Thursday, November 27, 2014

Illegal animal trade in decline, but work still to be done

Illegal animal trade in decline, but work still to be done
Lilac the lioness, whose teeth were filed by an owner, was rescued and recuperated at the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre. Online sales to the UAE of big cats appear to have fallen. Delores Johnson / The National
 
 


Of the 144 advertisements for rare wildlife discovered by the survey in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, the largest number – 122 was in the UAE. Ten ads were discovered in Bahrain, seven in Kuwait and five in Qatar. The UAE also had the largest number of websites hosting such trade at 14. The website with the largest number of wildlife ads was www.souq.dubaimoon.com where 85 ads were discovered during the survey period. Ten adds were discovered on www.halaluae.com, and four on www.dubaiclassified.com.


DUBAI // Online sales of endangered wild animals appear to be decreasing in the UAE, an international survey has found. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) survey investigated trading through 280 open-source websites in 16 countries, including the UAE.

While animals and animal parts worth an estimated Dh1.48 million were being traded online in the UAE, activity seems to have decreased as a result of an intensified government response to the problem, said Dr Elsayed Mohamed, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at Ifaw. There were 122 advertisements about the sale of wild animals and animal parts on UAE sites over the survey period, March 10 to April 20 this year. In a similar study carried out in 2012, 796 advertisements were discovered.

Dr Mohamed said in 2012 the Ministry of Environment and Water removed some adverts and blocked some websites. The Government also issued ministerial resolution number 346 for 2012 banning the personal and commercial import of wild animals.

Of the 122 latest ads, 120 concerned the sale of live animals, mostly exotic birds. There were eight ads for the sale of primates, four for large cats and birds of prey, and three for antelopes.
Among the UAE ads was one for the sale of a live cheetah priced at US$18,000 (Dh66,114).
Big cats are sought after by people – some of whom keep them as pets without being able to care for them properly.

Many end up at shelters such as the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre.
For the first time, the survey team discovered many ads for rare animals that were found to be fraudulent. “Here in the UAE, many ads related to the UAE were just a scam,” said Dr Mohamed. “This is one of the surprises we found this year. In 2012, we did not notice this.”

Besides the UAE, online trading in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar was also investigated. Altogether, there were 144 ads, offering 245 specimens. An additional 704 advertisements were found to be fraudulent.

The survey did not focus on what is known as the dark net – online sites accessible only to registered users. Social media and forums where wildlife was offered, were also not reviewed.

The report, titled Wanted – Dead or Alive, Exposing Online Wildlife Trade, discovered that 33,006 rare animals and animal parts were traded via about 9,482 advertisements in the 16 countries covered.
The value of the animals and products advertised was put at a minimum of US$10.7 million.

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Nat Geo Wild's Big Cat Week

The channel's annual feature is interesting and a visual treat, with a caged observer among lions as one of the highlights

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, November 27, 2014

If you want to know how cheetahs are able to run so fast, Big Cat Week is the place to go.  
ROBERT CAPUTO/AP If you want to know how cheetahs are able to run so fast, Big Cat Week is the place to go.
Big cats always end up being a tiny bit less mysterious after Nat Geo Wild’s Big Cat Week, and in a sense that’s too bad.
But a solid week of film showing lions, tigers, cheetahs, cougars, jaguars, leopards and their kin prowling through the wild never lessens the fascination.
This year’s series kicks off with Nat Geo regular Boone Smith getting as up close and personal as one would ever want to get with lions.

In a maneuver that parallels underwater divers who study great white sharks from inside steel cages the sharks are trying to devour, Smith camps out in a cage in the heart of lion country.
Since we’re seeing his report, we can figure that he didn’t end up as a feline snack. Still, the power of lion paws is impressive from where Smith is crouching.

This being the Nat Geo family, the footage here is great, while the narrators explain what it all means. Breaking down the biomechanics of a cheetah’s sprint wouldn’t carry a whole show, but it creates an interesting side note.
Smith’s findings include the role of male lions in the hunt, which some big-cat shows suggest is to lie around and wait for the females to come back with fdinner. Not so, it turns out. The males kill some of it themselves.

Another new episode here focuses on a female leopard working to protect her cubs in their first months of life. The challenge of her mission is underscored by the fact that she lost her cubs to predators the previous year.
It’s not all Darwinism, though. Big Cat Week is also fun — as long as the cage holds.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Your Daily Cat

Lynx looking at the side 
Lynx looking at the side by Tambako The Jaguar


Brave sitting lynx 
Brave sitting lynx by Tambako The Jaguar

Big Cats + Mirrors = Fun Video


 
Because Tigers, lions, leopards (and every other species of cat) spend so much time grooming themselves, we decided to show them what they look like and we got some hilarious results!

