Monday, September 28, 2015

#Irony - NEPALI HELPS FIND WATER ON MARS BUT COMPATRIOTS CAN'T GET IT OUT OF TAP...

Water, life on mars? Now there's a thing...

I watched a video a few days ago where a Kathmandu businessman talked of the irony of a member of the Nasa team being Nepali but yet his own people take their chances when they turn on a tap,,, if they have one... despite this being one of the world's major watersheds.
This morning there is talk of a humanitarian crisis here if India does not end the blockade of goods getting through to Nepal.  Yep, politicians are caring people huh...
Perhaps I should set up the LEOPARD REWILDING PROGRAM on Mars.  Of course I'd need to do something about the prey base but there are some people right now I'd like to nominate as candidates... #FoodForThought #FoodForLeopards

Sunday, September 27, 2015

#Conservation #People #Wildlife #Habitat WildTiger keeps evolving...


The new layout at www.wildtiger.org is up and running. The platform is now set as we bring back the WildTiger Journal, soon launch the COME BACK TO NEPAL CAMPAIGN (including a dedication to the late great Ellen Ammerman) as well as other happenings as we evolve. Collaborations are being worked on, new processes introduced... and we're going for a goal of 5000 subscribers to help finance it. WildTiger is a 24/7/365 mission and I thank you for your support. You may already be a subscriber (if you've bought images or contributed in the last 12 months), if not I invite you to become part of us and share this post in the hope others become involved as we forge the connection between people, wildlife and habitat...

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Following in the footsteps of an anti-poaching legend...


Ramesh Thapa (right) is a man hugely responsible for Nepal's sustainable tiger population.  His anti-poaching work at ground level is the stuff of a living legend.  I'm going to bring an in depth profile of Ramesh soon.

WildTiger's Hemant Acharya still has a long way to go before he can claim a track record anything like Ramesh's but the commitment is there.  Part of my script at the moment in conjunction with conservation partners is establishing the position for Hemant as Community Based Anti Poaching Training Officer.  Hemant has over the years helped mobilize hundreds of youth to form and resource anti-poaching teams.

These two men are conservationists who walk the walk in a world where there is too much talk.  Integral to my own mission is to give young conservationists the chance to be effective at ground level, take pride in that and look to mentors who have made a difference in the hope they will work hard to do the same.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

LEOPARD REWILDING PROGRAM (LRP) - Thanks for support so far, challenging times ahead...


Many thanks to those who have shown interest and especially those who have given support.  The last couple of weeks has seen a massive amount of work go in, I've been burning the midnight candle as well as keeping a close eye on the disturbing developments due to civil unrest in the area of our proposed Stage 1 location (with a view to the Rescue and Rewilding Centre).

The Leopard Rewilding Program is a collaboration between the National Trust for National Conservation, the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation (specifically the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation) and WildTiger Conservation Research and Development.  The wildleopard.net site will evolve to reflect this collaboration.  The wildtiger.org site will also continue to link to updates and carry relevant information.

It is my sincere wish all relevant issues needing to be resolved can be done so as soon as possible so that the progress made with this project can continue.  I also sincerely hope that the welfare of the wildlife involved be placed as the top priority when discussion, action and implementation take place.

The challenges are immense, physically, mentally and financially but I remain totally committed to the Leopard Rewilding Program based on the successful strategy employed to this point.

My regards to all involved and supporting,

Jack.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Trying to rewild big cats in this environment, is it brave or crazy?


I'm sitting here writing this with a bemused expression, one of those shaking head in wonder (see Asa's expression in the image, he often looked in wonder) of the madness moments.  My son wrote to me saying that maybe I was the only man on the planet brave enough to try and build a rewilding centre in an area of the country which is in political and social strife, not far from where just a couple of weeks ago several people were slaughtered.

I replaced the word brave with crazy to test my son's reaction.  He just replied with a haha.  Thanks mate.  I think back to my mountaineering days and those challenges are babyish in comparison but am reminded of people's reactions, the fine line of perspective between brave and crazy.

