This September, the EDGE of Existence team are excited to be hosting 10 EDGE Fellows from our 2017 cohort. They will attend a two week Conservation Leadership training course at ZSL to provide them with the skills necessary to scale up their projects following the end of their Fellowship. They will learn conflict resolution, communication, fundraising and project leadership skills, as well as have the opportunity to network and collaborate with ZSL’s conservation experts.
Meet the Fellows
Aurelie Hector, Mauritius
Aurelie has worked for the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation since 2014 on a variety of conservation projects before becoming a Warden on Round Island, a small, uninhabited islet north of Mauritius. Her project is focused on the Round Island keel-scaled boa, the sole surviving representative of its family, Bolyeridae. The Round Island boa is unique among terrestrial vertebrates in that it has a “hinged” upper jaw, which is adapted to catch its preferred prey of geckos and skinks.
Her project aims to determine whether existing monitoring methods for the Round Island boa are suitable for detecting changes in abundance, survival and condition as a result of restoration activities on Round Island. She has also being investigating whether photographic recognition software could replace PIT-tags to identify individuals for capture-mark-recapture, which would be a more affordable and less invasive method of identification. Ultimately she hopes to complete an updated IUCN Red List assessment for the Round Island boa, to understand the current status of the species.
Andrew Ross Reintar, Philippines
Andrew is a driven and dedicated wildlife researcher interested in the study of endemic, threatened and less studied species. Following his university studies, he has been gaining experience working for the Philippines Biodiversity Conservation Foundation Inc. as a Field Projects Officer. His project is focused on the Cebu Flowerpecker, a very rare bird which was believed to be extinct due to extensive habitat clearance; with only 0.03% of original forest cover left in the 1990’s. However, bird watchers rediscovered the bird in 1992.
Andrew’s project aims to provide an updated on the population and habitat status of the Cebu Flowerpecker and to strengthen protection activities in the remaining forests of Cebu, including the training of forest wardens and volunteers. There is no known photograph of the Cebu Flowerpecker, and although he has spotted the bird several times throughout his project he has yet to capture a photograph – we still have faith that he will!
Emmanuel Amoah, Ghana
Emmanuel has completed his MPhil at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Ghana, which incorporates his work on slender-snouted crocodiles. The West African slender-snouted crocodile, on which Emmanuel’s project is based, is a unique, elusive and poorly-known crocodilian with a long, slender snout which is perfectly adapted to catching fish – the main food source for the species.
Emmanuel’s project focuses on identifying and conserving the last remaining key habitats for this species in Ghana. He has been engaging local communities through outreach, highlighting the importance of this species, identifying ways to change behaviours such as hunting (deliberate and accidental by-catch) and implementing sustainable fishing practices.
Sandeep Das, India
Sandeep has been researching purple frog ecology for the past 7 years and was part of a team that provided the first detailed account of its reproductive biology. This EDGE project is a continuation of Sandeep’s work on the amphibians of the Western Ghats in Kerala, focused on the purple frog. The purple frog spends much of its life underground, emerging briefly for a few days each year at the start of the monsoons to breed. Due to its burrowing behaviour the species was long overlooked by science, only being formally described in 2003.
Sandeep aims to assess the distribution, habitat preferences and threats to the purple frog, including disease. He intends to provide the evidence base needed to develop a Conservation Action Plan (CAP) and work with relevant stakeholders to implement the CAP. He has more recently identified road traffic accidents as a threat to the purple frog in his study region and has started an awareness program aimed at drivers using the forest road at night.
Judith Mirembe, Uganda
Judith began working with NatureUganda as an intern conducting bird population monitoring. After completing her degree at Makerere University, she joined the staff at NatureUganda as a Research and Monitoring Programme Assistant. Her project is focused on the Shoebill, a large waterbird which is unmistakeable due to its unique ‘shoe-shaped’ bill, which gives it an almost prehistoric appearance.