Music track "Got Funk" courtesy of incompetech.com

The leopards of Mumbai: life and death among the city's 'living ghosts'

India’s second city is home to an estimated 20 million people ... and 21 leopards. The 250,000 residents with homes inside the boundary of Sanjay Gandhi national park must find a way to live with their big-cat neighbours
Young female leopard seen around the Royal Palms apartments in Goregaon East, her home range.
A young female leopard spotted near the Royal Palms apartments in Goregaon. Photograph: Zeeshan A Mirza
Hawa hawa oh hawa … a 90s Hindi hit blares from the radio in Kusum’s mud house. “I play music till 1am every day,” says the elderly lady. She says she is not much of a music fan - but her loud playlist keeps the leopards away. Meanwhile, just down the road, 35-year-old Dilip Changverlekar recently renovated the house where his family has lived for generations. He added tin sheets to the roof and walls to make it difficult for leopards to climb.

Mumbai is India’s richest city and home to a human population of around 20 million, but it also contains one of the largest protected urban forests in the world. The Sanjay Gandhi national park (SGNP) spans 104 sq km - the size of 30 Central Parks - and is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals. Here in Chuna, a tribal hamlet of 40 houses inside the park’s boundary, seeing a leopard is not a scandal but a routine, and residents receive a visit from the big cats several times a week.

In 2012 a forest camera-trap counted as many as 21 leopards in the park, and footage of the big cats in the slums, residential complexes and schools of urban Mumbai has shaped what many think of SGNP’s leopards. It has also given the impression that the creatures are entering the city more often than ever before. But are there really more leopards?
Kusum, resident of Chuna Pada; leopards crouch in the vegetation just next to her house.
Chuna Pada resident Kusum plays loud music to keep leopards away from her house. Photograph: Elizabeth Soumya
The leopards were here long before millions of people turned Mumbai (which once had a sizeable population of tigers, too) into a bustling megacity. The park’s peripheral areas have never been so densely populated, and Vidya Athreya, India’s leading expert on leopard-human conflict, thinks this has led to the increase in sightings.

“Eye shine” is the easiest way to spot the cats, who have a tapetum lucidum structure at the back of each eye that reflects light back and helps them see more clearly in the dark. “People used to go to bed earlier, and there weren’t so many vehicles or so many lights,” says Athreya.
The presence of leopards living alongside humans is a case of two highly adaptable species sharing space, says Athreya, who calls the animals “living ghosts” for their ability to be elusive.

The very idea that the leopard shouldn’t live near humans is a completely urban construct, he says. “If you got to rural India, people know leopards have always been around. The adivasi [ethnic and tribal groups of India] have always lived with them and see the animal as part of their cultural identity.”

The leopards come close to human settlements looking for food, says SGNP wildlife researcher and conservationist Krishna Tiwari. Around 90% of their diet consists of dogs, rodents and wild boar, with stray dogs - attracted by the garbage dumped on the edge of the park - accounting for 60%.
Mumbai’s leopards have generally coexisted peacefully with their human neighbours. But a spate of attacks a decade ago reinforced the notion of them as bloodthirsty man-eaters. Of the 176 reported attacks between 1991 to 2013, 84 occurred between 2002 and 2004. Nine people were killed by leopards in the month of June 2004 alone.

During this period, leopards rescued from other parts of Maharashtra state were being released in the SGNP. The authorities though the park would be a haven for leopards, but instead the relocated cats were forced to fight for territory and food. “What we ended up having in the park was stressed-out predators,” says Athreya. “Highly territorial animals who were displaced and had to find food in an unfamiliar place.”
Krishna Tiwari, a wildlife researcher and conservationist grew up just outside the SGNP.
Krishna Tiwari, a wildlife researcher and conservationist who grew up just outside the park. Photograph: Elizabeth Soumya
After the relocations stopped in 2006, the number of attacks decreased dramatically and there were no fatalities or injuries from leopard attacks in the Mumbai suburbs from 2009-11. Yet, since November 2011 there have been six fatalities; the last three deaths were all reported in Aarey Milk Colony, to the south of the SGNP. The most recent was in October 2013, when a seven-year-old boy was killed.

Tiwari, who grew up in a residential building just outside the SGNP, has worked in the park for almost two decades. The encroachment of the city today is unparalleled, he says. Illegal settlements - including nagars (settlements by non-indigenous people), padas (tribal settlements) and high-rise buildings - continue to swell in and around the park. More than 54 illegal settlements and two villages - with a combined population in excess of 250,000 - are inside the park itself.

