Conservation: Europe and Latin America Programs
Species and Habitat: Iberian Ibex
SCI Foundation has partnered with researchers in Spain to investigate the factors influencing the transmission of maladies like sarcoptic mange in Iberian ibex. It appears that seasonal changes in grooming behavior may be highly influential. This research builds on the growing body of knowledge that goes beyond immunity to study the mechanical effect of social behavior in disease transmission. Being free of foreign bodies and particles is termed “neatness.” How grooming affects the rate of colonization by parasites like mange may have population-level impacts for ibex and other species.
Pathogen transmission obviously increases when animals congregate. Animals that congregate are unknowingly increasing their risk of exposure to parasites and facilitating the spread of bacteria and viruses from one susceptible host to another. One strategy to cope with increased parasite loads is to participate in social grooming, where individuals of the same species remove ecto-parasites such as ticks from other members of the herd. In some species, males and females have significant differences in the density of hair, which may influence parasite colonization and ability to groom; other species may have different strategies for coping with parasite loads in a herd situation.
The research supported by SCI Foundation led to the publication of a scientific paper called, “Neatness depends on season, age, and sex in Iberian ibex” published in Behavioral Ecology, June 2011. The paper described how variables that influence grooming in ibex were experimentally tested. A large part of the analysis described how time of year, age and sex of the animal influence mange infection rate. The Conservation Grant provided by SCIF is helping to increase the understanding of, not simply why these mechanisms exist in individual mammals but, how the processes function, and the broader implications to the species.
Species and Habitat: Alpine Ibex
Italian Chapter, $100,000 USD Financial Investment for 2006-2010: In August 2004, an epidemic of sarcopatic scabies, combined with a very cold and snowy winter, hit the Marmolada National Park Area, causing the alpine ibex population to decrease from about 500 to less than 150.
The goal of this project, which began in 2006 and is entirely financed by the Italian Chapter, is to protect and save the alpine ibex population in the Marmoladaarea. The project will study for the first time the genetic evolution and resistance to the disease, testing the theories of Guberti/Zamboni and Leung/Grenfell. The approximately $100,000 supplied by the chapter funds work performed by the provincia di Belluno, Corpo Forestale dello Stato, regione Friuli Venezia Giulia, Department of Animal Production, Epidemiology and Ecology of Torino University, and Department of Animal Science of Padova University.
The researchers will get important indications on the seasonal migration and area occupation of the restocked ibex population. To save the population from disappearing, some ibex have been captured inTarvisio National Park. They have been treated with anti-parasite medication, marked with ear tags, equipped with radio transmitter collars, and transported to Marmolada National Park, where they were released to restock the existing population.
This new, genetically recombined population will be studied by a scientific team on weekly basis for five years, concluding in 2010. In case of future homing/dispersion of some of the released ibex specimens, the same number will be captured again in Tarvisio National Park and again released in Marmolada National Park. For their excellence in conservation achievement, the Italian Chapter received the 2007 SCIF Diamond Conservation Chapter Award.
Species and Habitat: Jaguar
The Mexico Jaguar Program was completed by SCI Foundation and United for Conservation, a Mexican conservation organization. This project had humble beginnings but soon grew into the most successful Jaguar project ever conducted in capturing and radio collaring jaguars with 25 jaguars and six cougars collared in two different study sites. One study site is inside the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve and... the other is in an actively managed forestry community called Caobas Ejido. The objective of the study was to gain an ecological understanding of jaguars in order to support future management and conservation of "El Tigre - Lord of the Mayan Jungle." This project gained significant recognition and support such as the $225,000 that SCI Foundation was able to leverage from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for the project.