Rare, endangered turtle case study highlights conservation priorities for today, future World Wildlife Days

Plow turtle looking directly at the camera. Credit: University of Maryland Associate Professor Meredith Gore

Although wildlife trafficking has virtually ceased since the first World Wildlife Day – established 50 years ago today through the 1973 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) – a recently published case study of one of the world’s rarest turtle species, the ploughshare turtle, highlights how much room for improvement there is still.

In a new paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Associate Professor Meredith Gore and colleagues at the University of Maryland detail a 2018 effort to map the location of ploughshare turtles in and around Soalala, Madagascar. nearby villages; known trade and transit routes; and the level of trade risk associated with each of these areas.

The group of about 50 stakeholders also shared more qualitative information that could play a role in the poaching process, such as trails of cultural and spiritual significance, influence of tides on decision-making. and where the poachers met to plan their activities.

This information was plotted on a transparent, plastic sheet that was superimposed on a color map of the area. This information was then digitized into a geographic information system, creating what the researchers called a “mess” that nevertheless revealed new information to effectively target these ploughshare turtle trafficking networks.

“Our scientific team used an interdisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to think about, measure and analyze data,” Gore explains. “Not only were we able to change the data landscape to clarify how important waterways are to illicit supply chain resilience, we were able to normalize technical spatial data with insights from traditionally marginalized voices – women.”

Rare, endangered turtle case study highlights conservation priorities for today, future World Wildlife Days

Plow turtles with numbers written on their shells. Credit: University of Maryland Associate Professor Meredith Gore

Gore and her co-authors argue that if a process like this were combined with the latest advances in computational science, operations engineering and supply chain management, together, researchers could dramatically disrupt wildlife trade networks and thus conserving more animals, such as the ploughshare turtle, which are already on the brink of extinction.

“As we celebrate World Wildlife Day, our recent work highlights the urgent need for interdisciplinary collaboration to address the complex global issue of wildlife trafficking,” says Bistra Dilkina, associate professor of computer science and industrial and systems engineering at the University of Southern California. .

“I feel privileged to have the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team to put together a roadmap for how our different disciplines can work together to combat wildlife trafficking and trade. In particular, I’m excited to think deeply about the benefits of data-based approaches in machine learning and optimization can contribute to this important effort.”

Looking to the future, the researchers believe that with increased interdisciplinary collaborations, conservationists may one day be able to predict which route a trafficker will take, target areas where local people could be trained and empowered to play a role in prevent wildlife trafficking, better allocate limited resources to have the greatest intervention impact, and more.

“It’s easy to reflect on the range of conservation achievements that have been made since World Wildlife Day was first celebrated,” says Gore. “Our hope is that interdisciplinary science will produce additional high-return investments for the conservation sector in the future, primarily by advancing knowledge about shifts and changes in patterns of wildlife trade networks in a changing environment.”

More information:
Meredith L. Gore et al, Advancing Interdisciplinary Science to Disrupt Wildlife Trafficking Networks, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2208268120

Provided by the University of Maryland

Reference: Case study of rare, threatened turtle highlights conservation priorities for today, future World Wildlife Days (2023, March 3) Retrieved March 5, 2023, from https://phys.org/news/2023-03-case- rare-endangered-tortoise-highlights.html

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