Thomas Newsome

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Monthly Archives: July 2016

Saving the world’s terrestrial megafauna

In collaboration with more than 40 other scientist we published an opinion article in the journal BioScience calling for a coordinated global plan to prevent the world’s megafauna from extinction.

You can access a full copy of the paper HERE

A key part of the paper is the following declaration:

We conservation scientists

  1. Acknowledge that most of the terrestrial megafauna species are threatened with extinction and have declining populations. Some megafauna species that are not globally threatened nonetheless face local extinctions or have Critically Endangered subspecies.

  2. Appreciate that “business as usual” will result in the loss of many of the Earth’s most iconic species.

  3. Understand that megafauna have ecological roles that directly and indirectly affect ecosystem processes and other species throughout the food web; failure to reverse megafaunal declines will disrupt species interactions, with negative consequences for ecosystem function; biological diversity; and the ecological, economic, and social services that these species provide.

  4. Realize that megafauna are epitomized as a symbol of the wilderness, exemplifying the public’s engagement in nature, and that this is a driving force behind efforts to maintain the ecosystem services they can provide.

  5. Recognize the importance of integrating and better aligning human development and biodiversity conservation needs through the engagement and support of local communities in developing countries.

  6. Propose that funding agencies and scientists increase conservation research efforts in developing countries, where most threatened megafauna occur. Specifically, there is a need to increase the amount of research directed at finding solutions for the conservation of megafauna, especially for lesser-known species.

  7. Request the help of individuals, governments, corporations, and nongovernmental organizations to stop practices that are harmful to these species and to actively engage in helping to reverse declines in megafauna.

  8. Strive for increased awareness among the global public of the current megafauna crisis using traditional media as well as social media and other networking approaches.

  9. Seek a new and comprehensive global commitment and framework for conserving megafauna. The international community should take necessary action to prevent mass extinction of the world’s megafauna and other species.

  10. Urge the development of new funding mechanisms to transfer the current benefits accrued through the existence values of megafauna into tangible payments to support research, conservation actions, and local people who bear the cost of living with wildlife in the places where highly valued megafauna must be preserved.

  11. Advocate for interdisciplinary scientific interchange between nations to improve the social and ecological understanding of the drivers of the decline of megafauna and to increase the capacity for megafauna science and conservation.

  12. Recommend the reintroduction and rehabilitation, following accepted IUCN guidelines, of degraded megafauna populations whenever possible, the ecological and economic importance of which is evidenced by a growing number of success stories, from Yellowstone’s wolves (Canis lupus) and the Père David’s deer (Elaphurus davidianus) in China to the various megafauna species of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique.

  13. Affirm an abiding moral obligation to protect the Earth’s megafauna.

We hope the paper stimulates discussion and action to help save the world’s terrestrial megafauna from extinction.


Photo Credits: Elephant and hippopotamus (K. Everatt), rhinoceros (G. Kerley).

Book Review By Ian Fraser

Ian Fraser who is a Canberra-based professional naturalist and writer recently reviewed our book “The Red Kangaroo in Central Australia; an early account by A.E. Newsome“.

Below is a copy of the review and links to the original webpages.

Click to access Ian%20Fraser%2022.pdf

“When I was a shy young teenager growing up in a housing trust suburb of Adelaide, a most interesting family moved next door for a while. He was a tall dark-haired quietly spoken young biologist doing a PhD at Adelaide University; even then I was fascinated by the natural world and he was a natural hero for me. His name was Alan Newsome, and in later years I followed his zoological career with interest. You may recall that he came to temporary prominence as the CSIRO dingo expert at the Lindy Chamberlain trial, but he deserves to be remembered for much more than that. He was one of the greats in a line of Australian desert zoologists, which includes such names as Hedley Finlayson, Francis Ratcliffe, Tim Ealey, Graham Caughley and Geoff Sharman. In particular he was instrumental in unravelling many secrets of the Red Kangaroo and the Dingo over decades of complex and diligent work in central Australia, working closely with pastoralists and indigenous communities. This is an interesting and historically highly significant book, published by his son Thomas (himself a professional ecologist) from notes he found in the Canberra family garage after Alan died in 2007. It was an account of the results of his years of desert research into the Red Kangaroo, its ecology and its interactions with the pastoral industry, and was supposed to be published at the time – Thomas found letters from the publisher asking that it be completed – but it never was. Cannily, Thomas finishes the book with a reprint of a paper Alan published in 1980, on ‘Eco-mythology’ – a comparison of indigenous stories and modern ecology, in which he found that the stories made perfect sense when seen through the lens of ecology. This was one of Alan’s most important achievements. I am personally delighted that this book has been published, and in the broader world it fully deserves an honoured place in the Australian zoological literature.”

Thanks Ian for the kind review.