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Protected Areas

Last updated:
22 June 2017
In the battle to reduce the unprecedented levels of species extinction and biodiversity loss, few weapons are known to be as old and as widely implemented as protected areas (Pressey, 1996). Defined as “a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values” (Dudley, 2008), these areas indeed form the core of most national or regional biodiversity conservation strategies, with currently around 160,000 designated terrestrial protected areas and around 6,800 marine protected areas in the world (Soutullo, 2010, Toropova et al., 2010, Protected Planet 2012). They constitute an important stock of natural, cultural and social capital, yielding flows of economically valuable goods and services that benefit society, secure livelihoods, and hence contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (Convention on Biological Diversity, 2012). They also are a strategic benchmark against which scientists can gain an understanding of human interactions with the natural world and associated impacts (Dudley, 2008). Protected areas are thus of high significance to both practitioners and conservation biologists, and have triggered for decades advances in both environmental management and ecology.
Despite the amount of knowledge already accumulated on protected areas as a tool to conserve biodiversity, there is still much to be learnt. Protected areas truly sit at the interface between people and nature, and represent a form of conservation interventions that can sometimes entail massive costs to societies: when it comes to making decisions about the future management of the global protected area network, each individual on earth is a stakeholder. To answer questions such as where to set a new protected area, or how to manage efficiently such an area, truly requires a multi-disciplinary approach that combines the concerns and knowledge of all, spanning from adjacent communities members, anthropologists and economists, to lawyers, ecologists and local, national and international decision makers. If there was a perfect set of issues to test and increase our ability, as conservation biologists, to be truly collaborative and integrative, then the set of issues related to protected areas would probably come close to being first.
Supporting the establishment and management of protected areas with robust science is a key priority for conservation science, explaining why numerous articles have been published over the past decade in Animal Conservation on that particular topic. In this special issue, I have tried to put together a set of articles that illustrates the complexity and challenges associated with the design and implementation of an effective protected area network. Hopefully such a selection will enthuse a new pool of scientists to join the global debate and start addressing the current gaps in knowledge, as many more hands are required to adequately inform the many environmental decisions to come.

Camera Trapping

Last updated:
22 June 2017
Camera trapping refers to the use of remotely triggered cameras to capture images of wildlife. Its first use dates to the late 1890s when George Shiras III experimented with combinations of hand-operated, spring-pole baited, and trip wire trigger large-format cameras and explosive magnesium powder or alcohol lamp flashes to photograph wild animals in natural settings (Shiras 1936). Following in his steps, many early naturalists created 'traps' by wiring plates, bait, or trip wires to film cameras, the resulting images were often startling in their beauty and in their ability to provide glimpses of undisturbed animals going about their daily business. Yet the use of cameras to survey animal populations remained an anomaly until about the early 1990s when the number of papers on the use of remote-cameras increased dramatically. In the late 1990s the first broad review of the use of these techniques for wildlife research was published (Cutler and Swann 1999). At this point the photography equipment began to be paired with more sophisticated sampling designs, and attention turned to the important experiment design questions such as the use of sampling grids, the calculation of detection rates, and the simultaneous deployment of multiple cameras. With these advances came the ability to apply cameras to address complex issues across broader spatial scales, such as the identification of the factors shaping variation in animal distribution. 
There are many advantages to using camera traps to survey wildlife. The methodology is non-invasive and thought to incur minimal environmental disturbance. Traps can be deployed for extended period in remote areas where ground or climatic conditions make normal observational work difficult (camera traps have been used in the Antarctic, in the Sahara and in the Amazon). Camera traps can also be used to gain information on highly cryptic species. Thanks to them, we were able to capture the first ever photographs of numerous species in the wild, including the Chinese mountain cat, Abbott’s duiker, Lowe’s servaline genet, the Saharan cheetah, the giant muntjac, and the saola. The technology has even facilitated the discovery of new species, such as the Annamite striped rabbit of Southeast Asia and the grey-faced sengi in Tanzania, the world's largest elephant shrews. Importantly, camera trap methodology provides a fantastic way to engage the general public with animal conservation issues, highlighting the hidden richness of our planet and putting a face on what we could lose. 
The technological advances associated with the transition from film to digital mediums, from incandescent to infrared flashes, and from direct contact to line of sight triggers, as well as the decreasing prices of individual devices,have undoubtedly aided the mainstreaming of camera-based methodologies for surveys of wildlife. The arrival of camera trapping methodologies, however, is perhaps best indicated by the observation that for many researchers it is now just another technique. As such, the papers generated are now commonly focused not on the use of cameras per se, but rather on some subject for which cameras can be used to generate the necessary data. Cameras have become just another tool to use when attempting to answer important theoretical and applied questions. As researchers we have now reached a stage where the use of remotely deployed cameras for wildlife studies is the norm.
The increased sophistication that is now associated with the use of camera-based research can be observed in the pages of Animal Conservation, where numerous articles have been published over the past two decades. In this special issue, we compile a dozen articles dating back over the past decade that reveal the sophisticated ways in which camera-trapping is now being used to support animal conservation efforts as well as some of the nuanced methodological issues associated with camera trap data. Several of these articles have also been the source of correspondence and commentaries, which can be found in the articles listed below.

