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Blog
July 19, 2020 | By Andrew Rowan
Crow family
Following the recommendations of our esteemed colleague, Dr. Alan Kazdin, who has written in a previous WellBeing newsletter about the importance of being in natural settings for human mental and physical health, we bring you a tale about a relationship that has developed between one of our Global Ambassadors, Jennifer Sullivan, and a “family” of crows in Lenox, Massachusetts.
During her daily walks while in the current lock down, WBI Global Ambassador Jennifer Sullivan developed a personal relationship with a family of crows near her home in Lennox, Massachusetts. Andrew Ronan tells her tale of their interactions and adaptations to each other.
June 14, 2020 | By Alan E. Kazdin, PhD Yale University
With the onset and effort to control the coronavirus, many of us are confined to our homes and isolated from our extended family and social and work contacts that are so central to our lives. For those who have access to the internet and social media, there are new ways to connect by having family chats, meals, and even holiday celebrations by Zoom or the equivalent. Nevertheless, technology can only do so much, and confinement and isolation remain. Having multiple family members in the home and overseeing activities such as the education of children and adolescents can heighten the stress of an already difficult situation and adversely affect one’s mental health. Many of us now are experiencing varying degrees of depression, anxiety, stress, irritability, and loneliness. Maintaining an upbeat mood and feelings of well-being is even more challenging because of the confinement and lack of control over much of our everyday lives. And our situation is heavily influenced by daily, if not moment-to-moment, doses of the news about the progression and disastrous consequences of the virus.
May 30, 2020 | By Rachel Caldwell Conservation Program Officer, Center for Large Landscape Conservation
The Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC) is working to mainstream connectivity conservation solutions around the world that save biodiversity, increase resilience to climate change, and safeguard human health. To this end, CLLC supports the operations of the Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group (CCSG) that was established in 2016 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). The current Chair of the CCSG is Dr. Gary Tabor, the founder and President of CLLC.
CCSG will soon release the first-ever IUCN Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors. The main objective of these Guidelines is to clarify and standardize consistent practices for the effective design, governance, and management of larger conservation networks of protected and conserved areas that are connected by designated ecological corridors.
Over the past few years, news stories describing the decline in global wildlife have generally referenced the Living Planet Index (LPI), which is based on methodology developed by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London. The LPI indicates that wildlife populations have declined by 60% from 1970 through 2014. The LPI does not estimate the extent of the wildlife decline that occurred before 1970.
In 1995, Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist in Vancouver, Canada, published a landmark paper, “Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries,” in which he notes that fisheries scientists sometimes failed to identify the correct “baseline” population (or how abundant a fish species was before human exploitation), which affected their estimates about a particular fishery’s sustainable harvest. As a result, long-term declines in wildlife populations become difficult to identify, since each generation redefines a new baseline for what is “natural.”
Pets and Coronavirus: An Update
May 30, 2020
In the last WellBeing News (Issue 2:4), we ran a short item on pets and the coronavirus. We would like to draw readers’ attention to an excellent new review of all the studies to date that have looked at the potential for pets to catch the coronavirus and pass it to their human guardians. The review, “Infected not infectious,” was produced by the International Companion Animal Management Coalition (ICAM) and provides summaries of the available studies on pets and coronavirus as of May 14, as well as a nifty graphic showing the numbers of humans, dogs and cats that have been reported as having been infected by the coronavirus.
Graph showing the numbers of humans, dogs and cats that have been reported as having been infected by the coronavirus.
Photo by: Dr. Naveen Pandey
India is closing in on having the largest human population of any country. This has placed pressure on India’s conservation areas as people look for places to live and support themselves and their families. Dr. Naveen Pandey, the Deputy Director of the Corbett Foundation and a veterinarian, is deeply involved in projects to reduce human-wildlife conflict around conservation areas and disease control for animals (both wild and domestic). The photograph, for example, shows an Indian household that has built a tiger-proof enclosure to protect their livestock. Please click the Read More link for a description of the challenges that must be overcome to advance One Health in rural India.
March 30, 2020 | By Bryan Kortis, Esq. – Neighborhood Cats Hawaii
Photo by: Neighborhood Cats Hawaii
As I sit here tapping out this essay, one thing on my mind is how best to respond to the latest proposal on cats being promoted here in Hawaii by the conservation community. Here in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, conservationists are pushing the county government to launch a cat eradication campaign, using the threat of a major lawsuit if the county refuses. This “solution” has been proposed even though the only shelter on Kauai refuses to participate, there are other policy options that could be more effective, and the only successful cat eradication campaigns have occurred on uninhabited islands at costs ranging into the millions of dollars.