India are deploying troops on the border in response to the unrest on the Terai and their own upcoming election in Bihar, a volatile place itself.  There are so many elements to this situation and I have to put the lessons learnt from the rewilding of the leopard Asa to good use insomuch the physical, mental and financial effort involved.

So at this stage it's step by step.  Asis has been giving me positive updates on the progress of leopard cubs Tika and Ram, we'll have dedicated online pages to that soon.  In many ways just knowing that this thing can work and we have two more big cats becoming just that, keeps me going, I know it's worth it.  There's also been some remarkable emails from people sharing their experiences of trying to facilitate projects in developing countries... although Nepal doesn't even have that status, it is in the category of least developed.

Once again my thanks to those following and supporting, I guess you are in a tiny minority who understand the motives, ethical considerations and effort behind this thing.  I think my reference in recent days to the haka (see Facebook posts)  has been a way of  reaching out to something strong and positive.

Let's see what today brings... a little more crazy I suspect...

Monday, September 21, 2015

#Nepal #Constitution #BigCatRewilding Cooperation key to success even when solo...


The image is from a camera trap, one of the last that caught the leopard Asa and I together.  We had met at a place on the territorial grid I had set up for the young leopard.  We did have a few more meetings after this date, now as many of you know the young leopard is flying solo.

Tigers, leopards, snow leopards are primarily solo creatures but they rely on the functioning of the ecosystem they live in.  Yes, they are key to sustaining those environments but they are far from the only players, the whole food chain needs to be working.

I remember when I was in my solo mountaineering phase (what the hell was I thinking?!) muttering to myself, well, here I am up here all alone but I really hope the guy who shaped these ice axes was having a good day when he made them because mate, I need them to be strong right now.  It's all connected.

Here in Nepal the Constitution was promulgated two days ago.  Since then it's been a mixture of celebration and protest, unfortunately the latter still pretty heavy.  The incredible ethnic diversity of this country is an attraction but right now it is once again being a curse.  As I've mentioned over the last weeks many lives, including innocent children, have been lost.

What I'd give to live in a world where personal agendas are secondary and the spirit of cooperation was paramount.  The thing is I see it in the mountains, the jungles, those places strip away ego, kick you hard if you don't show respect and work with them not against them.  It doesn't matter how solo one is we are all dependent on the web of life.

Many thanks to those who read these blogs as well as supporting WildTiger.  I'm nearly at the end of a couple of weeks in Kathmandu, heading to the Terai and then back to the mountains soon.  I've made progress but it's not easy operating in an environment with an uncertain future.  Yes, those big cats I mentioned are solo creatures but now they have a dependency on us...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Nepal Constitution just a few hours away, a chance to lick wounds and move on...


While security forces in the area have been beefed up before the ceremony making the new Constitution official there's no doubt there is a buoyancy in the air here in Kathmandu.  It looks like there will be strikes and protests but we can all hope there is no violence.

As a conservationist who cares deeply about this country I hope with all my heart this is a positive new beginning and the new Statute expressing core values becomes the foundation this nation and the world needs.  It has been expressed there is plenty of scope for amendment regarding the new federal states but the real hope is that the humanitarian aspects of the document will be adhered to.  It is my own heavy hope this will lead to more environmental awareness.

Many thanks to those who read my blogs and understand the links between politics and conservation.  These writings are often just scribbles I make online as I'm adding to my journals that are records and thoughts for my book.  In November 2013 Nepal had its first real democratic election, I was in the capital for that as well.  Today is equally if not more significant, I'll get out there with the camera and take images of people who now have a chance to lick their wounds and move on to act on the vast potential Nepal has.

Thanks for your support, cheers Jack. 

#Tiger #Nepal #Constitution LOTS ON THE MENU...


I've been pulling low res images and text down from my cloud storage in the last few days for documents and presentations on big cat rewilding. I found this one I had called MENU, the shot was taken in western Nepal back in May 2013. The temp was in the high 40s (celcius) ... there was sweat in my eyes, everything was wavering so I've tried to recreate the image. The tiger must have been thinking "Will I or wont I? Nah, it's too damn hot..." The image is pretty much how I could see the tiger.

