For more than 30 years Holohil Systems Ltd. has supported endangered species research and educational work for a variety of agencies and researchers. We wish to extend our support to other species that have not previously been included. To this end, we wish to extend our support to research projects that have of high value for their species, a sound research design, and a positive conservation intention.
In addition to the equipment support, Holohil is providing winners with a forum to promote their inspiring and impressive project through this page on our website.
Congratulations to the following Holohil Grant Program recipients:
2017 – 3rd Quarter Winner:
“Ecology of the Karoo dwarf tortoise, Homopus Boulengeri”
The Karoo dwarf tortoise is a diminutive species restricted to semi-arid, rocky patches in the Karoo, South Africa, and is one of the world’s most underrepresented tortoise study species. Called the “thunderstorm tortoise”, its activity is limited to scarce rainy conditions within its small distribution range. Recent reports concluded that the species may be in decline, as >800 hours of searching known habitat found just 3 tortoises. However, this apparent scarcity may simply result from a lack of data to understand its diurnal and seasonal activity pattern. For example, we located 8 individuals in a small study area in February 2017.
This project will investigate the activity, behaviour and general biology (e.g., home ranges, diet, growth and reproduction) of the Karoo dwarf tortoise using Holohil transmitters for data collection. The data that we will collect will help us accurately assess the status of the taxon and assist managers to conserve it. In addition, the results of the study have significant scientific value, as what is known about semi-arid rock-living tortoises is based on the speckled dwarf tortoise (Chersobius signatus) while the Karoo dwarf tortoise inhabits a summer rainfall region, which is quite different.
In 2018, efforts will concentrate on finding as many tortoises as possible during the rainfall season and on collecting morphometric, reproductive and dietary data. Ten males and 10 females will be equipped with radio transmitters, be recaptured in 2019, and the larger-bodied females will be recaptured again in 2020. The focus of the 2019 study season is on activity, behaviour and home ranges: telemetered tortoises will be tracked every 1-7 days (depending on activity) to record their coordinates and behaviour. In addition, each one will be tracked early one morning, and subsequently observed throughout one full day, enabling detailed activity budgets to be calculated.
All fieldwork will be conducted by volunteers (young zoo keepers, university students and private people interested in conservation), in collaboration with the University of the Western Cape (South Africa). Outreach to local communities will be achieved through interactive presentations about the project at a local level, highlighting the uniqueness of this species and its habitat and the results of the work.
The long-term impact of the study is: (1) Solid data in the public domain regarding Karoo dwarf tortoises in their natural habitat, forming a reliable basis to assess the status of the species; (2) a basis for managers to formulate measures to conserve the species and its habitat, including sympatric species; (3) advanced insight in the effect of climate on tortoise ecology; (4) increased (local) awareness of the conservation of the Karoo dwarf tortoise and tortoises in general.
2017 – 2nd Quarter Winner:
“Spatial ecology of the Rossman’s Garter Snake in Nayarit, western Mexico”
Victor Hugo Luja Molina
The Rossman’s Gartersnake (Thamnophis rossmani) is one of the most endangered reptiles in Mexico. It is a species that has been recorded few times, whose distribution is restricted to an area less than 10 km2 in Matatipac Valley, Tepic, Nayarit, western Mexico.
In his description, Roger Conant (2000: 5) mentioned, “available evidence indicates that Thamnophis rossmani may be in grave danger, if not already extinct.” In recent years we have searched for specimens and found more snakes dead (run over) than alive. That is why we will start this work with the objective of knowing its distribution and, thanks to Holohil Systems, we will be able to know the spatial ecology of the species in order to take concrete conservation actions.
2017 – 2nd Quarter Runner Up Winner:
“Conservation of blind mole rats in the carpathian Basin”
Blind mole rats (Spalacinae) are enigmatic animals due to their special lifestyle: they are completely blind and almost never come up to the surface. Degradation, transformation of the formerly vast grasslands to intensive monocultures and development areas extirpated these rodents from more than 90% of their original distribution area in the Carpathian Basin. As a result, blind mole rats became endangered and gained the highest-level legal protection in Hungary. Researchers of the Hungarian Natural History Museum (HNHM) started the investigation of their systematics, distribution and conservation biology in 2005.
Molecular genetic studies of the Carpathian Basin populations resulted in the elevation of the formerly recognised chromosomal forms of the Lesser blind mole rat species complex Nannospalax (superspecies leucodon) to species rank. They represent the only endemic mammal species of the EU’s Pannonian Biogeographical Region, but they face severe conservation problems. It was revealed that Nannospalax syrmiensis already went extinct and the other three species are assessed as endangered or critically endangered. Despite of legal protection, nearly all remaining population fragments are threatened, i.e. because of the building of the Hungarian-Serbian border fence or a solar power plant exactly “over the head” of the blind mole rats.
