Individual Choices and Global Well-Being

Individual Choices and Global Well-Being
August 23, 2020
By Andrew Rowan, DPhil
Catalyzing Change Around the Global
WellBeing International is now focusing on the ways that we as individuals can modify our behavior to improve our own health and well-being as well as reducing our impact on the world around us – positively affecting what we have called the PAE Triad (People, Animal and Environmental well-being). While all of us can do something to reduce our impact, it is not easy to make and maintain the necessary lifestyle changes. Still, whatever steps we can take to reduce our impact on the world are a positive step. Individuals need to be encouraged to make such changes for their own and global well-being. Delivering such information across cultures, languages and religions to billions of people is a challenge, but social media provides opportunities to overcome this obstacle.
With that in mind, we consider a recent study of the impact of just five healthy behaviors on individual health as a great example of not only how individual choices can significantly impact an individual’s health and well-being but also how those individual choices can impact global well-being as well. If enough people make a small change, the global impact could be very significant.
The study, reporting what may be achieved in personal health by individuals willing to make relatively modest lifestyle changes, is summarized in the Harvard Gazette. The results are presented in the table below. Those who followed at least four of the five healthy behaviors enjoyed many more years of “disease-free” life than those who maintained none of those healthy habits. These relatively modest changes in lifestyle led to an average of 10. 7 (women) or 7. 6 (men) additional years of life free of major chronic disease. Those extra disease-free years certainly seem be well worth the effort.
Extra Years of Disease-Free Life
Maintained 4 of 5 Healthy Habits Did Not Maintain any of the Healthy Habits Difference
Women (50 years old at start of study) 34.4 23.7 +10.7
Men (50 years old at start of study) 31.1 23.5 +7.6
Four of the five behavior changes are relatively self-explanatory but what did the researchers judge to be a “healthy diet.” This was assessed using the Alternate Healthy Eating Index (AHEI) score. Subjects were considered to be living on a healthy diet if they scored in the top 40% on the AHEI. The AHEI is based on the following nine diet changes–consumption of more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and polyunsaturated fats and the consumption of less sugar-sweetened beverage and fruit juice, red meat, sodium and alcohol. The AHEI was developed as an alternative to the US government’s Healthy Eating Index (HEI) and was most recently updated in 2010. [The original HEI failed to predict chronic disease risk and mortality whereas the AHEI has been much better at predicting such risk. ]
The AHEI element that it is better for one’s personal health to consume less red meat is now becoming more mainstream. Many organizations are now grappling with and discussing the adverse environmental consequences of diets high in meat and dairy. Professor Charles Godfray, an environmental scientist and the Director of the Martin School at Oxford University (a multidisciplinary school founded specifically to tackle the big questions facing people and the world), and his colleagues at Oxford had a paper published in Science in 2018 specifically addressing meat consumption and human and environmental health.
Although meat consumption has plateaued in some parts of the world (Europe and North America), it is growing rapidly elsewhere and now averages around 44 kg per person per year in the world as a whole. As the authors note, meat is an important source of nutrients for individuals on low incomes with restricted diets, but high meat consumption may increase the risks of some forms of chronic disease. As regards environmental costs, the production of meat is a significant factor in humanity’s growing demands on the environment. The chart below indicates that 77% of agricultural land is devoted to meat and dairy production but that meat and dairy produces only 18% of the world’s calorie supply and 37% of the world’s protein supply.
Despite the inefficient use of land to produce meat and dairy, the world remains committed to increase meat production. In 2019, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) projects that world meat production will double by 2050. But it is not clear how this doubling could be achieved. The current level of meat and dairy production uses 30% of the world’s habitable land. Doubling such production would require 60% of the world’s habitable land leaving only 40% for forests, crops for people, and all remaining uses. In contrast, it would be much less demanding on the environment (and the wildlife currently clinging on in the few remaining natural areas) to shift global diets away from meat and dairy to accommodate the nutritional needs of growing human populations as well as retaining enough land to support natural areas for wildlife and global resilience.
Some countries have already begun to take steps to reduce the consumption of animal products. Most notably China, whose 1. 4 billion people now consume more animal products than any other country (and twice as much as North America), is taking steps to try and cut meat consumption by 50%. In Europe, there is a growing campaign by a group of animal and environmental NGOs to persuade the EU to establish new food policies that would aim to reduce the consumption of animal products.
But reducing or capping the consumption of animal products will not be easy. Our meat and dairy habits are very resistant to change. A colleague, who writes a blog on human-animal interactions, has written several articles on vegetarianism. In one of them, he notes that there are currently three times as many ex-vegetarians (around 6-9%) than vegetarians (around 2-3%) in the United States. Vegetarianism (and veganism) is a minority lifestyle globally with less than 10% of the population in most countries voluntarily choosing to be vegetarian. Strategically, it would likely lead to more change more quickly to institute policies to reduce the consumption of animal products rather than working to eliminate such products altogether.

