Monday, January 28, 2008

White lion conservation

The Global White Lion Protection Trust states that a primary aim of theirs "is to establish a sub-population of white lions integrated with wild tawny lions within their greater endemic range..."

A noble conservation project you think? On the website there is a lot being said about years gone by and the removal of white lions or "tawny lions carrying the white gene" from the Timbavati area of South Africa. It is therefore worthwhile reintroducing these animals to the Timbavati area you might think.

But hang on! In 2006 white lion cubs were born in two different lion prides within the greater Timbavati area. Clearly the genes leading to the periodic appearance of the white lion is still within the prides in the greater Timbavati area. So why reintroduce them?

Would it not be better to investigate the genetics of these prides and to try and get a handle on the prevalence of the relevant genes causing the white phenotype within the numerous lion prides within the greater Timbavati area?

Moreover, the Global White Lion Protection Trust "is also putting together an application to have white lions listed on the IUCN Red Data List of Endangered and Threatened Species". The problem here is obvious - white lions are not a separate species or even a subspecies as is evident from the fact that tawny lions occasionally produce white cubs.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The newspapers just aren't getting it right are they?

This week the Sunday Times (January 6, 2007) had an article on the birth of a new black rhino calf at one of the private reserves in Limpopo. The birth of this calf certainly is worth reporting on, but how long are we going to continue the skewed perceptions. Black rhino's are hardly "the most endangered large African mammal" as the article states.

A recent study investigating the persistence of large mammals (Morrison et al. 2007) describes a large mammal as >20kg. Off the top of my head, I can think of a couple of African mammals weighing more than 20kg that are far more threatened than the black rhino - giant sable antelope (Angola), addax (Niger and other N African countries), scimitar-horned oryx (reintroduced population in Tunisia), etc.

Come on guys, please do your homework before the papers go to press!