Home Madagascar Forest drones, gorilla germs and more

Forest drones, gorilla germs and more

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While state of the planet headlines may sound bleak, they don’t always reflect the whole story. All over the world, the work of protecting nature and the climate is taking place on the ground and winning triumphs that are not always in the news.

Here are three recent conservation success stories you should know about.

1. Drone technology dismantles illegal logging in Madagascar

Almost half of Madagascar‘s forests have fallen victim to slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging and unlimited charcoal production in the past 60 years, according to recent research.

But illegal loggers can be hard to spot amid the dense tangle of trees – and patrollers can only cover a limited amount of ground each day.

Fortunately, a new initiative opens its eyes in the sky.

With the support of the University of Adelaide and the authorization of the Malagasy Civil Aviation Association, Conservation International trained six staff members to fly aerial drones in the Ankeniheni-Zahamena and Ambositra-Vondrozo forest corridors in eastern Madagascar. In 2020 and 2021, the drone program identified more than 51 points of illegal deforestation, which helped patrollers target where to strengthen enforcement and prioritize conservation efforts.

“Drones are ideal companions for traditional forest patrols because they allow us to spot areas where illegal loggers have been operating, which are usually too far away and difficult to reach on foot,” said Clark Rabenandrasana, head of remote sensing and chief drone pilot at Conservation International.

In addition to locating illegally cleared land, this program helps monitor restoration projects, provide jobs for local communities, and track crop yields for farmers.

“Drones are an increasingly popular tool for environmentalists, giving us greater range and better data collection capabilities than even what was available a few years ago,” Rabenandrasana said. “They help us protect Madagascar’s forests, which are crucial to supporting local communities and iconic wildlife like lemurs and fossas. “

This project was supported by the Sustainable Landscapes Program in Eastern Madagascar and the Green Climate Fund project.

2. Protocol for the protection of mountain gorillas in Africa

Sharing 98 percent of human DNA, mountain gorillas are among our closest genetic relatives.

Unfortunately, this makes them vulnerable to many of the same diseases that affect humans, including COVID-19. Even a simple cold can be fatal for gorillas.

To help minimize the risk of disease transmission from humans to gorillas, the International Gorilla Conservation Program (IGCP) – a partnership led by Conservation International, the World Wide Fund for Nature and Flora and Fauna International – helped to develop tourist protocols that minimize contact between tourists and these great apes.

“Hiking with mountain gorillas has proven to be one of the most effective ways to generate income to conserve gorillas, with tourists paying for what is often a once in a lifetime opportunity to see our closest relative in the area. nature, ”explained Matthew Lewis, a wildlife scientist at Conservation International. “But the emergence of COVID-19 reminds us that any disease that endangers human health most likely puts gorillas at risk as well. This new protocol aims to prevent that.

Currently, gorilla trekking protocols require that visitors be checked for fever or signs of illness before trekking, wear masks, and keep at least 7 meters (23 feet) away. gorillas. Visitors are told to never come into physical contact with a gorilla, but if a curious young gorilla approaches, guests are advised to sit quietly until the gorilla moves forward.

The IGCP has developed a “Gorilla Friendly Pledge” that customers must sign as a pledge to adhere to safe gorilla tourism protocols, which Lewis hopes will improve tourism practices even beyond the pandemic.

“IGCP efforts have helped mountain gorilla populations recover in recent years, surpassing 1,000 individuals for the first time in half a century, and efforts like this new protocol will help continue this trend,” he said. he declared. “If done in a sustainable way, gorilla tourism helps protect this great ape and support local economies. It’s a win-win.

3. A million corals for Colombia

Struck by overfishing, climate change and pollution, the world’s coral reefs are struggling to survive. But in Colombia, the reefs are becoming a lifeline.

With the support of Conservation International, Colombian President Iván Duque and the country’s Environment Minister Eduardo Correa announced in June the “One Million Corals for Colombia” program aimed at rehabilitating and restoring 200 hectares (494 acres). ) coral reefs. The total investment for this project over the next two years will be US $ 422,000.

“In addition to providing habitat for a range of marine life, coral reefs protect coastal communities by protecting storm surges and sea level rise,” says Julian Sotelo, communications coordinator for Conservation International in Colombia. . “This means this project could help improve ocean health and human well-being.”

The Million Corals for Colombia initiative will use several coral gardening strategies to increase overall coral cover on reefs. One of these techniques involves creating a coral nursery by tying pieces of broken coral to ropes and tables underwater so that they can grow and reproduce.

In the other strategy, known as “microfragmentation”, the corals are intentionally cut into small pieces and attached to cement bases in underwater nurseries. This process can accelerate the growth of corals 25 times.

“Using the most advanced coral restoration techniques, the program aims to reach its goal by 2022,” says Sotelo. “But it will take the entire global community to help conserve coral reefs in the face of climate change – and we hope this initiative inspires others to take action.”


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