Friday, December 27, 2013


TRADITIONAL ECOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE

         What is traditional ecological knowledge?  Using the formal definition in Sacred Ecology by Fikret Berkes, "A cumulative body of knowledge, practice and belief, evolving by adaptive processes and handed down through generations by cultural transmissions, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment."1 What this means is that traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) is a ‘way of knowing’ that is in contrast with Western science. Traditional ecological knowledge is local information and experiences that have been tried and adapted into successes then are passed onto the next generation. Indigenous cultures have used their local, ecological knowledge of food sources, medicinal plants and game animals for survival for generations. In addition, TEK is post-positivist and has a spiritual component that is in contrast with Western science in which acquires knowledge through controlled experiments and manipulating variables. Western (conventional) science has a positivist and reductionism component. Western science and traditional ecological knowledge are two very different methods in which knowledge is acquired. 
The differences between TEK and Western Science2
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Western Science
·      Embedded in local culture
·      Bounded to local knowledge through space and time
·      Importance of community
·      Nature: Culture are connected
·      Nature as unique and irreplaceable attitude
·      Disembedded in local culture
·      Universalism
·      Individualism
·      Nature: Culture dichotomy
·      Mobility
·      Nature as a commodity attitude

      Science is not the only way to acquire knowledge and there are other ways ‘of knowing’. Supporters of traditional ecological knowledge believe the information in stories and legends have significant value because the knowledge is part of the culture. TEK is regarded as the ‘tried and true’ knowledge and thereby valid. Opponents believe that TEK cannot be measurable in controlled experiments thereby deeming it sentimental culture. Although I agree that there are differences between the two ‘ways of knowing’ on a fundamental level, I disagree that either lack validity. My position parallels with what was succinctly stated by Fikret Berkes during a recent interview:
 "Conventional is good for some circumstances - if the problem is easily defined    -    environmental problems do not fit that and the top-down approach doesn’t work. One of the challenges is the idea that solving problems goes hand in hand with using the best knowledge available and sometimes the best knowledge available is the local and traditional knowledge. This does not mean you throw out the science but use TEK and science."3
In summary, a well-defined problem solved by conventional science can be controlled and measured such as in the field of microbiology whereas, ecological problems are often more complex thus making controlled experiments more difficult. Tradition and culture is a great library of knowledge documenting the relationships between people and the environment.4 When solving ecological problems, maybe we should checkout the book of traditional ecological knowledge, if the solution is not present in conventional science.  

Notes
1.  Fikret Berkes, Sacred ecology (Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis, 1999), 8.
2. Berkes, Sacred Ecology, 10. This chart was formulated using information from this page.
3. Fikret Berkes, quoted in an interview by Phillip Burgess at the EALAT Traditional Knowledge Seminar, March 2008. http://icr.arcticportal.org/index.php?option=com_hwdvideoshare&task=viewvideo&Itemid=127&video_id=27.
4. Ibid.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Falconry as Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Raptor Conservation


The next series of posts will be my take on falconry's role in raptor conservation. 

The Relationship between a Raptor and Falconer
 
     It was the morning of March 27, 2007 and Guinevere, my Red-tailed Hawk, expecting breakfast she gave me her usual high-pitched peeps but that morning was different. She was being released back into the wild. Without anklets and jesses, she stepped onto my fist freely as we walked out of her mews into the sunshine. Guinevere looked around and I leaned over
Kiss Good-bye
kissed her on the back of the head; ten seconds later she left my glove for the last time. As she had done so many times, she flew to the closest tree on the forest edge and waited for me to catch up. This time I did not follow her, instead I watched her through tears and binoculars. Looking back at me, confused and impatient, she gave up finally. After flying and circling over me, she was gone. I never saw her again but still have the feather she dropped as she disappeared.      
 
     Our relationship was just one example of many relationships that falconers have had with their birds throughout the history of falconry. This ancient practice has facilitated a unique relationship between raptors and humans through mutual respect and trust. For four thousand years, falconry has remained steeped in tradition and culture, consequently, it has been through this tradition and knowledge of raptor behavior and hunting techniques, the falconer has gained a rare glimpse into the natural history of this secretive predator.