Judith’s project aims to conserve important Shoebill habitat in the Mabamba Bay wetland, Uganda. She has been engaging the local community in her project, and has employed a sustainable Community Conserved Areas (CCA) technique that will enable the community to manage their own resources sustainably. She has provided community training to develop practical skills such as identifying and monitoring Shoebill populations, status, resources and habitat.
Rita Ratsisetraina, Madagascar
Having previously worked for the Wildlife Conservation Society, WWF and Conservation International, Rita founded the Malagasy organisation Nosy Maitso in 2013 to fight biodiversity loss and degradation. Her project focuses on one of the largest species of lemur, the red-ruffed lemur, which lives on the east coast of Madagascar. Despite living in separate ranges to its sister species, the black and white ruffed lemur, the two can understand each others calls and communications.
Rita’s project aims to provide baseline information on the status and trends of the red-ruffed lemur population, and species biology, ecology and adaptation strategies in a highly disturbed and changing habitat. She also intends to disseminate technical and scientific recommendations for conservation management planning to better address biodiversity loss.
Bruktawit Abdu, Ethiopia
Bruk previously led a project to assess the ecosystem services of some of the most critical sites for biodiversity across Ethiopia, and helped to establish support groups to monitor and conserve ecosystems at each site. Her project is focused on the White-winged Flufftail, a very rare and tiny African bird which breeds north of the Equator in Ethiopia and then migrates south to Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The White-winged Flufftail is a ground-nesting bird which breeds in the highland marshes of central Ethiopia, which has unfortunately led to the species being threatened by livestock grazing and grass-cutting in their breeding grounds.
Bruk’s project aims to assess three sites where the species if known to occur to determine its population size, density and current distribution. She has also been working to improve the capacity of the local community to enable them to conduct standardised surveys of threatened species in the region.
Horris Wanyama, Kenya
Horris has been a Research Assistant with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), in partnership with ZSL, for over 4 years. In this role he works within Tsavo West National Park to deliver projects tackling the illegal wildlife trade. He has developed rhino conservation projects within the Tsavo Conservation Area using new technologies, such as ZSL’s SMART and Instant Detect, to tackle changing socio-economic and poaching challenges. Populations of black rhino, the focus of his work, decreased by a massive 96% between 1970 and 1992, the largest decline of any rhino species.
Horris’ project incorporates the use of modern monitoring technologies, community participatory initiatives and population performance monitoring, to better inform park management decisions. He has also been training local communities, park rangers, security and researchers in effective management of black rhino populations.
Naina Rabemananjara, Madagascar
Naina had previously worked as an Assistant Officer on a conservation project examining the threats to the Critically Endangered Sahamalaza sportive lemur in Madagascar. He has also studied sifakas, another lemur species, and conducted surveys to ascertain levels of bushmeat consumption in important areas for lemurs. His project focuses on the Northern giant mouse lemur, an unassuming nocturnal lemur which has the largest testes to body ratio of all mammals!
Naina aims to update the species IUCN Red List assessment and undertake key activities highlighted by the Primate Action Plan. He is engaging local communities in the project, using outreach activities to identify ways to change behaviours around illegal logging and hunting. Through identification of sites with illegal encroachment from agricultural and slash-and-burn practices, to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement patrols and target areas where restoration is needed.
Sylviane Rakotozafy, Madagascar
Following completion of her MSc in Animal Biology and Conservation Sylviane has worked as a conservationist on a wide range of projects in Madagascar, from amphibians and reptiles to lemurs, and most recently as a consultant for the Peregrine Fund studying the endangered gecko Phelsuma klemmeri in its new locality. Her project is focused on the Madagascar frog, a micro-endemic frog, that lives and breeds in high-altitude streams in the Ankaratra Massif, central Madagascar. The frog was described in 1974, but was not recorded again for over 40 years until 2010.
Sylviane aims to monitor existing populations of Madagascar frog and extensively survey other suitable habitats to search for potential new populations of Madagascar frog. She also intends to characterise the extent of gene flow among remnant populations of these species and how this has been affected by historical forest loss.