Friday, June 19, 2015
Saturday, June 13, 2015
A big thanks to Paul F. Tanghe both for his generosity and a very interesting discussion last night. Paul is in Nepal as part of research through the sixteen rhino states. His question is based round why some countries are doing a better job than others protecting the rhino. Paul's impressive methodology and passion for the subject is resulting in valuable data which because I cannot steal (joke (partly)) meant we did not stray from the subject for several hours over dinner. I took Bindu along as I knew she would gain from this and it was great to hear the thoughts being provoked... Bindu and I argue about just about everything so it was good to have some common ground (joke (partly)). I'm looking forward to Paul's progress as I'm sure it's going to help with decision making ahead. A good guy doing good work.
And good decision making is what it's all about ultimately. I feel lucky to come from a culture where one's backside is kicked very quickly when stupid decisions are made. My capacity to be too stubborn early on means I still have many boot marks, good reminders to try and get it right particularly in the high stakes world of wildlife protection. I also had a very good teacher in the mountains, the place where ego gets squashed very quickly once the realization hits how tiny and insignificant one is. Remove personal agendas and make good decisions based on the common good, maybe why New Zealand despite being a tiny nation excels at Rugby, we put the team first.
Sometimes I'm accused of putting wildlife first... well, I don't give a flying firetruck (I think that's the right word, it begins with F and ends in K) and that's where maybe being stubborn helps (right now father laughing, mother wincing) but I firmly believe that if we get it right for wildlife we're on the right track to getting it right for humanity. This is where I get on my high horse and write wildlife conservationists are in fact humanitarians.
Paul's thoughts on the rhino having "sacred value" in some countries pointing to more effective protection tie in with my own thinking. Let's not get confused about the word "sacred"... but more on that another day because it's just after 5.30am and I have to make the very important decision about how much coffee to put in the next cup. And speaking of cups... actually no... I meant cops... I have to go and be a stubborn one with two very small leopards before making the long journey to the territory of another much bigger leopard, Asa.
And just to reiterate a post yesterday, to anyone here in Nepal right now, please take care and consideration when travelling through the country. It pains me that I'm going to have to have this discussion in a few days with someone who I feel has made a stupid decision... but because I've made a million mistakes and taking many beatings because of them my gut feeling is that I have to be Stubborn Cop with one of my own species.
Enjoy your dal baht. Cheers Jack.
Friday, June 12, 2015
A beaming Chiran Pokharel as he says goodbye to Tika and Ram as the isolation phase enters full swing. Chiran is the Program Coordinator and Senior Conservation officer at the Biodiversity Conservation Centre (BCC) at Chitwan National Park. The BCC is an integral part of the work of the National Trust for Nature Conservation. Chiran has studied the tiger and leopard at PhD level and I'll be posting more about his work and that of his team at Chitwan as well as other identities here in the conservation community.
I'll be basing here at Chitwan for the project but also will be busy travelling into big cat habitat including back into Asa's territory, where it all began in what seems a long time ago. Asa, the Leopard of Hope, is doing well and I'm looking forward to checking camera trap images of him in about two days. It is many hours from here to get to his territory but it is worth every effort for what he is teaching us. We owe that leopard a lot... and everyone involved will continue to work for his species and other big cats. Jai Bagh...
...and already young Ram adapts to his surroundings...
Thursday, June 11, 2015
Yesterday as I spent a few hours on the back of a motorbike, speeding to the next part of a project, I thought of a conversation of a few years ago. It was during an illegal wildlife trade investigation in northern Thailand and it went along the lines of "wildlife protection isn't a twenty four hour, seven day a week job, it's more than that"...the whole point being there aren't enough hours in the day, it's not a lifestyle, it's a life...
I spent the afternoon with two men who are testament to that thinking. Chitwan National Park Chief Warden Kamal Jung Kunwar (left) is a legend in anti-poaching circles, his book "Four Years for the Rhino" won international acclaim. Sitting next to KJK is WildTiger's Hemant Acharya who is carving his own reputation, his work as an anti-poaching leader and the mobilization of community in the conservation sector follows in his late father's footsteps.
As time goes by I'll bring more about the personalities involved in various projects here, their stories are compelling in a country which has challenges unique on our planet. One of the motivations for WildTiger to be involved in the building of schools is the chance to give conservation the profile it needs if this nation is to prosper.
