,000,000 (getting out of the red for the first time).
A zebra gives itself a dustbath while a impala, two topi, and a warthog watch on
from the Uwinka Visitor Center of Nyungwe National Park
The first national park that the Yale FES Rwanda Study Tour visited was Nyungwe, in the south of the country bordering Burundi’s Kibera National Park. A montane tropical forest spanning over a thousand square kilometers, Nyungwe is quite biodiverse, and while it used to host elephants, water buffalo, and leopards, many other mammals are still present in the forest, including thirteen species of primate. Of these, we were able to see eight: vervet monkeys, l’Hoest’s mountain monkeys, blue monkeys, grey-cheeked mangabeys, black-and-white colobus monkeys, mona monkeys, a single olive baboon, and eastern chimpanzees. This was fairly lucky, as the only primates we missed were the owl-faced monkeys, which are shy and restricted to the bamboo groves in a remote part of the park, red-tailed monkeys, which I know nothing about, and three species of galago, which are very small nocturnal primates sometimes called bushbabies, of controversial cuteness. I’ve included some of my photos below:
After my first few nights at Chan Chich, I quickly learned that the jungle activity changes a bit in the night time. Bats swoop through the air, the sounds of howler monkeys reverberate off of the trees, and cane toads hop across my path.
So of course, when the opportunity arose to go on a night ride I was eager to see what would be in store for me. While I knew it would be foolish to hope for a jaguar sighting, I set out taking comfort in the fact that at least my chances would be higher than if I had stayed in for the night. What I didn’t count on, however, was my inherently poor ability to spot wildlife in the darkness.
The New York Times’ always-appreciated Science section, once a Tuesday feature, has been joined by many features made possible by the wonders of modern technology, and the news organization has also responded creatively to the competition made possible by all that wondrous technology. This article by Nicholas St. Fleur is a good example of why we check in on the Trilobites feature of the website daily:
A lion known as P-45 has killed scores of domestic animals—and attracted passionate fans. Courtesy National Park Service
I favor a walk in the woods where pumas feel naturally at home. That said, the world has been changing faster than we like, and faster than pumas can adapt. We have had so many wildcat stories in these pages since we started in 2011, it is impossible to count at this point; also not possible to link back to one that matches the content of Dana Goodyear’s wow piece in the upcoming issue of the New Yorker:
Are the city’s pumas dangerous predators or celebrity guests?
It was drizzling and gray, late fall, on the old Rickards Movie Ranch, high in the Santa Monica Mountains, in rural, red-state western Malibu. Continue reading
In times that try our souls in so many ways, it helps to know that organizations like this one are prepared, and worthy of your consideration for your support:
We rely on wilderness not only to inspire and enjoy but also to protect our watersheds, clean the air we breathe, and provide a home for the diverse species that enrich our world. Continue reading
An impression of the town square at the Babcock Ranch development in Florida. Photograph: Babcock Ranch
For every redemption story there seems to be at least one more redemption puzzle. Conundrums. This is one of those. We want to love the scheme for some of its nobler aspects, but then realize it is impossible to do so unconditionally. And finally, simply, impossible:
Wisdom tends to her egg. Laysan albatrosses spend the vast majority of their lives in the air. Photograph: US Fish and Wildlife Service/AP
Thanks to the Guardian’s Environment section (and Reuters) for this news:
Thanks to Anthropocene’s Brandon Keim for this story about a health care revolution for wildlife:
…Researchers led by University of Florida biologist David Duffy raise that possibility in a new Global Change Biology article about “precision wildlife medicine,” an approach that would draw upon innovations in human disease treatment. Continue reading
Containing much of the Peruvian Amazon’s greatest flora and fauna, Manú National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the world and allows for once-in-a-lifetime sightings of rare and exotic animals. The park is Peru’s biggest and consists of three parts: the “Cultural or Buffer zone,” where native communities live and tourists can enter unaccompanied, the “Reserved zone,” an area set aside for controlled scientific research and ecotourism, and the “Intangible zone,” the largest section that is strictly for flora and fauna preservation. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Manú offers adventurous travelers lush, untouched Amazon to explore and discover the unmatched beauty of virgin environments and unrestricted wildlife.
