Gains being made… but too many leopards dying…

I was asked in an interview recently if I felt let down by the situation.  I replied that it’s not about me, I’m in a position where I could fly away from it all tomorrow, the leopard can’t, it is the leopard being let down.

But of course I can’t fly away from the situation… I wouldn’t do that.

This project update relates to our work regarding coexistence and rehabilitation but this time also looks strongly at the wildlife crime aspect as poaching and trafficking hit the leopard hard.

This update only gives a tiny percentage of our work but the first thing I’d like to do is thank the team assisting where the leopard Dipnani is being rehabilitated before reintroduction to the wild.  Bardia National Park staff and Army Anti-Poaching personnel help make sure the area is secure, this is a vital factor in making sure Dipnani has no human contact.  I have a strict procedure I use to make sure the young female leopard retains her wariness of people and Dipnani has certainly done that, she is extremely protective of her den area and exhibiting true wild behaviour.

There will be a more comprehensive update re Dipnani in a couple of months, security is of the utmost importance.  It’s so far so good as far as her progress is concerned.  Dipnani is an important cat in so many ways, not least that her circumstance has meant we have been able to get a facility underway.  There is still a lot to be done, it’s day to day but the commitment to the project is absolute from our side.

Those of you who follow my posts on social media have been introduced to little Ridem, she is becoming our poster girl for coexistence.  The positive aspect regarding attacks by leopards on people here in Nepal is that there have been less fatalities.  This means that the trigger for retaliation is reduced.  Human fatalities generally fall in Ridem’s age group, she is 5 and we’ve found that toddlers up to children in early teens are most at risk.  However it is incredibly important to understand that when a leopard takes on behaviour traits that mean it is less wary of people and more likely to attack then all ages are at risk and human adults, particularly in India, are taken.

Here in Bardia National Park from where I write this we’ve had several serious incidents of late.  We’ve reacted quickly and made people aware of the situation and emphasized how we have to change our behaviour,  just completely minimize the opportunities for the leopard to attack. This then promotes behaviour change in the cat but the situation can never be taken for granted, vigilance has to be ongoing.

Another tool we’ve been testing is flashlights with strobe.  I’ve successfully deterred a leopard while using flashing light.  This is a very different approach to fixed location strobe which I am completely against because of what could lead to dangerous habituation by leopards thus making the situation worse as the big cats lose wariness.  A hand held device is a different dynamic altogether, testing will continue.

We’ll continue to update on our coexistence work and I’ll also bring positive news of the work done by District Forest Officer Prabhat Sapkota who we are collaborating with in the highly affected area of Baitadi in far west Nepal.

  

So onto the deadly serious issue of poaching and trafficking of leopards and other wild cats.  Our social media platforms have highlighted disturbing news of late.  That is not to say the situation has not been ongoing but there seems to have been a spike.  I’ve mentioned before that it is impossible to be accurate about the proportion of trafficked body parts compared to seizures but Indian Customs authorities use the rule of thumb of multiplying by ten.  This leads to a highly disturbing figure and means that the leopard will not sustain itself, we know the species is in decline anyway.

We work in conjunction with the appropriate parties both at ground level and internationally.  The main problem is lack of resources and this is directly linked to lack of will by Governments, the large conservation organizations (big orgs) and public who are in a position to support.  There is absolutely no doubt the leopard is a targeted species by organized trafficking groups linked to mafias involved in illegal trade of not just wildlife.  There is also opportunistic poaching linked to poverty situations and sometimes retaliation in human-leopard conflict situations.  While skins are in demand it is also teeth and claws of the big cats being traded.  There is also evidence that bones are being used as substitute for tiger bones as the large striped cat becomes harder to be illegally hunted.

Not all incidents are made public, there are investigations and safety issues to always be considered.  I have no idea how many dead or injured leopard cases I’ve attended now and on top of that there are constant updates, sadly these are daily.  Just yesterday three clouded leopard skins were seized here in Nepal and that followed 3 seizures over three days of common leopard parts. Once again, do the maths by using what I described above and this is a deadly serious situation.

