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Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund

Albatross chicks

WWF’s Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund supports the testing of new ideas that have potential to reduce the vulnerability of wildlife to changes in climate through on-the-ground projects. Successes and lessons learned from these pilot projects provide useful guidance that move conservation beyond business-as-usual approaches and rapidly scale promising efforts to help wildlife endure under conditions of rapid change. Projects piloted through this fund must meet the following criteria:

  • Address climate vulnerability of one or more target species through interventions that directly support those species or help communities adapt to change and thus reduce pressure on target species.
  • Be implemented in one year or less with plans to monitor results in following years.
  • Focus on implementation of a project rather than research.

Funded projects

Constructing Artificial Nests for Shy Albatross

Two albatross touching beaks

The shy albatross is a threatened and endemic Tasmanian species, facing a variety of threats across their range. Their different life history stages make them particularly sensitive to the unprecedented changes in climate occurring in both their marine foraging habitats and the terrestrial breeding environments. For example, higher air temperatures during the chick-rearing period are associated with fewer eggs successfully producing chicks at the end of the breeding season, and their nests are susceptible to extreme rainfall events and wind.

This project investigated whether providing high-quality artificial nests can improve breeding success and provide a boost to the population by increasing the number of chicks produced in a given breeding season. To date, the team has constructed and installed a total of 120 mudbrick and concrete nests on the remote Albatross island. Immediately following installation, the albatross were observed readily adopting their new nests, even personalizing them with mud and vegetation. Initial monitoring results show the breeding success of birds on artificial nests is 20% higher than those on natural nests.

 

walrus hauled out on a beach

Relocating Pacific Walrus Carcasses to Minimize Predator Disturbance

Pacific walrus populations have experienced a significant decline since the 1980s. The extent of summer sea ice has been reduced drastically in the last few decades due to warming of the Arctic. Without the ice, walruses haul out on land along the northern shores of eastern Russia, where the number of individuals often reaches several tens of thousands. Every year, many of the weakest individuals, along with many young cubs, are trampled to death in stampedes caused by human disturbance and predator activity.

Following consultation with and approval by residents of the local village of Enurmino, work began in 2017 on a project to remove walrus carcasses from the rookery prior to the arrival of walruses and relocate the remains to designated feeding areas. The goal was to reduce the number of predators, such as polar bears, disturbing the nesting grounds and prevent conflict between humans and polar bears. Hunters from the village proposed the best locations for predator feeding areas based on local knowledge of predator movements, distance from the village and the rookery, and proximity to routes taken by inspectors of Beringia National Park. In addition to identifying feeding locations, local hunters also provided the bulk of the labor needed for the project, including transport of 80 carcasses and additional remains from the rookeries to the feeding areas.

Initial results of the project are promising. Monitoring suggests that walruses gathered at the rookery a month earlier than expected—a possible result of reduced predator activity in the area. In total, 80,000 walruses came ashore and data show a 43.5% decrease in the number of predator appearances at the rookery when compared with 2016 data. Five panic events occurred, resulting in a total of 167 fatalities, which is lower than the number of deaths recorded in all but one out of the previous seven years. Despite the large number of individuals recorded at the project site, the mortality of animals was relatively low in comparison to other, much smaller rookeries.

Additionally, relocating the animal remains to designated feeding areas has also helped to reduce the number of conflicts between predators and humans by luring bears away from the village.

 

creating cookstoves in Sikkim, India

Red Pandas, Climate Change, and the Fight to Save Forests

Every year the northeastern state of Sikkim hosts the Red Panda Festival. The winter event features parades, live music and draws tourists and locals alike. It’s a joyful celebration named for Sikkim’s iconic state animal.

While residents of Sikkim honor the endangered red panda, they also understand the species is under a growing threat. Climate change is impacting species across the globe and red pandas—with less than 10,000 left in the wild—are not immune.

Average temperatures in Sikkim are rising. Within its forests, the red panda occupies habitat within a very narrow temperature range. As temperatures rise, the red panda will need to move to higher elevations to adapt to the changing climate.

This is a troubling scenario, as nearly 70% of suitable red panda habitat in Sikkim is located outside of designated protected areas. How much habitat will be available to accommodate potential range shifts is unknown. Human activities are taking a toll on local forests. And unless these forests are secured, red pandas may have an uncertain future in a changing climate.

WWF is helping communities in Sikkim protect forests and ensure that, even with rising temperatures, the red panda has a secure place to call home. Specifically, WWF and its Wildlife Adaptation Innovation Fund are working to decrease human impacts on Sikkim’s forests through use of improved cookstoves, sustainable harvesting of forest products, and reducing the risk of forest fires.

Shed to keep household firewood dry

In communities bordering red panda habitat, most households rely on firewood from the forest as their primary source of cooking fuel. To combat the loss of trees, project staff have now trained 23 families in the manufacture and installation of new cookstoves that require less fuel. Residents have noticed a change: the new cookstoves reduce fuelwood use by up to 35% per household, cut cooking times in half, and significantly lower indoor air pollution.

Sikkim’s forests are also home to medicinal plants harvested by communities and often overexploited and traded illegally. WWF helped develop a nine-point action plan in collaboration with the village of Sindrabong to regulate use of forest resources and harvest plants more sustainably.

The changing climate in Sikkim also means changing rainfall patterns, which can lead to an increased risk of forest fires. To prepare for this, project staff conducted a study of current fire risk and mitigation efforts. As a result, they developed new recommendations for improved fire prevention and management.

WWF is working with high-level officials from the state government’s Department of Forests, Environment and Wildlife Management to share project findings, results and recommendations. As a result, important policy decisions will further strengthen forest management and ensure a healthy and secure habitat for the red panda.

  • WAIF Albatross Nests
    Constructing Artificial Nests for Shy Albatross

    The shy albatross is a threatened and endemic Tasmanian species, facing a variety of threats across their range.

  • WAIF Polar Bear and Walrus
    Relocating Pacific Walrus Carcasses to Minimize Predator Disturbance

    Pacific walrus populations have experienced a significant decline since the 1980s. The extent of summer sea ice has been reduced drastically in the last few decades due to warming of the Arctic.

  • WAIF Red Panda
    Red Pandas, Climate Change, and the Fight to Save Forests

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