North America: A wolf named Pluie who taught us conservation on a mind-boggling scale (Y2Y)

It started with a wolf named Pluie. One rainy day in the summer of 1991, the5-year-old female crossed paths with a team of researchers in the PeterLougheed Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada. They captured her andfitted a collar and satellite transmitter. For the next two years, theywatched in amazement as Pluie went on an epic journey – one that wouldultimately inspire a new kind of conservation. Pluie wandered acrosstwo Canadian provinces and three US states, spending time with fivedifferent packs.

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In 1993, the signals from her collar ceased, and the battery from the transmitter was eventually found with a bullet hole in it. Nevertheless, Pluie survived for another two years until, in December 1995, a hunter shot her dead, together with her mate and three pups. By then she had covered terrain spread over an area of 100,000 square kilometres. Pluie has been dead for 13 years, but her trek lives on in the minds of conservationists.

From Alaska to Australia, they are thinking big. Over the past few years, theyhave unveiled plans for new conservation areas of mind-boggling scale.Some want wildlife to roam freely from the west coast of Spain to theCarpathian mountains of eastern Europe. Another group envisages a 5000-kilometre-long wildlife thoroughfare that would run from Alaska toMexico.

These big ideas are now starting to take shape on the ground. “This is not arm-waving fantasy,” says conservationist Harvey Locke, director emeritus of the Wildlands Network in Toronto, Canada. “These are projects with genuine traction. Nature is in dire trouble and we’re not proposing a tiny solution.” The vision of Locke and his colleagues is to build vast corridors between existing protected areas. They are purchasing land outright wherever possible or making deals with landowners that impose conservation restrictions.

Where these approaches aren’t possible, they are working with local people to promote wildlife conservation. Crossings over and under obstacles like highways are also being built. Each individual step is a drop in the ocean – but the hope is that they will add up to something spectacular. The poster child for the movement is the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y), which aims to create a 3000-kilometre corridor spanning the US-Canada border that will provide open passage for species from grizzly bears to pine martens. The corridor would be anchored by the legally protected wildernesses of Yellowstone to the south and Yukon in the north. In between lie other wild areas, such as the Banff National Park. However, there is also plenty of human activity to negotiate, from oil and gas drilling to roads that slice through the corridor.

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Comments (1)

Celestine JohnsonJanuary 21st, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Has anyone done any studies to test if the collar was the reason she travelled so much? Did the collar make it harder for her to gain acceptance into wolf packs or with mates?

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