Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Community health, leopard health, every one is precious...

Below are two posts made at Facebook (if you wish to comment) over the last couple of days



#HumanWildlifeConflict MITIGATION - BIOLOGICAL FENCE... Right this minute Hemanta is managing the Rapid Response Team and Cbapu Bardia members as the first biological fence using bees to ward off elephants is being developed. Elephants come right into our living area you can see in the image. Today the bee hives are being hoisted and the model developed at one of the main elephant entry points (we call it the "Elephant Highway"), we'll explain the exact dynamics of how the fence works soon. The production of "Tiger Honey" as an income generator to help fund the RRT, CBAPU and the community beyond is an important component. People really give their time freely, many, many hours, something which I think is lost on the world at large when the difficulties in high conflict zones like this one are viewed.




Further to my post yesterday, later in the day a few kilometres away down at the Park HQ, preparations were being made for a community health camp. 35 doctors will be in attendance today so that many people who could not otherwise afford it, will have free health care. This is one of the things I love about Bardia, the efforts made for community engagement. Congratulations to all stakeholders involved, I'll post some images of today's event. I'm not sure if it's just my black humour but the fact that some of the treatment tents are next to the crocodile breeding centre made me think, except I don't really know what to think...
The image where you can see the blue tarpaulin is where a juvenile female leopard is now in isolation, the first phase of rehabilitation. I've mentioned this briefly before, there will be updates when appropriate but this will be a really challenging rehab. The cub is much older than in the situation where we've posted about infant leopard cubs which have been eventually rewilded. This leopard is a highly aggressive juvenile which has been separated from her mother, obviously she cannot be handled and human contact has to be as close to zero as we can manage. I've called her Dipnani (pronounced Deepnaani) for reasons I'll explain later but there is a chipati connection which already a few will quickly understand.
We'll make every effort for Dipnani but the outcome is in the balance...
So this post is a situation of marginalized people and wildlife getting help. Many of you will know how there is a lot of controversy right now about "shoot to kill" orders on poachers, the increasing militarization of conservation. Communities are feeling more and more disenfranchised in many parts of the world and like the "war" on drugs it looks like the same mistakes are being made. Many of the decisions being made are by people a long way from the reality on the ground and public pressure from "laptop warriors" is also playing a part in this.
Community engagement, support for locals, understanding of people "living with leopards" (to use the metaphor) is vital in the long run. Personally I am very unhappy with some of these developments and will be voicing further.
Sanctity of life is sanctity of life, the true conservationist does not discriminate, there has to a sensitivity that every one is precious. Some of the decisions that have to be made for the big picture are hard enough anyway... all the more reason why these decisions need to be made by the right people...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Firing up for the tiger, a great example of community conservation...

This post is also HERE at Facebook if you wish to comment.  There are also some extra images accompanying the story.





A really good program here in Bardia yesterday. There's a section of Nepal's main highway, over ten kilometres plus which cuts through the National Park. Those of you who follow these blogs will know a tiger was killed by a speeding bus a few weeks ago. Another problem is people throwing rubbish from moving vehicles.
Yesterday a team of Park staff, Cbapu Bardia (Community Based Anti Poaching Unit) and the Army (along with one Kiwi, yes, I sacrificed following rugby scores back in New Zealand) combined for a three way operation where a burn off had the effect of creating more visibility for traffic to make sure they can see (and not hit) roadside wildlife, forming a fire line (forest fires are a real issues as the roasting pre-monsoon months approach) and burning the rubbish we collected while on foot through the section.
It was a really satisfying day and hats off to Chief Warden Ramesh Thapa (who was in there doing his bit), CBAPU coordinator Hemanta Acharya and everyone involved. At the end of day while on the back of a motorbike going home I took great joy in the rubbish free section of road and a chital (spotted deer) grazing peacefully as we went past. Everyone of us on the planet has to examine our environmental footprint and in a time when debate rages and communities globally are feeling disenfranchised (read shooting of poachers where many innocents are dying as one) then this combined effort of communities coming together just shows what is possible...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Keeping wildlife private...