The items on the menu in the foreground are Barasingha (Swamp deer).
Tomorrow the big item on the menu here in Nepal is the promulgating of the Constitution, it's hard to believe it's actually happening after all these years. Despite the political rhetoric it wont be a day of universal celebration, there have been too many lives lost and of a document that is many decades in the making there will be a lot of reflection.

We can hope however that this might be a new beginning for a country needing a fresh start. There's been many false dawns in Nepal, let's see what sort of sun is shining tomorrow on the people, wildlife and habitat that is the Himalayan nation...

FOOTNOTE - Older shots are stored in a safe place many thousands of kilometres away, I get requests, thank you, they will be available online and at exhibitions in the future. I'm looking forward to getting to them one day... and the people there I miss very much. Still a lot to do before that happens.

Friday, September 18, 2015

"Touching the Mountain"... a rewilding beginning...


It's been a busy time here in Kathmandu, meetings, documents, meetings, documents, meetings, documents...

Hopefully now it's close to the next step and a process started what seems like an eternity ago with a little leopard cub can keep moving forward.  I'm praying that the civil unrest settles down, this is crucial as far as the location of the proposed Rescue and Rewilding Centre is concerned.  There are still some pieces of the puzzle to place but after everything that has happened of late I'm confident (well, hopeful is a better way of putting it) that the hard work will pay off.

Right now there's two young cubs Tika and Ram, under the watchful eyes of Asis Gurung and Tika Ram Tharu, with the potential to follow in the pug marks of Asa, the leopard of hope.  The concept of rewilding big cats is a controversial one, it polarizes people but if I did not believe in the strategies we are using I would not be putting in this effort.

There's a lot at stake and it's going to need true supporters.  I'm very close to launching the subscription system which is already at wildtiger.org in a simplified form so people can follow and help our progress, we do need your help, this thing is an incredible challenge... but I know in my heart it's worth it...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Here in Nepal, some hope and dialogue as big brother India arrives... and yes, it affects leopards, tigers...

Some hope here now as a meeting last night between the three main parties and the unsettled Terai groups at least achieved some dialogue even if no agreement was reached. India is expressing a lot of concern and Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar arrives in a few hours.
For a conservationist trying to build a rescue and rewilding centre in the affected area, understanding all this is vital. I also got the news last night that there may be an internal posting of a friend and colleague, a top anti-poaching man, which will really help our cause. It's all linked, thanks to those who understand that and give support, let's see what the day brings...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Safe to come back to Nepal? Yes but come with open eyes and see the real one...

#wildlife

#habitat 

#people

The new Constitution has been voted in and will be promulgated in just a few days. At the same time as there is a lot of back slapping among politicians telling of their role on this "historic day" there are two more deaths amidst the violence. A small earthquake (by Nepal standards) is perhaps a sign that the shakiness will continue and a secret meeting of the leaders of the agitating Madhes-based parties is held to decide how they will act from this point.

So it's all happening. Is it safe to come back here as a traveler? At this point I can say yes, absolutely. It's a situation which needs monitoring but there is a lot of hope. Yesterday I touched on again our upcoming COME BACK TO NEPAL CAMPAIGN, something I'm working on with several people here. Our wish though is that you come with your eyes open because we will give you the opportunity to get a little understanding of the real Nepal and the issues here, not the sanitized version that is still easy to find with a blinkered vision. We're looking for people who have a yearning to learn, to experience, to see the beauty, to see the hardship and to make real the cliche "life changing experience" so that maybe their contribution just by being here will lead to something else in the way they view what is really important.

Last night I was at a meeting of people who dedicate their lives completely to wildlife protection, in both a professional and personal sense. Within the small gathering from different corners of the globe the words wildlife, habitat and people were constantly used. Really understanding that connection, not just thinking you do, is the way forward and the real Nepal we can show you confirms that. More soon... cheers Jack.

A step back in time and it was fantastic...