The Problem with Dogs

The Problem with Dogs
August 22, 2020
By Harry Eckman, Change for Animals
When was the last time you saw a street dog? If you live in Western Europe or North America, the answer is probably some years ago. If you live in India, Africa, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe or pretty much anywhere else, the answer is possibly the last time you went outside.
Dogs are ubiquitous. For most of the world, they are part of the everyday fabric of life. And for animal welfare organisations, ensuring and protecting their well-being is an ongoing endeavour.
Dogs were one of the first species to gain any form of legal protection under the Cruelty to Animals Act in the UK in 1835. This was, in part, due to lobbying from the newly established Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) which, at just 11 years old, was the only animal protection organisation in existence at the time.
When Battersea Dogs and Cats Home opened in 1860 to address the plight of London’s strays, it was the world’s first animal shelter, and it was met with ridicule. Even while the concept of animal welfare was beginning to be more widely accepted, a home for dogs was seen as “ridiculously sentimental,” and a step too far!
Spaying and neutering started to become available and accessible in the 1930s but at that time it was only for pets. The use of sterilisation for controlling stray animal populations was first suggested and implemented in the 1960s.
Nowadays dog welfare projects exist, to some degree, in every country in the world. Whether it is individual rescuers in Rwanda, shelters in Bulgaria, rabies vaccination projects in Malawi and the Philippines, or mass sterilisation projects in India, some level of dog population management (DPM) is present everywhere that there are dogs.
And yet, the problem with street dogs remains.
Governments and municipalities still kill dogs on the street, shelters are overcrowded and struggle to ensure the welfare of the dogs in their care, and communities are concerned by high dog numbers and are fearful of dog bites and rabies.
After more than a century of work, how have we not managed to address this?
One reason is, that until quite recently, despite all our advances in animal welfare, we had been focussing solely on the symptoms of these problems and not addressing the root causes.
Henry L Mencken, the American journalist, once said that, “there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible and wrong.” A more fitting description of our historical approach to dog population management would be hard to find.
The problems associated with street dogs are incredibly complex. They derive from a huge range of factors including political, cultural and religious attitudes, public health concerns, ecological and environmental factors, resource availability and human behaviour and actions. In every single location and community where dogs are found, the composition and combination of these factors is different.
So, our past assumption that a simple, replicable solution could be undertaken anywhere and would miraculously resolve the problem, is a falsehood we learned the hard way.
In 2006, the International Companion Animal Management (ICAM) coalition was formed by Elly Hiby of the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and colleagues at Humane Society International (HSI), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), RSPCA International, World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) and the Global Alliance for Rabies Control (GARC). These organizations were, at the time, the largest and most progressive animal welfare organisations working on global dog population management issues. Combined, the members of ICAM had decades of experience managing dogs around the world and they recognised the need to change the way in which DPM projects were designed, developed and implemented.
In 2007, their collaboration produced the Humane Dog Population Management Guidelines that laid out a systematic approach to developing a comprehensive dog population management program. It provided a blueprint that was the sum of their learning to date and covered everything from understanding and assessing a local situation to monitoring and evaluating the impact and effectiveness of a project.
For the next decade, dog population management was at the forefront of the work of many international animal welfare organisations. Projects used this comprehensive approach to engage with governments and communities, develop locally based solutions, pioneer human behaviour change concepts and improve the lives of countless dogs.
And then something changed.
While animal welfare organisations do still work on DPM issues, some of the larger organisations have shifted their focus away from dogs. This is not to say that the issues they are working on now are any less important. Tackling problems like wildlife trade, animals in captivity and factory farming are critically important. The level of suffering these and other issues encompass, and the urgent need to address them, cannot be understated.
But that still leaves the dogs. Perhaps one of the reasons for this shift is that because dogs are so abundant, the issue itself seems insurmountable. You can close circuses, you can possibly ban wildlife trade, you can end the use of animals for entertainment. These campaigns have a definitive end goal. A point at which one can say, “We have succeeded. This has ended. The job is done!”
Dog populations, on the other hand, will always need to be managed; they will always require supervision and guardianship. There is no end point but rather a continuous oversight to ensure that the welfare of dogs is assured and that their populations remain humanely controlled. This continuous and unremitting commitment is a hard thing to pledge when resources are finite and animal suffering is so prolific.
But the challenge is no reason to disengage. The stakes are too high, and the needs are too great. If we know one thing about street dogs, it is how intertwined their needs are with the needs of the communities where they live. If we fail to tackle the problem with dogs, we will fail countless communities.
We must continue to develop new techniques and implement effective and humane management approaches. With new tools like mobile surveying apps and the promise of non-surgical sterilisation, there is much to strive towards. We need to build on our successes, and we need to work together because by collaborating and sharing what we have learned, we can achieve the goal – creating a better world for dogs and their human communities.

