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.

The problem with cars - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Feb 15, 2017

It seems appropriate this time of the year to be talking about cars.  In London, pollution from particulates generated by motor-vehicles have contributed to a dangerous smog that have invited comparisons to Beijing. Here in NZ we have February set up as a biking challenge.  I’ve commuted by bike every workday so far. I may go the whole month this way.  Road-congestion however, has become an expected part of life in Auckland.  Part of that is accepting the increase in emissions that come from cars.  Some days I can look from Lonely Track Road on the Shore, toward Auckland at rush hour, and now see a dark blur of pollution hanging over the CBD.  That wasn’t there 10 years ago. Pollution: What went wrong in London? The short answer is Kyoto.  Diesel-fueled cars produce less carbon dioxide than … Read More

What difference will closing the Chinese domestic ivory market make? - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Jan 13, 2017

The recent decision by China to close its domestic ivory trade industry has been welcomed by many conservationists. Nonetheless, I remain skeptical it will be a significant move to curb poaching.  This is generally accepted to have peaked in around 2011, albeit it is uncertain whether wild populations can sustain the illegal off-take.  The overall picture is still murky.  While Southern Tanzania has lost many elephants, populations have grown in the north. I co-authored a report led by Dan Stiles in 2014 that looked at, and modeled the demand drivers for ivory in China.  This report emerged later at the CITES CoP meeting in South Africa, where the South African delegation used it. Tip of the iceberg In very rough terms, there has been about 200 tons of raw ivory smuggled into (mostly) China annually since 2010-11. The legal carving market … Read More

Auckland Waterfalls: A collage - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Dec 10, 2016

Over the last two years I’ve taken many more photos of waterfalls in the Auckland region.  There’s an amount I was never aware of over in the Waitakere Ranges.  I’ve visited many of these falls several times.  The trick (for photography) is go typically when it is overcast.  That way the clouds act as a giant diffusing filter for the sun, and there are less white burnt-out highlights in the waterfalls.  The other trick is to avoid too much wind.  A semblance of detail in the vegetation is nice.  I tend to try to get to location in the morning, and go when other visitors will be rare.  Some of the locations are easy to get to.  The waterfalls in the Omeru Reserve are a very short walk. Others are a bit more effort, especially when carrying a tripod and … Read More

Crocodilians have long been good mothers - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Dec 09, 2016

I like to keep informed about research on crocodilians, even if my work on them as waned in recent years.  As is usually popularly known, crocodilians (which includes true crocodiles, as well as alligators and caimans) survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction that wiped out most dinosaurs.  That leaves both birds and crocodilians as the only surviving archosaurs.  We know from living birds and crocodilians that some maternal care is common.  This can lead exciting moments collecting eggs from crocodile nests today, as the mothers are generally unhappy about this.  A small bipedal ape annoying a carnivore that can weigh several hundred kilograms is a bit of a mismatch. There’s also good evidence that many dinosaurs (like Maiasaura) also cared for their young.  It is hypothesised therefore that the ancestors of crocodilians also practiced parental care (at least maternal anyway).  In 2015 two … Read More

Auckland Waterfalls: Karekare - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Dec 06, 2016

The Auckland region has a surprising number of waterfalls to view.  A great number of these are located in the Waitakere ranges.  One of the falls I’d yet to see was Karekare.  One of the reasons is it’s a bit of a distance to the falls.  And a lot of the routes involve Auckland roads that really, don’t expedite travel.  I’ve found a longer, but faster route though to the Waitakeres through Riverhead and Taupaki.  The view along that route is nicer too. The route to Karekare takes you down a narrow winding road down to the coast.  Once you’re at the carpark by the beach, it’s a short walk to see the waterfall.  It’s attractive and impressive. These shot were taken with my Sony a7R, and either the Minolta 50mm f2.8 Macro or the 17-35mm f3.5 G.  I’m finding the a7R to … Read More

Surviving Obesogenic NZ - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Dec 05, 2016

Much has been made recently of the growing obesity rates in NZ.  And the “obesogenic environment” is attributed as one of the underlying causes.  We are collectively less active than optimal, have too much food readily available, and many eat inadequate quantities of fruit and vegetables.  Fad-diets rise and wither away as the promised short-cuts to lose weight can’t be sustained. While I am of an age where nobody is ever going to ask me to be an underwear model[1], I’ve managed to dodge the whole obesity thing. Even the over-weight transition stage.  All without ever having gone into a gym.  It’s gotten harder over the last decade though.  There’s been times when my activity levels have waned. That’s really been the most important point.  My weight fluctuates with physical fitness, which comes back to activity levels.  So I’ve had … Read More

Why are polls getting it wrong?: Brexit and Trump - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Nov 11, 2016

There seems to be a fair bit of bashing of Pollsters of late.  This is not surprising given that Brexit was expected to vote remain, and Clinton was expected to win the US presidential vote. The naive criticism is that the Pollsters got it wrong.  I’m going to call this naive as in the case Brexit the polls were saying the vote was going to be close, not that ‘remain’ was a shoe-in.  As late as June some polls were saying that leave would win.  The Economist had the vote tied.  If some polls are saying that remain will win, and some that leave will win, and everything is in the margin of error, then there’s no sure-bet.  It’s easy to overlook, that the margin of error also needs to be reported.  A poll that says option A is … Read More

Why bike when you can run… - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Nov 08, 2016

When I first started work in Auckland in the mid-1990s, my mode of transport to campus was by running.  It was just too hard to do twice a day though, over Auckland hills, on the knees.  So I switched to cycling and stuck to that for many years. This year I’ve started mixing runs with bike rides.  Run one day, do a couple of days of biking, then another run.  It’s taken some training to build up to.  Leg muscles trained for cycling, don’t seamlessly make the transition to cycling.  And as an older runner, I’ve got to work harder at avoiding injury.  The days I could simply lace up some running shoes and go for a 10-20km run just for fun are long past me. There are a number of advantages to running.  I can take routes through parks … Read More

Actually Arachnophobia is irrational - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Oct 26, 2016

I may be turning into a grumpy old man.  But sadly the click-bait title in Stuff about NZ Spiders annoyed me. The actual article was about how fascinating NZ spiders were. Rather than fueling the irrational fear of spiders, the article assuaged it. It pointed out that NZ spiders weren’t particularity dangerous, that the common daddy-long legs was not venomous to humans and that the white-tailed spider’s reputation was over-blown. Rather we had some utterly fascinating spiders that much like the tuatara, are living emblems of evolution.  Not only that, they are highly endemic.  We have thousands of species that are found nowhere else in the world expect here.  This is something worth celebrating, not playing to cheap fears of arachnids.  As a class, they are one of our strongest allies for survival.  They consume enormous amounts of … Read More

A walk in the dark - Chthonic Wildlife Ramblings

Oct 06, 2016

I went for a stroll a few nights ago. There’s a few patches of native bush close to us.  And with the weather getting warmer, I wanted to check out the arthropod life. And photograph it.  Night time provides opportunities to see creatures than behave more cryptically at day. It was also a chance to practice some macrophotography at night.  For years I’ve used cameras with optical-view finders.  The a7R I’m using here, only has an electronic view finder.  That’s product of its mirrorless design.  On the other hand, it gives me 36MP of image to play with.  And the lack of an AA-filter does help the sharpness of the images. Still, the local invertebrate population seems to be a bit on the low side.  It may be I ventured out a bit too early though.  One of the … Read More