UPDATE: Reality check – covid and poaching figures tell a serious story…

More on the health post situation (which is very positive but still needs help) down the page including a new fundraising link but India is 48 times the size of Nepal so if you multiply this by Nepal’s infection rate you can see just how serious the situation is, Nepal is in a worse case rate and death rate position. I use this comparison for leopard poaching, this year has been shocking and I’ll talk more about the figures in a future post but Nepal is probably the most unsafe place for leopards in the world right now, the pandemic one of the reasons why. The covid and poaching figures are closely linked in that there is a bad tendency for reaction rather than pro-action here. Foreigners as well need to question their own perception of Nepal, too many see it through this romantic masala tea, mountain view, tiger sighting type glasses which is so far from the reality of life here it’s pathetic. Yes, Nepal has caused its own undoing in many ways but there needs to be a united front of repairing the situation and stop hiding behind smiles which don’t tell the truth and the truth is that ‘namaste life’ masks a lot of pain in this country.

On a positive note people are joining together to get a covid isolation area put together here. Nirajan and David, in the image, are preparing to collect the first oxygen supply as I write this. In conjunction with the Municipality partners are coming on board and I sincerely thank WildTiger connected people for getting things kicked off, we’ll have some fully equipped beds ready later today. A big shout out to Jacqui Holth who I refer fundraising to now through that page, this has taken a lot of pressure off, I’ve got so much work on re the leopard situation. Here is the link connected to Bright Futures of Bardia – HERE – the funds collected include being for a doctor’s salary in this critical period before monsoon. As I mentioned earlier, we’ll be working closely with this and other Health Posts regarding coexistence education, the improvement at this Thakurdwara Health Post mean much better support for those attacked by wildlife in the first instance.

This quote from resident UN coordinator Sara Beysolow Nyanti – who has been visiting overflowing hospitals where patients are being treated in corridors and courtyards, in scenes that “break my heart” – said she believed Nepal’s plight is being overshadowed by India, which this week became the second country after the United States to report more than 25 million infections. The link to that article explaining more about that situation is HERE.

I’ll update again soon. Once again, my thanks to those who care about this situation and are helping.

APPENDED 28 MAY

Dr. Bibhabasu Jnawali arrived in the area at 3am after a long journey. He will have an immediate case load of 42 and the clinic, thanks to initial support, is set up now for emergency breathing problem situations. It’s not the time for back slapping at all, the situation is serious and a lot more needs to be done but deserving mention goes to Ramesh Thapa (former BNP Chief Warden, now based in Ktm) of Ujalo Nepal for facilitating the employment of Dr.Bibhabasu Jnawali, to Jacqui Holth (based in Australia) of Bright Futures of Bardia for setting up the fund for the medical team at the link at the bottom and Dr Jenny Chen (based in New York) for fantastic support and guidance regarding medical matters and equipment. It is a team effort and those involved have helped with the basic human right of health care which will make a huge difference in the treatment of those injured by wildlife as well, for now the focus is very much on covid. There is still sadly a lot of ignorance and carelessness regarding safety guidelines which is why Nepal has the highest transmission rate in the world. We will strengthen our role in connection with the clinic for coexistence education/awareness as this is very much connected to the whole scenario. WildTiger’s Nirajan Chhetri will continue to work full time on clinic matters. I really have to get back to putting long hours re leopard trafficking but I’m happy to answer any questions from English speakers. Another update once more systems and understanding is in place. To support the medical team from this point go to link HERE.

