Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Future proofing - images that warm my heart... #leopard #rehabilitation #reintroduction...

I'm just one more skype call from finishing a 24 catch up stint here in Kohulpur where I have 24 hour electricity and internet... and a hot shower. Soon it's back to the jungle and the continued rehabilitation of the leopard Dipnani and many other leopard matters. I'm happy to report the shoot to kill order on the conflict leopard in Baitadi (from where I've just returned) has been lifted, it's a case of people staying away from a female leopard and 2 cubs as she moves dens in her territory. More on that story another day.
For now though I'm really happy with a whole series of images which came up when I was looking through data, they show further interaction between Dipnani and another leopard in the area. Dipnani's den has been set up so she has safe zones, meaning she chooses visual contact and interactions if she wants. Visiting leopards are vital to her progress and while she is still too young (and in rehab phase) to have direct contact, these interactions are important. A huge amount of thought, planning and physical work goes into getting this right, the project is rarely off my mind and as we improve procedure for reintroduction it further opens up the scope for rebuilding ecosystems ... and just as importantly, giving a jewel in nature's crown, the leopard, its right where it needs to be, in the wild..

1025 dead leopards... and the effect on ecosystems as part of that...

It didn't really surprise me that the element of the story about the conviction of a wildlife trafficker involved in the smuggling of the body parts of over 1000 leopards (some reports say 1200) didn't raise a ripple compared to the 125 tigers mentioned in the same story, it would have been the same if the leopard had been mentioned along with lions or jaguars or snow leopards, there is simply not the same sentiment from society. We posted the piece at Living with Leopards (www.facebook.com/livingwithleopards) and @WildTigerNews (www.twitter.com/wildtigernews).
It made me wonder how many people thought about the ecological effect this type of carnage has and of course this is just the tip of the iceberg, no one really knows how many leopards are dying.
Then there is the simple fact that one of nature's great masterpieces is seeing so many magnificent individuals suffer awful fates, this is itself a blight on humanity.
Being a voice for the leopard as well as being actively involved in the big cat's protection is difficult, most days it seems there are very few listeners who make the transition to being true supporters, who have the courage to become loyal to the most persecuted of the big cats.
But the struggle will go on, we will not lie down. The next round of dialogue is starting regarding getting full protection status for the leopard here in Nepal and within the realms of coexistence strategy, rehabilitation and anti-trafficking the days are full. I've looked into the eyes of too many leopards now, some dead, some injured, some with a chance, to ever go back on the promise to help this species in its quest to live with us. As the next phase with the leopard Dipnani gets closer, I think about her future, her role in nature if she can be reintroduced to the wild ... in the context of those 1025, and many, many more, leopards who have been taken away...

With the loyalty factor being so low compared to other species means I really thank those who show real support, you are a minority who make a difference. As said at wildleopard.net you can simply email projects@wildtiger.org if you are interested in holding a photography exhibition (big or small) or similar and we'll be expanding on the concept soon.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Solid progress in human + leopard conflict highly affected area...

Good to report solid progress here in Baitadi, the most highly affected area in Nepal re human/leopard conflict. I'm just prepping for further equipment supply, mainly powerful flashlights to villages plus remote camera survey to understand and warn of leopard activity and as well there is genetic analysis in the pipeline. The District Forest Office has done a good job getting solar panels and lights into the area where extreme poverty as seen too many fatalities, both people and leopards. In a few days I should be back in Bardia where the leopard Dipnani is doing ok, with the rehab den I built proving to be elephant proof, much to my relief. All this stuff saves lives, I thank those who give tangible support for tasks which can never stop but are worth every effort. More soon, cheers Jack.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Into the conflict zone, bitten in the jungle but healing well...

I'm en route to a highly affected area regarding human and leopard conflict.  The past two weeks have seen a lot of tragedy in the area spanning mid west Nepal to just over the Indian border.  Four people have been taken by leopards and two by tiger.  Tomorrow I'll be in the place a local is from, he was caught with 3 leopard skins he was attempting to sell across the border.  The bottom line is people and leopards have to stop killing each other, so this is where we are pouring effort.

I got bitten by something in the jungle a few days ago but as soon as I knew it wasn't a snake I didn't think too much of it and still had over ten kilometers to walk out.  A couple of days later I could barely walk at all so I stopped in a town where I could get a room with a good cooling system and instant hot water... incredible luxuries! The relentless high humidity means infection is never far away and healing difficult so I'm very grateful to be able to get the body back on track before heading back into the field.

I've been getting more and more info from different people as they come across leopard sign across the country. Some of the info gives hope, some not so much as people say leopards have not been active for some time in particular regions. I've been thinking for a while about how we can get a coordinated citizen science program running with regards to this info, it could help establish a picture of leopard status and distribution which is a real challenge given Nepal's terrain.  More on this soon.

Out of respect for local people I very rarely post details of cases where families have lost loved ones in a leopard attack.  So my updates may be less for a while because of that.  It's sensitive stuff, there is a lot of trauma and emotion involved.  Human and wildlife coexistence here is complex and challenging.  I thank those who support our efforts to improve the situation, especially of late.  As I've mentioned before, it can never be perfect but it can always improve. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"Living with Leopards" - It's not just about the leopard, its about the elephant, tiger, wildlife... and our children...

A couple of months ago Manju (Anjel) said to me "we must protect our babies, only then can they protect the wildlife"... I knew then Manju was ideal for the program, by "babies" she was talking about the children in her community, they are kids she cares about very much. I remember a conversation with the leopard doctor Asis, he said we have to get the kids involved as well as saying "we have to have less kids!"
None of this is rocket science but they are only words unless there is action. Yes, I'm pleased with the progress we are making but there is so much to do, the very sad incident (part of a spate of ongoing conflict) I mentioned in yesterday's post (on Facebook, another child killed by leopard) points to that, There are some very good people getting involved and I am very careful these days to make sure they are ones who walk the walk rather than just talk the talk.
Although there is a strong technical aspect related to the Leopard Task Force side, based around panthera pardus itself, the "Living with Leopards" program is more about human and wildlife coexistence in general, so a whole range of species comes into play including of course elephant, an animal with which coexistence is very challenging. The growing tiger population means there has to be foresight as the big striped cat spreads its territory. Across the border in India, 17 people have been killed by tiger this year just in the Pilibhit area alone. The leopard is however the ideal focal point because of its vast range, its adaptability outside protected areas, and most importantly, the ongoing conflict.
There are many other dynamics I could write about at the moment but I have a lot to do, I thank those who do follow this and I especially thank those who have given tangible support in recent weeks, it all counts. It's impossible to really understand this level of human wildlife coexistence unless you live it so I will do my best, time permitting, to continue to bring the raw realities. Those who know me know I am not into "fluffy conservation" ... there is far too much of that BS, the truth may be confronting but to understand and support is the only way things can progress. It can never be perfect but it can be better...