100 Years of National Parks : Famous Yellowstone jumps in visitors equals concerns over wildlife and safety

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When things go well – and people connect with Nature – the unforeseen consequences can be hard to handle…isn’t that ironic!? For starters: the park has hired Mandarin-speaking park rangers to communicate with the increasing number of Chinese visitors.

Park rangers reassess how to manage tourist violations, staff burnout and ‘animal jam’ as number of national park guests peaked to four million last year  

The Guardian reports: Yellowstone national park is finding new ways to manage tourism after visits jumped by almost 600,000 between 2014 and 2015. After 15 years of steady growth, last year’s 4m visits was a tipping point, says park ranger Charissa Reid.

The park expects the number to rise in 2016. July is likely to be the first million-visit month in the park’s 144-year history.

However, extra visitors have increased accidents between humans, animals, and the park’s flora and fauna.

Park rangers issued more than 52,000 resource violations last year. People broke thermal features, interacted with protected wildlife and relieved themselves in the park. DUIs and domestic violence inside the park also increased.

The number of full-time staff at Yellowstone has remained static for over a decade, adding to problems. The NPS employed only 330 permanent and 406 seasonal Yellowstone staff last year.

Some incidents have made headline news – a man who strayed 225 yards off a designated path and fell to his death in Yellowstone’s Norris geyser basin and five people were gored by bison. However, dying in Yellowstone is unlikely.

“When you consider we had 4 million visitors, I think we’re doing pretty good,” says Reid.

Managing human behavior to maintain safety, prevent staff exhaustion and keep visitors happy is a daily challenge.

A common disruptive human behavior at Yellowstone is an “animal jam”. This happens when people see a bear or a buffalo, or any other animal, and come to a full stop to jump from their cars.

“We can always tell the difference between a bison jam and a bear jam, because at a bear jam doors are flung open,” says Reid. “People kind of lose it over bears in the park.”

Yellowstone needs better understanding of visitor behavior to help with management, says Reid.

Animal biologists, law enforcement and printers in Yellowstone’s sign shop are all involved in visitor management. “We are trying to engage everyone to find solutions,” says Reid.

Yellowstone has also hired a social scientist to study humans. He researches how visitors enter and exit through the park, and how they interact with park attractions.

“Our superintendent often says visitors are the least studied mammal in Yellowstone,” says Reid. “We know more about bison biology than we know about park visitors.”

Increasing international visitors, use of social media and varied cultural expectations among visitors have all caused problems.

The park has hired Mandarin-speaking park rangers to communicate with the increasing number of Chinese visitors. Animal warnings have been translated into 10 languages and more toilets have been installed. New barriers and signs stop tourists from wandering, and protections outside wolf and wildlife dens keep them safe.

Reid acknowledges these are short-term solutions. Effective long-term solutions remain beyond park management’s immediate control, buried in budgets, and stored in as yet unmined visitor data.

In the meantime, visitors are part of the solution….. read the full article here 

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China: Activists seek total ivory ban

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Do nothing – and African elephants will be functionally extinct within two decades….

From China Daily: Conservation organizations have called on the Chinese government to impose a total ban on the ivory trade in the country within the next two years, and with no expiration date or financial compensation for those who would lose business.

Xu Yang, a wildlife trade specialist at the World Wildlife Fund in China, said the majority of Chinese consumers would stop buying ivory products if the legal trade channel was shut down.

“It would also leave no room for speculators to operate if the ban on the ivory trade in China were permanent,” Xu said.

The WWF and TRAFFIC, an NGO that monitors the global wildlife trade, are compiling a feasibility report on banning the ivory trade in China, hoping that it will become a technical reference document for the Chinese government.

Zhou Fei, head of the China program at TRAFFIC, said the African elephant population had dropped from 3 to 5 million, to only 500,000 in recent years.

Activists seek total ivory ban in China

“If we don’t do anything, African elephants will be functionally extinct within two decades,” Zhou said.

At present, the trade and manufacture of registered ivory products is legal in China. In 2008, China got approval from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, the body that regulates the international wildlife trade, to buy about 62 metric tons of ivory in a one-time sale from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Every year, about 5 tons of that ivory is released into the market.

However, a WWF China survey found that more than half of consumers don’t know how to distinguish between legal and illegal ivory products.

“Despite the fact that every legal ivory carving has an identity card, many consumers don’t know to ask for the card. These unclaimed cards can then be used for illegal ivory products,” Xu said.

“Besides, China has a growing middle-class, people who would like to purchase ivory as a symbol of social status. The limited amount of ivory put into the legal market will not satisfy this demand.”

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‘Forest & Bird’ asks ….. Help Save Our Cute – and Critically Endangered – Sea Lions!

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New Zealand’s sea lion could be virtually extinct in two decades – if trends continue! So Forest & Bird New Zealand is asking for your help…

Once found all around our coastline, the New Zealand sea lion is now the world’s rarest sea lion. They have the same Nationally Critical status as the kākāpō, and some studies predict they could be extinct within 20 years. They need all the help they can get, right now.

The Department of Conservation and the Ministry of Primary Industries have asked for feedback on their plan for managing risks to this special species, but they have only recommended more monitoring and research for the next 20 years – by which time it could be far too late.

The main preventable threat the New Zealand sea lion is the squid fishery that operates off the coast of their main breeding ground in the Auckland Islands.

Nursing females can be killed or injured in squid trawl nets and so-called Sea Lion Exclusion Devices (SLEDs) while out fishing to feed their young pups.

