Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The man-eating leopards of the west, the need to be in field...

I write this as I prepare for another location shift where awaits several months of intense field work regarding man-eater leopards.  Attacks on humans by leopards are proportionately higher in Nepal than anywhere else in the leopard's global range.

Many thanks to those who read these blogs whether it's here or Facebook where I also have other updates.  This is just a short rant and the last for a little while until the "Living with Leopards" concept is more advanced.

I've had to spend quite a lot of time lately preparing documents for presentations and concept notes with regard to man-eating leopards, wildlife forensics and wildlife crime.  During this time I've kept a close eye on events in Johannesburg, the 17th Conference of the Parties for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  Friends and colleagues have been battling hard for wildlife at that meeting.  There's been some success and some disappointment.  I don't really want to comment on that now although there's no doubt that for those in the big cat conservation game things will not be any easier with the decision not to give  Lions appendix 1 protected status.  Go to our Twitter feed at @WildTigerNews if you're not up with the play, it links to the relevant articles but with the trade in lion bones a stimulus to illegal wildlife trade in other big cat parts, it was a negative decision.

So as I mentioned it's all go developing the "Living with Leopards" concept which is basically a path to better co-existence.  Things are at a perilous stage, many people and leopards losing their lives in South Asia.  The area in Baitadi where I'll soon be active has lost about 25 children to leopards in just under 4 years.  Retaliation killings of the cats take place, it's a vicious circle as I've explained many times before. A shoot to kill order by the Government was activated but the police team has not taken the life of a leopard in the last month since this decision was made. Using forensics (with partner the Centre of Molecular Dynamics Nepal) and technology including camera traps I'm hoping to resolve the situation before any further loss of life on either side.  I'm waiting for equipment to arrive in Kathmandu and I'll be continuing case studies involving human fatalities as a result of conflict with leopards just outside the valley in the meantime.  The need to understand and implement is at a critical stage.

As I've mentioned before, sometimes I feel a real degree of elitism has entered wildlife conservation.  There is so much blame firing everywhere and meanwhile the marginalized parties, the wildlife and economically struggling people living in the same habitats, still don't get enough help.  There's so much misunderstanding and generalization.  The trade in wildlife parts, so very connected to human-wildlife conflict, is a good example. It's a global issue yet only certain countries seem to be in the firing line.  Yes, countries such as China need a lot of change in this regard but there are courageous Chinese activists etc doing a lot more than simply firing a few shots from behind keyboards.


Wildlife trade is prolific in many parts of the world including the US and several Euro states.  We've got to look at the situation much more as a global problem.

Here in Nepal, WildTiger works very closely with the right people to combat illegal trade.  We'll be expanding on this when the WildTiger website is back up and running soon after maintenance.  There is info currently at wildleopard.net and there will be other platforms introduced shortly with regard to this side of things.  Colleague Pragati Shahi has done fantastic work, among others who are very committed to the task.  The "Living with Leopards" platforms will give the opportunity for interaction to increase communication regarding conflict issues and wildlife crime.


I guess that's it for the moment.  I'll tweet from the field but I'll get another post up before that starts in earnest. There's also an email due out to subscribers and long time supporters.  On a personal note it's a feeling of anticipation that in six or seven months I'll be able to head back to see family in New Zealand and Australia after a gap of several years.  A lot to be done in the meantime however, my focus purely on improving human-leopard co-existence.  Progress is being made but there's no time to waste when lives are at stake.

My thanks once again to those who support, you are a part of this.

With best regards,

Jack.