“When I’m not in the jungle I’m often writing. Usually I’m writing about the jungle”
3 December 2019 – Fighting for the Leopard
“Fostering coexistence is the way forward, it umbrellas conflict mitigation, reducing disturbance, anti-poaching … and wildlife conservation in general”
Once again many thanks to those who follow this blog on different platforms. I normally try to post at least three times a month but this will almost certainly be the last post this year, it’s a really busy time and I want to be able to launch into 2020 with a post in the new year with news of an outcome we’ve been working hard for in the last few years. There will be posts at COEXISTENCE TEAM UPDATES during this month. At the moment the team is busy working on improving communication within communities after what has been a difficult year with human loss of life after conflict with tigers. The successful Early Learners Classes continue, the team will update on those as well.
So firstly I just want to draw attention to a tweet from a few days ago:
'Thousands of #leopards have been killed to feed China’s unethical trade in the endangered big cat’s bones – but now international investors are in a position to do something about it.' https://t.co/ES3Cvurh42
— WildTiger (@WildTigerNews) November 26, 2019
In many ways this situation sums up the paradox that is wildlife conservation in our world today. Here on one hand, as explained in the article the tweet links to, is a seemingly legal trade in leopard bones (for traditional medicine) in China while if you go to the article just published Rare leopards spotted in NW China you’ll see the paragraph:
‘Leopards are under China’s highest national-level protection and are listed as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.’
I’m not China bashing, an often hypocritical pastime adopted by keyboard warriors worldwide when they should be looking in their own back yards. Indeed, if we take the case of the US (just as an example), ‘leopard trophies’ are still imported after trophy hunters have killed the big cat in several African countries. I’ll have more on this situation in the new year but as I’ve mentioned before the killing of wildlife in the name of trophy hunting can lead to a dangerous market mechanism, the commodification of dead wildlife, thus stimulating illegal trade.
I’m simply stating the hypocrisy, there’s so many examples I could give but for now it’s just an example of the division of attitude, within all sectors of society. If we come to community level we can talk about the issue of familiarity to humans (habituation) by tigers in high volume wildlife tourism areas. Joining the dots, if a tiger in such a situation becomes a threat to human life it’s not tourists or tourism operators who die, it’s usually economically challenged villagers. Go to the next dot … retaliation often takes places … so one sector of society is making money from tigers, the other is placed in danger and ultimately individual tigers are in danger. Information has recently come to hand that there are poachers who ‘offer their services’ to communities living in fear with “we will get rid of your problem” and both leopards and tigers are at risk.
Many scenarios and many viewpoints (attitudes) within those scenarios, I could write a book on it (well, actually…) but there is one over riding element to all this, every single day the human population increases and every single day overall wildlife populations go down. The oft quoted statistic is humanity has wiped out 60% of mammals, birds, fish and reptiles since 1970. I read somewhere recently that the human population increases 200,000 every day.
I see the effects of this every day here in the Bardia/Banke/Kata area of west Nepal/northern India but I also see solutions mainly stimulated by education. Protected area conservation in a big cat landscape like this is crucial and getting everyone on board, unifying the effort, is an endless task. And it will stay endless. Education and awareness must be never ending, it must be a cradle to grave process but it is only one of any use if there is action following. Anyone can nod their head and say yes I understand, anyone can like or retweet and feel better about themselves but until those same people walk the walk in numbers that reflect the noise this thing is always going to be a struggle.
I do have hope. It comes from the faces of the kids we teach. It comes from the efforts of colleagues in different conservation guises both here and world wide. It comes from supporters who give real support. All these people are part of the human aspect of coexistence just like the villager here who has to live a certain way to be safe while we live with big cats and other potentially dangerous wildlife. We’re all in this together and the word coexistence, to me, is more relevant than the word conservation because it actually embraces it.
We need leopards and tigers, they are two of nature’s wonders in the way they engineer ecosystems. Right now, leopards and tigers need us too even if they don’t fully understand it. Just like a marlin (or any other fish) would rather not have a hook in its mouth, leopards and tigers would rather we stay out of the jungle. For now though, we have to share space, the key is how we manage that, the key is managing coexistence. We do have the tools and solutions, what we need is unity, will and support. Incredible advances in reforestation, permaculture and rewilding give platforms where ecosystem rebuilding and coexistence can advance and improve.
The next few weeks for me are very much about the next stage in establishing a refuge center, a place where big cats can rehabilitate and maybe have a second chance in the wild but if not, somewhere where we can give them the best life possible. This has been a long process, we’ve developed the methodology, we’ve tested rehab stations and we’ve developed more understanding in the wider community. Hopefully in early 2020 we can announce partners, protocols and other details within the thinking of Ecosystem Reboot. In the meantime everyone does their best to manage, this is why any support is hugely appreciated.
I’m in contact with a lot of people, thank you, we try to keep things on a strong personal basis. I wish everyone reading this a meaningful end to 2019 and best wishes for 2020. Feel free to contact me by email email@example.com and please keep checking our online platforms as we evolve.
Below is the panel containing previous posts which you can either read here or if you are Facebook user can directly connect HERE. Below the panel is an overview of the blog.
Many thanks to those who have followed my blogs over the years. When I’m not in the jungle I’m usually either wading through data or writing. From mid October 2019 I’m basing the blog here at Living with Big Cats and linking them from ‘Fighting for the Leopard’ at Facebook (if you wish to comment) and my Twitter feed @JackKinross.
While the blog (like my work) has a focus on the most neglected and persecuted of the big cats, the leopard (a seriously marginalized species globally but particularly here in South Asia), it’s also about how we have to be more of a helping hand to wildlife in general. While I’m involved in various aspects of wildlife conservation I currently have a strong emphasis on our anti-snare work which includes the development of our system LeopardEye which has strong applications for both coexistence (human and wildlife conflict mitigation) and anti-poaching. Many people contact me about our rehabilitation work especially with regard to Asa, the Leopard of Hope. At the appropriate time I will tell more of that story but right now the safety and security of leopards, other big cats and wildlife in general here in South Asia is paramount and what we are all about as a team. Regarding the rehab issue, another important part of my own focus is the establishment of a Leopard Refuge (we already have built a rehab station here in Bardia), this falls in line with Ecosystem Reboot. For more information you can contact me via email HERE.
Once again many thanks to those who have read these posts over the years. I’m preparing an archive of previous blogs including TigerTrek, Jungle to the Sky and The Asa Diaries.
My regards to all who follow and support our work.