Letter from the President (August 2020)

Letter from the President, Andrew Rowan (August 2020)

The UN World Tourism Agency published a report in 2015 on the importance of wildlife tourism to national economies in Africa. About half of global wildlife tourism involves a visit to an African country, resulting in 6 million tourists a year visiting Sub-Saharan Africa (about 10% of total tourist visits to Africa). In addition, the wildlife tourism market was reported to be growing at a very healthy 10% per annum. But the 2020 pandemic has resulted in the collapse of wildlife tourism (close to zero visits to Africa after the beginning of May, 2020) and a major (but hopefully temporary) crisis for wildlife conservation (and for the people dependent on such tourism).
A recent article in Nature by conservation biologist Peter Lindsey and his colleagues that focuses on the conservation crisis caused by the current pandemic, reports that wildlife tourism in Africa generates $29 billion annually and employs 3.6 million people. Despite the economic value of such tourism, most protected areas in Africa suffer from a chronic shortage of funds to manage and protect the flora and fauna. While the pandemic is the current crisis, there are a number of other looming threats.
Human pressure on protected areas in Africa has grown dramatically in the last sixty years in the form of both human numbers but also the growth in domestic livestock (see Table). An extra two hundred million cattle and 300 million goats now compete with wildlife for resources compared to the situation in 1961. Increases in human, cattle and goat numbers are probably related to the decline in wildlife. Elephant numbers, for example have declined by 5-fold over the same period (80% or more) from an estimated 2 million elephants in 1961 to under 400,000 in 2018.
Millions 1961 2018 Increase
Human Population 225.3 1,038.6 4.6-fold
Cattle Population 106.2 305.2 2.9-fold
Goat Population 81.1 384.8 4.7-fold
Data from UN Population Division and FAOSTAT
Although 17.2% of the land in sub-Saharan Africa is under some form of relatively strict protection, wildlife populations are nevertheless declining sharply. In Kenya, for example, wildlife biomass fell by more than 50% in just the twenty years between 1980 and 2000 and wildlife populations declined at the same rate inside the national parks as outside according to 2019 World Bank analysis. The World Bank report specifically identifies habitat fragmentation (the national parks were established without any understanding of the migration/dispersal needs of wildlife) and poorly planned linear infrastructure (e.g. all-weather roads) as key factors causing the decline in wildlife (80% loss of wildlife within 20 kilometers either side of a road). Healthy wildlife populations need to be able to disperse.
In an earlier item in WellBeing News, the destructive impact of roads on wildlife was briefly described and that article included a map of proposed major roads in Africa indicating that most of the proposals were poorly justified when using transparent cost-benefit criteria. The World Bank report on Kenyan wildlife declines provides additional details of the adverse impact of roads but adds an interesting twist – an economic assessment of the consequences of wildlife loss. As the report notes, “if the economic benefits brought about by habitat conversion outweigh the losses, it is arguable that .. [such losses are] .. a necessary, if regrettable, price to pay for development.” But if the loss of tourism income exceeds the benefits of land conversion, then perhaps one should seek alternative wildlife-friendly development. The report explores two possible solutions that support wildlife and the tourism income it generates – namely a road network that pays attention to the negative external effects that it produces and a policy that expands the role of conservancies.
The World Bank report argues that it should be possible for Kenya to both support wildlife and development, but future development will have to involve planning that places support for wildlife (among the top considerations) during the planning process. This will require, amongst other considerations, a very careful situating of new all-weather roads because such roads result in a 76% decline of wildlife populations within 20 kilometers on either side according the World Bank analysis.
