Scale up elephant
Many populations of Asian
elephants (Elephas maximus)
have enjoyed 15years of
protection against poachers.
We s u gg e s t t ha t i n cr e a si n g
investment in anti-poaching
measures and law enforcement
in Africa could help to stem
the escalating crisis for African
elephants (Loxodonta africana).
Since 2010, Africa has
received some US$500million
of international donor funding
to increase law enforcement
in protected areas (go.nature.
poaching is still rife, particularly
where rangers are sparse. Even
well-resourced parks in southern
Africa are not immune.
Poaching of Asian elephants
was stopped across Cambodia’s
Cardamom Rainforest Landscape
in 2001, and has been kept at
bay at an annual cost of $200
per square kilometre. Assuming
similar factors operate in Africa,
and given that the estimated
range of the African elephant is
3million km2, on-the-ground
action at poaching sites would
need some $600million annually.
Although daunting, this sum
is less than $1,500 a year for each
live African elephant — much
lower than even conservative
estimates of its value to ecosystem
services and ecotourism. The
global community must help to
raise these funds.
Thomas N. E. Gray, Suwanna
Gauntlett Wildlife Alliance,
Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Funds to help Eastern
Europe close the gap
The incentive for investigators
in Eastern Europe to apply for
Horizon 2020 funding from the
European Union is undermined
by the grant model defining how
researchers should be paid (go.
nature.com/2hqxgxi). It requires
that research stipends conform
to national basic salaries, which
are much lower in Eastern than
in Western Europe. This weakens
the motivation of researchers in
the eastern EU to put in the extra
effort required to catch up and
gain international standing.
Compared with Western
European centres, systems
for grant writing, funding
management and research
publication in Eastern Europe
are less developed. After years
of underfunding, the scientific
community there lacks the
necessary competitive edge. For
researchers who trained abroad,
the cushion of having research
Save last cloud forests
in western Andes
Wildfires in November 2016
consumed much of the last relic
cloud forests on the western
slopes of the Andes in northern
Peru, a well-known biodiversity
hotspot. Normally protected
against fire by mist throughout
the year, these forests were
suffering from severe drought.
Climate change and local human
intervention seem to have led
to a rapid and massive loss of
biodiversity, affecting hundreds of
species in a short space of time.
According to the International
Union for Conservation of
Nature’s Red List, several globally
threatened animal species, such
as the spectacled bear (Tremarctos
ornatus), live here. The area is a
discrete biogeographic region
zone; M.Weigend Bot. Rev.
68, 38–54; 2002) that has an
extraordinary concentration of
micro-endemic plant species,
most of which are restricted to
individual cloud-forest remnants
of just a few hectares (J.Mutke
etal. Front. Genet. 5, 351; 2 014) .
We c a l l o n t h e s c i en t i f i c
community to step up
biodiversity monitoring and to
devise programmes that will
protect these forests in the future.
Jens Mutke, Tim Böhnert,
Maximilian Weigend University
of Bonn, Germany.
Illegal lemur trade
grows in Madagascar
We call for urgent action to
increase government effectiveness
in fighting Madagascar’s illegal
trade in live lemurs (see go.nature.
com/2i6hvor). More funding
is needed to investigate the
issue, its extent and the factors
behind it. Facilities to rehabilitate
confiscated lemurs must be
improved, and more international
Exploitation is pushing species
such as the ring-tailed lemur
(Lemur catta) towards extinction
in the wild. Thousands of lemurs
are kept openly as illegal pets.
Touching and feeding the animals
is common to encourage tourists,
even in protected areas — despite
a law forbidding human contact
with lemurs in those areas.
Environmental degradation is
costing Madagascar up to 10%
of its gross domestic product. A
sapphire rush last year resulted
in 45,000miners digging in
its protected areas. Organized
poaching is decimating its
sea-turtle populations, and the
illegal pet trade is set to wipe out
the last 100wild ploughshare
tortoises (Astrochelys yniphora).
Step on the natural
gas for German cars
The decision by Germany’s
Federal Council to phase out
petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030
is at odds with the government’s
investment in renewable energy,
which is not enough to produce
the extra power that electric cars
will need. We show how natural
gas could plug the gap.
vehicles with electric cars would
reduce Germany’s primary
energy needs by 60%, from
about 570 terawatt-hours
(TWh) to about 230TWh
(detailed calculations available
from the authors). However,
the government’s brake on
renewables, mainly to protect
stability of the electricity grid,
means that only 63TWh will
come online by 2030 (see also
Nature 534, 152; 2016) . Mak ing
up the deficit with electricity
generated by burning natural gas
would create 131million tonnes
of carbon dioxide, which would
still save 30million tonnes on
2014 road-transport emissions.
To d e c a rb o n i z e i t s t r an s p o r t
sector entirely — and to meet the
shortfall under its plan to phase
out nuclear energy by 2030 —
Germany will need to step up
production of renewable energy
and develop smart storage grids.
Dénes Csala, Harry Hoster
Lancaster University, UK.
and living expenses provided by
their principal investigators is no
longer available when they return
home (Nature 538, 444 ; 2016 ).
As young investigators who
trained as postdocs in the
United States, we are finding it
increasingly hard to close the
research and salary gap with
Western European universities
because of the funding challenges
in Romania. It is essential for the
EU to instigate special funding
arrangements for Eastern
European countries in the current
calls if progress is to be made.
Cristian Berce, Ciprian
Tomuleasa Iuliu Hatieganu
University of Medicine and
Pharmacy, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
Radu Meza Babes-Bolyai
University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania.
The country’s weak opposition
to the illegal export of rosewood
may cause it to face new
sanctions under the Convention
on International Trade in
Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora.
It is time for the government
to enforce its own laws and put
Madagascar’s unique heritage
above short-term financial gains.
Kim E. Reuter Conservation
Internatio nal, Nairob i, Kenya.
Marni LaFleur, Tara A.
Clarke Lemur Love, San Diego,
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