Mission Leopard – Jack Kinross Updates/Blogs

21 May 2023 – Coexisting with Elephants using LeopardEye

A quick hello from the East Nepal and West Bengal border region where we’re in the first phase of implementing LeopardEye in a region where coexistence between people and elephants is challenged on a daily basis. I’ll have more soon about the situation, the strategies and partners involved. As I mentioned in the previous post, elephants actually have a lot in common with leopards when it comes to human induced habitat pressures. I’ll have more in the pre monsoon update as well as a further preview of things to come at my YouTube channel.

3 May 2023 International Leopard Day – The Rights of a Leopard

International Leopard Day, I’m going to write somewhat about hope. I thank those on the path of improving the lives of wild animals, the plight of the leopard in many places symbolic of coexistence issues.  Having spent so much time in wild places where wildlife has the right to be I know beyond doubt that the thinking, feeling, sentient beings we share the planet with deserve all efforts to at least reduce the pressure being placed on wildlife by human activity.  There is room for hope but as always, that must be backed up by action.

If you are new to the site please check out the menu including our work with LeopardEye and progress on our evolving coexistence strategy, the Sacred Valley Concept (SVC) HERE including more about the leopard Thagu and the Chhomrong Stupa.  Keep reading below for this update on International Leopard Day as well as previous posts.  If you can help our work, even just a little, please go HERE and I can be contacted through these social accounts YouTube Twitter Facebook Instagram.

The video above is a tiny snippet of work being done as part of the Sacred Valley Concept which essentially is connecting coexistence to our very being in what is right.  The last few weeks have more personally being about understanding the leopard Thagu as well as a female leopard he visits in his territory, her name is Santi which in Gurung language means peace.  Compared to many leopards, Thagu and Santi live safely in good habitat with almost no threat from people.  The video is from a camera placed at the beginning of the Sacred Valley which as explained at the dedicated page HERE is more than just a place, it is a way of thinking,  The Gurung people of Chhomrong, the village at the entrance to the valley, are Buddhist.  The respect for the sacredness for the Chhomrong Khola (Nepali word for river) is such that very few people enter the valley (only a selected group of locals) and it is off limits to livestock.

The valley itself is extremely rugged but so are the wild animals which live there.  Leopard, snow leopard and to be confirmed, clouded leopard, are the top predators along with Himalayan black bear and we are trying to find out if Himalayan wolf exists in the area too.  Blue sheep and Himalayan Thar are key prey as are barking deer and other mammals.  Poaching has reduced to almost zero but the threat can never be discounted and livestock kills, including by Thagu, involving the local big cats can mean tension.  We are working this process using the tools as laid out in LeopardEye with the next step being the introduction of more tech, we’ll announce partners in the next update later in the year.

Personally I’m captivated by the Sacred Valley.  I find it awe inspiring not just in the majesty of the terrain but the animals which live there.  The landscape is hard on the legs and having walked many of the trails that leopards do, my respect is huge for these high altitude big cats, leopards, snow leopards and clouded leopards in the fact that they have to hunt in extremely steep landscapes and survive incredibly harsh weather conditions.  I love the fact that they are undisturbed by traffic (the nearest road is a day’s walk away in good conditions, at least two days in monsoon) and also undisturbed by the trekkers who take the route along the Modi Khola, the next valley across, on their way to Annapurna Base Camp.

The last two months understanding Thagu have filled me with hope, quite a different feeling to that I described with the experience of three injured leopards (because of humans) in an earlier update since this site was rebooted in February this year (scroll down the page).  Thagu and Santi have enough prey that is natural meaning that they although they can be active close to Chhomrong, in the main they keep a safe distance.  The livestock kills consist of sheep, goats and yaks plus even buffalo (Thagu is a big, big leopard) and we are working on mitigation methods, prevention being the objective.  I’ll have an update later in the year, I’m optimistic of further progress, the technology we are using continues to improve.

It is the attitude of the Chhomrong locals which gives me the most hope however.  As the SVC evolves I feel there can be a sense of pride in the coexistence with these leopards known as tiger in these parts.  Chhomrong Khola is a model for the SVC and I’m encouraged by the interest shown by other communities in both the India and Nepal Himalaya.  We’ve got a lot of work to do to improve coexistence but the very essence of the rights of a leopard to live the life intended by nature is slowly taking hold and there is a sense that globally the plight of the leopard is being recognized.