March 13, 2020 | By Matt Biggar, Ph.D
Community Sharing – California, Photo by M. Biggar
I remember seeing a quote some years ago that distilled the problems we face as a human society down to one fundamental reason – viewing other people and other species as less than ourselves. I’ve continued to think about this as the harm we cause our fellow humans and nature escalate. These views, tendencies and dispositions are deeply ingrained in our cultures and minds, often subconsciously and under the surface. Looking at the other as inferior is fueled by separation and influenced by a host of factors, including politicians who divide us. We are prone to seeing other human groups in a negative light and the non-human web of life as something we can exploit or ignore when we exist in separate places. Changing attitudes and our treatment of others and nature is unlikely when our daily experiences involve little of either.
January 29, 2020 | By David Hensher PhD FASSA ([email protected])
The summer fires in Australia mark a cataclysmic reminder that climate change is hurting our planet and that we need to recognise it and plan for a future that minimises the risk to humans and wildlife. As soon as the bushfires in Australia reached an emergency level in January, some relief occurred in the form of rain but not steady rain. Instead, we had storms accompanied by severe winds that resulted in floods and some property damage. We are seeing a growing variation in weather patterns which can, to some significant degree, be attributed to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.
Photo by Dr. David Hensher. He drove for 45 minutes (40-50 miles) through a burnt landscape in the Blue Mountains, NSW.
Andrew White, Greyton Conservation Society, South Africa.
The world over, wild animals pose a challenge to humans, from elephants in the savannah to coyotes in suburbia. Greyton, a community of 11,000 people about 80 miles from Cape Town, is not exempt. Here we have our own set of problems shared by many villages and cities in Southern Africa.
Baboon eating spaghetti, Jonkerhuis Restaurant, Cape Town, Sept. 2019.
https://www.capetownetc.com/news/pasta-eating-baboon-still-alive/
People are increasingly struggling to ‘get along’ with the Chacma baboon. Tensions rise as the baboons move into human territory and start to enter and ransack homes. Once the baboons develop a taste for human food, they want more, and it always ends badly for the baboons because humans take action to defend their property—shooting and killing. Recently, a large male baboon jumped a “baboon-proof” fence to dine on spaghetti Bolognese at an outdoor restaurant near Cape Town before being chased back into the mountains.
December 17, 2019 | By Meg Daley Olmert
I’m Meg Daley Olmert and for the last 20 years I’ve been researching the biology of the human-animal bond and its therapeutic effects. In 2011, I joined the Warrior Canine Connection Program at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, an innovative and highly effective animal-assisted intervention that involves US Veterans in the training of service dogs to reduce the symptoms of combat trauma.
In 2017, I received a call from Sarah Schmidt, the founder and president of The Big Fix Uganda—a non-profit, based in Port Townsend, WA that operates the only veterinary hospital in Northern Uganda. Since 2012, The Big Fix has provided veterinary services, 365 days a year, to ease the suffering of animals in Northern Uganda and eradicate the deadly threat of rabies.
The fate of dogs in Northern Uganda is grim. Everyone has them, but these dogs are not pets. They provide home security—essential when you do not have a front door—and valuable hunting partners. Despite their service, they are often neglected, abused, and even killed. This emotional disconnect is fueled by the very real fear of rabies and the horror of a war that left many human survivors equally reviled and abused.
Photo Courtesy of The BIG FIX Uganda
The Big Fix animal hospital is in Gulu, the birthplace of Joseph Kony, the warlord who kidnapped 30,000 boys and girls and forced them into killing or sex slavery—or both. Those who made it out of the bush returned to their villages where they were reviled and shunned as murderers or whores. Children born of rape are rejected as “Kony’s kids.” Sexual violence has left many with HIV. On average, 10 people in the Gulu district commit suicide monthly, with another 3 suicide attempts per week.
By Beth Allgood, Country Director, US, International Fund for Animal Welfare
Since 2015, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have served as a framework for a holistic approach to development that recognizes the need to incorporate non-economic measures of growth and human well-being. The SDG guidelines are a bold attempt to accomplish some of the most comprehensive global goals ever proclaimed—ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
However, with the exception of SDG 14 (Life Below Water) and SDG 15 (Life on Land), the majority of the seventeen SDGs lack a key aspect: weaving animal welfare and conservation into the development of each goal. Though this expectation may seem unrealistic at first, all living things are connected—humanity is undeniably linked with our fellow species and the relationship among humans, animals, and nature remains as critical as ever. The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) report “Thriving Together” (see below) examines how the inclusion of animal welfare and conservation is vital to successful achievement of the SDGs.
July 31, 2019 | By Mark Jones BVSc, MSc (Stir), MSc (UL), MRCVS,
Head of Policy, Born Free Foundation
Pangolin Photo-Maria Diekmann/REST
The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, published recently by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), estimated that a million species may be at risk of extinction. IPBES, which identified economic exploitation among the key drivers of biodiversity loss, emphasized that ‘transformative changes’ are required to restore and protect nature, and indicated a need to overcome opposition from vested interests. These are strong words from an intergovernmental body, and they come not a moment too soon.