Keeping children and leopards safe…

Babu (Nirajan) with one of the posters which go on school and community notice boards, this one regarding leopard activity prior to monsoon, during the hot season. As I mentioned earlier, the fires affected the dynamic somewhat and already we are seeing the livestock depredation we predicted as leopards venture into village areas. The key now is making sure there is the utmost awareness regarding children’s safety. This morning I was in an area after an attack on livestock and thanks to very good work by the games scouts at the nearby range post with information I managed to track the cat and get an understanding of the situation. Talking to the families closest to the attack location and really hammering home guidelines for children’s safety will be followed up tomorrow with more of the same. I’ve got to admit, out of all the conflict types, it is the attacks on children which are the most gut wrenching, I have so many memories of this with cases over the years, a woman sobbing uncontrollably in my arms one of the most poignant after her grandchild was taken by leopard. It is why I feel the work must go in, it is coexistence in its most raw form as when children are taken the tolerance which up to then can be high simply evaporates and retaliation which is understandable given the trauma, takes place, sometimes on a mass scale where no leopard is safe. Prevention, being proactive is key. This type of conservation often seems totally incongruent with those who are more preoccupied with icon species counting and so forth. More resources need to go into these raw coexistence situations. Anyway, we’ve got cameras out, the team is determined and we’ll work with the CBAPU network to get guidelines in the right places and follow up with seasonal alterations. I wish we had the resources to really expand these operations, I know they work but it needs buy in from communities and it needs support from genuine wildlife lovers who care about people too, not just pretty pictures on social media. Just keeping it real…

Appended 26 April:

REGARDING COEXISTENCE GUIDELINES, THE NEED TO BE DYNAMIC… Yesterday Phil (a good boke) of Tiger Awareness asked about receiving guideline posters and over the months others have asked . At WildTiger we’re preparing different guidelines for download, that’s the easiest way and we’re also working on an app. It needs to be a dynamic approach though, the guidelines need to be distributed through effective channels and continually followed up along with monitoring systems. It’s 2021, things are fluid, the coexistence paradigm is ever changing. I get frustrated by what we referred to yesterday as ‘tea and biscuits’ conservation where there’s so much talk and a photo opportunity under a banner. Those days are gone, that approach barely works. We have to be dynamic, proactive and preemptive. In covid conditions this is even more important, unnecessary gatherings are killing. More soon as different guidelines are produced, the one in the image is in Nepali and English re leopard activity pre monsoon, just one factor but an important one right now, see yesterday’s post.

Wildlife crime is a societal problem, it needs to be treated as such…

A recent seizure, leopard skin, bones and claws. On another platform yesterday a post re leopard poaching resulted in an ‘off air’ discussion, the agreement being that wildlife crime is a societal problem but the conservation sector is constantly in the firing line from the public who take little responsibility beyond armchair activism. It’s all very well firing shots, anyone can do that, one day in a larger body of work I’ll explain what it has been like constantly listening to those shots, sometimes even being aimed at. In the meantime western Nepal is a hotspot for leopard poaching/trafficking and covid is making it harder to combat due to resources. My own focus is very much on this issue, there are people trying, albeit not enough, maybe a few of those firing shots could actually give real support instead of criticism. Wildlife crime definitely is a societal problem, a serious one. It needs to be treated as such. We’re all in this. The pandemic is one of many problems exposing our poor treatment of nature. Wildlife crime is a big part of that.

Leopards and fires…

It was an eerie feeling early this morning being in an area I know so well as the fire finally burnt itself out apart from a few little flames here and there. The Leopard Refuge Station itself was ok, it has survived many things including wild elephants and floods, now this. Repairs will start straight away, renovations had been delayed anyway. We’ll have to act quickly, we’re into that time when conflict spikes due to water shortages. A juvenile leopardess was seen leaving the burnt area close to these images, heading towards the buffer zone, I hope the fire hasn’t meant she’s been separated from her mother. The fire will mean prey will congregate where there is vegetation, this could mean tension between predators as various animals seek food in new territories. This is not good news for leopards which are already under pressure from tigers and humans. The fires have meant big changes in plans, that is what it is, adaptability is key when every big cat is precious. Nepal is burning, sometimes I wonder when it’s not, the literal and the metaphor mixed in a country with many challenges…

