Brendan Moyle

Massey University senior lecturer, Dr Brendan Moyle, has been passionate about wildlife his entire life, which motivated him to gain qualifications in zoology and economics. The economics comes from a simple realisation. Most causes of wildlife loss are ultimately economic in nature. Threats like habitat loss and poaching are fundamentally economic in nature. Of late he's been focused more on issues of wildlife poaching. When he started out as a zoologist, Brendan had a fascination with some of our smallest arachnids- the falsescorpions. Since then he's moved on to various crocodilians, and more recently, tigers. This takes him to smuggling ‘hotspots’, where avoiding getting eaten by large carnivores, bitten by small venomous reptiles, shot at by smugglers seem to be important skills. Like many other conservationists, I’ve also developed a keen interest in wildlife photography.

Back on the bicycle - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jul 24, 2019

I am back on the bicycle. The accident and ensuing recovery time, (and some work in China) postponed a return. Nonetheless, I’m undeterred. It’s good to be back on the saddle. The Social Cost of Accidents One of the reasons we give for why motor vehicles produce economic inefficiencies, is their social cost. Some of this is easy to understand. The congestion on motorways ends up being a type of cost that is imposed on other drivers (who reciprocate this- everyone loses). Without congestion fees or other similar economic incentives, we end up with too many cars on the roads. Another is the emissions from the tail-pipe. This produces local pollutants (microscopic particulates, carbon monoxide etc) as well as global (greenhouse gases). Another social cost is accidents. If someone causes an accident on a road or motorway, they rarely … Read More

I had an accident - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jun 11, 2019

I stood up on the road. This came with a sense of astonishment. All my limbs were still working. Next priority was looking behind me to see if any cars were coming up behind me. And then I saw my crashed bicycle. It was a long way back. Past the car that caused my crash. A bit earlier I’d got the chance to leave work in my golden hour. Just after the school rush and before the build up of after-work traffic. The weather was clear and pleasant. Traffic was light. It was good to be commuting home on the bike. There’s a roundabout by the Stadium on Oteha Valley Road. My approach was at 36kph [1]. Slowing to check the roundabout for cars (Yes! It was empty), I began my circuit. I kept an eye on the road entering … Read More

Beat Air Pollution: UN Environment Day - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jun 05, 2019

June 5 is the UN Environment Day with the theme this year, being air pollution. Air pollution comprises a number of gases and microscopic particulates that impact on ecosystems and human health. Both the quality of life and human longevity is impacted by these pollutants, often in urban areas. One only has to think of news stories from London or Beijing to realise human health suffers. (Header photo was taken by me in Beijing on a day when we were warned it was unsafe for anyone to be outside). Urban Forests One of the important tools we have to beat air pollution is Urban Forests. I’ve mentioned these before in connection to biodiversity conservation. Urban forests however, are also one way air pollution can be reduced. An Auckland Urban Forest Forests are more than trees. They include … Read More

Pandas and Bamboo: A recent dietary specialisation? - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Feb 11, 2019

Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) eat bamboo and not much else. This in evolutionary terms is odd. It’s odd in part because the panda has a short gut typical of carnivores. And it still possesses many of the genes associated with a carnivorous lifestyle. This is largely due to belonging to the bear family Ursidae. This is a group of animals not noted for being herbivores. They are animals that are carnivores or omnivores. In turns out the giant panda isn’t very good at eating bamboo. It has to eat a lot to make up for the short gut (herbivores have longer guts to give more time to digest the plant-matter). And it has to use conserve energy. So pandas aren’t very active animals and they occur at a low density (this reduces energy-burning conflicts). Like all bears, they don’t have … Read More

The bacterial jungle of your car - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Feb 04, 2019

