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Aerial surveys provide data for wildlife conservation
When I first heard of Howard Frederick, he was described to me as "brilliant statistician”. Then I heard more, that he works from Kazakhstan to Tanzania, flying planes over vast areas to gather accurate data for conservation. Howard’s work has shown that good scientific data can cut through ‘rumour and politics’ to provide a basis for focused and informed conservation policy. His work has led to the declaration of protected areas and important conservation programs.
Howard grew up in wild, empty places. Arizona, then outback New South Wales, where his parents worked with animals. The wilderness is sacred to him, and he is passionate about conservation. He read statistics and conservation biology at James Cook university, an unusual combination. His good friend Charlie Babault, from Kenya, encouraged him to travel in Africa after graduation. That was 1992 and he backpacked widely, including spells making films with Alan Root in Zaire (Congo). In ’94, when the Rwandan genocide broke out he worked with the UN and CARE International, to manage the natural resources around a refugee camp in Tanzania that grew to 750,000 people. It was an ‘instant city’ with devastating effects on the surrounding forests, water and wildlife. For three years he worked to mitigate the impact. In the late ’90s he moved to Kenya, to promote conservation education in schools through Swahili wildlife films. Howard was awarded a fellowship of the New York Wildlife Conservation Society, and a teaching role at Columbia, including conservation biology at the ‘Biosphere 2 Centre’ in Arizona.
Back in East Africa he was asked to do consultancy work and environmental impact surveys, and became increasingly involved in the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute. Here he was trained by Mike Norton-Griffith in aerial survey work. This brought together Howard’s passion for conservation, flying and his skill in statistics. Using calibrated rods (‘streamers’) fixed outside the aeroplane, trained spotters can identify how many animals, of a certain species, they see in a given area.
Howard flies at 350 feet to map wildlife distribution
The work is highly skilled and vital to conservation. Howard needs to provide accurate statistics, within a range of probability, upon which policy is made. In Western Ethiopia he found vastly more Kob antelope than expected, leading to the protection of a wetland area for them. Elsewhere his work has shown a significant decline in the number of a species, requiring measures to protect them.
Howard makes precise adjustments to the 'streamers'
Howard’s work provides reliable numbers, cutting through the politics and rumour and giving a sound basis to conservation planning, and the effective use of available resources. It is the marriage of science and practical conservation that gives him satisfaction, and he eagerly trains others in aerial survey work.
Howard lives in Arusha, and divides his time between aerial surveys, academic writing, and pro bono work training and educating conservationists in Tanzania. He is constantly looking at new technology and methods for how we can better survey animal population.
Howard is deeply committed to training conservationists in research
In his first audio talk, "Counting Animals", Howard introduces aerial surveys and tells us that the future of wild places is not necessarily doom and gloom.
Author: Roddy Bray
Published Date: 02 Nov 2010
Location: East Africa | Tanzania, Kenya
Themes: natural world, travel | conservation, fauna