Returning from a recent 1,000-mile expedition across Tibet's remote Chang Tang region, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) biologist George Schaller reports that the Tibetan antelope -- once the target of rampant poaching -- may be increasing in numbers due to a combination of better enforcement and a growing conservation ethic in local communities.
The eight-week journey, which was co-funded by WCS and National Geographic, took place over a remarkably uninhabited region that routinely ranged between 16,000-17,000 feet. There, Schaller, along with WCS staff member Aili Kang and a team of Tibetan and Han-Chinese biologists and field assistants, counted nearly 9,000 Tibetan antelope or chiru, more than expected. This may indicate an increase in some places for this endangered species, according to Schaller. At the same time, the team witnessed no direct evidence of the widespread poaching that was evident just a few years ago.
"China has made a major effort to control poaching," said Schaller. "The large poaching gangs of the 1990s, which were at times arrested with 600 or more chiru hides largely ceased to exist.
Tibetan antelope produce the finest wool in the world, known as shahtoosh, which translates to "king of wool." Beginning in the late 1980s, shahtoosh shawls became fashionable in Europe and the U.S., which fueled a black market and widespread poaching in this remote area. In the mid 1990s, Schaller estimated that perhaps 75,000 chiru remained in the wild, with as many as 20,000 falling to poachers annually. However, no comprehensive census of chiru has ever taken place due to a sprawling range that spans more than 250,000 square miles.
The team also counted more than 1,000 wild yak, a relatively high number for a species that's far more endangered than the chiru, due to hunting and hybridization with domestic yak. The group saw an increase in wild asses, too, though they are persecuted by nomads who believe they compete with livestock for grass.
Schaller noted that some nomadic communities living in the Chang Tang region have made concerted efforts to safeguard their wildlife and have established local wildlife preserves to protect populations of wild yak and other wildlife.
"These wholly local Tibetan initiatives are the best means of establishing long-lasting conservation efforts, and they should be encouraged in every possible way," said Schaller.
The journey traversed the entire northern Chang Tang region, a feat that hadn't been accomplished in over a century, when in 1896 two British army officers made the journey on horseback, according to Schaller. Forsaking horses this time, Schaller's expedition used two Land Cruisers and two trucks -- one of which was lost when it broke through ice while crossing a frozen lake and became entombed in mud.
Much of the journey took place across the rugged and windswept Chang Tang Reserve, a Colorado-sized park, which WCS helped convince the Chinese Government to establish in 1993.
Stephen Sautner | EurekAlert!
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy