Thursday, June 30, 2016
These blogs (and other updates) are at Facebook if you wish to comment.
I've had several private messages as well as some pertinent comments re my post three days ago (Nepal time), A TRAGIC FACE OF HUMAN - LEOPARD CONFLICT. Yeah, it is a complex and soul searching situation.
Thanks to those who care. I'll expand on the situation as time goes by especially regarding the effort we're really trying to encourage to improve things. It's one of my main focuses right now (in what seems a myriad of issues) and strategies including genetic profiling, increasing behaviour knowledge and practical implementations to improve safety are in development, being tested or on board. As I mentioned in a comment this morning all this has to be done with fairness to both sides, that's the only way it can and will work. More soon, cheers Jack.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
These blogs (along with other updates) are at Facebook if you wish to comment.
13 year old Ganga (left in first image, with her twin sister and father) gets home from school at 4.30pm each day. She does not leave the house until she walks to school with her sister and other students just before 10am the following mornings. In the second image you can see a very small boy standing in the door way of the family's humble abode. That was the exact place that Ganga saw her four year brother Bil Bahadur Shrestha snatched by a leopard, the last time he was seen alive...
Ganga is too afraid to leave the house.
I'm not going to go into the details of this event or the many similar ones we are researching in this area, in this blog today. The little boy in the doorway was born a year after Bil Bahadur was killed, giving Ganga and her family someone they watch incredibly closely, with fear tragedy could strike again. Pragati Shahi interviewed family members with her usual professionalism and care but we both walked away from the scene deeply moved by what we had discovered.
We said goodbye to a mother (3rd image) who gave us a brave smile but who had pain in her eyes... and pain in her heart. She had told us of trauma few can really understand. Her husband, Shyam Shestha, had taken us through that tragic night's events in detail, he was stoic but his eyes too told their own story. Ganga's eye's were truly expressive, they told of a sadness that cut deep into her soul.
We will tell this story in the future, we'll link it with the many others in the area. Words and phrases like maneater, revenge killing, mistaken identity and above all, safety, came up many times. This is a poor family. They had no lighting from electricity at the time of the attack, they don't have a phone now (we will change that soon) and while there was a small cash compensation given there was no psychcological support. There are measures that can be introduced to help families like this. We will see this through.
I have just under six months to go in a three year assignment which really started many years before and will extend many years ahead. It is very much about the leopard now, and our relationship to this misunderstood, persecuted animal that causes a lot of fear and in the context of serious human/wildlife is the major player. As I've mentioned several times before the leopard does not have the rock star status of species like tiger, snow leopard, rhino and elephant, it doesn't live just in protected areas, the leopard lives with us in many places.
That means the leopard lives in close proximity to people like the Shrestha family and it means tragedy can happen anytime. True conservation is fairness to both sides. The leopard is a vital species, a remarkable ecosystem engineer. And little Ganga is a beautiful young girl who has the right to more sparkle in her eyes...
Friday, June 24, 2016
The links between human trafficking and wildlife trafficking are becoming more and more apparent, they can't be ignored.
I feel fortunate there are people in my life who care about these issues and do something about it, whether it be actually engaged in the field or helping out by contributions. Thank you. If the Brexit decision means a global economic crisis the very people in the article above by Pragati will be affected. To those people who voted to LEAVE, yep, well done for short sighted thinking that has ramifications well beyond your shores. I was kept in touch regarding this child trafficking story yesterday and Pragati's last message late last night simply read "because of poverty".
Everything is connected. In the next day or so we're spending time with families who have lost children killed by leopards. Deadly serious conflict. Marginalized people who don't have the resources to live safely in these circumstances are also taken advantage of by wildife traffickers. They are also taken advantage of by human traffickers. Yes, again, it's all connected, it's all linked.
In a few weeks I give my first talk "Living with Leopards" and it touches on many issues quite apart from my own experience of actually living with a leopard in the jungle. I'm attempting to paint the big picture. It's also a fundraiser, the cost of rewilding the three leopards so far, once all the bills are paid, is pretty damn big, another time consuming aspect.
But worth it in every way not the least because it's shown me who does really care and acts, way beyond just saying they care. Thank you for your courage. We need more of it, all these issues need far more than words, they need the courage to act.