Soon I'll be giving a shout out to a technology partner in Australia, Pro'sChoice, they have been a fantastic help.  For now though I just want to quickly comment on a small piece tweeted earlier today at @WildTigerNews entitled Social Media are a Threat to Wildlife.  Please read the piece, it raises issues that many of us have been increasingly concerned about.
We seem to live in this age of the hero photographer/social media poster who are pretty much hooked on "likes" and to those of us dinosaurs who existed in a world before social media it can be pretty funny observing this peacock behaviour. There is the upside of course, seeing fantastic images of wildlife.  But there is a deadly serious side to their misadventure.  It's been well documented how wildlife crime groups pour over social media to get locations of wildlife for poaching.  It's similar to the situation where wildlife traffickers have people who pose as tourists in National Parks etc, I've expressed before my deep concern at the way the tourism industry has many operators who invade wildlife space far too much anyway.
I've got hundreds of images and video I'd love to show people but I won't for the very reasons mentioned.  I'm really selective about what goes online.  The safety and privacy of wildlife has to be the priority.  The video here of the rhino shows the magnificence of these animals but making sure the location is kept secret is fundamental responsibility.
Using remote cameras for use in research, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and anti-poaching is a high tech way of making progress.  There are many different types of cameras for use in different applications, it's not just a matter of strapping a camera to a tree and hoping for the best.  These eyes in the jungle require a skill set born out of knowledge of wildlife behaviour.  The advent of real time notification is a hugely useful tool and WildTiger together with other stakeholders is helping develop this technology for the good of wildlife and the people living with wildlife.
But it has to be done properly.  There are too many news reports plus peacock behaviour putting wildlife at risk.  This only adds to an already difficult task...


video

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Latest leopard rescue symbolizes a new beginning...


As I mentioned on a Facebook post this morning (my page, post shared from "Living with Leopards") the latest rescue of a young leopard cub and the enclosure we are rushing to build is another step forward in a greater vision, a purpose built Leopard Rehabilitation Unit.  This is based on everything we have developed in the last few years re rescue, rewilding and coexistence.  Those who have been following these blogs know that I have been constantly working towards this, getting the right people involved and working towards the best outcome.  Still a huge amount to do, it's 24/7 but there is progress, sweet progress...

I thank those who follow and support.  The new "Living with Leopards" facebook page has only been going a couple of days but people are jumping on board.  The new integrated site of wildtiger.org-wildleopard.net has replaced the old sites and is a work in progress, the main pages are being added to through February.  Don't forget our main Twitter site @WildTigerNews

Ground level wildlife conservation is largely misunderstood.  It's very much about communities, the people actually living with wildlife often in high risk situations.  Our links aim to bring real life experiences so there is better understanding not just of our work but also the raw realities of the situation.  Hopefully this will increase wider knowledge and stimulate support which is desperately needed.

We can achieve so much through greater understanding.  Please know we are putting in great effort, the WildTiger way...

My regards to all, cheers Jack.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Big Cats - A huge reality check needed in perceptions...



A few hours ago the Facebook page "Living with Leopards" was launched.  This coincides with the integration of our two websites wildtiger.org (the org parent site) and wildleopard.net into one site, with pages being published and/or updated through this month.

On a personal note I have huge concerns with many things happening with the way big cats are perceived, conservation strategies, I guess our understanding and treatment of wildlife in general.  As one who dedicates his life to human-wildlife coexistence I am constantly reminded, daily, how little I really know.  And often questions like these come to mind;

I wonder how many tourists (and for that matter many photographers and scientists) really understand the effects they are having when they parade round in jeeps in wildlife domain?  Do they realize the way they may be altering the behaviour of predators putting innocent villagers at risk in the future?  Prey base such as deer being disturbed, do people know this can affect the day to day functioning of the ecosystem?  And for those who live with wild animals, how much understanding is there about how the chopping down of one tree is affecting so many organisms in the web of life? On that last questions, if it is being asked by a conservationist, just what alternatives is that tree cutter being given regarding livelihood?

