Conservation Achievements

Context for Conservation


AFRICA − (Namibia & Zimbabwe) – Rhino Conservation and Policy: The plight of white and black rhinos led several African nations to try radical conservation tactics – dehorning. My team and I developed a program that involved field studies, simple economic analyses, and local people to evaluate the efficacy of dehorning. While controversial, our scientifically-grounded empirical work altered government policy and resulted in the cessation of dehorning as a practice for more than a decade.

ASIA (Central Asia) – Cashmere Markets and Decline of Large Mammals). The demand for cashmere as a fashion in the West is infusing incentives to produce more cashmere and this is resulting in an increase of goat herding by pastoralists across remote areas of Central Asia.  While this is helping herders accrue more monies it is also affecting  iconic and endangered large mammals such as wild yaks, kulan and kyang, saiga, and snow leopards.  The challenges to maintaining human livelihoods yet protecting these rare species are enormous.  My colleagues and I are trying to address these issues.

ASIA (Mongolia) – In Situ and Ex Situ Conservation: The world’s most northern antelope is the endangered saiga. A recent controversial challenge in Mongolia involved whether to develop a captive propagation center or to invest funds into in situ conservation. Our efforts with Mongolian biologists resulted population estimates in the wild to demonstrate that saiga were more abundant than had been presumed, and there was no need to concentrate on far more expensive ex situ practices. Mongolian Academy of Science biologists were sponsored for a training workshop in the USA on modern techniques to estimate population abundance. These are now the standard to estimate population sizes of some wildlife species. Further, we will be seeking ways to develop strategies to enhance future herder lifestyles while addressing negative effects of the growing cashmere trade (e. g. proliferation of domestic goats) on Central Asian large mammals; this involves engagement with the garment industry and local government.

ASIA – NORTH AMERICA (Chukotka, Beringia & Arctic Alaska): Climate is changing more rapidly in the Arctic than elsewhere. The sole obligate Arctic ungulate are muskoxen, but it has been unclear the extent to which climate or other drivers (if any) may threaten the persistence of muskoxen. Current efforts – in year 6 – are designed to examine how harvest of males, extreme climate events, and predation may interact to render populations susceptible to collapse. A program is also operating in association with Russian scientists on the Wrangel Island Zapovednic to develop ecological baselines using non-invasive photogrammetry.

USA – Harvest Regulations: Using Science to Enhance Wildlife Numbers: The hunting of adult female ungulates when accompanied by young has been controversial because it has never been clear whether motherless offspring survive although the assumption has consistently been made that some young can survive winters. This has been true for moose. Our work has recently shown that orphans survive poorly in the absence of their mothers. These findings offered a basis for which states like Wyoming and Idaho changed harvest policy.

ASIA (Bhutan, China) – Advising and Fieldwork to Conserve Takin and Wild Yak: In winter 2012, by invitation of the Bhutan government, we instigated a field program on behalf of a Bhutanese PhD student at the Ugyen Wangcuk Institute for Conservation and Environment a first ever radio-collaring project designed to garner information on the status of Bhutan’s national mammal, the takin. Fieldwork and advising has since continued and, as we learn more, a Bhutanese-led national conservation strategy will be developed.Following on the heels of pioneering efforts by Dr. George Schaller and Dr. Aili Kang, colleagues and I have been advising, helping to structure, and participating in field programs on the Tibetan Plateau to enhance conservation of wild yaks. We are working at local and national levels to facilitate science-based on-the-ground conservation practices.

Publications and Press

Berger J, 2010, Berger, J. et al.(In Press); and 3 outreach publications in Chinese a) Tibet’s China (2010); China Forestry and Environment (2012), 3) China−Outside (2013); also:

Washington Post –

Missoulian –

USA – Protecting Migration Corridors and Policy Change: The long distance migrations of land mammals have collapsed globally. Our efforts in the Teton region of the Greater Yellowstone resulted in the USA’s 1st federally protected migration corridor, an area about 70 kms long and 2 kms wide. It is known colloquially as ‘Path of the Pronghorn’ and featured in numerous books, by National Geographic and by Smithsonian Magazines, in the science journal, Nature, and elsewhere.

Honors and Awards

  • *Finalist – Award for Conservation Excellence; Banovich Wildscapes Foundation –2018
  • *Finalist for Indianapolis Prize (for Conservation – 2018)
  • *Finalist for Indianapolis Prize (for Conservation – 2016)
  • *Finalist for Indianapolis Prize (for Conservation – 2014)
  • *Aldo Leopold Conservation Award, American Society of Mammalogists (2013)
  • *LaRue III Award; Society of Conservation Biology (2009)
  • Fellow, American Association for Advancement of Sciences. 1996 (ELECTED).
  • BAY Biodiversity Award in Conservation Science. 1995 (NOMINATED).
  • PEW Scholar in Conservation. 1993. (NOMINATED).
  • Rolex Foundation. 1993, (MERITORIOUS PROJECT DESIGNATION).
  • Foundation Professor, University of Nevada, Reno. 1992 – 1994 (AWARDED).

*life-time achievement

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