The Boss, a leopard doing his best for a species up against it…

The top is The Boss, the bottom at the same location, is one of his girlfriends and I’ve put boxes around two tiny offspring. This isn’t the post I’d planned, I’ll have more about these particular leopards at a later date but it’s been a really rough start for leopards in India and Nepal for 2021 based on poaching/seizure data for the first 3 months. It’s actually 18 years to the day since a seizure of 109 leopard skins in Kathmandu, I was in the region, it happened at a time when the armed conflict was still peaking, a type of civil war which changed the country. For the leopard however, not much has changed, it is still persecuted, it is still a conservation blind spot, it is still an animal very few care about and the task of trying to get the species a fair deal is extremely hard. Getting to understand leopards such as The Boss is learning how hard it is for these animals, what they are up against and those who have followed my own efforts (and I thank you) know that I have tried as hard as I can to see the world through the eyes of the leopard, I do my best to create a picture of what is really happening. The Boss operates in a difficult environment, he has tigers on one side, humans on the other, he walks a fine line. He has I believe 3 girlfriends in his territory plus possibly now a 4th after a remarkable relationship with a young female in rehabilitation, now free, something I put a lot of heart and soul into. So the story of The Boss is a compelling one, he does have the advantage of living mainly in protected area but for many leopards there’s no such luxury, poachers operate with impunity, leopard bones, claws, teeth and skins are of value in a messed up economy created by man. Other leopards are killed in retaliation simply because they are misunderstood, they are just trying to survive in a world beyond their control. The two tiny cubs you see here face an uncertain future, their story is yet to unfold, some of us are trying very hard to make sure they can have that story. This year I’ll be story telling about different leopards in the hope you become part of that effort…

Warnings given, not heeded … the result of that, tragedy

I’ve made a couple of light hearted posts today with images about #BardiaLife at Facebook but there are times to keep it real. In this coexistence situation, you can see the two images from the same camera at different times (note the light), the reference point being the cut branches on the bottom left of each image. Understanding behaviour dynamics of both wildlife and people is key to how we can improve coexistence but once again, big cats will only modify behaviour if we do. The area this happened isn’t far away from the most recent fatality, we did give a lot of warnings, sadly they were not heeded. As much as I would love to spend time taking pictures of pretty animals etc, talking about ‘I love nature’ and all that stuff, that actually isn’t conservation. If I’m going to be raw and real about it from the coexistence perspective, for many of us conservation is about stopping big cats and people from killing each other and those of you who follow my posts on this know there is a lot of improvement needed. We’re trying. More on this soon very much from the perspective of the most persecuted entity in all this, the leopard.

Big cat behaviour dictated by ours…

Something touched on many times before, you can see the lack of protection in the enclosure, a situation where tied up livestock has no chance against a leopard or a tiger. The more opportunity we give, the more big cats take, who can blame them for killing cattle in these circumstances, much easier than hunting spotted deer etc. It leads to habituation and too often of late, tragedy. With water shortages, pressure on habitat due to human activity as well as a myriad of other factors it’s more important than ever we decrease opportunity. The images here are at a location not that far from where there was the most recent human fatality, there’s a whole range of big cat dynamics at play here, I’ll describe that more at a later date as monitoring continues.

From the jungle, happy Holi, happy coexistence


Tigers aren’t Hindu, last night one attacked a cow close by where this picture was taken, we’ll work on getting ID of that cat but another incident early this morning where a man (badly injured but ok) was attacked by tiger in many ways sums things up. The man went into the forest too early, it was still tiger time and the result was conflict. We’ve been really busy getting coexistence guidelines out, the attack was another example as I alluded to yesterday in a post, of someone operating outside that thinking. We have to reduce that, education, education, education is the key. I really hope there are no more fatalities this year, it’s been a difficult time, I believe we can do it, it’s very much about people buying into the process of doing the right thing and while it will never be perfect, it can be a case of Happy Coexistence.

