Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hidden, growling #leopard puzzle solved :)

4 days ago I posted a small story about an adult leopard that gave me a few warning growls in the jungle, not far from the leopard transit area. Today I caught up with Daman, a government game scout helping me, he'd just arrived back after his wife had given birth to a baby boy. Daman told me that just before he left he rescued a chital (spotted deer) which had been attacked by dogs. He knew it wouldn't survive so put it in a holding pen with the idea the corpse would be fed to the leopard Dipnani. But an adult leopard, probably the Boss, arrived on the scene and took the chital. The leopard took the kill past Dipnani's area in thick jungle, I must have arrived on the scene several hours after... and well, that's when that story began.
Daman and I had a good laugh about the whole thing, yet another leopard episode in our world here of coexistence. I've got a million leopard stories, some of them crazy, some of them tragic, this one at least had no serious issues, even if I was a little wary of a hidden, growling leopard feeding about 50 metres away from where I worked :)

Sunday, August 20, 2017

#HumanWildlifeConflict #leopard #elephant #people - How one simple object can save lives... (and update at end of post)

There's a positive update at the bottom of this post which is also at Facebook (along with other posts not shown on this blog page) if you wish to comment.

Poverty sucks, it really does. You see, it's so often people living in unsafe conditions who suffer the most tragic losses in conflict with wild animals. Then who can blame them for retaliating?
The hardest question I have to ask when a child is taken by a leopard is how long before the cries and screams of the little one stop. I'm not going to go into details here, out of respect for victim's loved ones but in so many instances the leopard could not be located straight after the incident because the family, neighbours, the community in general do not have decent torchlight.
Three times of late when elephants have been in very close proximity, in the act of smashing buildings or close jungle encounters, we've shown that powerful light, preferably more than one good torch, can deter the powerful tuskers. There are no guarantees with any mitigation strategy, as I've written before it has to be a multi pronged approach but the key is having the right tools available. Even strong light won't drive elephants away from a distance but a powerful beam directed at the eyes can work when the animal is dangerously close.
As part of everything within the structure of the Leopard Task Force I'm going to make sure there is funding for good quality torches.. A big thanks to Bernd for the ones he has supplied from Germany. Sometimes this whole thing makes me shake my head, just wondering what could be achieved if the world worked better. A colleague in Africa wrote the same thing to me, he has been researching how much funding in the conservation sector is wasted on airfares and meetings. Imagine how many torches could already be out there... then lives are saved and retaliation is reduced...

LIFE SAVING PHONES ON THEIR WAY... Well may Manju (Anjel) smile, I've just messaged her that the incredible Bernd has collected over 80 phones in Germany so we are now pledged over 100. This is fantastic, a big boost for the program. Manju will coordinate it at community level here on the western Terai as part of the 'Living with Leopards' program and work in with Nirajanand the Rapid Response Team particularly in regard to the coexistence challenges we have here with elephants. Those of you who follow my posts will know we already have the first SMS early warning system in operation. I will be focusing more on the leopard issues mainly in the middle hills where there are serious challenges for both people and these "spotted tigers". These phones make a difference and there has been a couple of messages re torches since my post this morning. The key to all this is having dedicated, trustworthy people, that means a lot to me... #progress.

'Living with Leopards' - Tree planting, football, crocodile and tiger...

This post is at Facebook (where there are also other updates not shown here) if you wish to comment.

It was the first tree planting session for the 'Living with Leopards' crew yesterday, another great turnout. The theme for the day was RESPECT for all living creatures and before the tree planting we had the eagerly awaited and early contested Boys v Girls football match. Before the game I had the boys yell out three times "GIRLS CAN PLAY FOOTBALL TOO!"
A crocodile swimming in the river nearby made things interesting especially when the ball rolled down the bank into the water. The successful retriever of the ball was always accompanied by a lot of yelling, screaming... and laughing. A couple of weeks ago the boys were playing when a tiger crossed the river so you can imagine the scene:
1) Boys playing football
2) Tiger is spotted crossing the river
3) Boys stop game for 10 minutes and watch
4) Boys start playing football again as if nothing had happened
Bardia, yep, this is the stuff that goes on :)
So yeah, RESPECT. Before yesterday's game (and it was the first time a girls team had ever been formed here, they loved it), I told the kids about my encounter with the adult leopard a couple of days ago (see post 2 back) and how all these animals must be given their space, shown complete respect. Environmental ethics are the seeds we are trying to sew (the kids are a bit young yet for me to be banging on about environmental law but by god I will!), something which has been lost on previous and current generations globally but coexistence depends on it. The 'Living with Leopards' concept is based on this, there's a long way to go but these young ones are being receptive... I just wish the football didn't go in the river quite so much, the trees being planted may help stop that a bit. That crocodile wasn't small...