Figure copied from World Bank report, page 4. In 1989, Kenya’s human population was 23 million. In 2009, it was 41 million. Wildlife has almost completely disappeared from the heavily populated area in the west of Kenya and wildlife populations in the Masai Mara (the green enclosure on the Kenyan border in the west) have declined significantly in the last fifty years.)
Conservancies, now covering 58,000 Km2 of the country with 36% on private land, 51% on community land and 13% on group land, could play a significant role in protecting Kenya’s wildlife in the future. Currently, around 22% of the wildlife biomass is found in conservancies (the National Parks, that cover 47,000 Km2 hold 38% of the wildlife biomass) and 18 of 20 zones with the highest wildlife densities are found in conservancies. But the latest data indicate that the conservancies currently earn only around 1.5% of the almost $1 billion generated by wildlife tourism, indicating significant growth potential for this sector.
According to the World Bank report, Kenya could not only maintain its current wildlife population but could increase it if sound economic planning that benefited both people and wildlife equally was instituted. Kenya is an example of what is happening across Africa to wildlife populations, but the country is also an example of what could happen. Development need not be a zero-sum situation in which one either benefits people or animals. Protecting wildlife, coupled with carefully planned tourism, does generate significant economic returns that justifies setting aside large areas for wildlife. Currently, African wildlife tourism is grappling with the immediate loss of nearly all tourism income but there is a looming demographic challenge as the human population in sub-Saharan Africa is projected by the UN to increase from today’s 1.1 billion to 2.1 billion in 2050 and 3.8 billion in 2100.
These population projections are often treated as though they are inevitable outcomes. They are anything but. For example, in the 2002 UN Population projections, Tanzania and Kenya were projected to reach populations of 69 and 44 million in 2050. The latest UN population report projects the two countries will have 129 and 92 million people respectively in 2050. The Thriving Together initiative, started by the Margaret Pyke Trust in London in 2019, is being supported by over 150 organizations and it is premised on the idea that making family planning more accessible and acceptable combined with conserving habitats and wildlife could be very beneficial for both wildlife and people. If one could address the unmet need for family planning, the world’s human population could peak at less than 8 billion in 2100, instead of the projected 11.2 billion. The impact would be particularly large in Africa. WellBeing International has joined the initiative and we encourage other organizations to do the same.

Wildlife Crossings

Wildlife Crossings
News Updates
In June, the House of Representatives included dedicated funding in the INVEST in America Act (HR2) to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Renee Callahan, Senior Policy Officer for our Partner, the Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC), noted that wildlife-vehicle collisions cost over $8 billion a year but that wildlife crossing structures have been shown to reduce collisions by as much as 97 percent. A Senate bill (S2302) also includes $250 million for wildlife crossing construction.
At the same time, the Road Ecology Center at the University of California-Davis has released a report on the lower death tolls for large wildlife during traffic reductions caused by COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in California, Idaho and Maine as follows.
State Average # Large Wildlife Killed daily from 2015-2019 Average # Large Wildlife Killed daily in 2020 post-stay home orders % Reduction in 2020
CA 8.4 6.6 21%
ID 8.7 5.4 38%
ME 15.2 8.4 45%

Sustainable Fisheries?