It's really good to be able to write something positive.  In the image Prakash Kansaka is pointing out the workings of his Pashmina factory to WildTiger's Neetu.  I had got the call from Neetu to meet Prakash after we had been working through some Social Enterprise business activity to help here as well as drive much needed funds to WildTiger.
Prakash is a fantastic guy, a real gentleman who runs a family business started over 100 years ago by his grandfather.  It was fascinating to see the traditional manufacturing with looms many decades old (some machine parts are from the original factory) and worked by highly skilled labour in good conditions.  Manufacturing like this means five times the amount of labour is used (meaning more jobs) compared to modern methods.  I loved being there and am looking forward to working with Prakash for the long term.   Neetu is doing a great job on our side of things and I'll explain soon how overseas dealers can be involved to the benefit of all, the way it should be.  Prakash and I share the same values when it comes to ethics and fairness to workers and he is fully supportive of the work WildTiger does.
The COME BACK TO NEPAL campaign will also be starting soon as well.  Networking with the right people is key, too often in the past I've listened to a lot of blah blah which hasn't translated into action so it's been good to catch up with some contacts and friends I know I can trust.
There's a lot going on, driving WildTiger means long days but this afternoon was a total pleasure to be in the company of good hard working fair people.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Another child killed in crossfire, it's time to straighten this situation out...


A four year boy died of bullet wounds yesterday, tragically caught up in the ongoing protests and disputes on the Terai. Too many kids do it tough here anyway, this image is of a couple who had their lives deeply affected by the earthquake, they attend the school we are helping in Simjung. The festival season has begun here, I was going to take some images while I have a couple of hours free this morning, now it doesn't seem appropriate, there are enough people ignoring the problems here as it is. As someone who understands the loss of someone so young, I feel deeply for those affected, it's so bloody unnecessary... it's way beyond time this situation was sorted out and people compromised for the sake of peace... especially for children, the innocent victims in all this.

Monday, September 14, 2015

#Nepal - Watershed days for a nation and a hope for less conflict...


An ambiguous title because of course Nepal is one of the most important watersheds on the planet in a literal sense but right now, as the Constitution draft voting enters its third day this really is a pivotal time for the Himalayan nation.

My thanks to all those taking an interest in these posts and understanding the project work here is very much influenced by what is going politically and socially. As I've mentioned before it's very easy for visitors to stay in the tourism bubble if they so wish but that is not an option when you are here trying to get things done.

I posted this image because it gives a sense of different thinking along with a possible connection. The next few days will tell if compromises is really possible or as threatened by the agitating parties further violence and discord. It is a fascinating time to be in the capital Kathmandu and it's certainly not my right to give an opinion, more so just to tell it as it is. I've talked to many people over the last few days, different backgrounds, ethnic groups, castes, education levels and aspirations. All I know is that there are a lot of people I care about, both in the conservation sector and outside it, all we can hope for is that somehow Nepal gets through this. The country is so diverse in its thinking there will always be disagreement but let's just hope the violence and unnecessary pain does not escalate.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The act of rewilding as part of a growing environmental consciousness...


For several days now I've been head down in documentation, a necessary part of the process, totally focused on the task.  The act of rewilding within the big picture of environmental rebuilding brings up many issues but dare to dream of a world without zoos, with only the very necessary situations of animals in captivity.  Sanctuaries and bio parks recreating a natural world, animals born in captivity today becoming part of a new evolution with their offspring growing up in a new type of wild.  So let's put the cage makers out of business and give them work planting trees, creating habitat for a better planet.  Dreams can come true...

Friday, September 11, 2015

It's not love, it's something far, far greater...


If ever you're going to read one of my rants, please make it this one, it's not long and it wont hurt.  I'm not where this image is, I'm in Kathmandu.  The photograph was taken by Joel in Chhomrong (yes, 2 x h), one of my favorite places, just a few hours from Ghandruk, another favourite... and then beyond that is Leopard Camp where at the time the image was taken, I was sharing the area with Asa, the leopard of hope, now rewilded and free.