A recent article on car cleanliness described the bacteria that abound on car interior-surfaces. The results were shocking, with the headline announcing steering wheels had on average four times the amount of bacteria that public toilets did.  It inspired some to clean their cars . Nonetheless I confess I felt no surprise reading this. This is one of my motivations for keeping my car clean- both inside and out. The air-quality inside cars is often not optimal. Academic work confirms this. Environmental Pollution One of the things we are very good at is monitoring and regulating emissions in the environment. For instance, water quality is measured for pollutants and bacteria like E.coli. We have standards for when it safe to swim in said water, and efforts to sustain and improve these are required. Air quality is similarly measured … Read More

The Soy of Travel - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jan 31, 2019

Long ago I made my first trip to China. China was a different place then. Hotels were sort of modernising, but weren’t quite there. In Beijing we used to be put up in the delightfully awful Friendship Hotel. Pipes were affixed to wall interiors, odd noises were common, and concrete was everywhere. I think the mattresses might have been made from it. The mattresses were always solid and hard. I used to ask for rooms with 2 single beds so I could locate the marginally softer one. Now things are much more civilised. Hotels are well made, mattresses are softer, and you no longer feel part of some historic Cold War relic. It’s not the same. The other challenge was food. I like Chinese food. I’ve always been adept with chopsticks. This could be an issue with restaurant staff afraid … Read More

Trading tiger and rhino products: Conservation Threat or Innovation? - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Nov 03, 2018

China recently opted to end its 25 year ban on the domestic trade in tiger and rhino parts. These products were banned from use in 1993 and mention of their application in TCM was removed from official publications. This was done mostly under pressure from Western governments and NGOs, who saw this legal trade as a threat to wild populations of these species. The move has generated swift responses from several NGOs, as reported in the AAP piece published in NZ on Wednesday. As one of the few people who have actually studied the illegal market in tiger parts in China I felt a corrective to much of this article was warranted: China reverses ban on trade in tiger, rhino products China says it will allow trading in products made from endangered tigers and rhinos under “special circumstances,” reversing … Read More

Our secret urban wildlife: Big Spiders - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Aug 27, 2018

Middle child was having breakfast when a big spider scuttled across the floor, heading for the table. It was a rare sight. One of our native tunnel-web spiders. It was out of its tunnel and out in daylight (it is normally nocturnal). This is the second occasion I’ve noticed one of these spiders inside our house. This is really not common. The spider was carefully caught in a plastic container, some cover added, and released later that night among some trees and bushes that had plenty of suitable habitat. The spider was the banded tunnel-web. This is from our endemic spider family Hexathelidae. This makes it a very distinct representative of our native biodiversity. It isn’t just a species or genus that’s found nowhere else- it’s an entire family. Only NZ has Hexathelid spiders. This seems to be a very … Read More

Reflections of a science blogger - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jul 05, 2018

It is the tenth anniversary of the Science Media Centre. That also means I have been blogging here since 2009. This was not the first blogging platform I used. I originally started in the Opera blog community. Opera shutdown their blog service in March 2014 as what was supposed to be a support community for their browser users took on a life of its own as a fully-fledged blogging service. It became too unwieldy and expensive to maintain. At that time I was posting nearly every day. To be fair, often that was a photo or 3 with brief comments. The evolution of blogging In evolutionary terms, blogging once occupied a large landscape. I used it socially, to promote science and conservation, and like many, to indulge my non-academic interests. In my case that was photography. Over the last … Read More

Our secret urban wildlife: Giant centipedes - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jun 12, 2018

One thing I like about returning to NZ from places like China, is being around nature again. We live in one of the few parts of the world, and certainly the developed world, where wildlife is sometimes not just at our doorsteps, but also inside as well. Urban Forests Some of this is down to our urban forests. Our urban forests are often underappreciated. They’re fragmentary and disturbed places. Forestry- both the conservation and the production side- has typically been directed at large forests well outside the urban fringe. And areas big enough to do serious conservation, like save endangered birds. Urban forestry is a kind of fringe thing. And it’s not easy challenging the perception that urban forests are kind of messy parks. Urban forests though provide a lot services. Not only does this buffering areas from the worst … Read More