Sustainable Fisheries?
June 30, 2020
By Andrew Rowan
The total global catch of wild fish increased from 31 million metric tons in 1950 to a high of 130 million metric tons in 1996 before falling back to 109 million metric tons in 2010. However, from 1950 onwards, 366 of 1,519 fisheries collapsed (defined as a 90 percent reduction in stock) with overfishing being a major cause of many of the collapses. Climate variation, often in the guise of El Nino events, was also a very important factor driving large fluctuations in fish stocks. Despite major advances in the scientific understanding of the variation in global fish stocks and the development of sophisticated analytical tools to guide decisions about how to manage a sustainable fishery, the number of fishery collapses has been stable over time, indicating no overall improvement in fishery management.
While the collapse of the North Atlantic cod fishery may be one of the best-known examples of the non-sustainable management of a fishery, different fisheries have collapsed all over the world and most fisheries are considered to be fully exploited. The tuna fishery for the main species of tuna – giant Bluefin, Bigeye, Yellowfin, Skipjack, and Albacore – is certainly fully exploited today. According to a recent paper in Fisheries Research that compiled a comprehensive and harmonized global data set of global tuna catches by area from 1950 onwards, the total weight of tuna landed annually has increased tenfold to over 6 million metric tons a year. The image displays tuna catches for three different time periods: 1950-54, 1980-84 and 2012-16, and shows clearly how tuna fishing now encompasses most of the oceans of the globe (an estimated 55-90 percent of total ocean area). Almost half the tuna now being landed are skipjack tuna, with yellowfin making up a further one-quarter.
Image copied from Fisheries Research, Vol 221,
An earlier publication from 2011 estimated the trends in adult tuna biomass from 1930 up to 2010. The adult biomass of southern Bluefin declined by 95 percent from 1930 to 2010. The adult biomass of the “tropical” tunas (Skipjack, Yellowfin, and Bigeye) declined by approximately 60 percent since 1970. Given that the major species of tuna currently account for $42 billion annually, or over one-quarter of the global seafood trade, the long-term future of tuna is a very important factor in global trade and food security.
The North Atlantic cod fishery collapsed very suddenly around 1990 and has still not shown much sign of recovery despite the moratorium on the cod fishery declared by the Canadian government in 1992. Before the collapse, the fishery’s managers ignored scientific data and set catch quotas that were too high. The fishery increased its take of younger and younger fish (older females produce far more surviving young) and, eventually, the inevitable happened. Looking at the annual tuna landings, the declining age of the tuna being caught, and the declining in overall tuna biomass, one cannot help but think back to Yogi Berra’s famous quote – “It looks like déjà vu all over again.”

Cat Conflicts: Conservationists and Protectionists Remain at Odds but the Conflict Might be Ameliorating

