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.

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

iPad Pro and the Digital Photographer - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Nov 07, 2017

The launch of the new iPad Pro this year piqued my interest.  My old ultrabook was at the end of its life. That produced a bit of a dilemma. My ideal device had to be very portable.  I’ve been traveling a lot of late for my fieldwork.  Sometimes that puts strict limits on what I can carry. And often I’d rather have more camera gear than computer gear.  The ultrabook just wasn’t portable enough. Portable devices however, tend not to have the processing power I also need. I did get an iPad Mini a few years ago. It was a nice introduction to what the iPad can deliver.  And it is also a superb e-book reader.  Nonetheless, one long afternoon typing out a report in a hotel overseas brought home its lack of computing power.  It had no chance of … Read More

Walking in water: First trip to the Pararaha Stream - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Sep 27, 2017

The track wasn’t marked on the map. It was supposed to be for experienced hikers only.  I’d decided to tackle the Pararaha Stream from the Lone Kauri Road end. It’s an area of the Waitakere Ranges I hadn’t explored before, so I was unsure what to expect.  I guessed I’d need my hands free. So the tripod was carried in a tripod bag (which could be slung over my back). I took just a camera, 2 lenses and some Lee filters in another shoulder bag. “The Track” It quickly proved impossible to keep the boots dry. The stream was running relatively high and to get purchase on the rocks, I had to dig deep into the stream floor to avoid slipping. Then there was the mud. This was definitely a trail for proper hiking boots. There was also a lot of … Read More

What a lot of water: Waipunga Waterfall - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Sep 11, 2017

I stood in the drizzle, watching the large waterfall sending clouds of spray and mist upwards. It has been raining a lot in NZ.  Not only have we had several cyclones dump a lot of water on the North Island, winter has had some decent downpours as well.  This is partly good news for waterfall photography. The hard bit is finding a break in the weather that coincides with some free time. When the opportunity to visit my parents in the Hawkes Bay arose over the weekend however, I grabbed. it.  One of the sights that along the route is Waipunga Waterfall.  This is on the Napier-Taupo highway, and a very convenient stop.  The waterfall drops off the edge of a volcanic plateau created by Taupo eruptions centuries earlier.  Sometimes you can see the Waiarua waterfall as well.  Waipunga Waterfall … Read More

Where did we put all that CO2? Climate Change Policy for the Election - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Sep 01, 2017

Climate change is one of the NZ election issues of this year.  With that in mind, the Science Media Centre asked the parties the following question: How will your party meet the goals of the Paris Agreement? How will agriculture be accounted for in climate change adaptation and mitigation? What are your plans for the Emissions Trading Scheme? Introduction Global climate change is a product of changes to the composition of our atmosphere, that have been ongoing since the industrial era began in the early 1800s. Greenhouse gases like CO2 amplify solar radiation by reflecting more of it back on to the surface, rather than letting it escape into space. In terms of CO2 emissions NZ emits about 7.6 tonnes per person (World Bank: 2013 data), which is on par with China and a little less than the OECD … Read More

Watery Blues: Freshwater Quality Policy for the Election - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Aug 28, 2017

Freshwater policy has become one of the NZ election issues of this year.  With that in mind, the Science Media Centre asked the parties the following question: What policy decisions does your party propose to tackle the issue of freshwater quality degradation in our country’s waterways? I’m going to analyse the responses to this question.  Initially though, there are some aspects about freshwater management in New Zealand that need to be understood.  The first is that the statutory responsibility for managing freshwater in NZ lies with regional authorities.  Central government doesn’t give say, sawmills discharge rights into rivers or farmers’ irrigation rights to water.  That’s what councils/regional authorities do.  The second is we do have a framework for national water standards.  This process was started by the previous Labour government and developed and made operational by the current National … Read More

Rhino conservation dilemmas - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Aug 09, 2017

Since 2007-8 a number of species have undergone a sharp increase in poaching. These include the African elephants (savannah and forest), the pangolin and African rhino (black and white).  Poaching of rhinos is nothing new. It’s been taking place since the 1960s and rhinos have all but disappeared except for their strong-holds in Southern Africa. South Africa and Namibia bucked the trends by increasing their populations. Almost all of the gains in the graphic below come from the increases in Southern Africa. Rhino Population Trends – ‘t sas-Rolfes Ironically, this growth was accompanied by conservation policies that many regard as being antithetical to conservation. This included rhino-farming and trophy-hunting.  Much of the growth in South Africa occurred on private land, not in state protected areas.  Those countries that tried a more orthodox approach (nature reserves, no hunting) lost their … Read More

Size Matters: the challenge of being a green consumer - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jul 26, 2017

The one thing that has really changed in the last century is the size and scale of human effects on the environment.   This isn’t to say we didn’t have impacts before. As humans spread over this globe, many vertebrate species became extinct. Whether it’s the giant mammoths or giant moas, humans alter the world around them.  What is different is the scale of these changes now. We are able to alter the climate and damage large ecosystems in ways our early ancestors never could.  It’s a combination of two factors.  The size of the human population and what we consume.  It’s at a scale where what we do, makes a big impact. One example is agriculture. A few thousand years ago, when a small number of human communities began gathering some sheep, or goats, or cows to … Read More

A seascape for the shortest day - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jun 21, 2017

Introduction It’s the shortest day in NZ today.  We’re also expecting more bad weather.  That augured well for some seascape photos down at one of the local beaches.  Normally the swells on the gulf around the beaches here are sedate. Unimpressive.  A good storm can give them an interesting dynamic.  After dropping kiddo 3 at school, I stopped by at Waiake. Gear I kept it simple. My tripod. Its geared head. The Sony a7R (because 36MP is a great size for large prints) and a Minolta 17-35mm f3.5 G.  It’s an old Minolta wide angle that I quite like using for landscapes and seascapes.  Plus a minimal set of Lee filters. Photos One of the earlier shots.  I’m shooting toward the rising, morning sun.  The clouds are thickening in this direction.  I slowed the shutter down to get a sense … Read More