In a few days I head to Kathmandu in the next step to get the leopard placed on the protected species list here in Nepal.  I’ve mentioned this before and there is the “Day of the Leopard” page on this site.  Getting harsher penalties and more thorough investigation along with more arrests of middle men and kingpins is vital.  Full protection can lead to those measures.  It’s no use just arresting ground level poachers, they are queuing up.  But that’s not to say poachers should be let off lightly, the use of snares  leads to horrific outcomes, something I have now witnessed many times.

I want to pay kudos at this point to my colleague Pragati Shahi, a brave soul who I’ll talk about more in coming updates.  We have some fiercely dedicated people involved in leopard conservation but support has to increase.

Before I head to the capital it’s more jungle time as  I make sure the leopard Dipnani is settled in her current stage.  This beautiful animal is precious and she too, like Ridem, is a poster for our efforts.  But her security means at this stage her life is not splashed round publicly.

 

Nepal, India and south Asia in general have landscapes of great beauty.  The leopard is a remarkable animal able to adapt to many varying habitats.  Evolution has produced a masterpiece, a true example of nature’s finest work.

What the leopard needs now is true friends, the leopard needs true loyalty, not just lip service and clicks.  The next few months will tell us just who in Governments, big orgs and the public are really genuine about that…

Images to save lives of People and Leopards…

A solid response across various platforms to the photo exhibition concept, thank you from deep in my heart.  I’ll be in contact as soon as possible, there’s a lot of flexibility as images can be exhibited digitally or in physical gallery style, either way the outlay is minimal.  The support is really appreciated, expenses are constant across coexistence, rehabilitation and anti-trafficking/poaching work in several areas with our range expanding.

I’m in contact with leopard conservationists the world over and it’s very difficult for all.  Ultimately I will set up a foundation to aid leopard conservation across the range but for now we have to focus on our own core work.  The icon species such as tiger, rhino and elephant get support in the millions of dollars and the term “umbrella species” term often attached to these species doesn’t in fact help the leopard so much as the range of panthera pardus is vast, so much outside protected areas away from the where these other animals live.

The leopard needs real loyalty.  Nature didn’t evolve this remarkable big cat over millions of years for us to destroy it.  We have a duty to protect, this magnificent animal, an ecosystem engineer without peer.  Once again I thank those who understand that and support in a meaningful way, the leopard needs more of you…

Tracking “Ghatghuri” – Leopard behaviour change has to be taken seriously

This is just an a quick interim post, I’ll have a more comprehensive project update soon.  A lot going on in “Leopard Land” within the realms of #Coexistence, #rehabilitation and #AntiTrafficking/poaching.

At my Facebook page I’ve made recent reference to an attack by a leopard in our area.  The last few days have been spent understanding the situation, and making people aware (sensitizing re safety measures).  Those who follow our Twitter platforms (particularly @WildTigerNews) will know that attacks in south Asia are increasing. There are a whole set of dynamics involved, there’s a lot of information and rhetoric out there but there is also a lack of action and good procedure in many places.  A key to all this is to take nothing for granted, especially the fact that leopards can and do attack during the day.  Just yesterday another child was taken in broad daylight in India, one of two fatalities in a 3km radius that day.

Leopard conservation is very much about balance and fairness to both parties.  I’ve said it a million times and I’ll say it again, if people are safe and give leopards less opportunity to attack, the right ecological implementations are made and apathy is not allowed to sink in, then tragedy followed by retaliation is far less likely.

The word “Ghatghuri” is one of the words for leopard in the local Tharu dialect (Thanks Sita and Ridem).  Another Tharu word for the species is Hunrra and in Nepali it is Chituwa.  Many people use the word “tiger” for leopard is well.  In many ways this just shows it doesn’t matter what panthera pardus fusca is called, it is how we take measures to live with this amazing predator.  I’ll have more on the strategies being used and other developments soon.  I thank those who care about this situation.  I’, quite a way behind in replies to messages etc, I’ll get there, as I started with, there’s a lot going on…

Quick update – thanks for the messages

Just a quick hello and thanks for the many messages of late.  I’m well behind in replies, I have to prioritize at the moment, there’s a lot going on and not just here in Nepal (more detailed updates on our other projects outside Nepal in the new year) where I’m currently based.  As everyone knows, the leopard and wildlife in general are in the midst of great challenges, due to the human factor.  As someone who spends most of his days (and often nights!) doing his best to see things through the eyes of wildlife, these challenges can be confronting.

