Monday, May 23, 2016

Hundreds of leopards killed each year, that's just what we know about...

The figure of 4600 leopards killed (south Asia) in the last 15 years as part of the illegal trade in various parts of the world is being used as baseline.  Do the maths.  I'm about to head to higher altitude to get equipment, part of the leopard gig, this figure will be playing on my mind.  This is just what we know about.  No one knows the true figure.

I'll be talking about some collaborations soon to battle this situation, part of which is to get people to bloody well wake up.  As I keep saying, not being an "icon species" can mean a blatant disregard.  These cats deserve more support.  At the moment it's not happening and as an advocate for these animals I find that situation quite disgusting.

I'll blog when back at my laptop in a few days.

The courage of the mountain species...


I thank those who support WildTiger unconditionally.  You know who you are.  In a world where so many talk a big game you go that crucial step further, you make a difference in wildlife protection.

I admire mountain species very much.  It's tough up here.  In this zone where two great cats, the leopard and snow leopard overlap (I'll have more on this relationship soon), there is a harsh and brutal existence in an environment that is unforgiving.  The prey of these great cats, such as Himalayan tahr and blue sheep, I shake my head in wonder at the strength of these animals.  Tough people live here too.  It has been my privilege to live among them for long periods and in those moments where my own legs scream out for rest I am always reminded of the courage of man and beast who reside here, the people and wildlife of the Himalaya.

The spate of leopard skin seizures is a huge concern.  For every seizure no one knows how many leopards have died.  The role of the hunter/poacher is just part of this.  The skins and bones of these big cats usually end up with people who live in cities, places where consumerism knows no boundaries.  Well, there are many ironies I could attach to that statement...

The world as we have altered it means wildlife needs our help more than ever.  Even for these mountain species courage is no guarantee for survival.  Once again I thank those who have the courage to protect.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A near encounter, keeping big cat's locations safe...


 I was a little surprised when images of Asa appeared on a certain grid, he was there a little over 30 hours before I was. This was the closest we have been in a year. He could well have been watching me. I usually time camera checks for when I think he is in a different zone. The area this camera was in had good prey density though, good for a leopard.
Hemanta calls WildTiger farmers of conservation in that we get our hands dirty. The last few days have been muddy and bloody (thank you leeches). But it was rewarding as I've found sign of an adult female leopard, two sub adults (sex unknown) and Asa. Perhaps now, at close to two and half years old, Asa is the dominant male in the area but really it's not possible to say. The terrain is so steep, this isn't the the African savanna or the Terai, this is the Himalaya, you're either going up or down, it's slippery and leg muscles feel it.
Keeping the data safe is imperative. The surge in poaching is a serious concern and even images I send to colleagues I crop and send the image details separately. There's too much information given away over the net, poachers aren't stupid but stupidity is playing into their hands mainly because of ego and funding tactics.
An interesting thing is that Asa's area has had very little conflict of late, and none with leopard. I've got a theory on this but I need more data to be more sure. The ecosystem is robust as well. Put predators back where they belong and positive things happen. The other two leopards in the program are also doing well. There'll be a report on this when appropriate but like I say, these precious animals need to be kept away from prying eyes. Just let them do what they best, be secret cats, a fundamental part of nature.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Another leopard skin seized today, more resources needed for this neglected species


Another skin leopard skin seizure today here in Nepal, the third skin seized this week.  The situation is getting chronic.  There is a rule of thumb that for every tiger poached there are about five leopards.  Personally I think that number is higher now, we are probably losing at least a leopard a day in South Asia.

This is a deeply concerning situation.  If you can help our work regarding anti poaching action, leopard - human conflict and the Leopard Rewilding program please go HERE.

Below are some of the images available.  Every cent counts now for a species that compared to many others is seriously neglected.





Thanks for your support at this crucial time for the leopard.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Leopard stuff, a secret cat we're learning to live with...

Every day tiny increments of progress. No one knows how few leopards there are left, no one knows on any given day how much conflict there will be. Leopards don't just live in protected areas like icon species, they are a far ranging highly important ecosystem engineer. But they are a secret cat, not a tourism species and they have taken enough human life to spread fear and misunderstanding. Being a defender of these animals is damn hard because of their profile but slowly gains are being made. Every child lost and every leopard lost in the meantime hits hard, for some there are wounds that will never heal but we can live with leopards, we just have to keep learning how and put measures in place. Today is another day to keep doing that...

Leopard v Wolf...


A hot morning but was trying to track a big cat heading towards dog territory. The sign gave out quickly, in some ways it was a relief, to get out of the jungle humidity. Still sweating as I write this on my phone, it's well known that here in Nepal as well as in India, dogs have become a favorite prey of leopards. The big cats forced to live close to human settlements and with declining natural prey base, these are reasons given. Hang on, not so fast. All morning, and for a long time before as I have watched dogs show wolf like behavior, both in packs and alone, I imagine what that triggers in a leopard... the competing carnivore, the apex predator want to be.
"Not only is the dog/wolf a good feed but it is a competitor in my jungle" ... think like a leopard. The more I learn the less I know about the secret cat (and Wikipedia needs a bullshit test), hours in jungles giving classes that only tease the mind...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sleepless night, concern for the leopard...