That was one of the toughest things I've ever done but now there are challenges just as big ahead. I'm currently tabling the MoU for the next step, developing the rewilding program (and Rescue and Rewilding centre) within a proposed Leopard Task Force, a unit which will become trained, equipped and ready for any situation.  The death of another leopard just recently, a situation that may have been avoided, has saddened me but at the same time made me all the more determined because of it.

I'm dedicating every part of my being to these projects, it's something much greater than love, it's respect. I've always had huge respect for big cats but living with Asa and the whole process that took place during his rewilding has put it into an even greater perspective, of what is really important in this world.

I know Asis Gurung and Tika Ram Tharu are understanding this.  The complexities of rewilding big cats are ever present because each situation is so different.  Developing a team which is wholly dedicated to the task, willing to sacrifice all else, is the major key to success.

Nepal has massive challenges as it is, the politics, the social issues, these things affect what we do greatly, they cannot be ignored, they have to be worked around and with which is why I am in Kathmandu this very minute.

WildTiger is changing again.  To generate the funds I need to make these projects succeed I'm going to have to sell a lot of images, try and get maybe 5000 subscribers.  There will be email outs, special offers, exhibitions, talks, anything I can do to get every valuable cent we need.  Those who have visited here know I live lean, everything goes to what happens at ground level, there's no flash offices, no luxuries just 24 hour 7 day a week commitment.  It has to be that way or we will not succeed.

Thanks to all who have helped so far, become part of this.  Many of you are already on the subscription list and I'll be in contact soon.  You can point others to wildtiger.org/mountaintigerphotography  - I'll be posting images, writing stories, bringing profiles, updating constantly... anything to keep people engaged and encourage support.  We're progressing, hopefully soon I'll be announcing the role for Hemanta​ (as part of the collaboration with the National Trust for Nature Conservation, as is the Leopard Rewilding Program) as Community Based Anti-Poaching Training Officer, another aspect within the MoU.  There are other positive developments but they cost, we work hard on the ground and hard just trying to keep it happening.

We are all in this together and I thank you for joining me and Team WildTiger.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Condoms to save the tiger, fixing Nepal at ground level and WANTED: TOURISTS...


As the world struggles with the current refugee crisis particularly regarding Syria, a late night phone call from Health Officer Suresh Dawati (see image) was another factor helping confirm in my mind that the responsibility of humanity to get things right "inside nations" is the only answer.  Yes, people are leaving Nepal in droves as well, logging onto local news sites tells why.  The country is not completely broken but it's certainly taking a beating.

Suresh is a good man, a hard working community leader in the Simjung area where WildTiger has given aid since the earthquakes.  Suresh works his guts out, he is one of many trying to fix Nepal at ground level during a time of serious political and social instability.  He is just like many of us, he just wants a better Nepal, better than it's ever been because it has struggled in many ways for so long.

Nepal needs tourists to come back, urgently.  Signs are not good for the upcoming season which is sad because although things are not great very few tourists ever have to endure real hardship.  Believe me, coming here as a traveler is very different to living and working here.  There are still plenty of places to stay, plenty of good trekking routes to enjoy and even the civil unrest on the Terai does not prevent tourists from visiting places like Chitwan National Park.

A projection that Nepal's population could hit 36 million by 2050 is worrying from a conservation standpoint.  I am convinced the tiger, leopard, snow leopard and everything related to their ecosystems can survive here if the human population is kept to the right level.  The economic factors can be fixed, people like Suresh are doing their best at social level and there are good people here who just need to be resourced properly so as to safeguard the environment in a country, as I've written many times before, where it is vital for our planet that the rivers remain healthy.

The Human Breeding Program is the biggest problem, not just in Nepal, not just in Syria but virtually everywhere.  Using the tiger as a metaphor for our planet, people who really care and understand will only have one or two children if the tiger is to really stand a chance.

We're starting our COME BACK TO NEPAL campaign soon.  Yeah you can even bring the kids, I just hope you don't have too many of them...

Monday, September 7, 2015

Living with a leopard, it's good being wild...


