Firstly, I still get asked many questions about my time with Asa, the leopard of hope, our journey together for him to live wild. In the course of time I’ll go into greater detail but I have started telling stories at Touching the Mountain, (plus a mention in the final update for 2022 HERE) including images and events I’ve never published before along with those of other leopards but for now I just want to touch on just a few of the significant events which have influenced my motivation.
The first was in 2003 when I was in Kathmandu shortly after 109 leopard skins had been seized in the city. I was in a discussion with WWF Nepal head, the late Dr Chandra Gurung, he said that sadly there was little interest in the seizure, the leopard was not high priority. Nepal was in turmoil with the insurgency and like any war torn state it was in survival mode. Chandra, an internationally recognized conservationist who was tragically killed in a helicopter accident explained that so critical was the situation with tiger poaching that all available resources had to be poured into protecting the great striped cat. Nearly 20 years later of course that continued effort has born fruit as Nepal has successfully recovered its tiger population but for the leopard the situation is still not good as the country still remains a major trafficking hub for leopard body parts.
The second incident was just a few years ago in a rugged hill district where very sadly fifteen children had been killed by leopard. Three days after the most recent tragedy I was at the scene when the grandmother of the little four year boy who had been killed, approached me crying and then fell into my arms, sobbing uncontrollably for many minutes, her grief and sadness I could feel in every pore of my body. A few days later after an intense collaborative effort the leopard was caught, the big cat did not survive the ordeal, something my thoughts still see, something I will never forget.
There have been many other experiences, I remember a leopard giving its last roar before dying of snare trap injuries and there was the entire family still in a state of post traumatic stress several years after the youngest member was killed by leopard. These collective experiences have given me insights that in many ways I do not wish for but they add up to a determination to keep striving for a better coexistence between people and leopards.
After many years Mission Leopard is the result. As of 1 February 2023, like the rest of the site here at wildleopard.net, I’ve rebooted and while many of my blogs and updates from the last 12 years will remain online at various platforms, it’s time for a new beginning and fresh approaches. Reducing the poaching and trafficking of leopards remains the key goal as does furthering coexistence strategies. I hope you can join me so that by the next Year of the Tiger in 2034, always a focal point in big cat conservation, we’ve made the progress which needs to be made.