Cat Conflicts: Conservationists and Protectionists Remain at Odds but the Conflict Might be Ameliorating
June 30, 2020
by John Hadidian, Ph.D. and Andrew Rowan, D.Phil.
An early relationship between humans and cats is supported by hard evidence from a burial on Cyprus that dates to 9500 BP. Cats were never native to that Mediterranean island, so the occurrence of a young cat within a human burial, while not evidence of taming, is suggestive of some affinity. Certainly, by 4500 BP cats had begun to be idolized in Egypt, beginning the well-documented history in which cats have been alternately loved and damned, protected and persecuted, or viewed as either beloved pets or hated pests. Such is the history of the human-cat relationship. Now we have “Cat Wars,” the contemporary casting of the domestic cat as an environmental demon responsible for driving vulnerable species on islands extinct and as a wildlife plague elsewhere. The authors of Cat Wars call for cat control by “any means necessary.” This statement is representative of the current conflict over cats which has led to many acrid exchanges between environmental conservationists and cat advocates.
The arguments have spilled over from scientific publications to the popular press in articles with titles such as “The Evil of the Outdoor Cat” and “Apocalypse Meow.” The irony here is that both sides in the conflict (conservationists and protectionists) seek the same endpoint: fewer cats outdoors, whether for the good of wildlife or the good of cats or both.
Currently the major themes being argued seem to revolve on two issues: how many cats are there, and how can their numbers, where needed, be controlled? Here, we share a few thoughts about cat demographics and impacts on wildlife based on our recent review of this contentious issue: “Cat Demographics & Impact on Wildlife in the USA: Facts and Values” (see Journal of Applied Animal Ethics Research, 2020, Volume 2, pages 7-37, however, the full article is behind a pay wall).
In the United States, the issue of how many wild animals are killed by owned and unowned cats has been debated for more than 100 years. Within the last two decades, however, the volume has increased significantly and globalized to encompass a voiced concern about the status of vulnerable wildlife on islands and even continents (e.g. Australasia). To be clear, these concerns can be warranted, as feral cats on islands and in Australia and New Zealand have been documented as having negative impacts on vulnerable native species. Outdoor cats, therefore, add considerably to the usual perils wild animals face. Accordingly, we do not argue that outdoor cats not be managed, but we do propose that any management be justified, effective and humane.
This is where the need for good science comes in. As we have argued at greater length in the published article, developing effective management solutions will be infinitely more productive and simpler if the conservation and animal welfare communities could cooperate. We need to determine much more carefully how many cats there are in the different habitats they occupy. Once we have reasonably accurate estimates of cat population demographics in the habitat of concern, then we can move on to create effective management programs. Researchers in Australia have taken the first good steps in making such determinations at a national level, resulting in earlier guestimates of as many as 12 million cats living feral lives in that country being corrected by better approximation that estimates this figure at 1.6 to 5.6 million depending on the season (the higher number is estimated for the rainy season in Australia). In the United States, the claim that there are 80 million (or more) outdoor cats has almost become dogma, leading to commensurate claims of impacts to wildlife and corresponding clarion calls to address this environmental catastrophe (we speculate that the actual figure may be half that number). Clearly, we need to proceed with the same rigor as in Australia to produce better estimates of outdoor cat numbers that will give us a solid platform on which to build responsible policies.
The good news is that such an effort is well underway. The DC Cat Count represents a collaboration of conservationists and protectionists in a three-year project to estimate the true number of cats living as feral, as owned outdoor, as owned indoor, and as shelter populations in the nation’s capital district. The project employs an array of contemporary data-collection and analytical techniques, including surveys of households, photographing free-roaming cats in city alleys and parks, counting cats along transect lines, and tracking cats surrendered to the animal shelter. These surveys will document the lives of all the urban cats in the District of Columbia. From this database, an accurate estimate of the number of cats will permit the development and impact monitoring of proposed intervention strategies. The data will also provide for public education initiatives and permit city agencies to produce a replicable model that other cities can adopt on a cost-effective basis. This is how cooperation between groups and agencies can be advanced for the good of people, cats, and wildlife.

Companion Animals in a Time of COVID-19-Andrew Rowan June 2020 – Pres. Ltr.

Companion Animals in a Time of COVID-19


As we continue to struggle with the current Covid-19 pandemic, it appears that there has been an uptick across the world in the demand for companion animals. In the early phases of the pandemic, there was some concern that our companion animals might be a possible source of infection but, as the infographic from the International Companion Animal Management Coalition indicates, there is very little risk from our pets. There are also reasons, discussed by Professor Alan Kazdin of Yale University in an earlier WBI blog post, why people might be seeking to bring companion animals into their homes at this stressful time.
In the United States, there has been a significant increase in the number of shelter animals being fostered while the number of animals entering shelters fell by almost 50 percent in the early phases of the country’s response to the pandemic. Some shelters in regions hard hit by the pandemic had no animals left for households looking to adopt or foster. At the same time, the demand for puppies being sold by pet stores has also increased and the pet supply industry has been regarded as recession-proof, as the chart below demonstrates. During the recessions of 2001 and 2008-09, spending on pets continued to grow without any noticeable dip. This is not just a North American phenomenon. Demand for pets has been strong in other parts of the world, and humane services have been encouraged. For example, India declared the feeding of street dogs (who lost an important source of food when restaurants and food stalls were shut down) an essential service leading to the development of emergency feeding programs across the country.
Now, thanks to weekly reports from PetPoint (a division of PetHealth, a North American pet health insurance and shelter software company), we can track how the pandemic has affected North American shelters in almost real time. PetPoint has been providing monthly reports of shelter intakes and outcomes among the shelters and rescues using their software (around 20 percent of total intake and outcomes) for ten years. Now, during the Covid-19 outbreak, they have been posting weekly reports. The charts below track the intake and fostering numbers for 2019 and 2020.
As with our understanding of the spread of Covid-19, it is likely that it will take time for us to develop a more detailed picture of the increased entry of companion animals into people’s homes during the pandemic. We can expect to see an uptick in cases of separation anxiety among companion animals when family members head back to school and work. In the meantime, let us applaud PetPoint’s initiative in providing reports of shelter intakes and outcomes on a weekly basis so that we can develop a more granular view of what is happening. North American shelters may have lower intake and increased fostering, but they will also likely have lower staffing levels and possibly reduced funding as donations (and fees) diminish.