As a pilot study, in close cooperation with the nature protection authorities, two years ago we started the first-ever translocation program of a fossorial rodent. To establish a new population in a state-owned protected area we live-trap specimens and the possibility to equip them with radio telemetry devices would provide an unparalleled possibility to get exact data about their lifecycle, movements, home ranges, etc, – information so far not existing at all, but vitally necessary to effectively protect them. This autumn, we would like to follow five individuals in the newly established population.
Outcomes will be the more detailed understanding of the life of blind mole rats, which result in more effective protection of these rare mammals.
2017 – 1st Quarter Winner:
“Reintroduction of Amazona vinacea at the Araucarias National Park, Brazil’”
Vanessa Tavares Kanaan
The Psittacidae family has some of the most threatened species. Two of the main reasons for the rapid and ongoing population decline are habitat destruction and illegal nest poaching. The vinaceous-breasted Amazon (Amazona vinacea) is one of the most endangered amazon species of the Atlantic Forest, a biodiversity hotspot. A. vinacea historically occurred in Brazil from southern Bahia to Rio Grande do Sul, parts of Paraguay and Argentina. It has become rare throughout its extensive range and its minimal population is 3,920 individuals. It is listed on the IUCN Red List (IUCN, 2016) as Endangered with “a very high risk of becoming extinct in the wild in the immediate future”. In Brazil, it is considered Vulnerable.
Because of its threat status, research and interventions are urgently necessary to prevent global extinction. In 2010 we developed and implemented a program to effectively reintroduce A. vinacea in the Araucárias National Park, Brazil, where it was locally extinct. Since then, a total of 83 birds victims of illegal wildlife, rescued or captive born, have been rehabilitated, released and monitored as part of our pioneer bird reintroduction effort in a Brazilian National Park approved by the federal governmental agency Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (ICMBio). Up to date free pairs have been identified, and at least 9 wild born offspring have been observed. In order to improve the chances of success, yearly releases are needed.
In 2017, thanks to Holohil, a new group of amazons will be released and monitored in order to help the establishment a viable local population. Captive birds welfare will be improved while providing them a chance to play their ecological roles with direct benefit for the conservation of this endangered species and its habitat.
Also, Instituto Espaço Silvestre will continue generating scientific knowledge while educating and engaging people in conservation issues and promoting socioeconomic development. In addition to the local impact, this study will contribute to achieving the goals of four Brazilian National Action Plans for the Conservation of Endangered Species and international initiatives as well. We are continuously looking for partners in order to provide needed inputs into the local population. With continuing support from Holohil, it is possible to reverse A. vinacea local extinction and reduce its causes.
2017 – 1st Quarter Runner Up Winner:
“Using Radio Transmitters to Track the Release of the Endangered Limosa Harlequin frog (Atelopus limosus)”
Amphibians around the globe are in peril of extinction due to the amphibian chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis). In Panama, many species experienced catastrophic population declines and vanished from known localities as the chytrid fungus passed through the country. Founding populations of amphibians likely to become extinct were collected for captive breeding, forming the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project.
Among the most susceptible species of amphibians are frogs belonging to the genus Atelopus. All of which have experienced dramatic populations declines, and one species has not been seen for more than 20 years. We have been successful in breeding and rearing the young of five Atelopus species.
This summer we will use radio transmitters from Holohil to track the release of captive bred Limosa Harlequin frogs (Atelopus limosus) from the Panama Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project. This will the first experimental release of Atelopus limosus. We will use these transmitters to better understand how captive bred frogs cope with being introduced back into the environment, how far they travel and what habitat they will select, natural history and behavior, and see if they can evade chytrid infection. Data gathered from this summer will be important for strategic development of future reintroductions, so we can meet our goal of preventing extinctions of endangered amphibians in Panama.
For more information, please visit: Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project
2016 – 4th Quarter Winner:
“Conservation management of a threatened New Zealand ‘gravel hopper’”
The Robust grasshopper (Brachaspis robustus), is a nationally threatened grasshopper endemic to the high plateau area known as the Mackenzie Basin in the South Island of New Zealand. They are better described as a ‘gravel-hoppers’ given they only occur in stony braided river habitats. Introduced mammalian predators (hedgehogs, cats, mustelids) and habitat modification appear to be driving population decline but little is really understood about the grasshopper life history characteristics, ecological requirements, population dynamics or recovery techniques.