I'm in Kathmandu for a while preparing a Memorandum of Understanding and getting structures ready for the next stage of the rewilding program. Going through images for the MoU is bringing back memories. This one is from about a year ago shortly after a sleepless night when Asa went on a destructive rampage. We had been sharing the same night enclosure for a short period while he settled into life in the jungle at 2500m. We had separate compartments but Asa destroyed mine and most of the gear in it... so I moved out. The rest is history, the strategies worked, Asa is now living wild and free.
The tactics with the two cubs Tika and Ram are different because they have each other for company. Handlers Asis Grg and Tika Ram will go into separate enclosures from the outset at the next isolated base. They and their gear will be protected from the cubs... my job will be that they are all a well fed happy family. Of course there is always the chance Asis and Tika Ram will go feral as well but hey, I'll just chuck them a bone every now and then. It's good being wild...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Constitution: Has Nepal bitten off more than it can chew? Doesn't help when dealing with big cats...


I wrote briefly yesterday on Facebook of my affection for Nepal. I'm surprised that no one picked up on the fact that magic actually comes in a bottle when it comes to hair colour. I know us Kiwis have a dry wit but come on people, think about it!
Seriously though, things are in a state of flux here. In the last few weeks I've had a couple of messages advising to just "concentrate on the leopards"... those people having no idea how each and every political fallout has ramifications that extend to leopards, extend to everything.  Like leopards, tigers, we have to very aware of what is going on around us.  Then there are a couple of documentary makers who write to me say "yeah Jack!  Tell it how it  is!" and not quite understanding that it is not exactly fun.  But I know you mean well guys...
Federalism in an already divided country, this is what the current Constitution draft would bring. The divisions are getting deeper, there is a lot of tension, a lot of violence and too many deaths. Desperate people do desperate things. The UN Secretary General said yesterday he is very concerned. Join the club mate.
In a couple of hours I'm heading to Kathmandu for talks on leopards, anti-poaching and generally giving my all to try and make a vision realized. We're very close now to signed off agreements and then in many ways in it gets harder again. Big cats are big cats, they have their own set of rules and when you're trying to get stuff done in a country which is so divided about what sort of rules it should operate under the connection between the two is in your face every day.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

More shutdowns but leopards, leopard handlers and me ok...

The craziness continues and I don't really understand what is going on in this direct area but it's pretty much completely shut down. There's a fair bit of tension but I'm fine, remember that over the years I've survived many Himalayan storms, I've punched a leopard in the face and I was even married once (not unscathed but survived).
An amusing discussion with Asis this morning about the young cubs stalking spotted deer (chital) certainly caused some laughter.
Leopards are awesome, totally awesome.

#Nepal: A prayer for a country...


I've spent nearly the whole day in or near my room, updating journals and notes, writing, reading. Those who read my first post today would have seen that I tried to stay positive but as the day it seemed like another day of Nepal burning. I've realized that of late my posts have been closely aligned to my journals and now that the fever/headache thing I've been putting up with for a while now has eased off, I'm really ready to make some more positive leaps.
But right now I can't.
It's as if the country is imploding, making it impossible to function properly. The politics, back biting, jealousies, egos, constant disagreements and outbreaks of violence, it's like they have permeated every fabric of society here. The forever electricity shortages and strikes add to the geographical challenges as it is. The ethnic divides and political squabbling, not just in government but in every sector, well, it's draining, very draining.
I'll spend tomorrow writing as well, right now I can't actually go anywhere. I'm a stubborn bastard but unfortunately I feel the future of certain projects is uncertain. One can only try so hard before reality bites harder.
It's nearly time to get some sleep. I'll try and say some sort of prayer for Nepal. We'll see what tomorrow brings...

Not what Nepal needs, another day of violence and fatalities...


 Another image from Ekantipur as police have shot dead at least five protesters today here in the Narayani Zone. Further to my earlier posts (on Facebook) the tension is building further. Apart from the violence it's everyday activities like transport and shopping for basic items which can be affected. At the moment I can't even use my ATM card.
Nepal doesn't need this at any time let alone now as it tries to rebuild after the earthquakes and win back the confidence of international travelers, so vital to the economy. Continual civil conflict and disruption are prevalent at a time when unity is needed more than ever.