Saturday, October 31, 2015

LEOPARD REWILDING PROGRAM (LRP) - Translocation very close now...

Ok, enough about the rugby (see posts at Facebook) except to say well done to both teams and I think the fact we're still number one just shows what a small country can do if they unite and put their minds to it.  I've spent a couple of hours reading online reports of the game, catching some highlights and yeah, it all seems a bit surreal compared to the state of things here in Nepal.  In the news reports there are often comments, usually by New Zealand and Australian supporters, many less than gracious... well you people should get yourself over here into the real world, it's just a game.  Well done All Blacks, you deserved it...

I'm delaying my written piece about leopard handler Asis Gurung (as well as a follow up about wildlife technician Tikaram Tharu) a few days as there's been a few twists in the tail here.  However, it looks like that despite the challenges and delays because of the instability, we are within days of making the translocation.  I've got fingers crossed there'll be no problems to prevent it.  I get people asking for photographs etc, can I just ask again that people understand that the isolation process with the cubs is critical to the program.  Yes, there are images from fixed cameras, valuable data but for security and ethical purposes we have to be diligent about how it all works.  This isn't a zoo.  The fact that I published so many images of Asa was to maintain support and promote a project that we are now evolving.  There will be updates but once again, security is key, especially with all the unrest here at the moment.

In the camera trap image here you can see the cubs are in great shape as they joust in the isolation area.  They also have their inside den area as well as plenty of jungle time.  Using non climbable walls means we can maintain an open top and we will take this thinking into future structures, I'll have more on this at a later date.  A great deal of thought, discussion and planning goes into the process.  We are constantly examining, researching and improvising.

So I'll have more soon as we count down the hours.  I did take inspiration from our Rugby World Cup win, the pursuit of excellence.  We're dealing with a whole different set of parameters here though.  It's a jungle, a real one...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Big wild cats, every single one is precious as the toll continues...

 It's got to the pointy end now hasn't it.  Recent reports about the alarming drop in African lion numbers, the extinction of the Eastern puma as issues along with the link I just posted on Facebook regarding increased trade in clouded leopards (link from @WildTigerNews Twitter feed) are examples.

About 3am a couple of mornings ago my phone shook with a notification.  I'm a very light sleeper.  I remember once at Leopard Camp I was asleep in the main enclosure when I heard a twig snap. In the moonlight I saw Asa leap out of a tree and head towards the noise.  I didn't see him for a couple of days.  I tried to track him but the terrain was just too steep, the sort of stuff only a leopard could deal with when hunting prey.  I remember thinking "you awesome animal, you precious, precious awesome leopard"...

But I digress, well, slightly.  The phone notification was simply someone putting a favourite tag on an image of a lion I took many years ago and posted on a photo sharing site.  I tried to go back to sleep but couldn't.  I wondered what the person saw in the photo, I wondered if they understood what was going on, if they really cared.

I've been wondering lately how many people really do care.  Big cat conservation needs steady, smart people capable of keeping their emotions in check in a confronting environment.  But it also needs massive support from people who do care about the situation, people who really understand the situation.  The amount of money some countries spend on weaponry alone on top of their individual living styles, just a small chunk of it could alleviate many of the poverty issues that affect habitat destruction.  I find it hard to reconcile this.  Even this weekend coming up the Rugby World Cup final will soak up billions.  As a New Zealander of course I'd love to see us win but would I swap that for the life of a single tiger, a single leopard, lion, clouded leopard, any of them?  No I wouldn't, not for second.  Who wins that game matters not compared to a situation where we have allowed these brilliant sentient beings, these magnificent ecosystem engineers, these superb wild cats to now be in such a perilous situation.

I probably wont even know the score until well after the game has finished.  We are translocating the two young leopard cubs in the Rewilding Program.  They will be handled with the utmost care.  They are precious.  The people involved will be level headed, we will all learn, we will do our best, it's a high stakes game... but not really a game, it's much more vital than that.

We need people to understand that.  And support it...

This post is at Facebook should you wish to comment.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The deep, primal connection that teaches us humility...

The dimension that is our connection to large, potentially dangerous animals is one we cannot afford to lose if we are to maintain our humility.  Long ago the mountains and jungles taught me what a tiny dot I am.  The wildlife that lives in these places exists in a way that teaches us sustainability, the true essence of nature.

We cannot afford to lose these animals if we are to have any hope of keeping ourselves in check...

These posts are also at Facebook if you wish to comment.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Leopard translocation soon, vision becoming reality but courage of conviction needed

LEOPARD REWILDING PROGRAM (LRP) - Leopard cubs Tika and Ram will hopefully be translocated in the next few days.  I use the word "hopefully" as the ongoing civil unrest resulting in shortages of fuel and essential items is affecting most aspects of life here.

A pre-translocation team is prepping and will have the site ready before the cubs and the recently arrived jungle cat are moved.  A system is being developed where the cubs will only see their handlers during the transition.  The rest of the small "on  the day" translocation team will operate quickly and in near silence.  Right now the cubs are assimilating to transport enclosures and a den copy.  We are making sure no stone is being unturned to get this right.