In 2015 Dr Tara Murray from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, began a collaborative project with the Department of Conservation and Environment Canterbury to facilitate science driven conservation management for the grasshopper. 186 grasshoppers were translocated into a predator reduced area and monitored for over a year. At the same time mark-recapture and transect monitoring methods have been trailed at wild sites to try and determine how to accurately monitor population trends of this extremely cryptic species.
In 2017 we will use HOLOHIL LB-2X transmitters to track the movements of 10 adult female hoppers during the day and night. Only females will be tracked as males are significantly smaller. Tracking will be conducted to determine daily movements, foraging behaviour, and to locate night refuges and oviposition sites. This will assist us in understanding the ecological requirements of the grasshoppers, their exposure to different predators and habitat requirements needed to facilitate successful in-situ management or translocation. Locating oviposition sites will allow us to ascertain crucial life history traits. We hope some of the lessons learned from this project will be transferrable to other threatened grasshoppers and encourage more insect conservation programs.
For more information, please visit: Tara Murray – University of Canterbury
2016 – 3rd Quarter Winner:
“Vietnamese farmers investigating the secret life of wild pygmy loris living on their doorstep”
The Dao Tien Endangered Primate Species Centre, working within Cat Tien National Park South Vietnam has rescued and rehabilitated the small nocturnal pygmy loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) from the illegal wildlife trade in Vietnam for eight years. During this time over 40 individuals have been radio-collared and returned to the wild. Post- release monitoring data has helped move forward this field of reintroduction biology with protocols developed for successful release and survival of individuals.
However increasingly individuals are being caught in the buffer zone surrounding the National Park, with densities suggested of wild loris higher outside of protected areas than within. These populations are crucial with a landscape conservation view if we are going to save this endangered primate from extinction.
When we receive individuals from plantations they are often in poor condition, with fire damage from plantation management and skin problems, but they are present with high frequencies of sightings.
In this project we will work with local farmers and find out why they the pygmy loris go into the plantations, how much time they spend in the plantations and what do they do? Do they raid crops, damaging fruit like the squirrel or instead function as bio-engineers, helping pollination and pest control, munching away on the insects that normally harm the crops.
Working together with the farmers to track the pygmy loris in this mixed plantation area we hope together to find the answer to these questions. This will provide a valuable key to evolving a proud culture of living alongside pygmy loris, protecting them as valuable attributes to the ecosystem instead of pests.
Over the next months we will survey the buffer zone assessing the different habitats.
For more information, please visit: Endangered Asian Species Trust
2016 – 3rd Quarter Runner Up Winner:
“Identifying areas of conflict between humans and Thailand’s most venomous terrestrial snakes: ecology and threats”
Update (23-Nov-2016) from Tyler: “Here is my newly tracked female Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus). She is the 1st female to join the study on Krait ecology within the human dominated habitats of rural Northeast Thailand. All of the three radio-tracked Banded Kraits have been captured during night surveys around an agricultural retention pond complex at the outskirts of a local village near the Sakaerat Environmental Research Station. I am very excited to add this new member who will hopefully shed some light into the species breeding activities”
As part of Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Education Team (SCSET) I am performing my master’s degree research at Suranaree University of Technology as an advisee of Dr. Colin Strine. I am using radio telemetry to assess the spatial ecology, habitat use, and activity periods of banded kraits in the human dominated agricultural areas of the Transitional Zone in Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve. We have radio tracked 4 kraits during the last year as preliminary research for my master’s degree.
Kraits are highly venomous snakes belonging to the infamous family Elapidae, shared by other well-known snakes such as cobras, mambas, and taipans. Two krait species can be found within the Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve, the Banded Krait (Bungarus fasciatus) and the Malayan Krait (Bungarus candidus). Kraits live throughout southeast Asia and are responsible for human mortalities resulting from snake bites in largely rural areas. However, I suspect the majority of snake bites often occur when people attempt to move, kill or otherwise initiate contact with snakes.
My research attempts to identify areas with potential for conflict between kraits and the human inhabitants of the vastly agricultural portions of the Biosphere Reserve’s human-dominated outskirts. As the project progresses we intend to employ drift fence traps along agricultural canal systems to increase telemetered sample sizes of both species. Surveys and camera traps will also be used to determine habitat occupancy and the level of human activity within krait home ranges.
With a better understanding of how kraits live near humans, coupled with dissemination through community outreach, we can reduce the number of snake bites. By reducing snake bites, improved perceptions may soon fallow. I would like to thank Holohil for assisting our research and conservation goals here in Thailand.
For more information, please visit: Sakaerat Conservation and Snake Ecology Team