Freedom for a leopard representing the cause of freedom and a fair life for us all.
The world went backwards (again) yesterday because of inward thinking. I wish some of those inward thinkers could come live and work here for a while. Maybe they would develop some courage...
Just a quick post to maybe let off some steam. When China made the decision a couple of weeks ago to put in measures to reduce meat consumption by fifty percent, a young woman I know wrote to me and said she was proud her country was making this effort. The last time we had met we had talked about the serious issues around illegal wildlife trade in China. She told me there was a growing awareness among younger people and we discussed the many recent wildlife part seizures made by authorities in China. We talked about how there was a long way to go but that there were people in China who wanted to be part of the global thinking on this and many other issues.
We spoke of fairness to all living creatures, about being one planet which must overcome the boundaries and constructs our own species has created, a situation that has caused massive social and environmental degradation.
At dinner last night with a Nepali friend, we spoke, as always, about the very same things. We always speak of Nepal's incredible potential and that it is frustrating that it is really only social divisions holding back that from being realized. We spoke of the forces that do want to change this so thus we spoke of hope.
Today's decision in the Brexit vote is a smack in the face for those who want to have unity. Sure, the EU has problems, many problems. However the lack of courage by LEAVE supporters to overcome those issues in a way for the greater good beyond its own borders shows a selfishness that can really only be translated as weakness, the inability to tough it out.
There has been a constant theme of racism throughout the debate. Of course this disease is not limited to the UK, it is a global curse. There has been comment that this decision is a victory for democracy. Of course they are right... because democracy has always disadvantaged minority groups when the going gets tough, this is another example. Anyone who thinks all democratic decisions are the right please stop reading now and try and find a link to an IQ test.
This is a weak decision because it is selfish. I feel damn sorry for young people right now. My Chinese friend will be upset because this goes against all the principles she spoke of in our talks and the messages of shock I got from my Nepali friend said it all, basically asking where is their courage?
I post the image of the leopard. A highly adaptable animal with supreme courage. The leopard lives a tough life in a world where in its own mind it has no borders.
It does have barriers however, barriers created by us. And we keep putting up those barriers to make life harder for ourselves.
We've got to keep showing the courage to break down those barriers...
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
The more things stay the same the worse they become. This is a disease called apathy. Some recent strong busts of wildlife crime groups here in Nepal and other parts of Asia are inroads but there is so much to be done. Arrests and seizures simply point to the fact that the crime has been committed. My gut feeling, after many years, is that this is the pivotal time to see if the world really does care or the trafficking of wildlife and people will continue unabated.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
Friday, June 17, 2016
It was great to catch up with Kamal Jung Kunwar again yesterday. Many of you will know of his anti-poaching and conservation deeds. His book "Four Years for the Rhino" was internationally acclaimed, it tells of the remarkable events which took place when rhino poaching in Nepal was at a deadly serious level. The at times highly risky work of people like Kamal Jung ensured that the rhino now has much safer habitat.
After a stint as Chief Warden of Chitwan National Park, Kamal Jung is now eight months into his role of Chief Warden of Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, an area which descends into the Kathmandu Valley. Shivapuri is a vital watershed for the valley, in fact eighty percent of drinking water in the valley originates from its steep jungle slopes. It is, as Kamal Jung describes, the head which sustains the body of the valley. Kamal Jung has a vision that there will be healthy populations of fish species in the Bagmati river. The river has its source high in the National Park and flows through Kathmandu where it is struggling for health but Kamal Jung has set his mind to change that.
Kamal Jung also has a deep appreciation and concern for the leopard. "The leopard is the tiger of the middle hills" he explains, "in fact many people call the leopard the spotted tiger". We spoke extensively about strategy using micro technology to aid anti-poaching of the big cat as well as human - leopard conflict mitigation. I'll have more on this soon but Kamal Jung as a true conservationist who has walked the walk knows how vital the leopard is as a keystone species.
"If we protect the leopard it means we protect the health of the forest" said the Chief Warden.
