Monday, November 21, 2016

Why it's so important to understand cause of death...

As a species we humans have the resources to do many great things.  We just have to make the right decisions...

The image is from a case where a leopard died a few days ago.  The big cat was found dead in a small stream and there were indications it had been poisoned.  However no post mortem was done.

We spent time in the area trying to understand the incident.  In every case there are certainties, probabilities and possibilities.  I've seen many dead leopards, been to many "crime scenes" where there have been fatalities of people, livestock and/or the big cats themselves.  Each case is different but patterns do emerge.

It's vital to get accurate information and in our increasingly noisy world that is not easy.  Getting a  post mortem done on a dead leopard in a country like Nepal is problematic and in many regions virtually impossible.  However where it can be done it needs to be.  If this leopard died of poisoning we need to investigate further to find out if it was accidental or deliberate, in which case it becomes a wildlife crime.  If the animal died of a communicative disease such as canine distemper that is crucial knowledge.  There are wildlife diseases which can wipe out populations very quickly.

Molecular dynamics, vet science, toxicology, human-leopard conflict and wildlife crime, these are all pieces in ever changing puzzles.  Protocols have to be in place so we can understand and act.  We're working on that, working hard.

In many ways, this work, it has to be personal.  Frustratingly, whenever there are lists of "amazing animals threatened" by either wildlife crime and/or conflict situations (the two are often related) the leopard rarely features.  Yet at ground level we know, on a daily basis, how bad the problem is.  If the image in this blog showed a tiger, elephant or rhino, my inbox would be extremely active.  Sometimes it feels like we're banging heads against brick walls, fighting for an underdog species in an underdog country.  Many times I think how the plight of the leopard is a microcosm of the problems here.

We're going to have to learn to live with leopards or they won't survive... and that would be catastrophic.  Leopards are vital ecosystem engineers, a species which doesn't exist solely in protected areas.  It's very concerning how many times I'm told in more and more areas "there seems to be less leopards here than before"... and in a country of such huge importance when it comes to biodiversity and ecosystems that is worrying.  When push comes to shove and the geo-strategic location between India and China plays out with water resources becoming more critical, well, I've written many times about the absolute necessity to keep ecosystems intact here.

I thank those who care about this situation and help.  The "Living with Leopards" concept will be updated at before the end of November.  I've realized that we need to do more to get people to really understand the importance of the leopard, to improve protected status, to change perceptions and to create better coexistence.  I know we can do it.  We'll keep trying...