Releasing captive-bred ploughshare tortoise in Madagascar

Releasing captive-bred ploughshare tortoise in Madagascar

2017/2018 update: Lance Woolaver is at WPC this year! Read his notes here

Lance Woolaver was Wildlife Preservation Canada’s 8th Canada’s New Noah in 1997.  But that was just the beginning. Following that, Lance and his wife Rina Nichols helped pioneer Wildlife Preservation Canada’s Eastern Loggerhead Shrike Recovery Program; led a team in Dominican Republic in aid of Ridgway’s hawk, one of the world’s most critically endangered species;  returned to Madagascar and now manages species recovery projects there for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. Lance tells us about his journey here.

I can’t thank Wildlife Preservation Canada enough for selecting me back in 1997 as one of the early New Noahs to go to Jersey for the training course and then on to Mauritius where I was able to work with echo parakeets, pink pigeons, passerines, and the reptiles of Round Island. That opportunity completely changed my life and enabled me to see how effective species recovery projects could be for critically endangered species, particularly when you are surrounded by dedicated people working toward the same goal. It made me realize that there is hope. Being a New Noah has led to a lifetime of amazing experiences, re-introducing eastern loggerhead shrikes and California condors, and visiting conservation projects in New Zealand, the Seychelles and the Caribbean.

Since I can remember my dream has been to work with endangered species. I grew up reading Gerry Durrell’s books and had always wanted to visit the zoo in Jersey. Because of the New Noah programme I not only realized that dream but I now work for the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and manage all their species recovery projects in Madagascar, including the conservation programs for some of the world’s rarest creatures like the Madagascar pochard, side-necked turtle and ploughshare tortoise. This has been a huge challenge due to the scale of the conservation issues in Madagascar but the experiences I’ve had along the way due to WPC’s support during my career, have prepared me for tackling these major conservation challenges.

Species Conservation in the Dominican Republic

Wildlife Preservation Canada supported research research in the Dominican Republic on Ridgway’s hawk, one of the world’s most critically endangered species. This research was important because prior to our arrival, very little was known about the species distribution, biology or ecology. The information that the local team and I gathered over the 5 years of fieldwork resulted in a much clearer idea of the hawk’s requirements and the factors and human pressures that had brought the species to near extinction. This information has helped guide the species recovery. During my time in the field, local communities became more aware and proud of the hawk and began protecting hawks and their nests. The results of the research have been published, and have been useful for follow-up conservation efforts, including a translocation project that The Peregrine Fund have been carrying out to re-establish secondary populations to improve the species chances of survival. Some of the original Dominican field researchers that I recruited have been helping the Peregrine Fund with this translocation project. Remembering back this was a special time in my life. The experiences I gained living and working with local communities in the Dominican Republic, designing and carrying out the field research, and finishing my Doctoral thesis at York University have had a major influence on my career and helped me get to where I am today.

None of this would have been achieved without Wildlife Preservation Canada’s support.