On World Elephant Day I’m posting a photo I took of a fishing cat. “Why Jack, Why? Why, why, why, why, why, why, why, why?” you ask. Ok, settle down, shut up and listen. We’ve just had tiger day. We’ve just lion day. We’re always having days. Yet tigers and lions are barely hanging on. Asian elephants are in trouble in many places as are African elephants. These three species are what are known as icon species and from a conservation standpoint they are part of a strategy where they are designated umbrella species, that is using the premise of protect the icon then everything in their habitat is protected. Well guess what … “what Jack what?” … I hear you say, ok we’ve been through that, just be quiet and read. The umbrella species protection strategy is full of holes, it is far from being a full proof model. As someone who spends most of his time on leopards, believe me. Little defended species like fishing cats are in real trouble because their habitat is so degraded in many places, even in so called protected areas. The big pointer in all this is the panda (ironic when you consider it as an emblem) which has more money spent on it than wontons eaten in an average day in Wuhan (a lot). In the Panda’s range the leopard and wolf have almost disappeared. I say forget these ‘days’ when all of a sudden everybody starts telling everyone else to save this, save that while doing very little themselves. Instead, every day should be wildlife day and we quietly but determinedly get on with protecting everything we can…
Just a quick note on the #leopard which died of snare injuries and was found in Karnataka yesterday, it was dead when found, there was some initial confusion about this. Although snares are known to be set in the area around NTR targeting bushmeat it can never be ruled out that leopard was the target. This is where thorough investigation makes a big difference. If it can be ascertained the snare was set on a regular leopard path then the thinking around the poaching incident has to move away from just a bushmeat case. As I’ve mentioned before we don’t post every incident, there’s too many plus some need to be kept out of media/social media. These posts are simply so people can understand the dynamics. These are tough times and bushmeat while being a direct food source for some is also a business. Collateral catch of leopard or high value (black market) wildlife is a serious side effect.
Later this month we’ll have a comprehensive overview of the situation at WildTiger, for now you can read previous posts at this site to get some understanding.
“They are not doing anything harmful. They are just moving through the landscape and getting killed.”
These are the words you’ll hear in this investigation released in Sri Lanka in the last few hours. Although the video mainly deals with the problem on the island it references some of the other issues in South Asia in general, these issues are especially relevant to India and Nepal.
Yesterday at the Leopard Refuge Station I had a brief
encounter with the leopard there.
Normally if I have to work there she stays hidden, that is how we have
set up the station but yesterday we stared at each other for about 1
minute. I had replaced a platform for
her the day before, it had collapsed in the floods, cameras showed she was
happy to use it, she seemed calm which is why she maybe showed a little
tolerance to my being there. I was
captivated by her beauty even though of course I have seen her many times both
live and in camera. It pains me that
release is too risky for her and the safety of others but the plan for her
makes sense, I want her to be an educational tool in so much as we connect her through
technology to the kid’s program and beyond.
