Nav: Home

HKU biologist reveals important role cities play in conservation of threatened species

January 04, 2017

The exhaustive international trade of wildlife has pushed many species to the brink of extinction. Coincidentally, many of the same species have been introduced to urban centres or wilderness areas outside their natural ranges. In a recent study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, authors from Hong Kong and Australia find that these introduced populations may provide hope for these threatened species.

"Across the planet, poachers have reached into the last remote habitats to harvest wildlife populations used for clothing, eaten, or kept as pets in faraway cities," said Dr. Luke Gibson from the School of Biological Sciences of the University of Hong Kong, who led the study.

"In some cases, the traded organisms have escaped and are now thriving in their introduced habitats," he added.

In total, the authors identified 49 globally threatened species - those listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as Vulnerable, Endangered, or Critically Endangered - which have established introduced populations outside their native distribution. These include amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds, as well as insects and plants, with introduced populations found on all continents except Antarctica.

One example is the Yellow-crested Cockatoo, Critically Endangered due to capture for the pet trade. Ironically, many of these pet birds were accidentally or deliberately released in their new environments. Currently, about 200 Yellow-crested Cockatoos - an estimated 10% of the bird's global population - are found on Hong Kong Island, mostly between Pokfulam and Happy Valley.

"This is a key example of how Hong Kong - a heavily urbanised city-state - can play a role in the conservation of globally threatened species," said co-author Ding Li Yong, from the Australian National University.

Reintroduction of this species to its native range in Indonesia and East Timor could help to buffer populations there, which are rapidly declining due to poaching.

Alternatively, the harvest of the introduced cockatoos in Hong Kong could offset demand from its native range. Both approaches could also eliminate threats the introduced population might pose to native species in its introduced environment, such as monopolising nesting sites and triggering population declines of local birds.

Combined, augmenting declining populations in their native ranges and eliminating the threats to native ecosystems could "save two birds with one stone," as Gibson puts it. "This creative tactic could be essential to save species imperilled by wildlife trade as well as eliminate threats the same species pose in their adopted territories."
-end-
The article "Saving two birds with one stone: Solving the quandary of introduced, threatened species" published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment is available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.1449/abstract.

Media enquiries:

Research Assistant Professor of the School of Biological Sciences Dr Luke Gibson (Tel: +852-2299-0674; email: lgibson@hku.hk)

The University of Hong Kong

Related Conservation Articles:

Conservation research on lynx
Scientists at the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) and the Leibniz Institute for Molecular Pharmacology (Leibniz-FMP) discovered that selected anti-oxidative enzymes, especially the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD2), may play an important role to maintain the unusual longevity of the corpus luteum in lynxes.
New 'umbrella' species would massively improve conservation
The protection of Australia's threatened species could be improved by a factor of seven, if more efficient 'umbrella' species were prioritised for protection, according to University of Queensland research.
Conservation's hidden costs take bite out of benefits
Scientists show that even popular conservation programs can harbor hidden costs, often for vulnerable populations.
Trashed farmland could be a conservation treasure
Low-productivity agricultural land could be transformed into millions of hectares of conservation reserve across the world, according to University of Queensland-led research.
Bats in attics might be necessary for conservation
Researchers investigate and describe the conservation importance of buildings relative to natural, alternative roosts for little brown bats in Yellowstone National Park.
Applying biodiversity conservation research in practice
One million species are threatened with extinction, many of them already in the coming decades.
Making conservation 'contagious'
New research reveals conservation initiatives often spread like disease, a fact which can help scientists and policymakers design programs more likely to be taken up.
Helping conservation initiatives turn contagious
New research shows that conservation initiatives go viral, which helps scientists and policymakers better design successful programs more likely to be adopted.
Overturning the truth on conservation tillage
Conservation tillage does not lower yield in modern cropping systems.
Talking to each other -- how forest conservation can succeed
Forest conservation can be a source of tension between competing priorities and interests from forestry, science, administration and nature conservation organizations.
More Conservation News and Conservation Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.