A special place indeed: Return to Rincón de Guadalupe

Seven species of moth unknown to science. New range extensions—by 100 miles—for two species of amphibian. Nine reptile records in the first herpetology survey of the Bacadéhuachi Mountains. The interim official report on the MABA expedition to El Rincón de Guadalupe (available as a PDF download) confirmed our initial high expectations for this beautiful and biologically unexplored region (to read the story of the first expedition, click here: Treasures of the Sierra Madre )

Despite our brief time there, it was clear that the area holds all the potential as an important biological sanctuary that the organizers of the trip expected. That potential prompted Tom van Devender, the director of the MABA program, to break with the usual MABA protocol and organize a return trip to the same spot. We jumped at the chance to be included, since we wanted to donate and install a couple of long-term motion-triggered trail cameras to expand our records of the large mammals in the area.

New journal of exploration

We are pleased to announce the release of our first article installment in terra, ConserVentures' journal of exploration, science, and culture. Volume 1, Number 1 (Summer 2011) features Treasures of the Sierra Madre: Science & Culture in Sonora, the story of a scientific expedition deep into the heart of Mexico's most storied wilderness. terra articles are free in the latest digital formats (interactive PDF and iPad versions), and can be ordered for nominal fees from our print partner, HP MagCloud.com. At years-end,  members, donors, and volunteers will receive a special print compilation of all collected articles plus additional content. Read more here, including how to download the latest articles.

August 2011 newsletter is out

Our ConserVentures news is out, featuring stories about an expedition to northern Mexico's Sierra Madre; a new snakebite treatment; our latest grant and status of fundraising for our Resources for Rangers; and much more.

Click here to read online. 

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New first-aid treatment for (some) snake bites

First aid for snake bite has ranged over the years from the ignorant (whisky, live-chicken poultices*) to the formerly accepted but now discounted (incision and suction, ice packs), to the hilariously irrelevant (“Wash the bite with soap and water”—American Red Cross) to outright quackery (electric shock). Since no one has as yet developed an antivenom suitable for field use by non-medical personnel, the single “treatment” recommended by all authorities is “Get the victim to a hospital”—which is okay if you’re two hours from a city and run afoul of a rattlesnake, not so okay if an eastern brown snake nails you two days from Alice Springs. (*Cut open a live chicken and spread it over the bite to extract the venom. When the chicken’s comb turns blue, you’re cured.)

Update to our tarantula spider post

In our July ConserVentures News, we included a short story about enjoying watching a female tarantula spider whose hole is next to the door to our cottage. Recently, just across the compound near the office porch, we found this little guy—a tarantula spiderling, about the size of a silver dollar at most. He spends most of his time in the hole, and even catches the moths we drop to him. According to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, tarantulas in the Sonoran Desert lay their eggs in burrows and sometimes but not always stay with them. There could be more spiderlings in the hole, or he is the only one, we are not sure.

WTH is a WMC?

Image from SummitCountyVoice.comJust as humans need roads and highways to move between home and work, animals, especially large mammals, need protected corridors for migration, breeding, and finding food and water. These Wildlife Movement Corridors have become a vital tool for ensuring the survival of many species.

For decades, the standard approach to wildlife conservation around the world was to set aside large blocks of land that were then safeguarded from development and over-hunting. While these areas—from Yellowstone in the U.S. to the Serengeti in Africa—are vital as core habitat for thousands of species, biologists slowly realized they could not exist in isolation. In the U.S., for example, we learned that such animals as mountain lions, bighorn sheep, black and grizzly bears, elk, and many other large herbivores and carnivores regularly move between mountain ranges and other designated protected landscapes. This movement prevents inbreeding, allows escape from drought or fire-stressed environments, and lets animals follow seasonal changes in grazing or hunting. However, these corridors often cross unprotected land that is developed or in danger of being developed. By identifying where animals move, potential conflict can be mitigated or eliminated altogether.

Ikh Nart Nature Reserve in Mongolia

Set amid the sweeping grassland and semi-desert steppe of eastern Mongolia, the Ikh Nart Nature Reserve is a modest (163,000-acre) protected area with a remarkable wildlife population that includes endangered Argali sheep as well as more common but no less dramatic species: Siberian ibex, grey wolf, Eurasian lynx, golden and steppe eagle—not to mention the largest vulture and the smallest hamster in the world.

Established in 1996, Ikh Nart, a five-hour drive or train ride southeast of Ulaanbataar, is unfenced, open to visitors year-round, and has no entrance fee or even a headquarters. Travelers can tent on their own or stay in one of a couple of organized ger camps. In part because of this openness, poaching (for both meat and furs) and illegal mining (for amethyst quartz) remain challenging threats for the reserve’s small ranger force, in operation since 2006.  

