Oct 22, 2020
According to their press release, a new report published in recent weeks by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) calls for a broader, more integrated approach to the conservation of small cetaceans, particularly dolphins and porpoises. Many species and populations that are only found close to human activities are quickly declining due to known but unsolved problems – primarily accidental drowning in fishing gillnets. The report recommends urgent actions for several species and subspecies at risk of extinction, including Atlantic humpback dolphins, Yangtze finless porpoises, Franciscana dolphins, and Indus and Ganges river dolphins, and development of integrated conservation plans with explicit consideration of all measures and strategies that might be needed to save these and other threatened dolphin and porpoise species.
Director of Life Sciences for the Seattle Aquarium, Grant Abel, returns to describe a "seminal" 2018 workshop in Nuremberg, Germany prompted by the realization that more tools were needed to prevent further extinctions of dolphins and porpoises following the recent extinction of the Yangtze River dolphin in China and the catastrophic decline of the vaquita porpoise in Mexico. A plan had been developed to save the Yangtze river dolphin by temporarily moving animals into protected areas until the threats to their survival had been addressed. Similar actions to conserve the critically endangered vaquita were attempted. In both cases, these efforts to protect the species came too late to succeed, as there were too few animals left.
At this workshop, a scientific working group made up of conservation biologists, veterinarians, and marine mammal population experts discussed novel approaches to dolphin and porpoise conservation that are routinely used for terrestrial species. The working group consisted of experts from 14 countries.
The resulting workshop report recommends that marine mammal conservationists around the world work together and act with urgency to consider critically needed conservation measures both in wild environments within the species’ geographic range (in situ) and in protected or modified environments within or outside that range (ex situ). This holistic framework for species conservation planning is known as the One Plan approach. People frequently associate the term “ex situ conservation” with captive breeding of individuals in zoos and aquariums. In reality, ex situ approaches comprise a variety of actions including safeguarding animals in protected environments such as semi-natural reserves to prevent species extinction; initiating research programs to fill gaps in our understanding of a species’ biology and threats to its survival; rescue and release of stranded or otherwise incapacitated individuals; and public engagement programs to promote understanding and support of species conservation. The One Plan approach, developed by the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Conservation Planning Specialist Group, features direct involvement of many stakeholders – conservation scientists, NGO representatives, government wildlife managers, local community leaders and industry representatives – combined with science-based decision making to improve species conservation planning.
That Sounds Wild: Siamang. Wildlife World Zoo Aquarium & Safari Park