Pets and Coronavirus: An Update

Pets and Coronavirus: An Update
by Andrew Rowan
In the last WellBeing News (Issue 2:4), we ran a short item on pets and the coronavirus. We would like to draw readers’ attention to an excellent new review of all the studies to date that have looked at the potential for pets to catch the coronavirus and pass it to their human guardians. The review, “Infected not infectious,” was produced by the International Companion Animal Management Coalition (ICAM) and provides summaries of the available studies on pets and coronavirus as of May 14, as well as a nifty graphic showing the numbers of humans, dogs and cats that have been reported as having been infected by the coronavirus.
Graph showing the numbers of humans, dogs and cats that have been reported as having been infected by the coronavirus.

Shifting Baselines: Understanding the True Extent of Wildlife Decline

Shifting Baselines: Understanding the True Extent of Wildlife Decline
May 30, 2020
By Andrew Rowan
Over the past few years, news stories describing the decline in global wildlife have generally referenced the Living Planet Index (LPI), which is based on methodology developed by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London. The LPI indicates that wildlife populations have declined by 60% from 1970 through 2014. The LPI does not estimate the extent of the wildlife decline that occurred before 1970.
In 1995, Daniel Pauly, a fisheries scientist in Vancouver, Canada, published a landmark paper, “Anecdotes and the shifting baseline syndrome of fisheries,” in which he notes that fisheries scientists sometimes failed to identify the correct “baseline” population (or how abundant a fish species was before human exploitation), which affected their estimates about a particular fishery’s sustainable harvest. As a result, long-term declines in wildlife populations become difficult to identify, since each generation redefines a new baseline for what is “natural.”
This concept has been widely discussed by marine and fisheries scientists but, as Sumaila and Pauly note in a chapter entitled “The ‘March of Folly’ in Global Fisheries” in a 2011 book on Shifting Baselines, global fishery policies have largely ignored the lessons of shifted baselines. The cod fishery off the eastern seaboard of Canada and New England is a classic example of a policy “folly.” The accompanying chart shows the proportion of cod landed in Labrador and Newfoundland from 1850 through 2010, and the inset shows the recruitment of young cod into the adult population.
From 1850 through to the 1960s, 150-250,000 tonnes of cod were landed every year by the primarily small-scale inshore fishery. The dramatic increase in the 1960s was due to foreign deep-sea trawlers. Canada imposed a 200-mile exclusion zone, but the foreign trawlers were then succeeded by Canadian ships. Recruitment of young fish plummeted and, by the beginning of the 21st century, the cod fishery was no more. It has still not recovered even though Canada has just increased the allowable catch by 30% – to 12,350 tonnes!.
While the “shifting baselines” syndrome is less evident when discussing land animals, each generation still tends to base its understanding of what is “natural” on its experiences when young. The following anecdote is a tiny snapshot of declining populations of yellow-nosed albatross nesting on Nightingale Island in the south Atlantic.
Tristan Yellow-Nosed Albatross
Nightingale is one of four islands that constitute the Tristan archipelago. Tristan, where 250 people live, is the only island in the archipelago that is inhabited and is considered one of the most remote human communities in the world. The nearest city is Cape Town, South Africa, over 1,500 miles and a 6-day boat trip away. Despite its remoteness, two series of photographs taken 66 years apart depicting the nests of the Yellow-nosed Albatross on Nightingale document a decline in albatross populations. The first photograph was taken in early November 1949 by Bertus Rowan on a trip to Nightingale. It shows hundreds of “mollies” (albatross) nesting on the island in what the locals referred to as Molly Pond 2.
The second photograph (taken almost precisely 66 years later, in November 2015 and showing the same nesting area from the same perspective) has very few albatross nests scattered across the “pond.”
Tristan Yellow-Nosed Albatross
Nightingale has never been inhabited by humans and has, so far, not suffered an invasion of rats, mice or other creatures that often travel with humans. Therefore, the decline in nesting albatross must be related to some other factor. Albatross in the southern oceans are particularly affected by long-line fishing, in which a single line of thousands of baited hooks stretching up to 100 kilometers in length is dragged behind fishing vessels to catch tuna and other open-ocean fish. According to Bird Life International, around 100,000 albatross a year are caught on these hooks and drown.
Human activities have contributed to declines in wildlife populations for centuries – not just the past 40 or 50 years. While recent reports of declining wildlife numbers are important to acknowledge these changes, we must constantly guard ourselves against viewing the state of the world 25 or 50 years ago as its “natural” condition. In fact, the history is far longer.