Marine Mammal Conservation

Last updated:
22 June 2017
Inspired by the 19th Biennial Conference on the Biology of Marine Mammals held in Florida, this Virtual Issue of Animal Conservation is a selection of papers published in the journal on marine mammal conservation, covering a wide range of topics such as marine mammal ecology, genetics, behaviour, disease, and illegal exploitation. This Virtual Issue’s papers are now freely available to download.

Conservation Conflicts

Last updated:
22 June 2017
Biodiversity is under increasing pressure as human populations continue to grow. Climate change, over-exploitation, land-use change, and the threat of invasive species and infectious disease all challenge the way we manage and conserve biological diversity. As a result, there are increasing numbers of conflicts between those interested in conserving species and those with alternative goals and priorities. These conflicts range from the management of single species to international differences over the management of resources. Here we present past papers published in Animal Conservation which illustrate the broad themes relevant to conflicts in conservation.

Domestic Carnivores and Wildlife Conservation

Last updated:
17 May 2017
Matthew E. Gompper
School of Natural Resources, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri 65211, USA
Within the field of conservation ecology, the importance of invasive species has long been recognized. Invasive animals are of particular concern when they are vertebrate carnivores, perhaps because these taxa are able to persist in diverse habitats and once comfortably embedded in these novel setting, are often able to instigate strong declines in prey species, or indeed, trophic cascades. The pages of Animal Conservation are littered with articles on invasive vertebrate carnivores.

Two carnivorous species blur the line when it comes to assessing whether a taxon is invasive: the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) and cat (Felis catus). Because they are often desired and subsidized human commensals, we rarely consider the ecological role of these species when they are either unowned or beyond the control of their ‘owners’ (whether free-ranging out of ear-shot or as animals that have left the fold and reverted to a feral lifestyle). Thus while conservationists, and sometimes the general public, are often attuned to some concerns regarding the impacts of cats on birds, or the potential for dogs to hybridize with wolves (C. lupus), many in this same audience are unaware of other concerns regarding these predators. While recent syntheses (Denny & Dickman, 2010; Hughes & Macdonald, 2013; Gompper, 2014; Nogales et al., 2014) have served to bring these issues to the forefront for ecologists and conservationists, much remains unclear. For example, in some landscapes free-ranging dogs and cats have existed for thousands of years. Furthermore, in some localities free-ranging populations of these species may serve as ecological surrogates of native carnivores that have been lost due to anthropogenic impacts. Recognition of such patterns suggests that understanding the impacts of domestic dogs and cats on wildlife requires in-depth research and nuanced interpretation of the ensuing data.

The extent of research on how domestic carnivores influence wildlife of conservation concern can be observed on the pages of Animal Conservation, where numerous articles on the theme have been published. In this Virtual Issue, eleven articles published over the past decade are highlighted. These papers collectively reveal the diversity of ecological interactions that domestic carnivores have with wildlife. The articles examine these interactions from diverse perspectives, with foci that include edge effects, predation, scavenging, disease maintenance and transmission, and hybridization.


Denny EA and Dickman CR (2010) Review of Cat Ecology and Management Strategies in Australia, Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre, Canberra.

Gompper, M. E. (Ed.). (2013). Free-Ranging Dogs and Wildlife Conservation. Oxford University Press.

Hughes, J., & Macdonald, D. W. (2013). A review of the interactions between free-roaming domestic dogs and wildlife. Biological Conservation, 157, 341-351.

Nogales, M., Vidal, E., Medina, F. M., Bonnaud, E., Tershy, B. R., Campbell, K. J., & Zavaleta, E. S. (2013). Feral cats and biodiversity conservation: the urgent prioritization of island management. BioScience, 63(10), 804-810.