The site itself is remote and confidential.  It will serve as a test location for the Rescue and Rewiding Centre concept.  A lot of ground work was done before site selection.

Courage of conviction is the key to success.  It's a time of total focus and selflessness, nothing short of that.  A huge of amount of effort and substantial funds have been needed to get to this point.

I'll post more as it all develops but I'm really hoping that this time round there is support and greater understanding for what we are trying to achieve.  Asa was integral as a pioneer, a flagship.  Tika and Ram represent the next phase and development.  It is the program itself however, how it fits in with ecosystem replenishment, that I am really going to be concentrating on in upcoming communications.  The overall structure is complex just like the web of life.  For now however it's total focus on the next steps in rewilding some precious wildlife because indeed, it is all precious...

The LRP is a collaboration of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation, the National Trust for Nature Conservation and WildTiger Conservation Research and Development.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

#LeopardRewildingProgram #LeopardTaskForce #RescueAndRewildingCentre #NeverGiveUp

About to leave to give a series of presentations re those hashtags.  Hoping transport goes ok while this fuel shortage is on.  Will take I estimate 10-14 days, up and down and across Nepal.  It's a pivotal time, all the hard work up till now channels into this.  Motivated by legacy of Asa, a future for Tika, Ram, all leopards, big cats, wildlife and the people who are part of it and support it.  Nothing is guaranteed but here we go...

This post is at Facebook if you wish to comment.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

#Nepal - Fuel, fuel, where art thou? Everyone is affected by this crisis...

I'm in Pokhara trying to get stuff built for the Leopard Rewilding Program... the fuel crisis is affecting that, it's affecting everything. The image I took is of Chiran checking he has enough fuel to get Oju to school. He might as well take down the sign for his French Bakery, he is not baking, there is no one to bake for. The other images are taken from news reports throughout Nepal, queues for cooking fuel and petrol can mean lining up literally for days.
I just spoke to Bindu the Hindu on the phone, she just had a scary ride on top of a bus to get to another bus... now she keeps waiting, has been nearly two hours, for another bus so that hopefully she can get home to see her mother for the first time in months now that she has finished vet school exams.
Som GC has just messaged me with the shocking food prices that are hitting the Kathmandu Valley.
Somehow now I have to find a way to get to Asa territory to check cameras again.
Everyone is affected in some way...

#Nepal #People #Wildlife #Habitat - Inhuman blockade costing lives

INHUMAN BLOCKADE is the headline in an article for the English language version of Ekantipur written by Chanda Rana.  Chanda's fifty-eight year old uncle died of a cardiac arrest because he could not get to hospital on time.  Chanda, completely shocked by this, has done a survey of pharmacies and hospitals to find that there is an acute shortage of life-saving medicines as well as the ongoing issue of people struggling to get transport to medical help.

There are now reports of food shortages and price hikes of basic foodstuffs because of skyrocketing fuel costs.  Nearly everyone is affected in one way or another.  It is approaching festival (Dashain and Tihar) season and Nepal Oil Corperation are rationing fuel so that people can get to their villages as this is for many the only time of the year people see their families.

The ongoing agitation backed by Indian cooperation to instigate this blockade is crippling the country.  Post earthquakes it was always going to be hard here anyway.  Once again the lack of unity and solidarity which permeates through a country of over one hundred ethnic groups as well as that many languages is having a hugely negative affect.

I guess when I posted yesterday with a  Himalayan image saying come back to Nepal I didn't mean tomorrow... maybe next year?  No one knows when things will become easier, it's frustrating and often very tense.

From a personal standpoint my decision to stay and do what I can is not a gratifying one in any sense.  Not only is this situation paralyzing practicalities it is paralyzing minds meaning decisions are not being made.  You can imagine that leopard rewilding is simply not a priority on people's minds but there is also the serious problem of aid to earthquake stricken areas being seriously hamstrung.

There are so many cultural complexities contributing to this situation and similar problems in the past have not been learnt from.  As I keep saying, unless there is resolution the environmental impact will eventually affect us all... if it isn't already...

Friday, October 9, 2015

Truly great story just as USA issue untimely travel warning...

‪#‎Nepal‬ ‪#‎People‬ ‪#‎Wildlife‬ ‪#‎Habitat‬ - I've just woken up to this story in the Himalayan Times telling of a team transporting a piano to Thorang La pass so Karam Kim can play to inspire in a few weeks. It's a brilliant idea, well I think so anyway. It comes just a day after the US issued another travel warning based on the trouble here at the moment. Look I'm not saying it's easy here and to be honest from an operational point of view it's a bit of a nightmare (actually more than a bit) but for trekkers sticking to the main trails in the Annapurna, it's fine... and we need you to come. If you're unsure drop me an email at Check out the story HERE.  I love these crazy South Koreans smile emoticon They have been great visitors here for many years, they love to trek and climb... and have a good laugh. Great effort Karam Kim and team, good luck

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Look into the tiger and you will see the mountain...

Well it's actually a metaphor for life and habitat but if you do look at the image closely, through the tiger you will see the mountain...