These are just examples, I could jot down hundreds of these questions and every single one makes me examine my own way of doing things closely.  In the end it comes down to, just as I mentioned in my post yesterday on increased militarization in conservation, the right tools being in the right hands and just what is fair.

Last night I saw many wildlife orgs shamelessly using Valentines Day to increase donations.  It was the humanization aspect coming in once again, applying completely inappropriate emotional brands to wildlife.  It made me wonder how some of the people I've spent time with lately, those who have lost family members in human-wildlife conflict, would feel about these tactics... but then again, many of them are too poor to have the resources to see these tactics anyway.  Then that begs the question, again, where exactly does the money raised by these tactics go?

We live in a seriously imbalanced world where the marginalized, both wildlife and people, have struggles that many others either don't realize or genuinely care about.  The "Living with Leopards" concept will bring the truths of the situation because all parties involved really are living with raw truths.  Those outside the situation will maybe help more in the right places once they truly understand.  About the only thing I know for sure is that the next decade or two will pretty much decide the future for many species... as well as those living with them...

Monday, February 13, 2017

Increased militarization in conservation - a hot topic...


I hate guns.  Those closest to me, who know my history, they know why I feel like this.  I've seen stuff.  Because of that I'm very reluctant to listen to opinions of those who haven't because there is a brutality at a human level that unless you've witnessed it you can never really understand.

The increased militarization in conservation, particularly anti-poaching, is a hot topic right now.  If you follow these things you'll know about the situation in Kaziranga (India) where basically poachers are shot on site.  In Africa there is continual conflict between armed poachers and armed anti-poaching teams, it's a akin to war and arms dealers are benefiting.  There is a new crew of private armies entering the fray, usually people with no conservation background but are trained killers who are often ex-military.  I'm in frequent contact with people monitoring this situation and it won't be long before some are called out. If guns are in the wrong hands these people need to be called out. The BBC have just done that re the Kaziranga situation.

There's this perception that anti-poaching is sexy, the whole camo macho bullshit view from people who have never actually been on the ground.  Having worked alongside military in several places regarding both anti-poaching and human-wildlife conflict I can tell you there is nothing sexy about it.

Here in Nepal the army keep a close eye on the tiger landscapes so the great cats, like the one who made the pug mark in the image, can stay safe.  I don't want to go into the dynamics of that situation right now but it is a case where I feel guns are in the right hands.  It's not perfect but it is effective.  Everyone close to it knows there can be improvement and right now part of my script is helping with technological advances for both military and community anti-poaching units.

However there's no doubt that in many places there are guns in the wrong hands.  A cowboy element has entered anti-poaching and self proclaimed "eco-warriors" who are in it for grandeur and money are in fact making the situation worse as communities are further disenfranchised. Funds that should be going into combating the real problem which is high level traffickers as well as issues like poverty alleviation are getting sucked up by these opportunists.

These are guns in the wrong hands.  These people will be called out as more information comes to hand.  Watch this space...

UPDATE:  Just another quick note on this (This post is also at Facebook). As is often the case I'm getting a few messages regarding the post from people who prefer to talk about these things privately. My apologies for not being able to get back to everyone straight away, I'm pretty busy right now, I will get there. The bottom line is many communities are feeling disenfranchised and cut off by conservation policy, the tourism sector and the outside public. There is this strong feeling that the true guardians of the forest are not being heard. The people who are truly "Living with Leopards" are the key to the future of many species and habitat in general. If they are not heard and resourced then this whole thing will end badly. There is no room for elitism, it's time for eyes to be open to see the real issues ... and at the end of the day, actions speak louder than words...

#HumanWildlifeConflict MITIGATION using BIOLOGICAL FENCES and RAPID RESPONSE...

I've made a couple of posts at Facebook re the whole Tiger Honey and Leopard Honey concept.  Thanks for your interest.







Sunday, February 12, 2017

"Honey Hunters" - #LeopardHoney testing as the buzz increases...