Countryside near the village of Kirby Misperton in North Yorkshire where a planning application by Third Energy to frack was recently approved. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Many claim to tire of hearing about climate change, species extinction, threats from fracking and other environmental issues of great importance. Thanks to the Guardian for continuing to pay attention:
PHOTOGRAPH BY NORBERT WU, MINDEN PICTURES
In a world where economics often focus on the concept that “the customer is always right” it’s heartening to see even large companies re-evaluate policy, and make make changes in the face of facts.
Our work in India has often placed us face to face with the common practices of human-animal interaction written about below, and we don’t promote the “elephant rides” that are often on travelers’ agenda. Change occurs along with a shift in understanding, and our goal has always been to craft travel experiences that are both authentic and educational.
So “Bravo!” and a hearty welcome to any company willing to join us in achieving that goal!
TripAdvisor, the popular travel review website, and its ticket sales company, Viator, said Tuesday they no longer will sell tickets to hundreds of tourist attractions that are widely accepted as cruel to wild animals, reversing a policy under which the companies had resisted considering the welfare of animals when promoting trips.
The move to stop selling tickets to elephant rides, swim-with-dolphin experiences, and attractions that allow visitors to pet tigers and other exotic animals comes after a one-and-a-half-year protest campaign by the London-based animal welfare group World Animal Protection and reporting by National Geographic’s Wildlife Watch, which drew attention to TripAdvisor’s continued promotion of such attractions at a time when dozens of other tour and travel companies were moving away from them.
Such attractions have been shown to cause animals psychological and physical trauma that can shorten their lives. They also result in more animals being taken from the wild for tourism.
Romania’s government has taken action to protect its large carnivores from trophy hunters.iStock
There was a time when we found portions of the hunting-to-support-conservation argument compelling. Our view is getting more and more firm against it. We applaud a small country teeming with wildlife for taking a firm stand:
By Alicia Graef
In a surprise move that has wildlife advocates cheering, Romania’s government has taken action to protect its large carnivores from trophy hunters.
Last week, the Environment Ministry announced a total ban on trophy hunting of brown bears, wolves, lynx and and other wild cats, which is expected to save thousands of animals from being killed. Continue reading
More than 1 million wild pangolins have been killed in the last decade. Photograph: Paul Hilton/WCS
We honestly knew little, perhaps nothing, about these creatures until very recently when they were in the news; and they were almost gone before we learned about them. Suddenly, thankfully, pangolins have been given the attention they deserve from the folks (including all of us) who may be able to help them survive as a species:
Culling could undermine the viability of the entire Norwegian wolf population, say conservationists. Photograph: Roger Strandli Berghagen
We love sheep, and sheep farmers, and shepherds, and wool, and so on. But we cannot read this without feeling more sympathy for the wolves, at this moment:
Source: Modern Farmer
Bison meat is not the typical protein one finds on the dinner plate every night (especially not in my vegetarian household), but it is a meat product that is known for being healthier than beef and – possibly – more environmentally friendly. “How so?” you might wonder. According to Modern Farmer there are several components to bison farming that give it a “greener edge.”
It’s believed that bison cause less trampling and erosion damage to the plains than cattle, that their diet is higher in grasses and thus less damaging to the long-term chances of the plains environment, and that bison poop functions as a natural fertilizer to their habitats.
This all mostly stems from a general idea that bison, being not domesticated and technically, even when ranched, a wild animal, are more in tune with nature, more balanced in their impact than cattle. They are also native to North America, unlike cattle, which were domesticated from Old World animals. “Because bison are a natural part of the North American ecosystem, bison ranching can be a beneficial to the natural environment,” writes the National Bison Association, a promotional group, on its site.