State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Finding Threatened Animals New Homes

Climate change is one of the major contemporary drivers of species extinctions: according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, approximately 20 to 30 percent of animal species are at an increasingly high risk of extinction as temperatures rise. Species in extreme habitats such as the emperor penguin in the Antarctic (due to prolonged abnormal warm periods with reduced sea-ice extent) and elephants in Myanmar (due to an increased risk of drought and disease) have already experienced drastic declines in populations from the impacts of climate change.

Giraffe in Senegal, imported from South Africa
Giraffe in Senegal, imported from South Africa

Research published today in the Journal of Applied Ecology notes that scientists at the Zoological Society of London have created a new technique to examine and pinpoint new spaces for fauna threatened by climate change.

Translocation in wildlife conservation is the capture, transport and release or introduction of species, habitats or other ecological material from one location to another. The authors argue that many species will need to move to a different location in order to survive. For species that are unable to relocate naturally, the only chance of survival may be to assist them in colonization.

Drawing upon their knowledge of species ecology and conservation, these scientists developed innovative maps indicating suitable habitats for endangered animals that will remain viable in the future despite global climate change.

The researchers provide details on the the relocation of the hihi bird, one of New Zealand’s rarest birds as a conservation success story, despite being short-lived.

Male Stitchbird, or Hihi (Notiomystis cincta) Tiritiri Matangi island Photo Credit: Duncan Wright
Male Stitchbird, or Hihi (Notiomystis cincta) Tiritiri Matangi island Photo Credit: Duncan Wright
During the 1980s, introduced predators, habitat loss, and disease dramatically reduced the population size of this medium-sized endemic forest-dwelling passerine. As a result, conservation management teams sought to establish new population on nearby islands. However, despite large investments into its protection, the efforts have failed to establish further self-sustaining populations.

Now, climate change poses an additional threat to its future survival. Do you think translocations will continue to be an important part of conservation for the hihi bird and other threatened wildlife as climate changes intensify?

— Interested in learning more? Join EICES in class or online to examine issues concerning conservation management strategies as part of the Earth Institute’s Executive Education Certificate in Conservation and Environmental Sustainability. Contact Brian Kateman, Assistant Program Manager of Education Programs, at bk2460@columbia or 212-854-0350 for more information.

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