A look back at 2015
As another busy year comes to an end at Fauna & Flora International (FFI), we take a look back at some of our more striking stories from the last 12 months….
New legless amphibian discovered in Cambodia
In January, a new species of legless amphibian was discovered in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains. This marked the second caecilian species ever to be found in the country and shows that much of Cambodia’s biodiversity remains a mystery.
Scallop numbers soar in Scottish marine reserve
A study by the University of York, supported by FFI, showed how a community-led marine reserve in Scotland has benefited scallop populations. Lamlash Bay no take zone, which was established in 2008, now has a greater abundance of juvenile scallops inside the reserve than outside. Adult scallops within the reserve were also found to be larger and more fertile.
Liberian camera trap survey captures rare footage of forest elephants
In March, we were excited to announce that a camera-trapping survey carried out by FFI in Liberia had captured the country’s only footage of elephants outside a designated protected area. The survey also recorded a wide range of species including chimpanzees, pygmy hippos and zebra duiker.
New monkey species discovered in the Amazon Rainforest
April saw the announcement that scientists had discovered a new species of titi monkey in Brazil, distinguished by its flaming orange tail, ochre sideburns and light grey forehead stripe. The new species has been named Milton’s titi monkey, in honour of Dr Milton Thiago de Mello, a noted Brazilian primatologist.
Black vultures return to southern Portugal
There was also cause for celebration in April when two breeding pairs of Eurasian black vultures were sighted in southern Portugal after four decades of absence. The species is regarded as Critically Endangered in Portugal and nesting platforms have been constructed by FFI’s partner – Liga para a Protecção da Natureza – to help birds re-colonise the region.
Ranger killed by poachers in Garamba National Park, DRC
Distressing news was announced in May, when ranger Agoyo Mbikoyo was killed by armed poachers while on duty in Garamba National Park, Democratic Republic of Congo highlighting that this crisis has a great human cost as well as threatening the survival of wildlife.
High street brands pledge to phase out plastic microbeads
In more positive news, June saw a large number of leading UK retailers pledge to phase out plastic microbeads from own-brand cosmetic and beauty products. Microplastic pollution is believed to be a major threat to marine wildlife, and it is encouraging to see so many UK manufacturers and retailers responding seriously to the issue.
Sub-Antarctic fur seal found in unexpected waters
July marked a very unusual sighting of a sub-Antarctic fur seal on the northern coast of Kenya – 210 km outside the species’ normal range. A fisherman working in Kiunga Marine National Reserve found the large mammal entangled in his net and sought help from a team of conservationists in the area.
Celebrating a canine hero
In August, FFI launched a short film about Diego – an anti-poaching dog stationed at Ol Pejeta Conservancy who, together with his handlers, is helping to deter and detect wildlife crime.
Found! Fishing cat in coastal Cambodia
A camera trap survey provided remarkable footage of the Endangered fishing cat, confirming the species still exists in parts of Cambodia. The population of fishing cats has been rapidly declining due to the disappearance of their wetland habitat, so this is a significant finding that will help conservationists develop a plan for protecting these animals.
Mountain gorilla census begins in the Virunga Massif
October saw the start of a new mountain gorilla population census in the Virunga Massif, led by the Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration. The census will prove critical in guiding future efforts to conserve this Critically Endangered great ape across its transboundary range.
New conservation technology network launches
In November, we supported the launch of a new online platform that will allow an international community of conservationists and technology experts to share ideas and information. Using this network, experts can collaborate and find effective technology-based solutions to the most pressing threats to our natural world.
Vietnam’s primates ‘on the edge of extinction’
In November, primate experts revealed a revised list of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. The findings for Vietnam were particularly dire, with 11 species listed as Critically Endangered. FFI is currently working on the conservation of five of these species.
Sniffing out success
More canine news in December as sniffer dog Dak and his handler Marat (both part of FFI’s K9 team in Kazakhstan) won a national competition for dog specialists. The K9 team is trained to find illegally-smuggled saiga horns for the Kazakhstan customs service – providing much needed help in the fight against the illegal trade of this Critically Endangered species.
What was your favourite conservation story of 2015? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.