As humans continue to over populate and over consume I honestly believe that the preservation of species like tiger and leopard is of more and more urgent need. The leopard, a neglected species so close to my heart, has been a strong theme in a series of emails I've sent to colleagues over a sleepless 24 hour period. As I sit here having a moment to reflect with a sustaining coffee I wonder just how many people honestly understand the situation...

These post and other updates are at Facebook if you wish to comment.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Collection of guns represents the overall plight... and one little #leopard cub...


This image just through from Hemant re the guns being collected in the Banke area of the Bardia/Banke national parks region, one of the most vital tiger landscapes on the planet. Your support for WildTiger enables people like Hemant to do their work, I thank the true contributing supporters. I'm about to get a whole lot more cash sunk into the Leopard Rewilding Program, this whole thing takes effort and there is a lot of behind the scenes activity going on. I'm never going to jeopardize the safety of the people or wildlife involved by naming locations or details that don't need to go into the public domain, there are people who support simply because they know the effort. But this whole thing is much more than just a battle against poachers, organized crime etc, there are the issues of politics, ego and apathy (caused by lack of education in some sectors, lack of care in others) which interfere in the true essence of conservation. If one little leopard cub, as just an example, doesn't get the chance to be a true leopard, then we are all poorer. For those reasons, strategies have to evolve accordingly and the people who are truly willing to sacrifice need to be supported. Once again, I thank those who truly support. Right now, there is one little leopard cub which may or may not be given its chance, that story is locked away because of these issues but that innocent animal represents so much more...

Saturday, May 7, 2016

So many issues it's to easy to see why the leopard problem is ignored...


I've just returned from a very early morning foray to a village where a goat was taken.  Yes, it does look like a leopard was responsible.  I'll quickly have some breakfast and then leg it to another area of recent leopard activity, well, the word is "a tiger lives here" because as I've explained before, in Nepal the word tiger means many things.

The loss of the goat meant a lot to the people I spoke to this morning.  Already they have two family members who have taken jobs in gulf states since the earthquakes.  Remittance form itinerant workers is a huge part of the Nepal economy, broken families for cash... in a family orientated society.  This family here in the Kaski will get money sent to get another goat, about a months saving for the construction workers in Qatar.  They are worried the leopard will strike again and of course the fear for human life, particularly children is always there.

The image here is the one I used with a cropped version for my new profile picture on Facebook.  The determined look on Asa's face was one of "stay away from my food" as I had just tracked him to a place where he had made a recent kill.  Leopards like all wild carnivores are single minded and ruthless when it comes to food.  The image will be available on the subscription page at Mountaintiger Photography soon.  It's now on a year since the big cat and I permanently separated as part of his rewilding after increasing number of days spent apart.  It was a gradual but also dynamic process, if that makes sense.

The recent publicity regarding leopards losing seventy five percent of their historical range globally has been handled in an odd way, it's as if it's a surprise.  Incredibly there are many people saying "oh, we didn't realize they were in so much trouble"... well it's not a surprise at all to those working at ground level regarding these animals.  However it easy to understand why the issues regarding leopards don't get the same emphasis as their rock star cousins, species like tiger and snow leopard.  The leopard is a secretive, hard to study cat, not a tourist species and not viewed as a god like creature like the two I've mentioned.  The other thing is that there are so many problems in a country like Nepal it's easy to brush issues like the conflict with leopards under the carpet despite the losses of human life and livestock and the burgeoning leopard skin (and bone) trade.

The rewilding program is part of a future proofing process as leopard numbers fluctuate thus affecting ecosystems but the study of leopard behaviour as these cats adapt to increasing natural habitat loss is crucial to ensure better outcomes for all parties involved, that is, leopards, livestock and people.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Hard days but a simple objective...


A year on from when Asa became fully wild I have to admit that many of the issues recently have me wishing that I was back at 3000m living with the leopard. As my posts of late have reflected there are so many agendas and complications in wildlife conservation. The time up there with Asa meant some of the toughest days of my life but at least the objective was simple. Still, the purity of wilderness will mean the motivation to keep going is always there...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

We're driving sentient beings to extinction... and I'm wondering who has the courage to care...


I sometimes joke that being a vegetarian was the hardest twenty-eight minutes of my life.  I don't feel like joking at the moment.  Yesterday in the jungle I was thinking like a carnivore as I was trying to track a leopard that had been straying very close to human settlement..  There was no sign of this particular female, that concerned me but I accepted that her territory is still being established, she seems to be a recent visitor unlike an older male leopard which seems to have disappeared.