However none of this is of any compensation to those leopards targeted for wildlife body parts trafficking (see Snapshot which has a further update upcoming).  This is an area of concern in which  there must be much more collaboration and support, as there needs to be to combat illegal wildlife trade (IWT) in general.  I’ve written before about the cruelty and in this short update I’ve written about hope because there are ways forward if perhaps we look back to see how nature constructed places like sacred valleys, in our vision, minds and hearts. As mentioned I’ll have more on the SVC later in the year, for now it is IWT which once again has to take our focus (alongside an important human – elephant coexistence project, it’s really interesting how much leopards and elephants have in common on a human dominated planet, more on this pre-monsoon) preventing even one leopard at a time being caught in a snare, poisoned or shot for the trade is something I will forever continue to do, I hope you can engage in this efforts with a little help HERE

Just a quick note to finish, in more than a decade of blogging I’ve rarely used the word extinction, a word which can be misleading in the messages it gives out. Take a leopard out of an ecosystem, and there are ramifications, it doesn’t matter what is happening with populations elsewhere. A cruel death is involved so this comes down not to just ecosystems but human decency. This is something I will expand on next time, the sentience of wild animals.

In the meantime, my best to all, Jack.

15 April 2023 – Below is a sneak peak of the leopard Thagu with more about him to come in an update some time around 3 May which is International Leopard Day, I’ll have a longer update then, the poaching spike mentioned below has meant delays.

There’s background info on Thagu at the Sacred Valley Concept page. If you are new to the site please carry on reading below and check out the menu.

As I mentioned in the short post on 4 April the killing of leopards for different reasons continues but it is another surge in reports of targeted poaching for trafficking confirmed by incidents of seizures which has once again caused great concern.

Snapshot is where you can get a handle on the issue overall but this current surge means that the next few months prior to monsoon, a prime poaching period as water holes for wildlife become scarce thus enabling skilled hunters to operate more effectively, need absolute focus.

If you can help please go here, your contribution (HERE) by buying a photograph or simply supplying funds will help to get more LeopardEye tech on to the ground where it is needed. You can see at the page how to stay informed by direct snippets of info too. If you’d like to help in other ways please email projects@wildtiger.org or I can be contacted through these social accounts Twitter Facebook Instagram.

4 April 2023

I have to delay the due update a few days, a whole spate of recent killings of panthera pardus fusca in different parts of the sub species range are relevant. There’ll be footage of the #leopard Thagu, a teaser, however I’m vigilant re location data for the security of the big cats.

5 March 2023 – Jack here, thanks for visiting the site. This is a short interim post, after reading it you can carry on below for more info. Our strong current focus is combatting illegal trade in leopard body parts which is surging again in South Asia. However there are deep concerns with abnormal leopard behavior in Nepal, this being linked to the prevalence of canine distemper virus (referenced in the February update further down the page). Combine these issues with retaliation killings after livestock kills and attacks on humans and there’s no doubt the territorial dynamics for a species running out of room anyway due to human incursions through “development” are being seriously affected. As I’ve written many times before, we’re at a critical stage with all this, a species population crash can occur very quickly but the apathy around the welfare of individual animals is very much linked to that, this is where our very humanity is in question. I’ll update properly at the end of March regarding the territory challenges, both for the species and in particular, the leopard we call Thagu. I thank those who genuinely help. I’m at Twitter @jackkinross

Thanks for visiting Mission Leopard. Go through the menu to understand more about our work, help if you can, even if it just to sign up for information snippets at Be Informed, Be Involved. If you are new to my updates then here is a brief explanation About my blogs/updates/posts. Otherwise read the latest update below:

February 2023 – This is a revised version of two posts this month after the reboot at the end of the Year of the Tiger.

A seizure of wildlife parts is nothing to celebrate. It is a dead animal, maybe many.

Above are screengrabs from the last two Snapshots, you can read the 2023 Phase 1 version HERE. I didn’t expect to be writing an update again before March but the poaching/trafficking of leopards is such that the first few weeks of 2023 are a continuation of the carnage which has taken place this century. Seizures so far this year, mainly of skins, are at levels across India/Nepal that cause deep concern. Seizures cannot be celebrated even if poachers and/or traffickers are arrested, wild animals have been killed and always painfully. As I’ve written before, every time there is evidence of a leopard killed I ask myself how did that animal die? How much did it suffer? And in the cases of skins being seized I ask where are the other body parts, the bones, claws, teeth?