Human – tiger conflict: Another incident just waiting to happen…

It was really disappointing this morning to get news that people were still illegally entering a jungle area where recently someone had been killed by a tiger. I got the news as an anti-poaching team was showing me where a tigress with two small cubs, maybe only two or three months old, had been frequently using a fire line very close to the range post. There are few animals on the planet which will react more violently to disturbance than a tiger with offspring.

Seeing and hearing all this I got that same sinking feeling I’ve had before where despite constant warnings of an attack, someone will soon be taken. I’ve expressed my frustration many times before in the context that so many attacks could have been avoided if people modified their behaviour. I contacted one my team, we’ll help with cameras and monitoring in late afternoon and we’ve been busy getting guidelines into the community, trying to effect social change. The area I’m referring to is a hotspot, there’s not just been this recent fatality on top of many in the area, it’s also had snare trap issues including the horrible death of another tigress.

The issue here is not tigers entering human areas, it’s people entering tiger areas. Although there can be cross over in shared space dynamics, where I was this morning was protected area, restricted access and cut off from tourism activity. I know the area well through a leopard project and it has had problems of disturbance as local people forage for livestock fodder outside designated zones. Once again, economic and livelihood issues come into the equation but sadly, above all, it is this reluctance to adhere to guidelines and in many cases blatantly break the law.

It has a serious ripple effect. People and big cats have died, tigers have gone to jail. All of this is preventable or at least can be markedly reduced. Education is the ultimate answer, it’s the big solution but change is slow and this current situation represents that.

Teams risk their lives protecting the forest. Patrolling is becoming increasingly dangerous and what many people don’t seem to understand is that it isn’t just about protecting the wildlife needed for ecosystems to function, it’s about the safety of people living in these places, living with big cats isn’t easy. Extra effort, at a time when resources are already stressed, ,will go into the location I’ve just described … watch this space.

Coexistence guidelines as human – big cat conflict continues

There’s more details re the guidelines at WildTiger but with 2 children killed by leopard in the last few days in Katarniaghat it brings the human fatality toll in the Bardiya/Banke/Katarniaghat area to 30 since the start of 2019.

There’s been a lot of misinformation on media and social media but 3 tigers have been captured for holding, one of which has escaped.

We’ll have an update at WildTiger in early April but for me personally, the frustrating thing is that, as I’ve mentioned many times before, so many of these deaths could have been prevented if people had modified their behaviour and adhered to guidelines which have been recommended for some time now. We’re busy distributing guidelines in the area including to schools, I strongly feel this is the best approach, children are strong messengers. I’ll have more on that in the blog post I make in a few days about a leopard called ‘The Boss’ but a recent fatality where a woman was killed by a tiger in an area I know very well was especially frustrating as for more than 2 years we had been giving warnings, sent in reports and generally tried to get people to understand that fatalities were inevitable unless there was human behaviour change. All we can hope now is that people do understand, it’s sad that people have to die before that happens.

Appended later in the day:

Sushila and the team give guidelines out at schools as WildTiger and CBAPU (Community Based Anti Poaching Unit) coordinate with school principals in highly affected areas.

So to continue the post, that’s Hemanta explaining the guidelines and a section of one of the communities as we continue communications in different hotspots. Like I’ve said, coexistence isn’t rocket science, it just needs cooperation, common sense and care but above all the understanding that it is people’s behaviour which must change. More on the whole situation soon.

So finally today in this episode of #junglelife, someone turned 9 years old. Ridam is my leopard conservation buddy, she speaks 3 languages and yeah, she cares about what is happening to leopards. The birthday was such a nice quiet, peaceful passing round of fruit, Ridam preparing Tika for her family and of course the cake made by internationally famous cake, coffee and ice cream maker, Ramesh, the pride of Thakurdwara. Anyway, the little Tharu birthday capped off a day which was very much about people and coexistence because it doesn’t matter how many cameras are set, how many pug marks are found or how many tourist jeeps go into the national park looking for tigers, we must make this thing people centric where locals are given every opportunity to learn and be safe with the big cats and other wild animals here.