Photo by Masahiro Iijima
Established in 1973, Chitwan (950 Sq. Km) is Nepal’s first National Park. This World Heritage Site is currently home to 600 Greater One-Horned Asian Rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). This is a six-fold increase in rhino numbers since 1968 when a helicopter-cum-ground count estimated that there were no more than 110 rhinos in the Chitwan Valley.
Chitwan houses the world’s second largest population of the species. The largest population (2,400 individuals) is in India’s Kaziranga National Park (430 Sq. Km.) in the state of Assam in North-East India. The major threat to rhino populations in India is poaching.
Photo by Masahiro Iijima
South Africa, like many countries around the world, is struggling to balance the needs of the environment as well as the development and infrastructure needs of the people. The Western Cape (in the southern portion of the country) is the home of a unique Cape Floral Region – Fynbos (which translates as “small leaf”). Fynbos is one of the five floral kingdoms in the world and it is only found in the southern tip of the African continent. Marshall Rinquest, who was raised and educated in the Western Cape, has become an important educator and role model for people who are fortunate enough to live in the region in the midst of Fynbos.
Apr 18, 2019 | By Andrew Rowan
Thirty years ago, the Kruger National Park in South Africa was managing its elephant population at a population around 7,500 elephants via an annual culling program. This stopped in the mid-1990s and Kruger then began to translocate elephants to private conservancies and other provincial and national parks. Initially, the translocations were rather haphazard but then they began to translocate whole “family” groups. In 1996, Kwatile (Xitsonga or Shangaan for “the angry one”) was an older elephant matriarch who was translocated with her group of 8 elephants to the Greater Makalali Private Game Reserve (GMPGR) to join three other family groups. Kwatile was well-named in that the Makalali rangers and personnel always had to be careful around her as they never knew when she might take offense and, when an elephant matriarch takes offense, any people nearby have to watch out!
Mar 31, 2019 | By Dr. John Hadidian
Dr. John Hadidian, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability, 900 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, VA 22208.  [email protected]By any account these are not good times for wild animals.  Global climate change threatens many species (such as polar bears) with rapid habitat changes to which they might not be able to adapt.  Poaching threatens many others, including the culturally significant rhinoceros and elephant and the less iconic but even more imperiled pangolin.  World fisheries are near a point of collapse from over harvest and unnecessary death awaits many animals as by catch entrapped in nets or hooked on long-line rigs.  Although we have had little information to date on direct human-caused mortality, recent research summarizing more than a thousand studies of 305 radio-collared species finds 28% of all deaths can be directly attributed to human action, 17% of these from hunting.  Less measurable, but undoubtedly far more numerous are deaths from vehicle collisions, impacts with glass on buildings, entombment and other deaths from land clearing for develop, and poisoning by pesticides and other toxicants that humans repeatedly introduce into the environment.
Dr. William Lynn, Clark University, The George Perkins Marsh Institute, 950 Main Street, Worcester, MA 01610. [email protected] 
Dr. John Hadidian, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability, 900 N. Glebe Rd., Arlington, VA 22208.  [email protected]

Wildlife conservation had its beginning in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, largely in response to the widespread destruction of wildlife through market hunting. Notable among its early supporters was our 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt (TR), who was almost solely responsible for setting aside vast swaths of land that would become our first wildlife refuges. Teddy’s passion was for birds, and fittingly his first set asides were aimed at the shore birds, herons and egrets being devastated for the millinery trade where their plumes were used to decorate ladies’ hats.
Dr. Hemanta Mishra is a Nepalese conservation biologist who has become interested in the plight of street dogs in South Asia. The following blog provides an anecdote from his visit to Mumbai to meet with the Tata Trusts in 2011.
A recent article in the Guardian newspaper (UK) by Dr Ranjana Srivastava comments on the importance of the human-animal connection for some of her patients. Dr. Srivastava conveys poignantly and concretely how pets influence our lives and can provide meaning and purpose. One of the cases illustrates the role of a pet to combat loneliness. That focus helps to illustrate a critical role that pets and contact with animals can play in health care.
In 1991, Ms Lilian Schnog took on the responsibility for an animal shelter (the Asociacion Humanitaria Para la Proteccion Animal de Costa Rica – AHPPA or Refugio) with a few small cages, a leaky surgical room and more than 100 cats and dogs in residence. At the time, Costa Rica’s approach to animal overpopulation was to poison the animals in the streets. Dogs and cats “lucky” enough to have a home were seen as working animals. Some believed that a hungry cat would catch more mice and a chained dog would be a better watchdog. Many were fed leftovers but, if there were none, the animals remained hungry. When the animals were no longer useful or wanted by their owners, they would be thrown out on the street. Since many of the abandoned animals were females, overpopulation of stray animals was a huge problem.