A recent scientific study regarding Canine Distemper Virus affecting leopards and tigers included information about the threats to the declining population of leopards in Nepal (view the study HERE) with poaching/trafficking key among the reasons and obviously the virus itself is a serious concern. My own recent work has given me better understanding that the cruelty factor in illegal wildlife trade in general simply does not get enough emphasis. In the case of leopards the brutality of death by snare, poisoning and other methods I have described in the past is virtually ignored within studies and media. There is a lack of care factor around this which concerns me deeply.

Hence my questioning, with cases pretty much daily, how did this leopard die? I hesitate to call the current situation a spike because it has been ongoing. It has meant however the need for even deeper resolve to combat the trade at every level of the thread. Coexistence problems can be met with rational effort, in the main people want to do their best to live among wild animals. Illegal wildlife trade is a different beast, in the main the people involved care not at all about the cruelty involved. I’ve seen too many leopards and other animals the victims of this cruelty not to make me question why there is not more effort from wider society to help combat poaching/trafficking. We must do better to change the consciousness regarding this in a frame where we must all do better for the leopard overall for the simple reason that this remarkable big cat is a sentient being is persecuted in a way that reflects badly on us. Yes, we must do better.

The three leopards who forced me to reflect in the Year of the Tiger

A new beginning. 1 February marks a year since the start of the Year of the Tiger and we are already in the new Lunar year which started 9 days ago. Those who have followed Mission Leopard in the last twelve months may have read my updates telling of another difficult year. Please read Snapshot 2023, it tells of the continuation of a situation not getting enough emphasis to combat. Three leopards ‘who’ came into my life within a short period of time pre monsoon last year forced me to look at my personal perspective on all this.

Firstly I thank those have read my blogs over the years, on different platforms I pretty much started at the end of the previous Year of the Tiger so it’s been more than a decade. Although most of that writing is still online at various places I’ve wiped the slate clean here, like I say, a new beginning.

Let’s get to those three leopards. The following is taken from some writing I finished a few days ago as part of a document sent out to people involved in the Sacred Valley Concept:

The image above is Ashi shortly before she died in my arms, I was massaging her trying to keep her alive before the only wildlife vet in our remote jungle area arrived.  The lights of the motorbike the vet was a passenger on were visible about one hundred meters away from the Range Post just as Ashi passed away. The young leopardess, maybe six months old, had sustained injuries from a fall into a deep concrete canal which had no water at the time. For the few days she was in the rehab station I had hope, I had managed to imprint in her to feed on small pieces of meat I dangled in front of her on a stick. I could tell that although she was confused Ashi needed the limited interaction through the enclosure cage, the little leopard was missing her mother. As much as Ashi eventually died of her injuries I felt it was also of a broken heart.

The image above is of a huge male leopard called Raja, it was taken with a live camera set up I had going to monitor his rehabilitation after he was badly injured by a snare. After a difficult and tense 10 days Raja was healed and strong enough to be wild again but the big cat was never happy about his short captivity, his plight brought home to me once again the problems of helping injured leopards, humans cause the injury in the first place and then the big cats have to deal with an environment very hard for them while they recover. I’ve seen leopards die of stress in these situations, it’s why we must do so much better to prevent such injuries in the first place.

The leopard above died before we could give him a name. The rescue team brought him in after he had been shot while in a tree. When he arrived I knew instantly he would not survive, I just asked that he be placed in a small enclosure and left in peace to pass away in our jungle location, he died within an hour. The unnamed leopard haunts my sleep. There is a whole story around him I will tell in detail when the time is right but the cruelty which surrounded his demise is something which drives me to prevent.

These three leopards came into my life within a short period of time in mid 2022. There were other leopards during the year of course, all different circumstances but I will never forget those couple of weeks when Ashi, Raja and the unnamed leopard typified the problems for leopards in our human dominated world.

My determination is that by the next Year of the Tiger in twelve years time we have greatly reduced incidents like these. Today and tomorrow would be much better of course but there is so much to be done, we simply have to get on with the job, hope that people understand and support these efforts so that magnificent big cats can live their lives without suffering at human hands. It’s possible, please consider helping make it happen…

Once again my thanks to those who actively engage and help. At Instagram and Facebook I alert when updates are posted here, at Twitter I’m more active. Next update in late March, best wishes, Jack.