Ocelots—lots of ocelots

Sometimes conservation news seems to come in bunches. Admittedly, it often seems like bunches of bad news, but there are enough good bunches to make the fight worthwhile.

In November, 2009, an automatic trail camera monitored by biologists from Sky Island Alliance captured the first known photograph of a live ocelot in Arizona. The unmistakable image from Cochise County thrilled everyone with an interest in southern Arizona’s wildlife and habitat—and spurred several churlish comments from the Arizona Game and Fish Department noting that its experts “had not verified the identity of the animal in the photo.” Memo to AZGF: Sour grapes make vinegar, not wine.

Meanwhile, Sky Island Alliance’s trail cameras had also recorded several resident ocelots on Rancho El Aribabi in Mexico, just 30 miles south of the border (and almost directly south of the Arizona sighting). Early this year, SIA and El Aribabi scored another coup: a video clip of a mother ocelot with a kitten, thus confirming the northernmost known breeding population of ocelots on the continent. 

This spring brought more good news.

New partnership with The Ted Simon Foundation

We are delighted to partner with the new Ted Simon Foundation as media and event partners, joining Horizons Unlimited Motorcycle TravelOverland Magazine, Outrider Journal, Overland Expo, and the Adventure Travel Film Festival. Iain Harper, co-founder of the organization, said: "All [these partners] share our principles and are helping to promote the Foundation and our work." Newly formed, The Ted Simon Foundation encourages "those who adventure into the world to go the extra mile and transform their experiences into something of value for the world to share." Apply to become a "Jupiter's Traveler" and each year, the team will honor a select few with Jupiter Awards. Contributions are accepted to help support their all-volunteer work. Don't miss their launch this October in Coventry, England. The Ted Simon Foundation (JupitersTravellers.org)

"Use what you know to do good as you go"

The Muskoka Foundation, whose tagline is “Use What You Know to Do Good as You Go,” is getting the summer off to a great start with programs for travelers throughout Canada, USA, Latin America and Africa. Many overlanders don’t realize how much of a difference they can make in their own backyards: Muskoka has volunteering locations in Inuvik, along the Top of the World Highway; in Seward, along the spectacular Kenai Peninsula; and down to Canyon de Chelley in Arizona, to name a few. 

Muskoka runs programs for youth in photography, entrepreneurship, IT, and business, as well as “no volunteering skills required” programs in music and artisan crafts. The foundation provides all the equipment, contacts, and curriculum to get volunteers started, all you need to do is show up. TheMuskokaFoundation.org, or Twitter @dogoodasyougo

Team to travel to Kenya for Ranger seminar

Tracking poachers through the African bush is a bit different than following a set of hoofprints in the hope of spotting a kudu for a photo safari. To start with, kudus don’t carry AK47s. Nor are they likely to double back and set up a point ambush. 

Whether you’re after man or beast, tracking is an intensely focused activity. Signs are usually faint and ambiguous—a partial print here, a scuff there. It’s like trying to assemble a jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing. A good tracker looks ahead frequently to infer in which direction his quarry is likely to have gone, but 90% of the time his attention is directed just a few feet ahead.

And that can be hazardous if the quarry is a band of armed poachers. To improve game ranger success and personal safety, ConserVentures is working with the South Rift Game Scouts in Kenya to pay for and host a tactical tracking seminar in Kenya this October, as part of our Resources for Rangers program. Our team includes professional law enforcement officers for five days of intensive instruction. 

Announcing the new Ted Simon Foundation

Having the honor of hosting the delightful Ted Simon at Overland Expo in 2010, 2011 (and 2012), we are extra pleased to announce the new Ted Simon Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Northern California. The Foundation was created by a group of people who believe that individuals of good will, moving among foreign cultures and making themselves vulnerable to the beliefs and customs of strangers, have great importance in promoting world understanding, and even more so when they can distill the essence of their experiences into a form that can be absorbed by many.

The purpose of the Foundation is to encourage and assist travellers in making an extra effort to develop their observations and insights into something of value for the rest of the world to share, whatever their medium of expression might be. You can contribute to the Foundation, or apply to be a Jupiter's Travler. Find out more at JupitersTravellers.org.

Movie worth seeing: Mountain Patrol

We had a chance to see the 2004 movie (part documentary) Mountain Patrol, about a small group of volunteer wildlife rangers trying to protect Tibetan antelopes in China. A very moving story, which illustrates very well the challenges faced by people trying to protect their natural and cultural heritage, in remote places, with little or no outside support.  