I found yesterday hard but first of all I thank those who actually read these blogs, not just "like" pretty pictures but if that is all you do, at least look into the eyes of this leopard and feel something.  I'll come to my concern for the safety of leopards soon but there were other events yesterday which left me deep in thought.  When I'm in a place with decent signal I'll activate data access on my phone just in case there are any important emails.  While in the forest yesterday I got a message from WildTiger supporter Kate Walton.  It was about several matters but Kate's reference to a post by wildlife activist Paul Watson had me curious because I hadn't seen it.  I spent the rupees to run Watson's post and the image of the slaughtered polar bear (I shared the post on my Facebook page soon after) along with his words regarding the hypocrisy of Greenpeace and WWF once again left me shaking my head.  Watson may be controversial (he's a maverick and I can relate to that) but he has courage, a lot of it.  I had brief messages with him later in the day, he was, as always,  succinct.  He made it clear that these large organizations are not on our side.

Sometimes I wonder if the policy makers of these large organizations have ever actually looked a wild animal in the eyes, made a natural connection.  Of course it's not just Greenpeace and WWF soaking up huge funds in order to act out these counter wildlife measures.  There are hundreds of smaller organizations involved in bullshit.  As I mentioned in a comment yesterday I have no sympathy for donors who are misdirecting their funds to these people, it's 2016, people can find out easily if there is good ground level work being done.  But people still get sucked in by rhetoric, celebrity, whatever, I don't know, that stuff is beyond me, I'm just a ground level shit kicker.

One organization I trust is Panthera and when they released their report yesterday (also shared on Facebook and linked at @WildTigerNews)  that the leopard had lost seventy five percent of its range I felt a moments disgust for humanity.  I wondered who would react to this.  I wondered who understood we are all responsible.  I wondered how many have truly connected to nature by looking in the eyes of a wild animal...

We're in the sixth major extinction period but not many understand that, let alone fully realize that we are in the main responsible.  The study of our fellow vertebrates, their behaviour, their relationship with us, this is my passion and my concern.  In the last one hundred years we should have lost a few but instead we have lost hundreds.  This is because of us and I wonder who really understands that, or worse, I wonder who really cares.

Everyone should care, the ramifications are huge.  There are vast areas of habitat we can still protect, we will.  However I've changed my thinking about who is involved in this, who has the courage of conviction to fight for this, whether it be in hardcore wildlife protection or baking a cake to sell to raise funds for organizations actually acting at ground level.

Hopefully in an hour when I'm back in the forest searching for leopard sign, I'll have let these thoughts go.  However I'll be concerned about these leopards, there's been many forest fires of late and some have been lit to drive wildlife to places where they can be easily caught.  This is the result of poverty (lack of education is often a result of poverty) but also often greed in a consumer society where we've learnt to blame everyone else for this mess and yet leave it up to others to clean it up.  The leopard is a species which is entirely representative of our actions.  These animals are adapting to a new world altered by us, their future is uncertain because of us.  Panthera's report explains it.  There's also another tiny leopard cub in care right now, it may not survive but that's another story.  Politics before reason, that's our world.  That can be very upsetting when lives are lost because of it.

I thank those who support WildTiger.  I come from a country which recognizes sentient beings as having rights but nature is harsh, it's a tough life for carnivore and prey. It is however the way it is supposed to be, the functioning of ecosystems which give not only health to all beings including us but also give that sense of wonder at the sheer beauty of it all.  I thank those who want to see it continue because at least you understand it has to be that way or we are leaving the children of humanity with a struggle they don't deserve.  Surely that in itself is enough to make some people care even if they've never looked into the eyes of a wild animal...


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thanks to true supporters...

Many thanks to true supporters of WildTiger as I deal with this image theft issue.  Subscription images are available at Mountaintiger Photography with the new format galleries being added to from this point.  Every cent counts especially with our increased commitment to anti-poaching and the Leopard Task Force including the rewilding program.  I'm reviewing the way I blog and how images are used, I thank those who continue their support in every way.  Cheers Jack.

These bogs are replicated or come in different forms (plus other updates) at Facebook if you wish to comment.

Monday, May 2, 2016

#AntiPoaching - Manipulation of #wildlife takes many forms...


I feel like I've woken up in yet another shitfight. Re my post last night (on Facebook) about people stealing images, I am going to pursue one of the main protagonists, that person is geographically not that far away from here. In the meantime I have to look at how things work online. I'm picking up cameras in the mountains over the next few days, it'll give me time to think.

In many ways it just hits how wildlife is manipulated, used and abused in so many ways. The propaganda is pathetic. Claims regarding tiger number increases, zero poaching, it's all part of a manipulation process. In the meantime real work does go on and this stuff only makes me more determined. I'm very confident the camera system we're implementing is going to be a long term effective anti poaching tool. As for the dealers and the buyers, well they are poachers too, it takes many forms, their day will come. Wildlife is worth it, we need wildlife and right now wildlife needs us...

#AntiPoaching #HumanWildlifeConfict

I'm currently in the field testing and implementing technology used for anti-poaching and human/wildlife conflict issues.  I'll blog again soon but for now I'm posting at my Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Please also follow the WildTiger Twitter feed @WildTigerNews

Cheers Jack