My overriding thought was the tragedy that humans are
killing these magnificent animals in such disturbing numbers by targeting for
trade, retaliation kills, collateral catch (snares set for bushmeat) and trophy
hunting. Add all this to shrinking
habitat and the leopard is up against yet as in the quote at the top of this
post, it is an animal just going about its way and has doen its best to adapt to
As far as the targeting of leopards for illegal wildlife
trade is concerned, this is why wildlife criminals such as Kunjoc Lama
(previous posts) need to be behind bars,
he alone has been linked to the deaths of 100s of big cats. This is why I am dedicated to seeing justice
done, if we just continue to lock up low level poachers we will not reduce the
The treatment of wildlife is under scrutiny like never before, that in itself is a positive but will only remain so if there is a huge change of attitude and much more dedication and support for action…
Quick #AntiSnare update – Just another quick thing, there’s actually been a lot more messages than I expected about the Kunjok Lama case, that has surprised me a bit. To be honest, most people don’t want to talk about it so I’m really pleased there are those who are genuinely concerned. I know that being so open about something like this on a public forum is unusual because wildlife crime mafias are what they are. But there comes a time when we have to be more brazen and say enough is enough. I’m going to have more about this at my blogspot when #AntiSnare which has a bottom to top approach is updated at WildTiger because just locating snares is not enough, the whole illegal thread has to be disrupted, it’s the only way the carnage will be reduced. To reiterate, Kunjok Lama has petitioned the high court for release on bail and as has been made clear by events in the past the likelihood of him absconding is high if bail is granted. We will know more soon, the work continues and this upcoming period of time is crucial. There’s a whole backstory to this, that will be told when the time is appropriate. Once again, I thank those who genuinely care, we are a small team when it comes to that but that does not mean we are not powerful, we are…
This particular case (image above) was/is bloody infuriating, it happened on our doorstep and has kept me awake at night because it pretty much sums up the whole situation. Quoting from Tufan Neupane’s recent article (link at bottom of this post): “Seizure of tiger pelts and bones in Kailali in 2018 with those accused. Six of the eight arrested were Indian, and released on bail by a district court. They immediately escaped to India.” Case collapse is something we monitor closely particularly with regard to leopard, it’s not just a problem in Nepal because South Asia has serious issues which are in fact reflected globally, every single of nation on earth could do better combating wildlife crime. That reflects on citizens everywhere, it reflects on OUR generations, it reflects on YOU and ME. There is tiny minority fighting our guts out but as a collective, to be honest, the effort is still not good enough. There is hype that tiger numbers have stabilized in some countries but as I mentioned yesterday, the initial population base was so low it is far too early to be popping champagne corks. So if some time this month I post the scenario, and this could happen despite best efforts to stop it, that Kunjok Lama has been released on bail, what will happen? As I also said yesterday, wildlife, especially big cats will die, something which is already happening. There are so many people who could be doing more to help but most will treat the scenario with stupid little sad faced emojis. As I also tweeted yesterday we have to minimize the chance of Lama being released but we have to treat the whole problem with much more effort. If you don’t understand why by now, then please, go crawl back under the rock you are hiding under, there’s been more than enough awareness, there is not enough listening followed by support/action. In their recent report on the snare crisis in South East Asia, WWF were right, the solutions go well beyond locating snares. The problem goes well beyond SE Asia, it is our treatment of wildlife in general. The article from Tufan is ‘Lax laws make Nepal haven for tiger poachers’ with link HERE and the full WWF report (SE Asia snare crisis) can be linked from HERE but before you read them first go back and look at those tiger skins seized in Kailali, we are all responsible for that and the fact justice is not getting done in so many cases. So how the hell do those of us fighting this stuff carry on? In a pissed off manner that the world is not really listening, people and governments including many, many orgs and individuals who could be doing more, that’s how…
So just one final word on this for now, as a can of worms is opening regarding this whole situation, this collage is also from Tufan’s article (see above) with the caption “Konjuk Lama was named in numerous seizures of tiger parts in Nepal and India, and was finally caught in Kathmandu on 25 June. But like high profile smugglers caught in the past, he may be released soon by Nepal’s courts.” The key to all this now, as the accused seeks bail by petitioning the high court, is the right people in the right places do their job. WildTiger remains committed in our efforts to help make that happen. The lives of many leopards, tigers and other wildlife are at stake…
My global tiger day has been mainly about making sure equipment isn’t damaged as water levels rise. It’s a concern in many places and I couldn’t access some areas, we may have to use a raft tomorrow, there’s concern for the leopard refuge station as well. The before and after photos show where it was easier but it was a lot of slogging in flooded conditions. The Tweet at the bottom of this short post is a reality check. I’ve been away from all the noise that usually occurs on Global Tiger Day, an alternative name may be Global Bullshit Day because there is certainly a lot of back slapping when the reality is the situation is still damn serious and we all still have to do a lot better. There’s a lot going on, I’ll update in about a week but right now I’m dry again I’m about to follow up on a leopard skin seizure today in HP. My spotted mate gets pretty much ignored on Global Tiger Day. Look, there are some good things happening, there are people really trying but tigers and leopards are still under serious threat…
I’ve been getting info on this guy, Pastor Gerhard Steyn, the man of God who likes to kill leopards. Every day there are hundreds of new photos of people holding “trophies” and it’s far from just leopards of course, there are all sorts of wildlife including species like elephants, polar bears, different birds and fish, some of which are “photo trophies” before release. Such is the ego of these people, it’s easy to get information, they like to peacock themselves with all sorts of “look at me, I’m a hero” images.
