Caribou Herds Rebuilt by Maternity Programs

This is no truth bomb: more and more species are becoming endangered or approaching the brink of extinction. However, there is some good news: more and more global efforts are also being executed to address the problem. In 2017, British Columbia banned recreational bear hunting. This 2018, China is funding a national park to serve as a sanctuary for giant pandas.

And some efforts are already paying off this year. With the special help of a maternity program at Smithsonian Zoo, baby Mokey — the first western lowland gorilla there in 9 years — was born to loving mom Calaya. In the same light, caribou herds are now being helped by the Revelstoke Caribou Maternal Penning Project.

About half [of the calves] are killed and eaten by wolves . . . said Scott McNay, a wildlife biologist. For the past four years, McNay has worked with the West Moberly and Saulteau First Nations, which are taking radical action to reverse the decline of the caribou by protecting cows and calves in “maternity pens” until the newborns are ready to survive life in the wild.

That bears and wolves feed on caribou is a natural phenomenon, but the proportion has been unhealthy for the past decade. Industrial development in the area has also worsened the situation. In addition to a ban on the hunting of caribou herds that have been imposed decades ago by the elders of the First Nations, wolf population control and habitat restoration are now being done simultaneously.

During the first four years of the pilot maternity project, 47 pregnant caribou from the North Columbia herd have been taken into the penning program and assisted in a nine-hectare enclosure. A few weeks ago, another 20 were sequestered. And the results look hopeful.

To date, 36 calves have released to the wild and they have about double the normal survival rate, which has stabilized the herd.

Funded by a variety of government agencies and other organizations, the maternity program wants to commit to protecting and releasing 20 cows and calves every year, in order to successfully restore the caribou herds.

Looking at these probable results, it seems that after all, every species including humankind is just trying to survive, with each other’s help in life.

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