The other thing I really like about this man is he truly understands communities and the issues regarding their relationships with wildlife. "Shooting people and putting hundreds in jail ultimately isn't going to solve the problem of poaching" he said. Kamal Jung works closely at ground level with communities, he understands how economic development in balance with conservation is the real answer. As a man who has had his life threatened many times by wildlife traffickers he still has the compassion to give people the chance to get it right in circumstances where poverty can influence decisions. In an age where there is too much macho and manipulation regarding poaching and wildlife trafficking issues, Kamal Jung has shown his methods work. The rhino has benefited from that and now the leopard will as well, thus the habitats they live in will thrive, something we all need to happen.
More soon on WildTiger's collaboration with Kamal Jung and other like minded strong conservationists.
Saturday, June 11, 2016
Our constant "invasion" of wildlife is something that concerns me greatly. Living with a leopard confirmed so much what many years previously had already taught me, we don't give wildlife enough space, in so many ways. I observed closely Asa's reactions to many situations, it's something I'm going into deeply in my book in the chapter "I WANT TO SEE A TIGER" ... "YES BUT DOES THE TIGER WANT TO SEE YOU?" Our perceptions of wildlife need to change, fast. The article below, re bucket list tourism, just another example. It's far from just tourism being the problem though, some practices in the name of science, habitat encroachment and of course the total scourge that is illegal wildlife trade are also culpable. The "legal" trade in wildlife needs addressing badly. There are many good people who operate with respect but there are many more for who the money god is the driving force.
Thursday, June 9, 2016
Now based and settled in the Ktm valley for a while it's all about leopards, not just here but with a south Asian focus. These cats are really up against it at the moment and it's also testing for many people living in their territories. Protection status, rescue situations, poaching, conflict between humans and leopards, these are the issues. The challenges are big but not insurmountable. Thanks for your support.
Before I head into an early evening meeting after a busy couple of days in the valley this quick post. In the image Pragati is interviewing Bishnu, a social worker and some street kids in an area where I once traced some bird traders. The traffickers used to recruit kids just like the two in the photo. The trade has been forced to be less visible due to the intervention of several groups and the Government does have measures in place evidenced by the high number of seizures of leopard skins and other wildlife parts particularly of late.
The Government is attempting to rectify the street kid situation, a chronic problem, people like Bishnu face serious challenges. Pragati is researching for a story on the situation, she's a journalist who fully understands the link between socio/econonmic circumstances and environmental issues. Pragati focuses on humanitarian issues as much as wildlife problems, her writing reflecting the difficulties of the marginalized.
I sometimes get irked when the amount of noise made globally about wildlife issues ignores the fact that poverty is such a crucial ingredient. There are high profile activists who only pay it lip service. Those people should join us in places like where we were yesterday, or in remote Himalayan village areas a long way from the tourist trails where being a hunter/poacher is a survival element.
Wildlife is always going to be under pressure if poverty is not addressed...
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
This post is also at Facebook if you'd like to comment.
I'll talk more soon about these high altitude areas where leopard and snow leopard overlap. The relationship between the leopard and other predators, including humans, is critical to its future. The global population of leopards is going down by over 1000 a year and with about 20,000 left across its range it would only take a couple of decades for functional extinction. This has already happened in many places. Areas like the one in the image, where I was recently, a few days walk from a jeep track, are critical for the future of the leopard , an ecosystem engineer, the most versatile, athletic and adaptable of the big cats, yet an animal which suffers so much persecution. In this area, the human population is economically stable so they do not hunt... the message is a loud one, poverty kills everything but poachers are far from the main culprits, that label belongs to dealers and consumers...
@WildTigerNews (www.twitter.com/wildtigernews) climbed over 5200 followers a couple of days ago, thanks to those who care about the real issues (it's not a place for selfies etc). Thanks also to those who have bought images lately, there'll be a send out soon. Every man, woman and dog biscuit has a camera these days, they are all signing their photos and there are millions of images everywhere. This has made it very hard for those of us who try to support projects by selling images, in fact it has become counter productive in that respect. So we have to evolve and it won't be too long before the WildTiger Journal is up and running again. I won't be on Facebook that often as a consequence, I tend to catch news on the run on the tweet anyway, it's faster and cleaner (less selfies). I'll post blogs here at times, I'm very leopard focused at the moment at a time when there's a lot of conflict. Here in South Asia there's on average a human fatality a week and a leopard fatality a day. As I mentioned above, things are at a critical stage.