IUCN ‘Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors’

IUCN ‘Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors’
May 30, 2020
By Rachel Caldwell
Conservation Program Officer, Center for Large Landscape Conservation
The Center for Large Landscape Conservation (CLLC) is working to mainstream connectivity conservation solutions around the world that save biodiversity, increase resilience to climate change, and safeguard human health. To this end, CLLC supports the new IUCN Guidelines and the operations of the Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group (CCSG) that was established in 2016 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). The current Chair of the CCSG is Dr. Gary Tabor, the founder and President of CLLC.
CCSG will soon release the first-ever IUCN Guidelines for Conserving Connectivity through Ecological Networks and Corridors. The main objective of these Guidelines is to clarify and standardize consistent practices for the effective design, governance, and management of larger conservation networks of protected and conserved areas that are connected by designated ecological corridors.
What Is “Ecological Connectivity”?
As defined by the UN Convention on Migratory Species in February 2020, “ecological connectivity is the unimpeded movement of species and the flow of natural processes that sustain life on Earth”. This definition demonstrates the importance of connectivity conservation solutions, and everything they protect, including invaluable resources like water and nutrient cycling, pollination, seed dispersal, food security, and disease resistance.
About the Guidelines
The Guidelines are the culmination of over two decades of effort by the IUCN, and the result of contributions from more than 100 experts in 30 countries. When complete, they will provide managers, policymakers, and experts across the globe with insights into the science, definitions, and principles for planning and managing for ecological connectivity, as well as 25 case studies illustrating projects around the world.
Why It Matters
Connected ecosystems are more resilient. They support plants, animals, and biological processes and permit them to persist in an increasingly human-dominated world. However, more than half of the planet is now developed and this is threatening human well-being, accelerating species loss, and limiting nature’s ability to withstand the impacts of climate change. Safeguarding ecological connectivity is a proven conservation measure, and the Guidelines bring together the most current knowledge and proven practices to lead a new global effort to combat habitat fragmentation and protect intact ecological networks for conservation.
Key messages

The Guidelines define the spaces meant to maintain, enhance, and restore connectivity; summarize best-available science; and recommend ways to formalize designated ecological corridors and networks with these messages.

  • Science overwhelmingly shows that interconnected systems of protected and conserved areas are necessary for species and natural processes to persist in the face of climate change;
  • Communities and countries around the world are working to protect ecological connectivity, and more consistent global practices can advance legislation, policy, and action;
  • A coherent global approach to connectivity conservation allows for measuring, monitoring, and assessing the effectiveness of efforts to enhance biodiversity conservation.
The Kavango-Zambesi “Peace Park” project (see map below) is an example of the complexity of developing and ensuring ecological connectivity across national borders containing a mosaic of private and public lands. This area contains around one-third of all African elephants on the planet today as well as an extraordinarily rich fauna and flora.
National parks are in dark green and protected areas are in light green. The Kavango-Zambesi area includes sections of Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia and is also home to approximately 2 million people!
Sound ecological management requires careful planning aimed at ensuring corridors for wildlife moving throughout these multi-jurisdictional landscapes. Using the guidelines, complex areas like this can access and apply globally-agreed-upon standards and best practices for promoting connectivity within protected areas, increasing ecological health across the world.
Learn More
To learn more about the Guidelines and the WCPA Connectivity Conservation Specialist Group, visit or contact