Wednesday, July 29, 2015

More landslides, a feeling of instability, displaced people, displaced wildlife...



Phewa Tal (Lake Fewa) can take on a dream like quality.  Earlier this morning I wanted to paddle out onto the calm water, get some respite.  A few hours ago more landslides hit, more deaths, villages destroyed.  One of them, Lumle, is a place I pass through often on my way to Asa territory.  I wonder about the young leopard, phone calls confirm his area was not hit but access was and now has increased to many hours of trekking over and through unstable ground.

I don't like that.  Of course I cannot send anyone else.  I think of so many displaced people since the first earthquake fourteen weeks ago.  So much help still needed especially in the high country.  The thought of getting to these places now promotes an uneasiness.  Even a trip to Kathmandu tomorrow for a meeting is not straightforward as landslides have slowed down travel on  the only road.  A part of me wishes I was back in Chitwan which despite the heat and humidity is a bubble away from the troubles faced in the mountains.

So it's time to plan carefully, weigh up the odds.  Nepal is confused, tell the tourists to come back or not?  Just what is safe?  There is no doubt the lowlands and a couple of selected mountain areas can be suggested as ok.  Working here however means going to places that are unstable in many ways. Trying to help displaced people, displaced wildlife in these places means a feeling of uncertainty.  Many years have given me methods to deal with this... but not completely...

Monday, July 27, 2015

Many thanks for support, updates in just over a week...


Many thanks to those reading these posts here and at my Facebook page.  It's crazy busy right now but hopefully in just over a week I'll have images of the new school built in Simjung as well as news on the new Stage 1 enclosure for leopard cubs Tika and Ram.  It's only eight days before it's eighteen months since I met Asa, the leopard now living wild and free as nature intended.  I've certainly been reflecting on that.  You can purchase images at www.wildtiger.org/mountaintigerphotography as a way of support and I sincerely thank those who have in any way helped so far.  Jai Bagh.

Friday, July 24, 2015

We have a duty of care to keep things wild...


The hot sticky nights of the monsoon season mean sleep does not come easy.  So I read, I read a lot. Current fare is about dealing with climate change, deforestation and other environmental impact in the great watersheds of our planet including the mighty Himalaya.

The world is changing fast and we have to change with it, think ahead, concentrate on replenishment of ecosystems, give the once wild the chance to be wild again.  This is our responsibility and it's all about now.  We owe this to future generations, we act or we fail.  Yes there are risks, yes we may not always be right first time but we have to keep going.

I feel fortunate to be part of a network who supports this thinking, is prepared to act.  It is a calm urgency, a desire to innovate with thought and above all to be totally committed to do what is right.

Jai Bagh, we are all in this together...


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

#wildlife #habitat #people KEEPING IT REAL... A quick project status report...


I went looking for Large Billed Crows this morning.  When I finally found some the thing they were standing on wouldn't keep still... #ReadyToRun


A quick update on the leopard cubs before I head high into the Annapurna (Asa territory and then to just below 4000m to leopard/snow leopard overlap) to check and move cameras before heading to Simjung with equipment for the school built by WildTiger.  Young leopards Tika and Ram are now around three months old and time is going quickly.  To see their confidence and strength this morning left me feeling very positive.  I am playing bad cop with them now, they know not to come near me and while their stubborn attitude is admirable they have to maintain a wariness of humans.  Those of you who have followed these blogs and my work with Asa know what I mean.  There will be another quick session tomorrow morning where I will frighten them again, they will run to Asis or scurry up trees, it has to be this way.

Asis and I are preparing a status report with input from wildlife technician Tika Ram Tharu and vet in charge Amir Sadaula.  This report goes to the desks of Chitwan National Park Chief Warden Kamal Jung Kunwar and Biodiversity Conservation Centre boss Chiran Pokharel.  Asis and Tika Ram will complete meetings while I am away as we get the new Stage 1 location signed off and ready to be built.

It's not easy and this morning the sweat, mosquitoes, leeches as well as proximity of potentially dangerous wildlife kept things real but these factors only strengthen the resolve to do the right thing.

A huge thank you to everyone supporting our work.  This would not be happening without you. Cheers Jack. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

#WildlifeFirst - Animals as sentient beings, the wisdom of respect...

