Since 1996, the Riverbanks Conservation Support Fund (CSF) has provided important assistance to conservation biologists involved in an array of wildlife conservation projects both here and abroad.
ATTENTION: Beginning in 2014, applications will be reviewed two times per year with the following deadlines for submission: June 1 and December 1.
Nautiluses are heavily fished throughout the Indo-Pacific region, and in certain areas, like the Palawan region of the Philippines, the species is believed to have experienced as much as an 80% decline in numbers.
Importantly, nautiluses are being considered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for possible listing under the Convention on lnternational Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which offers protection to species from negative effects as a result of international trade. Unfortunately, previous efforts to protect nautiluses under CITES were rejected because of crucial gaps in the existing knowledge of the species’ biology and the impact of global trade. The Riverbanks CSF provided backing for this research project that was carried out with the goal of gathering additional information for the USFWS on a heavily fished population of nautiluses in the Philippines. The research team from City University of New York, Brooklyn College and the University of Washington collaborated with staff at San Carlos University in the Philippines to collect data on this population of nautiluses using traditional fishing/trapping methods as well as modern Baited Remote Underwater Video Systems (BRUVS). This data collected in 2012 around Bohol, was the first ever to quantify population declines of nautiluses in the wild. Most importantly the research team, with this data at their disposal, is working with the USFWS to draft a proposal to the CITES Convention aimed at regulating the international trade in nautilus shells.
The apes—bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and siamangs—face a bleak future in the wild. Populations of some species are in such steep decline that they may face extinction in the next 20 years without aggressive conservation action. Through the CSF, Riverbanks is one of nearly 40 AZA-accredited zoos that accepted a three-year commitment to the Ape TAG Conservation Initiative which provided funding to 8 eight ape field conservation projects. One project was focused on each of the great ape species and two other projects focused on gibbons and siamangs. Importantly, the Arcus Foundation, a leading great ape conservation philanthropic organization, provided a generous matching grant to the funds contributed by AZA zoos.
Specific projects supported through the Ape TAG Conservation Initiative include the following:
Currently, 92% of Asian box turtles face extinction in the wild as do over 50% of turtle species worldwide. The Asian turtle species are being eaten out of existence by humans. As the human population of Asian countries has grown and Asian economies have expanded, what had been a somewhat minimal, traditional consumption of turtles has rapidly evolved into a broad-based and unsustainable commercial exploitation. Because turtles are generally long-lived and take a number of years to reach sexual maturity, the commercial harvest of adult turtles is a strain that wild populations cannot long withstand. Unless this trend is reversed, many species of Asian turtles are doomed to extinction in the wild. With this realization in mind, the Turtle Survival Alliance (TSA), a global partnership of individuals, zoos, aquariums, biologists and researchers was formed in 2001 in the belief that captive populations can play a pivotal role in saving Asian turtles from extinction. The Riverbanks CSF provided a founding donation for the establishment of the Turtle Survival Center, a fifty acre property that will serve as home base for the TSA and will house assurance colonies for more than 20 different species of the world’s most endangered turtles and tortoises.
The Pygmy three-toed sloth is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the highest risk category assigned for wild species, largely because of its limited range in the wild. The species lives only in the 850 remaining acres of red mangrove forest that wraps Isla Escudo de Varaguas, a small island off the coast of Panama.
With the support of the Riverbanks CSF research teams have successfully conducted the first ever population census of the pygmy three-toed sloth. Further monitoring will be undertaken in order to improve the robustness of the population estimate and to assess population change over time. The research team has also mapped the extent of the mangrove habitat in which the species resides and conducted a preliminary assessment of local peoples’ perceptions about the island and its biodiversity.
Photos courtesy of ©Craig Turner/ZSL.
Kibale National Park in Uganda is home to myriad species, including more than 200 species of butterflies, elephants, chimpanzees and 13 other primate species. For the majority of people living around the Kibale National Park in Uganda, wood and charcoal are their sole sources of energy. As the human population around the park grows and legal sources of wood diminish, ever-increasing pressure is placed on the park’s resources as people are forced to enter in search of fuel wood. The Kibale Fuel Wood Project (KFWP) and Kibale Eco-Char Initiative (KECI) help to safeguard biodiversity and improve people-park relations through empowerment of local citizens. Specifically, the KFWP addresses the needs of people around the border of the park by facilitating the building of efficient stoves, encouraging native firewood crops, and engaging citizens through an extensive environmental education campaign. The KECI complements the KFWP’s work by creating cooking fuel from waste, reducing the overall need for firewood to directly benefit Kibale’s trees and wildlife.
Fewer than 20 years ago, Southeast Asia was home to the greatest number of vultures in the world with some 40 million total birds of four different species including the Asian white-backed vulture, the slender-billed vulture, Pondicherry vulture, and long-billed vulture. Populations of each of these four species have now declined by 99% and they are considered to be critically endangered in the wild.
This study presents an exciting opportunity to expand on current mark recapture methods by using DNA from feather samples collected from vulture feeding and nesting sites. The goal is to assess the abundance, survival rate, gender ratios, and genetic variability of these critically endangered and understudied species. Using the methods presented, I can explore important characteristics of these populations that traditional mark-recapture or transect surveys are not able to provide. Among other things, the resultant data will help inform both the conservation organizations managing the populations as well as the government agencies that have jurisdiction over the vultures’ habitat.
In response to the rapid and unprecedented global decline in wild amphibian populations primarily due to the spread of chytrid fungus, the Riverbanks CSF joined the Houston Zoo and a host of other partners to build the El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center (EVACC) on the grounds of the El Nispero Zoo in El Valle de Anton, Panama. The EVACC quickly established itself as the nerve center for the ex situ conservation of fifteen species of Panama’s most endangered amphibians, including the Golden frog. However, the population of Golden frogs at the EVACC was only 16 animals and reproductive success had been limited. Because of the urgent need to increase the size of the assurance population of Golden frogs and to work diligently on increasing rearing success, the CSF contributed to the purchase and delivery to the EVACC of a modified refrigerated shipping container that was specially outfitted with the necessary equipment and life support systems to serve as a dedicated holding/breeding/laboratory facility for Golden frogs.
The southeastern United States is host to eastern diamondback and timber rattlesnakes. Urbanization and sprawl in the lower Coastal Plain contribute to habitat loss, fragmentation and predator removal. Further, the state of wildlife health in rattlesnakes as affected by human activity is unknown although other wildlife has exhibited compromised health states from anthropogenic and ecological stressors. We focused on mainland (Bluffton, Beaufort County, SC) and barrier island (Jekyll Island, Glynn County, GA) field sites. Both sites are undergoing development and are actively engaged in strategizing land use appropriations and wildlife management approaches that maximize coexistence ability with human residents and visitors. Specifically, we use mark-recapture, radio telemetry, and health assessments to determine both individual and population-level effects of anthropogenic land uses on coastal rattlesnakes. We are examining survivorship along with individual spatial and health responses to habitat fragmentation and disturbance. These research initiatives connect wildlife ecology, health, human sociology, and land use planning to determine the most ecologically and economically sustainable approaches for coastal rattlesnake conservation.
Photos courtesy of ©Breanna Ondich.