With this encroachment of the city into the park, Athreya fears that conflict with humans is the prime threat to Mumbai’s leopard population. How people living around the park deal with the presence of these animals will determine the future for the big cats.

Residents of Chuna Pada, a tribal settlement inside the SGNP.
Residents of Chuna Pada, a tribal settlement inside the SGNP. Photograph: Elizabeth Soumya
In space-deprived Mumbai, any open land attracts a premium, and the wall around the national park is “for people to stay out, not for leopards to stay in,” Tiwari says. “Real estate ads sell ‘nature’ as if the park is their private property. People want to live close to nature, but don’t want to live with the leopards that come with it.”

He now limits his conflict awareness to those living in informal settlements, such as tribal hamlets and slums. “If you are in a building there’s no need to worry,” he says. “All attacks on humans have happened in [slum] areas, except one in Powai.” In settlements that lack toilets or electricity, 80% of the leopard attacks happen when people go out to answer nature’s call after dark.

Chandunushay Jadhav lives in Aarey Milk Colony, where a record high number of leopards attacks have been recorded, including the most recent death. But Jadhav says there are more important things to worry about than leopard attacks: “Don’t tell us to be scared of the leopard, give us facilities,” says the 64-year-old, who sleeps in a doorless structure on his farm where three leopards are regular visitors. “I am not afraid, I don’t even have electricity. Don’t tease it, don’t disturb it and it won’t attack you.”

Jadhav knows that leopards have roamed the area for generations and doesn’t think the creatures will disappear anytime soon. In the old times, the cats had enough space in the jungle and ample prey, so “why are we making towers where the leopards are? The leopards will visit Mumbai again and again because this is where they live,” he says. “It is really their home.”

This article was commissioned as part of the Guardian’s Citizen Reporting Programme

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Mapping and Protecting the Biggest Cat in the Americas

Posted by Andrew Howley of National Geographic Society in Explorers Journal

The purple regions in the map above show the known populations of jaguars. Explore an interactive version of the map which reveals the corridors between groups that allow these fragmented groups to function as one robust community. (Map by NGM Maps)
The purple regions in the map above show the known populations of jaguars. Explore an interactive version of the map which reveals the corridors between groups that allow these fragmented groups to function as one robust community. (Map by NGM Maps)
During the Ice Age, enormous saber-toothed cats took down huge prey across the New World. Today, while the long, lank mountain lion holds on in North America, the muscle-bound jaguar is the top of the food chain in the south.

Still, despite being able to sneak up on a caiman and take it down with a single bite (as seen in the video below), like other big cats around the world these legendary beasts face huge threats to their survival in the form of vast habitat loss and extensive hunting.

The map above shows just how little of their home continents jaguars continue to prowl. Explore the interactive version to discover the key corridors that connect these pockets and allow the flow of genes that keeps the overall jaguar population diverse, healthy, and fit for adaptation and survival.

Explore the World of Big Cats for Yourself

Now, as part of Big Cat Week on Nat Geo Wild you can join the conversation about conservation, and learn more about big cats from the experts who study them and work for their protection on December 3 at 1pm ET in a live video chat via Google+ Hangouts.

Hosting the event will be Luke Dollar, director of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative and the scientist explaining the predator’s behavior in the “Jaguar vs. Caiman” video below, one of National Geographic’s most popular videos of all 2014.

Jag Stats

Weighing in from 100 to 250 lbs (45 to 113 kg) and stretching up to six feet (two meters) not counting the tail, jaguars are the third biggest of the big cats (tigers and lions being the top two).
While at first glance the spots on their coats may be confused with those of leopards or even cheetahs, the stocky body, slightly arched back, Schwarzenegger-like muscles, and rounded head make the living jaguar unmistakable on sight.

Honored (or feared), the jaguar has been a powerful presence in the thoughts and beliefs of native cultures for millennia. Now as hunting and development have whittled away its range and population, the once unassailable predator is largely at the mercy of humans who have at times viewed their gods in its image.

How to Participate in the Hangout

You can help us Cause an Uproar for big cats, and get answers to your burning questions about jaguars, other wild felines, and their world by taking part in our Google+ Hangout. Submit your questions by posting a question on Google+ or Twitter using #bigcats or commenting directly on this blog post.