If a female sea lion is fatally wounded or drowned in a net or by the SLED, it’s not just her that dies. Her pup waiting on shore will starve to death and because she is often already pregnant, next year’s pup will die as well.

Saving our magnificent sea lion will take determined action from all of us, including the Government, and fishing industry.

Please take action: Make a submission by August 19 and tell the Government it must act to reduce the impact of commercial fishing on sea lions.

Online survey here 

More info at Forest & Bird Society and regards education National Association for Environmental Education (NAEE UK)  

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Remembering Cecil on National Lion Day

When it was International Cat Day just there other day …. actually my mind went to the Big Cats!

As a Zookeeper – working with chimps and monkeys – I can vouch for the importance, role and sheer power of the big cats…. NO I did not ‘fight one’ , I just appreciate how amazing the big cats are!

So: thinking of Cecil – the Zimbabwe lion killed for fun (!?) – The Guardian has re-issued their feature of the famous lion : organizers of World Lion Day are hoping to raise even more awareness of the complex nature of the relationship between lions and humans.

The recent , very sad accident regards Tigers killing a Chinese lady highlights the need to always put safety first.

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Good news: California Condor numbers are finally up!

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After years of intense — and often controversial — restoration efforts, biologists are finally reporting some good news for the beleaguered California condor: More chicks are surviving in the wild, and the birds are becoming increasingly independent and expanding their range, reports the Environmental News Network

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced what it called a milestone for the California condor: More chicks had hatched and fledged in the wild during 2015 than the number of condors that had died. In late March, Steve Kirkland, the agency’s condor field coordinator, reported that two more chicks had fledged in 2015 in Baja California, but had only just been discovered, bringing the total in the wild to 270.
It was perhaps the most promising news about the condor in decades.

For the full article see Yale Environment 360 

 

Brexit: Leaving the EU has environmental consequences. Help Nature – please sign this!

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The UK has voted to LEAVE the EU – this has consequences for our Natural environment…..

Please read this and sign pro-Nature petition by @nerdboy on twitter, and https://yearofnature.blogspot.com. This amazing lad is also Wildlife Blogger of the Year for BBC Wildlife Mag 

Protect UK Environment & Wildlife – adopt European environmental legislation.

The vote to leave the EU could leave our wildlife at risk. The EU has developed a strong set of laws that protect the environment and our wildlife. As these laws will not apply when the UK leaves the EU we need new laws for the UK that give our precious wildlife and environment the same protection.
Wildlife didn’t get much of a mention in the referendum debate, that’s a shame as it was something that Europe treasures and its laws were very good for protecting the environment. Without new laws protected sites and our countryside might not be protected unless we have new laws that make sure we take care of it. Many species of plants, animals & invertebrates are declining, the UK Government should make it a priority to do what we can to stop this.

Read more here: http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/EU-Ref/reports

Sign the petition here:  https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/140238

USA: 10 Tips to Respect Wildlife in National Parks

 

 

 

 

People need Nature – I will blog separate specifically about the many reasons separately – and National Parks perform an important role in ‘bringing people – especially young people and families – to interact positively with their natural environment’ in state of wilderness location .

To protect both people and wildlife to to ensure the interaction is safe  – the following post points to some of the key thing to be informed of, NOT to do. These points are noteworthy regards any wildlife – but especially as we come up to the 100th Centenary of the US National Parks Service!

So there’s the post I came across …. from the National Parks Conservation Association

  1. Don’t Honk at Wildlife: Bears are know to spend time at roadside – ‘mother bears fear males will prey on their cubs’.
  2. Watch Your Step — and the Color of Your Shoes: As you walk on a beach, make sure not to step on birds’ or turtles’ nests — the same goes for rock climbers encountering nesting raptors.  Avoid wearing white shoes. The turtles use the white foam of the waves, the moon and the reflection of sunlight on the water to find their way to the ocean. White shoes, clothing and lights can disorient them and cause them to lose precious energy.
  3. Don’t Put a Bison in Your Car: sounds very strange? This happened only last month (June 2016) – An account by a wildlife photographer suggested that a baby bison had already been abandoned by the time some tourists decided to take ‘action’ and that their intervention likely didn’t change the animal’s fate, but this tale is a reminder that park visitors shouldn’t interfere with nature’s course: Rangers tried to reunite the bison calf with its herd, but all attempts failed and the bison was euthanized as its wandering by the road posed a danger for cars.
  4. Sweat Without the Blood and Tears: Wildlife is still wild! Olympic’s mountain goats are a treasured sight for park visitors, but park officials note that they also have “sharp, potentially lethal horns.” Six years ago, a goat gored a hiker and stood on top of him until he bled to death. Ouch …. Enough said!?
  5. Invest in a Zoom LensPeople visiting national parks often do so at great expense and therefore want to record the experience, especially the moment they came upon a magnificent bison or bear. The animals usually don’t mind, but they also like their private space. Of the five people injured by bison in Yellowstone last year, three were taking pictures, including two with their backs turned to the animals, the CDC wrote in a report. Just last month, a woman was charged by an elk as she approached to photograph it. David Lamfrom, the head of NPCA’s wildlife program, recommends “avoiding large hooved mammals during their rutting season when they become more aggressive due to higher testosterone levels.”Here’s what happens when people get too close…. Youtube of people too close to elk

More information : Environmental Education visit NAEE , National Parks Service