As I’ve mentioned before, my script on this is connecting the dots with regard to the value of these trophies as a commodity in the same way that in the illegal wildlife trade market a leopard skin (or any wildlife body part) has value. Steyn peaked my interest because there are many trophy hunters who claim to be people of faith and in fact they will describe their killing as a spiritual experience. Of course one of the main justifications they spout is their support for wildlife conservation, something which is being hotly debated and has led to the exposing of a great deal of lies, politics and corruption. Read Trophy Hunters Exposed: Inside the big game industry by Eduardo Gonçalves (as well as the full on sequel, Killing Game: The Extinction Industry).
I’ll go into more detail soon but now there has been a new twist, WWF-UK has broken ranks.
To quote The Times: “The British section of WWF is now understood to have made a U-turn to take a more hardline stance against trophy hunting than the government, which is committed in principle to ending it.” Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ll know the controversy over WWF’s connection to trophy hunting. It’s an issue many conservationists don’t want to talk about, often a case of not wanting to bite the hand that feeds them. One of the reasons WildTiger exists is so the master servant dynamic does not exist … in other words, no fear of speaking one’s mind. So WWF-UK’s supposed new stance is a big deal albeit a story with a lot to play out.
So this is a just a quick teaser on the situation, like I say, there will be updates and the noise of “we are conservationists” has been at fever pitch recently from the trophy hunting community. There’s no doubt there needs to be alternative revenue for communities who are supported by trophy hunting and it’s a sad indictment on the world that the low priority for conservation funding in many places and poverty in general are huge problems but just maybe the WWF-UK decision is a turning point, it’s certainly a hit on blood money.
Who knows, maybe the day is getting closer when people like Pastor Gerhard Steyn have to get their spiritual rushes in other ways…
For those of you who don’t know the fantastic story of Cleo (female in the front) and Saaya of Kabini, there will be a feature story including words from the filmmakers next month here at The Importance of Leopards. These two magnificent animals are of a species getting a really bad deal much to the anger, sadness and frustration of those of us fighting for them. There are some champions coming through though, there’s just been a wonderful contribution to #AntiSnare by a friend and supporter who really understands the situation. Good people can turn this thing round, it’s not going to happen overnight but it can happen and we’re doing our best to make sure it does happen. The leopard is dying in many different ways at our hands, from subsistence poachers to trophy hunters with wildlife crime and human – wildlife conflict being elements. At the moment my every waking moment (as well as thoughts in my sleep) are about rectifying this situation, I thank those who genuinely do care and support, we have to hope that many more begin to wake up … so that leopards like Cleo and Saaya can live their lives the way nature intended…
“The feline was moving round with a wire snare stuck on its neck and had severe injuries infested with maggots. The #leopard was removed from a pipe but died soon after.”
As I’ve mentioned before I don’t post every case, maybe 10%. This particular incident occurred yesterday in Maharashtra. Some reports come from media, some from private sources which for obvious reasons cannot go public immediately or for some time if there is an investigation. The posts I’ve made, particularly over the last few months, are representative of the overall situation. The short post I made yesterday demonstrates how we are killing the leopard – Appended to the bottom of ‘The leopard up against it like never before…’
Overall, this animal has very few champions supporting it. I don’t get emails saying “I want to help as much as possible, I want to devote my time to the leopard” but there are people who deeply care and within the wildlife protection networks I have there are some people who are extremely worried about the situation, they have a call of duty which is powerful. Right now that is what is being harnessed to protect what is possible. The carnage will continue however until wider society steps up and it may well be that our generations are seen in the future as people who didn’t do enough…
By the end of the month ‘Living with Big Cats’ and #AntiSnare will be in their next phases at wildtiger.org as will ‘The Importance of Leopards’ here at wildleopard.net which includes a lot of my own personal take on this. From jungle time on the ground to constant communication in the cloud I won’t stop fighting for this animal because sadly it has become a fight … against ignorance, apathy and cruelty.