I'll have more images and a progress report soon but we're very close now to the first jars of Leopard Honey. Give people living with leopards a better income so that they can they can live more safely, have shelter for their livestock, hunt less in the jungle etc then guess what? There's more chance for the #leopard#wildlife#habitat...
This type of conservation doesn't require conferences in Hawaii, PhDs or thousands of dollars looking for "new species" ... it just requires some common sense to look after the "old species" ... more soon in the upcoming "Living with Leopards" update as well as how #TigerHoney will help fund Rapid Response Teams but the best conservationists I know always say "don't lock up poachers or shoot them, show them a better way to live". Amen to that...

Friday, February 10, 2017

#TigerHoney #LeopardHoney #ConservationBenefits #PovertyAlleviation


Not enough hours in the day at the moment, trying to get as much of the honey stuff done before heading back into the mountains but will have wifi in many places there so emails to a project partner in Australia and many other comms are constant.

Tiger Honey from the Terai, Leopard Honey from the mid hills (hills here are mountains elsewhere), I thank those who are showing interest and support, it's really starting to groundswell.  There'll be more details soon but here are some of the benefits of the concept:

1) On the Terai the hives act as a biological fence to reduce human-elephant conflict.

2) More bees equal increased crop pollination meaning more income on cash crops plus more food from subsistence crops.

3) The production of a great health product - more honey on the planet is a good, good thing.

4) Income generation in economically struggling areas which has multiple effects especially in highly affected areas regarding human-wildlife conflict i.e. people can afford to improve their safety (especially re leopard and elephant) plus be less reliant on traditional grazing which means less competition between domestic grazers (goats etc) and wild grazers (deer etc) - win win situation for people and predators.

There's a lot more to it, watch this space...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Being non-invasive and technology keys to human-wildlife coexistence...



Many thanks to those who have been reading my posts here and at Facebook. After over 30 hours of spine altering road travel (my elongated body is not made for local vehicles) I'm enjoying good internet speed and coffee while I get things done before I head back into the mountains.

My posts in the last couple of days have themed on the way we are impacting on wildlife behaviour, particularly the leopard.  The ramifications are of course affecting the most marginalized, both people and wildlife.

As a conservationist I daily examine my own ethics, making sure I'm as non invasive as possible in my strategies and environmental footprint.  I know I can keep improving.  Technology is incredibly important now in this philosophy.  Giving wildlife the space needed so roles in ecosystems can be performed perfectly naturally has to be fundamental in our thinking.  Our very futures depend on it, wildlife is core to our own existence...




Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Don't doubt it for a second, leopard behaviour is changing...

Those who follow these things will know that another leopard had to be extracted from an urban area in the Kathmandu Valley yesterday.  Pragati kept me posted, the cat is now in the zoo with a decision to be made where and when the leopard will be placed.  Here in the Kaski two cubs that have been left by their mother near a village are being monitored.  A female leopard leaving her cubs for a few days while she hunts is normal behaviour.

The link below is an example of  another dimension of leopard behaviour giving serious concern:

Fear of leopard haunts Sariska villagers

Every day I wake up to messages and news reports of these situations in South Asia.  Understanding leopard behaviour is my gig and this information has to be disseminated and added to my own work in highly affected areas regarding human-leopard conflict.  While there are many common factors over regions (yesterday I commented on a thread that the out of control population of dogs is a huge factor and critical to the issue) there is also the compounding issue that the adaptability of the leopard is meaning behaviour change forced on it through circumstance.  While there can be area population patterns showing this change there are also the individual circumstances of certain cats leading to conflict which will often lead to that leopard being catergorized as rogue or man-eater.

As I mentioned in my brief post on Facebook yesterday the leopard that killed two children recently in Baitaidi (adding to an alarming death toll) where I have just come from, could well be dead by now.  Villagers retaliate in fear and in the tough terrain of the Himalayan middle hills where so much of this conflict is occurring it's extremely difficult to get accurate information.  So action has to take place based on what information is available and as I've written many times before, poverty alleviation is vital.