Moment Together
 
Hawk

The true spirit of the hawk
With the energy of sun and fire
Is one of vision and power
The message of the hawk
Is to use our inner vision
To see what is out of balance within ourselves
And to use our power wisely and justly
To obtain the freedom we desire

Prose by Carol Cavalaris © 07

 
Introduction
     Falconry has had a long, historical thread in the conservation of raptors. Despite the controversy of using traditional ecological knowledge to solve ecological problems, raptor conservationists have been drawing on the traditional ecological knowledge of falconry and combining the knowledge gained from Western science to address raptor conservation issues. Indeed, many renowned raptor conservationists are falconers as well. In my own experience, my main motive to become a falconer was the opportunity to have a deeper connection with the animal I treasured and to add unique insight as a conservationist. My purpose here is to assemble the relationship between the traditional ecological knowledge of falconry and raptor conservation; that is, the lived experience of falconry helping raptors today. The relationship analysis will be addressed in three components: 1) traditional ecological knowledge, 2) falconry culture and traditions and 3) falconry within raptor conservation.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Raptors Needed! Apply Within


My Harris Hawk 'Coral'


Not only do raptors provide a job well done in nature, such as rodent control (ecoservices) and biodiversity, but are helpful to human environments as well. Scavenging birds at landfill sites transmit disease to humans and other birds, and can be a nuisance or pose as a bird-strike hazard. Baxter and Allan (2006) examined the effectiveness between trained falcons (Falco spp.
Hybrid Falcon
and hawks (Buteo spp. and Parabuteo spp.) at deterring scavenging gulls and blackbirds (corvids) from a series of landfill sites in the United Kingdom. Trained raptors are frequently integrated into bird management regimes globally. Most of the raptor species preferred are the Harris Hawk (Parabuteo unicinctus), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis),
Juvenile Female Red-tailed Hawk
Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), Saker Falcon (F. cherrug] and the Lanner Falcon (F. biarmicus).

Baxter and Allan (2006) results showed no raptor species eliminated all scavenging birds but falcons reduced bird numbers more consistently. The results should not be surprising. Falcons are aggressive avian hunters and any bird has the potential to be their next meal. Avoiding this predator is a ‘must know’ in the bird world in order to survive. Hawk species hunt small mammals and are not as maneuverable as a falcon; therefore, the birds must know this either by life experience or instinct. Recently, there is an increase use of raptors in avian management in aviation flight lines and military airfields. Falconers in the United States are often used to prevent bird strikes at airports and military airbases globally.

Literature Cited



Wednesday, October 2, 2013

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS: THE DIET OF ARIZONA’S GOLDEN EAGLE


Thought I would post some of my own work! This is a poster presentation for the Arizona Field Ornithologists Meeting October 5, 2013 in Sierra Vista, AZ. 

PRELIMINARY FINDINGS: THE DIET OF ARIZONA’S GOLDEN EAGLE

*Losee, M. J., 
Antioch University New England

Jacobson, T. Licence, K. and K. McCarty, K.
Arizona Department of Game and Fish

In Arizona, the Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) has been largely unstudied. In 2011, Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) began a two-year nest survey for cliff nesting Golden Eagles throughout the state. Golden Eagle occupancy and diet assessments began in 2013. During the 2013-nesting season, we collected prey remains from six active Golden Eagle nest in the northern region of the state. The number of prey items ranged from 3 to 29 with the number of different species ranging from 2 to 6. The Black-tailed Jack Rabbit (Lepus californicus) was the only prey species found in all six nests and the highest percentage (33-81%) of total species found in each nest as well as contributing to the highest biomass (2.7-5.9kg) for each nest. The two heaviest, single prey species were a Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana) fawn (3kg) and a juvenile Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) (3.2kg). The more unique prey species were snake, an adult Raven (Corvus corax), domestic feline and a juvenile Pinyon Jay (Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus). The nest with most diversity of prey species (6) was the only nest with two nestlings.
These preliminary findings revealed important information pertaining to the dietary habits of Golden Eagles nesting in Northern Arizona. The results showed that jack rabbits (Lepus spp.) were the dominant prey species for nesting pairs. This was consistent with both (Eakle and Grubb 1986, Stahlecker et al. 2009), in which both studies documented at least 50% of the prey species were jack rabbits. In this study, as well as (Eakle and Grubb 1986, Stahlecker et al. 2009), the Rock Squirrel (Otospermophilus variegatus) was the second most abundant prey species. There was a lower than expected amount (1%) of Prairie Dog (Cynomys spp.) remains. This could have been just a factor of what was present in the nest at the time of collection or could show a decrease in availability for this species. Stahlecker et al. (2009) documented 8% of prey species were prairie dogs, while (Eakle and Grubb 1986) documented none. This information as well as data collected from next year’s nesting season will help describe the dietary and foraging requirements for Golden Eagle pairs nesting in Arizona. These requirements coupled with occupancy data will assist AZGFD to generate better conservation action and policy recommendations.