Friday, August 18, 2017

#Coexistence - This morning, caught between two leopards...

This post is at Facebook (where there are also other updates not shown here) if you wish to comment.

Very interesting situation early morning in the Leopard Transit Area. I hadn't been there long and there was a huge growl... and it wasn't Dipnani. It was definitely an adult leopard, maybe the Boss and most likely on a kill. I checked things out and yeah, the warning growls, a low saw like rumble came again about 60 metres away from the LTA. A soldier had told me last night of a lot of leopard noise, he thought it was Dipnani, the young cat was not happy about the excessive rain but suddenly it all made sense. A lot of deer has stayed on this side of the river after the floods so a predator like the Boss would obviously take advantage of the situation.
So there I was, a snarling Dipnani who could see me (but I not her if she wanted to hide) on one side and not far away in really thick vegetation a much bigger leopard.
I had promised the leopard in the image, many times, I would try as hard as I can for his species, I would always do my very best. So I carried on working. The floods have meant I have to get a few things set up in case it happens again and we still have maybe two more months of rainy season in this area. I worked quickly in humid conditions, keeping my senses on alert. I never disturb a big cat after warnings so I hoped the unseen leopard could pay me the same respect. Dipnani showed moderate tolerance and did show herself, giving me the chance to check her from a distance, with a barrier between us. My cameras took a beating during the floods so it was good to get that visual of Dipnani. The fun and games of monsoon, yeah right. The next couple of months are crucial for the program but as I promised another leopard, the effort will always go in...

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Community at work, a bit of joy as early warning system starts... #HumanElephantCoexistence

The posts for this blog are also at Facebook (if you wish to comment) along with other updates I don't post here.

Ram's (Rojan) smile says it all. As I briefly posted lasted night the big bull elephant came into our area, there was a quick appraisal of the situation, the call was made to send out the mass SMS to the group on Manju's (Anjel) phone... and within seconds virtually the whole village was alerted to the situation. There were then SMS and phone calls with questions and thanks, people were happy we had things moving.
There's a bit of refining to be done so that all the parties that need to be involved are on the same page, that includes the army, park authorities and the Rapid Response Team (RRT). Nirajan had the RRT mobilized quickly, the army were already on their way and in the end the situation was neutralized after a fair amount of early fear especially at the Hatisar which backs onto where I sleep.
As I've mentioned before there are cross over dynamics with the conflicts between humans and two main species involved, elephants and leopards but there are also considerable fundamental differences, something I'll write about soon. I'm coming into a critical two month period with the leopard rehab, the floods have upset things and today was difficult. One of the biggest factors in this is the huge amount of loyalty to elephants compared to leopards, there's some obvious reasons why but also some darker ones. More on that soon...

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Some positive #wildlife news...

Speaking to Park authorities this morning it seems the impact of the floods on megafauna was minimal here in Bardia, this is good news especially regarding the rhino in the Babai Valley.  I'll update in a couple of days.

The posts for this blog are also at Facebook (if you wish to comment) along with other updates I don't post here.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

#NepalFloods - Water, water everywhere but best not to drink it (unless you're an elephant)...

This morning the river a hundred metres from my mosquito net and me had dropped to a manageable level but you can see that the domestic elephant still had to do a bit of snorkeling. She and the mahouts were getting fodder to feed the elephants at Hatisar. These elephants are primarily used for patrolling (anti-poaching) and sometimes rescue. In conditions like these elephant back is the only option to get to certain areas of the jungle.
The Terai, the country's food belt is cleaning up the mess after the flash floods. About 100 people are known to have died, we'll never know the exact figure. Another serious concern is crop damage in areas where food security is already an issue. With poverty a major factor this latest challenge from nature is yet another blow to Nepal's efforts to move into the category of 'developing country' by 2022, it is now looking doubtful that can happen. This country gets hit hard frequently and struggles to cope. Both internally and externally the support is lacking and from an environmentalist's point of view that is deadly serious because this is a key area on our planet with regard to biodiversity and ecological importance.
Where I am we still don't have electricity but a little sun has meant solar powered batteries have enough juice to send a few messages. Landline and cellular phone connections have been down and we are still cut off from main transport routes. It's not fun... even for elephants but at least they can drink the water...