The image is another leopard skin seized in Odisha this week. It’s ridiculous how many cases there are as the seizure/incident toll soars close to 200 this year across India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. I repeat, again, this is only an indicator of the true total, a drop in the bucket, the truth is no one knows how many leopards and tigers are killed each year.
This is why recent developments in the Kunjok Lama case are even more vital. You can read the timeline and key points at WildTiger but yesterday’s development in which Lama petitioned the Supreme Court under habeas corpus was highly irregular considering the case was not heard at the High Court thus there was no verdict. With rumblings that the SC will hear the case during Dashain festival there are serious worries that Kunjoc will be released. The arresting and prosecuting authorities submit their reply to the Supreme Court tomorrow and then it is simply up to a judge to decide what happens next to a man who is linked to the deaths of 100s of big cats.
The wildlife trafficking networks in South Asia are complicated and of course are attached to tentacles which grip the globe. What isn’t complicated is the fact that there are key players, kingpins, the guys who are rarely arrested. Sure, the jails are providing a roof over the heads over quite a few poachers and low level traders but those guys (and some not guys) are dime a dozen, they are easily replaced, poaching does not stop. The key is to stop mid and high level traders, the brains behind distribution networks which may or may not be linked to other forms of trafficking including narcotics, weapons and people.
The Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal have compelling evidence that Kunjoc Lama is one of those people and if the system allows his release then the lives of many leopards and tigers will be at further risk. As I say, there are details at WildTiger but for now I want to say personally that the time and effort of people involved in seeing this case through to a just end is one hundred percent and I thank those who understand and support. However as always, results are so much dependent on resources which are always stretched. The next few days will again put that to the test as Kunjoc Lama’s future plays out. If, as is the worry, his sphere of influence (and own resources) means the out he is seeking actually happens, it will be incredibly disappointing.
So on that, while there are those putting in maximum effort I can’t help but feel there are those who could have done better, in fact the silence has been deafening by many who otherwise make a lot of noise about wildlife crime.
I’ve been a bit quiet on the posting front I know, there is this big picture stuff but also everyday jungle work within the scope mainly of Ecosystem Reboot, a couple of leopards getting a lot of my time, the tracking of one in particular is teaching a lot about behaviour of a big cat who operates in both core protected area and buffer zone. There’s also plenty going on with #AntiSnare and Living with Big Cats, indeed writing this tonight was interrupted tonight at 7.30pm as a call came through from one of my team giving details of a woman killed by a tiger not far away.
Reducing fatalities on both sides is dependent on many factors, not least justice, let’s hope it happens…