I’m still a few days away from getting to the mountain area you see in the image.  Leopards live there.  Right now here on the Terai I’m readying things for the next stage of the rehabilitation of the leopard Dipnani.  She is an important cat because her situation is allowing the furthering of progress achieved with other leopards.  Reintroducing leopards back into the wild in a way that is fair to the cats and everyone/everything involved with the aim of rebuilding ecosystems is a huge challenge.  I thank those who have followed these blogs and updates on different platforms over the years, I’ve done my best to be very clear in the challenges for this marginalized and misunderstood species.

All going well I’ll have a more detailed project update around the time of the new year.  Aside from everything else there are meetings coming up with good people who make sacrifices.  I thank those who support in any way, especially of late.  2017 has not been easy, 2018 looks to have huge challenges as well.  But every effort is worth it.  Cheers Jack.

Project Update 7 Dec 2017 – A “Coalition” for Full Protection

Hi Jack here,

Many thanks to those following these projects and especially to those loyal to the leopard.  This is the platform I’ll be using for project updates from this point.  It’s a case of trying to keep things simple and because I’m in the field a lot of the time, with this platform it’s very smooth and easy to update with my phone or a light tablet.

The Leopard Task Force is evolving and I’ll hopefully have a couple more detailed updates before the end of the year.  For now though I just want to mention two developments.

The first is news regarding the leopard Dipnani, the young cat orphaned earlier in the year when she was rescued from a well.  The decision was made very quickly to give Dipnani the chance to be reintroduced to the wild but at an age of under six months it was always going to be a long process.  Dipnani has been in isolation at a facility purpose built for her care but with a view to future leopard rescue and rehabilitation situations.  This is why Dipnani is such an important leopard,  she has given us the chance to build on the work with previously reintroduced leopards but with different strategies as she is too wild to be handled.  The absolute minimal human contact (a few seconds check once a week, the rest of the monitoring is done with cameras) is essential.

The Dipnani situation will also allow us to implement non-invasive tracking.  I’ll update later on the technology being proposed but those who have followed my work over the years know I’m extremely careful when it comes to the cats being allowed to live as naturally as possible with safety always in mind. I built the current facility with my bare hands with that philosophy.  I thank those who have supported within the last few months, you have made a difference, together we are giving Dipnani every chance to live wild again as well as future proofing for a species under constant threat.  More on Dipnani early in the new year.

The second major issue for now is the quest to have panthera pardus fusca (the Indian Leopard) added to the Protected Species List here in Nepal.  This is of the utmost importance for the future of the species.  The leopard exists in over 70 countries and the big majority of those have full protection status for the leopard including our neighbour, India.

On this website you can find reference as to why full protection status is essential but once again, when it is appropriate, I’ll update.  Dialogue is ongoing and I am preparing a document with input from people here who have the knowledge and passion to make this happen.  It is becoming a coalition of the willing.  I’ll have an overview document to Government authorities soon and then with the help of everyone else involved we’ll present the full proposal. The goal is for full protection status in Nepal by the end of 2018.  In my heart I hope it can happen a lot sooner but there is a lot of work involved, so my head must rule.

The link Day of the Leopard – The Quest for Full Protection Status gives an outline but we’ll bring more details soon why, with the aspects of wildlife crime and human-wildlife conflict to the fore, increased protection for the leopard will be for the good of not just the big cat itself but for wildlife in general as well as the people sharing space with panthera pardus fusca.

That’s it for now, there’s so much more going on but if you can take away those thoughts and think about supporting our work (HERE) that would be fantastic.

Jai Chituwa, cheers Jack.