Trips & classes to El Aribabi, Summer 2011

A unique opportunity to explore the birds, wildlife and landscape of El Aribabi Conservation Ranch, the newly designated Natural Protected Area of Sonora, Mexico. Two conservation expeditions are being offered by Cynthia Wolf of Wild by Nature Tours (October 14-16 and 21-23) for only $275 per person (10% discount for couples), which includes all lodging and meals. Guided activities such as hiking, birding and wildlife watching and tracking will be led by Cynthia Wolf, Wild By Nature. The expedition’s caravan departs Nogales, AZ mid-morning on Friday and returns by Sunday late afternoon. www.WildbyNatureTours.com

Experience the beauty of the Sonoran Sky Islands while learning about  birds, their identification, behavior, ecology, and other characteristics.  Three weekend workshops are being offered this summer for only $275 per person (10% discount for couples), which includes all lodging, meals, and birdwatching classes instructed by Homer Hansen.  The workshops depart Tucson Friday mid day and return by late afternoon on Sunday.  Minimum 6 participants required for each workshop. June 10-12, June 24-26, and July 15-17. www.aplomado.com

Wildlife tracking workshop in northern Mexico

ConserVentures assisted Sky Island Alliance this past weekend teaching a wildlife tracking class at El Aribabi Conservation Ranch in northern Sonora, just 30 miles from the U.S. border. Roseann & Jonathan Hanson volunteered as instructors, joining Sergio Avila and Jessica Lamberton of Sky Island Alliance, and Cynthia Wolf, of New Mexico, in teaching the class to 9 volunteers who are part of SIA's wildlife linkages program. Roseann helped start the program when she was director of SIA in early 2000. We found tracks of many animals, including bobcat, coyote, mountain lion, and a jaguar-killed deer. See our photo gallery here: El Aribabi Tracking Workshop. For more information on how volunteer wildlife tracking programs help save habitat for wildlife, please visit www.SkyIslandAlliance.org.

Overland Expo nearly doubles in size

To say that Overland Expo 2011 was a huge success is in fact an understatement: the growth, excitement, and quality blew us away. Thanks to our title sponsors [Four Wheel CampersARB-USASportsmobileOverland JournalEquipt Expedition Outfitters] and special sponsors Land Rover, RawHyde Adventures BMW Academy, Jeep, and MaxTrax. For complete news, photo, and video, please visit www.OverlandExpo.com

Our sustainability pledge

Our sustainability pledge:

  • Our office is built from recycled styrofoam & concrete 10-inch "Rastra" block (R25)
  • Our office is 100% powered by the wind & sun
  • We practice reduce-reuse-recycle for all office materials
  • Our vehicle is a clean-burning bio-diesel recycled Land Cruiser
  • We purchase EPA-certified Renewable Energy Certificates for:
    • all off-site office & internet services
    • all travel
    • all sponsored events, including travel and impact of participants


"60-Second Overlander" video series debuts

Overland Expo launched a new video series called the 60-Second Overlander to help promote the educational event each April in southern Arizona.

The 60-Second Overlander videos feature how-to's, reviews, and interviews, on topics that are featured at Overland Expo. Subjects include:

  • Overcoming fear (part 1)
  • The importance of daily vehicle inspections
  • Suzuki DR650 ~ a great first adventure motorcycle
  • A review of natural rubber inner tubes for motorcycles
  • How to experience Africa on your own for less than you think
  • and much more; we will update content monthly or more frequently

Visit Overland Expo's video page to see our first videos, and to read more about submitting your own 60-Second Overlander video. 

Conservation expedition to East Africa completed

Three thousand miles through Tanzania and Kenya: An impeccably prepared and kitted Land Rover 110 300Tdi, loaned to us by Shaw Safaris in Arusha, carried us across a major portion of Tanzania in a quest for three goals: potential safari routes for future trips with guests, new opportunities for ConserVentures to support small, community-based conservation projects, and the delivery of donated equipment to the South Rift Game Scouts. Through a bit of persistence and some nearly unbelievable synchronicity, we succeeded in all three.

Win a trip to a jaguar reserve

Apply to win a spot on our Nov. 26-28, 2010 Sonoran Safari to the El Aribabi Conservation Ranch in northern Sonora, Mexico ~ sponsored by Overland Experts. For more information about the trip, click here. The winner will also receive 50% off a one-day training with Overland Experts. All you have tell us about yourself, why you are interested in exploration, and how your participation can help jaguar and ocelot conservation. Enter now, we will announce the winner on October 20, 2010.