Sometimes humanity needs to be bitten on the ass before there is understanding.  Well the leopard is doing that and if we don't adapt we will lose this cat.  My own vision of a rehabilitation centre which can provide solutions (treatment, translocation, rewilding with best practice) is still very much part of my focus but I wonder how much mayhem still has to take place before there is a real wake up on this issue.  Believe me, leopard conservation is a huge challenge and right this minute I'd rate the future for these incredible cats as in the balance, 50/50...'

Thursday, February 2, 2017

"They buried the leopard near the temple" relives Binita...



For reasons of total respect I'm very selective what I write publicly regarding the specific cases which end in tragedy with regard to human-wildlife conflict.  The trauma involved, especially in incidents where leopards have taken children, is such that public scrutiny is inappropriate.  

In this case the words of  Binita are important to share.  Binita, from a village area here in the Himalayan foothills in far west Nepal, told of a leopard killed in fear.  Up to that point 13 people in her area had been killed in leopard attacks in less than a year and a half.  Since the killing of the leopard Binita spoke about, another 9 people have died, as well as eight more in other parts of the district.  Most of the victims have been children.  It was claimed at one stage that the man-eater was shot but just over four months ago two children were killed in the space of a week.


The leopard killed in Binita's story was buried near a temple as a way of asking the Gods for appeasement.  There are elders in the area who believe that the leopard attacks on people were because of a lessening of spirituality, people not being attentive enough to their Hindu faith.  In the image you can see the tigers as a figure of worship, the Goddess Durga is often depicted riding a tiger (In India, sometimes a lion).  But as I've pointed out several times before, fear can trigger violent reaction and leopards killed in retaliation is often the result, the most recent being just a few days ago.  And two days ago, a leopard killed a cow, people are angry and scared, they worry about their children...


In many places in Nepal the word "tiger" can mean any of the great cat species, including the leopard.   The relationship of people here in the high country to the land, to nature and to powerful predators is raw and real.  "Living with Leopards" in these landscapes is a life very different in truth and perception from the National Parks and wildlife tourism settings.

Right now I can see mountains that are in Nepal, Tibet (China) and India.  I look across the hills into the Indian State of Uttarakhand.  It is part of what is known as the Sacred Kailash Landscape which is an initiative where the three countries are joining hands to improve the lives of man and beast.  Protection of the land and poverty alleviation are fundamental to the future of this remarkable place.

Today marked an agreement with Government authorities for us to help improve the lives of people and leopards in this remote, unforgiving area.  I'll bring more details in the mid February update of the "Living with Leopards" concept but the past few days have shown me just how great this challenge will be, the far west of Nepal is a wild place, illegal wildlife trade is a major problem and the most highly affected areas where people have been killed by leopards is a place of extreme poverty.

But we will do our best and I am confident we will improve the situation.  Piecing the situation together today with District Forest Officer Prabhat Sapkota, an ally from the days of the rewilding of the leopard Asa, one could feel the quiet determination.  It's going to be days of discomfort in tough conditions and dealing with an animal which is by far the most resourceful of the big cats.  The leopard is an incredible predator...



I leave tomorrow to make the long journey to Asa territory to check things there (I'll take in a wedding in Pokhara, weddings are fine as long as I'm not the one getting married) as well as help keep things moving with "Tiger Honey" in Bardia.  "Leopard Honey" is part of the plan here in Baitaidi but more on that in the update.  I'll be back in this area in about three weeks with the necessary equipment.

In the image of protected wildlife in Nepal you'll see the leopard is missing.  There are many things which need to change. If we can protect people in a place like this we ultimately protect the leopard but advanced camera trapping strategies, DNA analysis as well as good old fashioned animal tracking are ahead of us to make sure understanding and dealing with these serious conflict leopards produces better outcomes.

This story has a long way to play out.  I'm determined that the carnage of people and leopards on both sides of the border is reduced markedly, that co-existence with more safety for all parties can mean a better life.  A species is at risk, that alone is enough motivation but the fact that it is the remarkable wild animal that is the leopard,  drives me hard as does my respect for the people living with this great cat...

Humans and wildlife share space in different ways from ever before.  Co-existence will always have challenges, I thank those who are helping as we face those challenges.  Cheers Jack.