Many of you already know that just over two months ago New Zealand did the following:

An amendment to New Zealand law on behalf of the The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, which was passed on Tuesday, states that animals, like humans, are "sentient" beings.
"To say that animals are sentient is to state explicitly that they can experience both positive and negative emotions, including pain and distress," said Dr Virginia Williams, chair of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee.
I was very pleased when this happened (and not just because I am a New Zealander) because it reinforced what we are trying to achieve here right now in Nepal regarding the Leopard Rewilding Program.  It also came at a time when essentially the separation process between myself and leopard Asa was completing thus fulfilling his perfectly natural desire to live as a solitary predator in an environment, a territory where he could try to live a natural life.
Anyone who knows me at all will know that I consider caging animals (expand that to "any not natural confinement") as a last resort that unfortunately sometimes we have to turn to.  My commitment is that we do everything in our power before taking that option which is often a soft one, an easy way out.
Living with a leopard only strengthened my resolve.
I'll keep this brief for now but in the last few days the program has come under an attack from someone who has not bothered to research our progress, that person's ego and personal agendas very much coming to the fore.  I am extremely patient to a point but then maybe my "big cat qualities" may rise because I will defend vehemently against non-researched criticism especially if it involves personal attacks on the team or myself.  When these criticism comes from someone who is not a resident of this struggling country (thus not really understanding the ways here) and use a position of so called power because of funding I will bite back at that arrogance.
This has a little way to play out.  Look into the wise eyes of the barn owl and know about sentient beings and how our own humanity depends on understanding this.  Once again I promote the word RESPECT.
Other posts are at facebook.com/jackkinross

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Elements of life come and go but images last forever...


 I was very surprised when I got online to see this photo I took many years ago was "doing the rounds" on Facebook. The reason it is surprising (or not) is because just two days ago I was writing about this image. I've been catching up on my writing these last two weeks, become bit of a hermit which is good because for the first time in what seems like years I'm not waking up in pain as my body has been allowed to rest. There's still early morning and late afternoon excursions so several hours outside, there's the leopard cub situation and there will be a long trek into Asa's territory soon and of course a check on the school being built but it's been good to replenish. I realized a while back that my images (along with my camera gear) are almost my only asset now, I've given up almost everything else to do this work. I'm comfortable with that because I have total belief in what I'm doing. What i was writing two days ago was that these images become timeless, they last forever. People, situations, well life I guess, it's all very fluid but I find I can take a still image and ground myself again very quickly, take it for what it is and draw strength from its meaning. I spend a lot of time in nature and before I sleep I reflect on the day's images whether I've captured them with my camera or not. It helps...
Many thanks to those who are watching the video of the cubs. I'm going to try and post more in high definition soon.



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Living with a leopard provoked many questions...



Another image from yesterday's cub check.  As you can see the young leopards are in good shape and proving a handful for Asis and Bindu but they are up to the task, Asis has studied the leopard to Masters level and Bindu is well on her way to becoming a wildlife vet, I'm pleased to say with a passion for big cats, the leopard in particular.

An update and once again a big thank you to those following these blogs and supporting.  The monsoon is playing hide and seek except when the humidity goes over about 70 percent it doesn't feel like a game.  Hot, sticky weather means managing the day carefully, early morning and late afternoon are the best times for any field work, the other hours can be spent catching up on documentation and wiping sweat off the keyboard.  Life goes on, a tiger takes a rhino calf barely three hundred metres away...

Down here on the Terai it's mosquitoes which have decided my off white skin is sumptuous fare.  Compared to last monsoon when it was all about leeches in the mountains, this is a lot easier.  Mosquito bites don't bleed for hours and I'm happy to not having to jam my fingers in a leopard's mouth to remove a leech or three.  That leopard, Asa, has been on my mind.  I think of how much he taught me and how little I know.  He kept and keeps me humble.  Living with a leopard has provoked so many questions, I said to Asis yesterday, I would give anything to be a leopard just for one day.  It's fantastic the way Asis is showing complete dedication to the cubs, Tika and Ram.  There is no doubt he is going through the life changing experience I did and I can see the effects on the rest of the team at the Biodiversity Conservation Centre.  If these two little cubs only knew how many people are on their side, I think they would be impressed.

In the meantime Asa makes his own way in the mountains.  Some livestock deaths meant an investigation and of course Asa's name was mentioned.  It was quickly established he wasn't involved but once again dialogue and action regarding human/wildlife conflict ensued.  There are so many issues around the leopard in Nepal, in South Asia in general.  The selling of skins remains lucrative, illegal wildlife trade is a constant everywhere in the world and Nepal with a lot of poverty even before the earthquake, is a place we have to vigilant.

The school WildTiger is helping construct is now only a few days away from completion.  I'll travel back into the area to get images and thoughts.  For now I'm really grateful I've managed to spend a few days without travelling, it's meant catching up on sleep and getting into good meal routines again.  Chitwan will be my base for some time now, the National Park is recognized as probably the most successful tiger reserve in the world and I always consider it a huge privilege to be living in an area these great cats frequent.

But for now it is another cat species which consumes me, I guess that is what happens when you lived with a leopard and want so much for these incredible animals to be better understood.  The human connection to wildlife is fundamental to our being and rewilding leopards can play a role in establishing the connection, increasing the understanding.