As I wrote yesterday at Facebook (and many times before) environmental disasters loom when things get out of control politically and socially. The previous post (at Facebook) re the pressure on forests due to the fuel crisis here is just an example, I've documented many, many more.

So if Nepal doesn't get it's house in order there is environmental fallout in one of the most important bio-regions on our planet, the Himalaya. China takes over? Forget it... their record is as bad as anyones, the shocking destruction of the megadams just one example. India takes over? Forget it... also dam hungry, and well just damn hungry full stop.

Nepal has to have a strong, environmentally conscious government or we are all in big trouble. I've been banging on about this for ages, I'm not one to say I told you so but...

Yesterday, after days of deliberation, with the consult of a colleague, I made the decision to keep going here. Will I regret it? Time will tell. All I know for now is that I have a hell of a story, believe me, you ain't heard nothing yet baby...

These posts are also at Facebook if you wish to comment.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

‪#‎Nepal‬ ‪#‎People‬ ‪#‎Wildlife‬ ‪#‎Habitat‬ Placing value on what is really important...

This blog is also at Facebook if you wish to comment

 It's interesting how many messages I'm receiving that the world is not getting the news of what's going on here. I've just been watching Nepali news live and the image I put up in the post earlier today on Facebook (image above) is representative of exactly what is happening at the Sunauli border crossing, right now, as I write this.
Jane Goodall said apathy is our biggest enemy, she meant it in an environmental sense but I guess it applies to everything. Nepal is in big trouble, I don't actually know if the world knows it or not, my correspondence with some people reveals heads in the sands, yet with others they truly get it. Nepal needs more than tourists, it needs people who care, whether they are here or not, interestingly some of WildTiger's biggest supporters have never been here, they place a value in these things way beyond self, put the money where an airfare would be.
I don't have all the answers by any means, I can only see it for what it is. WildTiger and myself have committed to keep going here, and that is not an easy thing, there are people I miss as well as a craving for normality. I think environmentalists, conservationists, we're a funny lot, maybe we're driven by fear... fear of losing the real stuff, we've rubbed our noses in it and know it's a lot more important than so many other things that humanity has decided to give value.
Maybe if one child can click onto that today...

Monday, October 5, 2015

Images 6 October 2015 #Nepal #People #Wildlife #Habitat

 I'm going to posting more images of daily events, stuff going on with explanations at Facebook.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Beauty and the beast, the paradox that is Nepal...

Often we see what we want to see. Of course there is also the option of keeping eyes open and seeing the truth...

The monsoon shroud is lifting, exposing the greatest mountain range on earth, the mighty Himalaya. The rainy season clouds hid her from us but we knew she was there. The last twelve months has been a year however where no veil could ever be thick enough to hide the truth and the struggles that just seem to keep slamming. Three days ago another mudslide, six more children dead... it hardly made the news.

The disagreements continue, disgruntled parties have reaffirmed their plan to protest, goods are only sparingly making their way from the Indian border. There are very few tourists and I have never seen less smiles in this gob smacking beautiful country, a confronting, raw, real country where beauty is at one turn, a beast at another, you never know what you will see next, what will happen, the paradox that is Nepal.

To some it may feel as if Nepal has shut down... but it hasn't, there is life here in every form. We need to protect it... #people #wildlife #habitat

Friday, October 2, 2015

#WildlifeFirst ...

‪#‎WildlifeFirst‬ ... I guess what I mean by this is that if we take ourselves out of the picture, prioritize other beings we share earth with, we will start treating everything better, ‪#‎people‬ ‪#‎wildlife‬ ‪#‎habitat‬ ... we will look at the big picture way beyond self...

Check out

Thursday, October 1, 2015

'The #leopard is your neighbour and not your adversary' - we can learn a lot from big cats...

'The is your neighbour and not your adversary' - this and more at our Twitter feed including this article about a reduction in conflict between humans and leopards in the Times of India.

This blog is also published at Facebook (as well as extra updates) should you wish to comment.

Just a quick hello from Nepal.  Passing through the normally bustling town of Pokhara on my way to Asa territory and well, the tourists haven't come, never had I seen Pokhara this quiet.  The fuel shortages (I've spoken to people who have taken three days to get petrol) cause by the blockade on the Indian border will hopefully ease today but it has also forced many businesses to close.

There's no point blaming the tourists, people want to feel safe.  Nepal had the opportunity to unite after the earthquakes, it didn't but it is the innocents who just want to get on with the lives and feed their families who are the most affected.  Everyone I talk to has a different view but all I see is the collateral damage as political groups fail to reach compromise at a time when Nepal desperately needs it.

From a conservation standpoint?  Best summed up by the all too often remark I'm getting "Jack, you don't look so good, you've aged..."

I wonder why.

Getting anything done while things are in such a state of flux, well it's never easy here but at the moment it's harder than ever.

My own feeling is that the country is in for a very difficult five months until the next tourist season in March, there's no doubt the this October/November season, normally the peak time for international visitors, isn't going to amount to much.  Nepal can recover, it's going to take a long time but once again, a more unified approach is the only way forward.

The leopard is actually a neighbour and not an adversary, yes, of course conflict does occur... but the conflict among our own species is far worse.  We can learn a lot from big cats...