Rebound, Decline and Reintroduction on the Plains: Grasslands News from January 2013

Winter traffic jam on American Prairie Reserve, Montana


IN THIS POST: Wood Bison in Alaska, Text Messages Versus Poachers, South American Tapirs, Linking Prairie Dogs and Grassland Birds, India’s Blackbuck, Biodiversity and Exotic Animals in Europe, Grasslands National Park — 

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 January. 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: Wood bison could be reintroduced to Alaska
Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet/NBC News
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced plans to reintroduce Wood bison, a subspecies of the more commonly known plains bison, to part of its historic range in Alaska. The animals already call the state home, living in captivity at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Will they get a chance to roam? Find out more in two months when the public comment period concludes.

NEWS: Kenya trials text message alerts in bid to curb poaching
Gitonga Njeru, The Guardian
A new tool is being used to try to stop poaching in Kenya: text messages. The Kenya Wildlife Service is installing a new system in its fences that will send a message and location to security workers whenever it detects that something is interfering with a park fence. Unfortunately, the technology is only effective in conserved areas that are completely fenced, meaning that some of the country’s larger parks, like Tsavo, must continue to curb poaching through other methods and community efforts.

NEWS: South America’s Quirky and Beloved Tapirs Thriving in National Parks
April Flowers,
Using camera traps and interviews with local park guards and hunters, Wildlife Conservation Society scientists have found that the lowland tapir is prospering in northwest Bolivia and southeastern Peru. After 12 years of research, the tapir population is estimated to be around 14,500 and spread over five connected national parks, suggesting that a landscape-scale conservation approach can produce measurable benefits to the region’s wildlife populations.

RESEARCH: Associations of Grassland Bird Communities with Black-Tailed Prairie Dogs in the North American Great Plains
David J. Augustine and Bruce W. Baker, Conservation Biology
Black-tailed prairie dogs are pretty generous creatures, making homes for other animals, serving as prey for ferrets and raptors, and mowing plants across their neighborhoods. By examining habitat across the Northern Plains, scientists have found that prairie dog colonies support at least 9 other vertebrates in higher densities than non-colony sites, including birds like the Mountain Plover, Horned Lark and Killdeer.

NEWS: Blackbuck population in India on the decline: Study
Bagish K Jha, The Times of India
Citing conversion of habitat into agricultural uses and rampant poaching, wildlife expert Shariq Khan has found significant decline in India’s blackbuck population through his recent three-year survey. As human populations expand, Khan is also concerned that there will be increased human-wildlife conflicts as the animals seek out refuge in cropland near urban areas. Current estimates put the Indian antelope population at 5,000-7,000, down from Khan’s estimate of 40,000 ten years ago. The IUCN categorized blackbucks as “Near Threatened” in 2003.

NEWS: Reviving Europe’s Biodiversity By Importing Exotic Animals
Christian Schwägerl, Yale Environment 360
Efforts across Europe to restore the ecological role of herbivores to the landscape have resulted in some interesting additions – from water buffaloes and European bison to Mongolia’s Przhevalsky horses. Not without controversy, these projects seek to find a balance between a modern, human-altered landscape and the desire to maintain some of nature’s rare species, such as highly specialized plants that rely on grazed habitat. If cows don’t prefer those habitats anymore, should/can a Mongolian horse be the answer?

PHOTOS: Grasslands National Park
Flickr photos compiled by the Great Plains Trail Alliance
If you’re not familiar with the plans for a Great Plains trail, here’s your chance to see where it would begin – Canada’s Grasslands National Park. Birds, bison and sweeping views seem like great additions to a long distance hiking adventure!


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

Meet the Author
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.