Bat Research Grant
In 2016, The Ian Somerhalder Foundation granted $5,000 to support the work of the Rodale Institute. This funding supports the current goals of the research project titled “Investigating Bat Activity in Various Agricultural Landscapes to Develop Organic Insect Pest Management”. The objective of this study is to assess bat populations and activities using acoustic monitoring equipment at sites under a variety of land uses to identify tools which can enhance bat activities for organic pest management. This study also includes installing bat houses and monitoring them for bat occupancy to determine which houses show the most success in the Northeastern United States. This data is valuable to both farmers and wildlife professionals.
Determining how bats use land for foraging can help us design agricultural landscapes to increase their presence. In addition, understanding how they occupy roosting structures will help us identify tools for attracting bats and supporting their populations. This data can help develop organic pest management strategies for farmers; reducing pesticides in our environment and supporting bat conservation. Bat population dynamics learned from this study help further understand the impacts of white-nose syndrome and help in developing conservation strategies. To date the project has installed 11 bat houses at farms, collected valuable data on activity and species’ population, and provided farmer education.
Bats have long provided an economic service to farmers with pest management and with white-nose syndrome decimating bat populations across the US, now more than ever action is needed to show how we can better utilize the services of bats while supporting their populations. Bat conservation and organic agriculture have a mutual goal and Rodale Institute and ISF would like to connect them. Through this connection we can protect our water and soil resources and support other native wildlife.
Beehive Fence Project Grant
The Ian Somerhalder Foundation awarded a $6,000 grant to the Silent Heroes Foundation. Phase 1 of the titled project, “A Beehive Fence Outside of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania, as a Form of Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation and an Entrepreneurial Venture for Marketing Honey,” was completed in 2017. The project’s multifaceted goals are to deter crop raiding elephants with the use of beehives along an active corridor. Farmers benefit from secure crops, and the beehives can provide an additional form of sustainable agriculture. Elephants and humans will avoid dangerous conflicts with each other, thus allowing park rangers to concentrate efforts on anti-poaching patrols.
Primary funds granted by the Ian Somerhalder Foundation were used to construct and monitor a pilot fence in Tloma, an area outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Beehive occupancy in bee fencing and elephant crop-raiding were monitored daily during a 12 month period. Additional funds supported community education and awareness, to instruct farmers on proper care of their hives and harvesting of honey, and to identify future sites for bee fences. On the ground, efforts were coordinated by the Silent Heroes Foundation in partnership with the School of Field Studies in Tanzania.
The Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) and AWHPC formed a partnership to keep the historic horses of Nevada’s Virginia Range wild and free. This innovative program uses a safe, science-tested and humane approach to manage the more than 1,500 wild horses which inhabit the momentous Virginia Range, encompassing more than 280,000 acres in northern Nevada. By year two, it became the largest humane management program for wild horses in the world.
The program was implemented through a cooperative agreement between AWHPC, under the auspices of its founding organization, Return to Freedom, and the Nevada Department of Agriculture.
ISF has provided a $15,000 grant to underwrite the fertility control portion of the program, a vaccine aimed at safely and humanely manage the Virginia Range horses. Use of the vaccine, which is not harmful to horses and causes no harm to the surrounding environment, is helping manage population numbers and reduce the risk of horses venturing into nearby neighborhoods and roadways. It provides an alternative to the cruel and costly removal of wild horses from their homes on the range.
The Virginia Range program is the largest-ever public-private partnership created to manage wild horses and benefits public safety and Nevada taxpayers, while preserving the health and safety of the area’s native horses. Nevada groups assisting with the program include the Hidden Valley Wild Horse Protection Fund, Virginia Range Wildlife Protection Association, Wild Horse Preservation League, Virginia Range Sanctuary and Wild Horse Connection.
PZP Research Grant
In order to further the initiative of wild horse fertility control, ISF gave an additional grant in the amount of $5,000 to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for Advancing Immunocontraception Fertility Control.
The HSUS’ project, titled PZP Purdue Research—Advancing Immunocontraception Fertility Control, seeks to make fertility control the primary management standard for wild horses, deer and other problem wildlife populations in the United States. Since 1992, HSUS has worked with researchers to test the porcine zona pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccine on populations of wild animals, beginning with the famous wild ponies on the Assateague Island National Seashore.
The PZP vaccine has been well-tested on wild horses and deer, and has been proven to be safe, effective and humane. Mares and does vaccinated with PZP produce antibodies that bind to the membranes surrounding their eggs, blocking fertilization. This initial methodology and process was developed more than 30 years ago. PZP would be better for wildlife—and more appealing to government agencies and communities—delivery process was improved, and made more cost-beneficial and sustainable.
This research allows for the humane regulation of various wildlife species that are deemed a nuisance or worse. Additionally, it saves taxpayers money by eliminating costly roundups and culls, as well as advance a more humane and innovative approach to managing wildlife. The HSUS, in partnership with Purdue University, proposes a five-year project to make improvements to the existing vaccine by implementing the following:
- Increase the initial immune response to PZP in wild horses, burros and deer
- Increase the efficacy of the vaccine, reducing the cost to use it and, potentially, the use of animals to produce it
- Develop a longer-acting vaccine; reduce the number of times animals will need to be retreated over their lifetimes
- ISF, AWHPC and HSUS are all working diligently to protect humans and animals alike with numerous initiatives to control the fertility and population of wild animals. There are countless benefits to these programs which will lead to a greater ecosystem and, subsequently, a greater world.