KIDS LEARNING AND LEOPARD GUARDIANS… On a different but connected note, after a wet monsoon walk of a few kms I managed to get the next lot of lessons to Manju (Anjel) so she and Su Se La can work their magic with the kids in that village. So we’re slowly getting there and there is some feedback with people offering support. Because of everything that has happened we’ve set a new plan in place for the rest of 2020 and apart from the excellent structured lessons designed by Ashish and team we’re looking at agriculture training using modern techniques so the kids can take these ideas home plus the formation of the Leopard Guardians. This will be a squad of the students who have been part of the program since the beginning, they will understand everything that is going on with regard to the challenges for the leopard and wildlife. In many ways the Leopard Guardians will be ambassadors for a species which needs help. More on this soon and there will be updates at the Living with Big Cats Facebook page.
The three posts I put at Facebook (see below) today sum up the situation. This has become a battle like never before. More on #AntiSnare towards the end of the month and we’ve had to delay finishing ‘The Importance of Leopards’ platform a little, there’s just so much going on. In the meantime if you can help please contact email@example.com
Appended 16 July 2020:
Appended 17 July 2020:
WILDLIFE KIDS LEARNING… Wildlife protection is a mixed bag. This morning after I returned from the jungle I got the news another leopard had been shot dead in Uttarakhand, the second alleged man-eater in the last few days. It’s so hot and humid at the moment I didn’t want to sit at my laptop and make the call to get the details. It could wait and instead I did something today which was planned for tomorrow, better to be a day ahead ya? I took the wildlife kids lessons to Ridam, she will be Big Boss and distribute them to about 30 kids, it was really good that we can finally do this. It may be a while before classes start as such but these lessons prepared by Ashish and crew are a great filler. Su Se La and Anjel will hopefully be able to distribute to their village tomorrow but for me, in the little Tharu village, it was good to see kids so enthusiastic about learning again. On my way back I got a couple of hello sir and namaste Jack Tharu from kids yelling from their houses. It was good. The spirit of the jungle…
THE WAYS HUMANS KILL LEOPARDS… So this is the leopard I referred to above, the second alleged man-eater shot in that area in the last few days. At the moment in India and Nepal there are legal shoot to kill orders on certain leopards. These shootings add to the other ways humans are killing leopards across its range … they are retaliation kills (including beating to death and poisoning), trophy hunting (including being chased by baying dog packs) and poaching (which includes poisoning and snare traps). That’s not even taking into account habitat destruction. Today after talking to little Ridam about the power of the leopard (she loves leopards), I walked away thinking about the conversation I will have to have with her about what our generations are doing to the leopard. It’s a necessary conversation because Ridam’s generation will have to show a lot more concern than ours if the leopard is to survive…
A difficult day ended up having some good stuff, these 3 images show it. I hadn’t seen little Ranjana since pre covid, she goes to one of our wildlife classes, she’s a clever little kid. I saw her at a Range Post, she was visiting her mum who is a game scout there. Anti-poaching teams are often separated from families for long periods, it’s tough but it’s the way it is for many working in wildlife protection. The good thing is Ranjana can be proud of the meaningful work her mum does. I showed her some huge pug marks I had seen in another place earlier in the day. A very big cat. Sometimes you have a second sense, where to look, it’s a feeling rather than visual sign. Attuning oneself in the jungle over many years allows these important places to tell their stories. Later a camera trap image of a magnificent chital stag pleased me, that area has abundant prey base, the ecosystem is robust, I like that, it’s why we do this…