Men like KJK and Hemant devote their lives to wildlife protection. My hope is that we can convince more to follow suit here. In the places that are have been reduced to rubble by an earthquake we will unearth a thinking and passion for environmental issues, to build schools is to build minds... we need strong minds to carry Nepal forward with a view to maintaining and even improving a landscape with unmatched biodiversity, for the good of all.
It requires total dedication...
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
The image is Asis with the two leopard cubs, Tika and Ram. I'll have more soon on the "good cop, bad cop" strategy we are going to use to maintain the balance of what is appropriate human contact during Stage 1 of the rewilding process. This is part of a tactical approach developed from knowledge gained from time with Asa, the Leopard of Hope.
A very progressive meeting with the team at the Biodiversity Conservation Centre was followed soon after by a reflective walk by the river when suddenly I came across a wild scene which left me in awe, an elephant, two rhinos and two species of crocodile (gharial and mugger), all in the same area as I looked ahead. Later the release of a barking deer, the first real monsoon rain and then the joy of seeing Som's children look so bright after such trauma caused by the earthquakes, a huge thanks to the wonderfully supportive Ellen Ammerman for being there right now helping Som's family not to mention the gift of fantastic solar equipment to help me in my work.
It was a day of positives, I start another now after my best sleep in months. Positive ways forward...
Sunday, June 7, 2015
I gave a whoop of delight as the images starting coming through from my remote cameras while I was up in Asa's territory today. It had been a long haul to get there plus I was pretty tired and sore from events of the last few weeks, however seeing these images gave me a real boost, Asa looks good and strong. It's a slightly strange feeling knowing he may well be watching me while I check cameras but it's all part of the process.
I've started writing a small book (different from the "bloody book") aimed at kids here, earthquake survivors. It's simply called "For the Earthquake Survivors, the story of Asa, the Leopard of Hope" the title pretty much explains it really, it's to give these children hope, something they really need right now and hopefully Asa's struggle against adversity will help with that.
Many thanks to those who have supported and looked at the 21 images from the earthquake zone I posted two days ago at Facebook. I'll have more soon on the school building format and how the book will be part of that. In a couple of days I'm down to Chitwan to check on the young cubs, the guys have been giving me reports and things sound positive.
It's nice to have some good news at a time when things really are hard here. This is going to be Nepal's toughest monsoon ever and there is a sense of trepidation. We must take the positives where we can...
Monday, June 1, 2015
First of all a heartfelt thank you to all those who have supported WildTiger in our efforts lately. Once again I apologize for not getting to everyone just yet but it will happen and many images will be on their way. As I've mentioned before, interaction with our supporters is important to us, we want you to know that help you give is used wisely at ground level.
In the first image you see Veterinary Doctor Amir Sadaula (right) and handler Ashis Gurung with young leopard cubs Tika and Ram. The cubs are now in isolation and essentially the process of getting them rewilded has begun. I'll have more details soon but the collaboration between the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), the Department of Forest and Soil Conservation and WildTiger will continue. The team at the Biodiversity Conservation Centre (BCC) at Chitwan National Park are a really capable lot and I look forward to bringing more information about the personalities involved. My own role will be very different this time, giving assistance to Amir and his team based on the knowledge gained with Asa's rewilding but essentially working towards a more streamlined process for the rewilding program as well as the formation of Rescue and Rewilding Centres. Another important facet is the selection of areas for translocation and this is something I'll be putting a lot of effort into.
I was in Asa's territory yesterday with Bidhya assisting in what turned out to be another 16 hour day. Camera traps are telling that Asa is doing a sweep of his area which seems to take 3 to 4 days. This is natural behaviour and pleasing. The young leopard seems to be doing everything right and although there are still many months of monitoring ahead things are on track, effort is being rewarded with a lot of knowledge and best of all the fact that Asa is living wild and free. This gives every hope that Tika and Ram will one day be where they were born to be, living wild as leopards should be. My heart is very much in this program and it is really pleasing that a strong crew is developing, people with a real understanding of what rewilding is all about and how it is the way forward.
My elongated body is hurting a bit from seemingly constant travel by jeep, bus, motorbike and foot. However I'm driven by the fact that so many people and a lot of wildlife are displaced by a natural disaster that has rocked a nation. There is so much to be done and the extra edge that a threatening monsoon adds means there is a sense of urgency that overides aches and pains. The climate and landscape of Nepal mean things are never easy here so it is just a matter of trying to make gains every day. I hope the rest of the world can keep helping us do that.