*Presenting author  

Prey Species
Number of Individuals
Weight (kg)
Biomass (kg)
Proportion of Individual Species (%)
Proportion of Biomass (%)
Jack Rabbit
(Lepus californicus)
46
9.1
124.2
68
83
Rock Squirrel
(Spermophilus variegatus)
10
0.66
6.6
15
4
Desert Cottontail Rabbit
(Sylvilagus audubonii)
3
1.2
3.6
4
2
Raven (Corvus corax) - Adult
1
1.3
1.3
1.5
1
Pronghorn Antelope - Fawn
(Antilocapra americana)
1
3.3
3.3
1.5
2
Feline domestic - sub adult
1
1
1
1.5
1
Prairie Dog (Cynomys spp.)
1
1.5
1.5
1.5
1
Duck (Spp?)
1
1.2
1.2
1.5
1
Raven/Crow (Corvus spp.)
1
0.9
0.9
1.5
1
Pinon Jay - Juvenile
(Gymnorhinus cyanocephalus)
1
0.1
0.1
1.5
1
Rabbit (Lagomorpha)
1
1.95
1.95
1.5
1
Gray Fox - Juvenile
(Urocyon cinereoargenteus.)
1
3.2
3.2
1.5
2
Total
68
25.41
148.9
These results are from all six nests for the 2013 nesting season.
                          

 
Literature Cited
Eakle, W. L. and T. G. Grubb. 1986. Prey remains from Golden Eagle nests in central Arizona. Western Birds 17:87-89.
Stahlecker, D. W., D. G. Mikesic, J. N. White, S. Shaffer, J. P. DeLong, M. R. Blakemore, and C. E. Blakemore. 2009. Prey remains in nests of Four Corners Golden Eagles, 1998-2008. Western Birds 40:301-306.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Curiosity Killed the Harpy Eagle!


Harpy Eagle Nestling
     An adult female Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja) weighs of up to 10 kg (22 lbs.) and is the largest raptor in the Americas and one of the largest in the world. They live in tropical forests from Central America to northern Argentina. This eagle is sensitive to human disturbance and is the first species to disappear when humans move into their territory. Currently, the Harpy Eagle is listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List as Near Threatened and extinct in most of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest ((IUCN) 2013). Although indigenous hunters capture them occasionally for ceremonial purposes, they are not typically hunting them as game.
Female Harpy Eagle  (photo by Raptor Canyon)
     Unfortunately, recent studies have documented Harpy Eagle killings in rural southern Brazil. (Trinca et al. 2008) conducted a study in the municipalities of Alta Floresta and Nova Bandeirantes, in northern Mato Grosso, Brazil. The Alta Floresta has suffered high deforestation leaving only 37% of original forest cover. In contrast, Nova Bandeirantes, colonised in 1981, has lost less than 15% of the municipality’s original forest due to landowners upholding federal legislation, which limits deforestation to 50% of each property. This is important because the high rate of deforestation is the main reason for the declining population of Harpy Eagles ((IUCN) 2013).
     The results of the (Trinca et al. 2008) study are quite disturbing. In addition to the Harpy Eagle killings several other important raptor species are being killed such as Crested Eagles (Morphnus guianensis) and Ornate Hawk-Eagles (Spizaetus ornatus). Five of the eagles kill were to satisfy the curiosity of the hunter. One explanation is that most colonos are immigrants from rural south and east of Brazil, where Harpy Eagles are either extremely rare or extinct, have never seen this eagle. The other reason, for killing the eagle, was to protect small livestock from the perceived or actual risk of having an eagle in the area. The presence of a Harpy Eagle near human activity may be a result of lower prey due to the deforestation and habitat fragmentation.


     The number of eagles killed may appear small but they impact the local Harpy Eagle population because a single breeding pair may possess a home range of over 25× 25 km. In addition, Harpy Eagles are long living predators and reproduce only one nestling every two years. As an apex predator, Harpy Eagles play an important role in the forest ecosystems by regulating the populations of mesopredators such as capuchins (Cebus spp.) a type of New World monkey. The absence of such apex predators will have a negative impact on biodiversity that contributes to cascade effects as well as accelerating local extinctions of sensitive species. Therefore, the removal of such arbitrary hunting pressure would undoubtedly contribute significantly to long-term conservation. This statement sums up the problem and solution for all raptors sharing the Earth with humans:

If ignorance is the main enemy of the Harpy Eagle on the Amazonian frontier, education is surely its principal ally, and the same characteristics that attract the attention of the curious hunter, can undoubtedly be part of a well-planned education program to not only satisfy the local population’s curiosity and eliminate misconceptions about the species, but to provide a springboard for conservation initiatives in frontier municipalities (Trinca et al. 2008).

          
 Remember as you live your life, it may affect a species of raptor that shares its habitat with you. 

 To learn more about the eagles:
 

 http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/harpy.html
Literature Cited


Silent Killer

An increasing number of raptors are exposed and dying from rodenticides, commonly called “rat poison”. Unsuspecting people that wish to con...