Fire, Ferrets and Falcons: Grasslands News from December 2012

A wintery view across American Prairie Reserve with the Little Rocky Mountains in the distance.


In an effort to increase awareness of grasslands issues and encourage you to fall in love with our world’s prairies, American Prairie Reserve compiles a news roundup each month. These stories will introduce you to the organizations working to restore this endangered ecosystem, demonstrate the diversity of the plains and showcase the many different approaches to grassland conservation – from Montana to Mongolia.

Here’s the news from December. Happy reading! We’re already compiling news for the next post, so feel free to leave your suggestions and links in the comments below.

NEWS: The Stolen Savanna: As African Lions Die Out, Conservationists Call for Coexistence
Jacey Fortin, International Business Times
A new study funded by National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative has found that only 25% of the original savannah ecosystem is left for lions to stretch their legs – and more than 2/3 of the lion population has been lost. By examining changes in land use patterns at finer scales than ever before (thanks to Google Earth imagery), researchers confirmed what they already feared: lions are battling against increasingly fragmented and developed habitat.

NEWS: Invasive Grasses May Be Contributing to Extreme Wildfires
April Flowers,
Is cheatgrass partly to blame for an uptick in wildfires in the American West? After examining landcover data and a decade of fire perimeters, scientists now have reason to believe that the highly invasive grass influences the extent and frequency of fires in the Great Basin.

NEWS: In Midwest, Bringing Back Native Prairies Yard by Yard
Rebecca Kessler, Yale Environment 360
Do-It-Yourself takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to restoring native prairies in the Midwest. Increasing numbers of private landowners are taking conservation in their own hands by converting lawns and former farm fields to grassland havens. Even ecological processes, like fire, are a part of the restoration equation.

MAGAZINE: European Bison Return to Wild in Germany
Marco Evers, Der Spiegel
Germany are welcoming their first “wild” European bison (or wisent) in centuries thanks to recent approval for their release by the state Environment Ministry in Düsseldorf. The 8 animals will not roam in one of the country’s national parks, but rather on the lands of a commercial forestry operation owned by Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. (Thanks to the Saskatchewan Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society for the link.)

NEWS: Threatened one-horned rhinos regaining paradise!
Moushumi Basu, The Pioneer
Despite a regional history of over-hunting and habitat fragmentation, the Terai Arc is slowing becoming a haven for the one-horned Asiatic rhino. As biologists work to bring in new animals from to expand the genetic pool, the rhinos will also have more room to roam in a new area of the Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, where 15 km of grassland and swampy river banks have been identified as suitable habitat.

NEWS: The Falcon has Landed
E. Dari, The UB Post
The governments of Mongolia and Abu Dhabi are teaming up to help preserve the endangered Saker falcon through the Mongolian Artificial Nest Project. As a migratory species that lives in the steppe and dry grassland habitats of the region, increasing fragmentation and conversion of land to agriculture is a threat to the survival of the species. In addition, the bird is a favorite of Arabian falconers and illegal trapping and sale of the Saker falcon is contributing to its demise. Artificial nests are helping the birds to breed more successfully.

BLOG: On black-footed ferrets and why they’re not extinct after all
John Geddes, Maclean’s
While they are still at risk for extinction, Canada’s black-footed ferret population is slowly growing thanks to efforts at Grasslands National Park, our prairie park neighbor to the north. A recent survey in the Park uncovered a dozen ferrets and three litters of new kits – a promising sign after years of captive breeding efforts in Canada and the U.S.

PHOTOS: Millions of camera-trap images reveal Serengeti life
Michelle Warwicker, BBC Nature
A camera trap project known as Snapshot Serengeti provides a more candid look at these grassland creatures through the installation of hundreds of motion-triggered cameras. The best part? Citizen-scientists can participate from home by identifying animals in the photos, a task that computers aren’t able to do very well, which helps researchers slog through the immense amount of data being collected with each snap.


American Prairie Reserve (APR) is assembling a world class wildlife reserve in northern Montana, with the goal of one day creating a seamless 3.5 million acre grassland ecosystem. APR’s President Sean Gerrity is a National Geographic Fellow. Learn more about the Reserve, including progress to date and bison restoration efforts, on the Reserve’s website.

Changing Planet

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American Prairie Reserve (APR) is assembling a world class wildlife park in northern Montana, with the goal of one day creating a seamless 3.5 million acre grassland ecosystem. Learn more about APR, including our bison restoration efforts and how to visit, on the Reserve's website.