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.

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

Aotearoa Bike Challenge 2018 - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Mar 02, 2018

It’s been a harder challenge for me this year. I injured myself with a lumbar strain and have had to avoid strenuous exercise for most of the month. While I still ended up with a lot of rides, I was down in both distance and number compared to last year. And certainly none of the big rides I managed in January. The top two riders at my workplace managed 41 bike trips between us. The rest of the riders 18. In some ways I’m not surprised. The cycling infrastructure on the North Shore is not  well developed. And I’ve met several riders who simply won’t bike on some of the trunk roads here. One of them is a road I use, well, about twice a day. This pattern of most rides recorded by a small percentage fits most studies. Since … Read More

A sad and tragic end - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Feb 06, 2018

I got home on Monday night and my notifications on my phone exploded. Esmond Martin was dead. Murdered in his Nairobi home. For those of us who knew him, the shock spread through the conservation community. The news was picked up by more news sources in the next 24 hours. By Tuesday morning the NZ Herald was reporting it. I hadn’t known Esmond for long. We both worked on research into legal and illegal ivory markets, but he’d been doing it for decades longer. He was still doing it in his 70s. He had an energy that belied his age, and a prodigious memory. And a passion for conservation that was admired and respected by those who knew him. He was also a friendly, nice guy. We had a break at a meeting. He joined me overlooking … Read More

Ending Trophy Hunting of Elephants: Is this a Conservation Success? - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Nov 23, 2017

Following a wave of popular outrage, the US government appears to be backtracking on the decision to allow the import elephant hunting trophies. Nonetheless, despite the support of celebrities and Animal Rights groups like the HSUS, it is not obvious this will help conserve elephants.  Sadly I don’t host popular talk shows or star in movies. I do research ivory black-markets though. And not by sitting in my office using Google. I do it by going to the places these black-markets operate.  It’s not the safest way to do research (albeit in contrast to my colleagues’ perceptions, I don’t get shot at every time I go overseas). And it’s not the easiest. But it gets results.  I’m informed enough to provide expert advice to organisations as varied as the World Bank, the Chinese SFA and the UN Office on Drugs … Read More