Follow National Geographic on Google+ or return to this blog post (click source link below) to watch the Google+ Hangout Wednesday, December 3rd at 1 p.m. EST (6 p.m. UTC).
See more photos and read about jaguars in "Path of the Jaguars" from the March 2009 National Geographic Magazine. (Photo by Pete Oxford, Minden Pictures)
See more photos and read about jaguars in “Path of the Jaguars” from the March 2009 National Geographic Magazine. (Photo by Pete Oxford, Minden Pictures)
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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hollywood Producers Deny Militarized Robotic Cat Footage Is Real

Hollywood Production Company, Big Machine denies that military footage in their upcoming reality television special is real

(PRWEB) November 24, 2014 

The producers of Future Cat, a special for Nat Geo Wild, have released this statement regarding unauthorized footage that has been circulating on various internet sites: 

"It has come to our attention that leaked footage from our show has been mischaracterized by several organizations on the internet as classified footage that is evidence of a Defense Department program to create a militarized robot that looks and moves like a big cat. This footage is not classified and was not acquired illicitly, as has been implied by several members of these conspiracy sites," said Moriah Muse, an Executive Producer with the show.

"The photo real footage is computer generated and was created by our design and animation team for the express purpose of education and entertainment. If is completely coincidental if the footage resembles an actual project."

"Our footage is a synthesis of the predictions of robotics experts, big cat experts and military strategists. It is not based on any military program that we're aware of. It was meant as an exercise in appreciating what we have to learn from big cats and how that can be applied to human ingenuity."
The producers have promised to make available images that show the process and creation of this footage once the program airs on November 30. The show says it is unable to share the footage before that time due to contractual restrictions.

"We hope that we'll be able to put these rumors to rest and get back to the business of focusing on the importance of preserving big cats and appreciating them for the majestic animals they are. We also don't want this to detract from all of the legitimate robotics research that we also feature in our show."
FUTURE CAT airs November 30, 2014 at 9PM on Nat Geo WILD.

Additional information and press inquiries can be directed to info(at)bigmachine(dot)net

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‘Puma cubs’ spotted in Red Lodge during search for lost dog


By CambridgeNews  |  Posted: November 25, 2014
By Natalie Robinson
  • Big cat spotted in Derbyshire
  • A big cat or Fen Tiger sighting near Girton from 1998
  • Bea Bea the dog, missing in Red Lodge
  • Big cat spotted in Derbyshire
  • A big cat or Fen Tiger sighting near Girton from 1998

A pet owner hunting for a lost dog fears it could have been savaged in a brutal attack – by two wild pumas. Sam Hammond was looking for her friend's black Labrador cross Bea Bea when she spotted the two cat-like beasts running through a field. She said she heard a yelping 15 minutes after the sighting and fears the dog may have been attacked by the cats. The dog has still not been found.

Sam reported the sighting in Red Lodge to the police the same day and is convinced the mystery animals were puma cubs. She said: "I was searching for my friend's dog and thought I'll just try this field where there was a farmer. "I got halfway across and turned around and the farmer had left. I started walking back and I then looked to my left and saw these two cats at the edge of the field. The cats were focusing on where they were walking. I think they were on the scent of something. I just ran and just thought I need to get as far away as possible. I was really freaked out. There were two of them. 
"I'm 100 per cent certain there were two and 100 per cent that they were big cats. I am so shaken up by it, even when I talk about it now."

Sam met up with her friend and told her what happened. But when they continued their search, they heard a dog bark and then "a dog cry out in pain". And it is not the first time Sam has spotted a big cat in Suffolk. In 1996 she believes she spotted a black panther near Long Melford in Suffolk and later on found a "massive footprint" in the village. Sam said: "I never thought I'd see anything like it again. The fact I saw two cats when I have already seen one just scared me. The fact I saw two this time has really affected me because I was in the middle of a field with them. They could have got me in a second."

Suffolk Police have confirmed they have received a report of the sighting of the cats on November 12. A spokeswoman from the force said: "It is rare that we receive these types of calls in the county, but if someone does believe they have seen a big cat they can contact police. "If there is immediate danger we will respond but often the sighting will be referred to other agencies such as the RSPCA."
The incident comes two months after a man reported a big cat sighting in Mildenhall Woods, just three miles from the spot where Sam says she saw them in Red Lodge.

A large "cat like" creature was spotted through trees in Thetford Road in Mildenhall on September 1, and it was also reported that a "deer carcass stripped to the bone" was found not far from the same spot of the last sighting in Mildenhall Woods just a few days previously.

John Berrett of Barton Mills spotted the cat and said he had "no doubt" that it was a wild creature, adding that in his 70 years, he had only seen something like that "on TV or in the zoo".
Sam Hammond and Bea Bea's owner are still hoping that the dog is alive and will continue their search for Bea Bea around the local area.

source

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Your Daily Cat

Lynx near the tree 

Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) near the tree by Tambako The Jaguar

Mountain lions one step closer to Mississippi

Brian Broom, The Clarion-Ledger


Although Mississippi was once home to panthers, there have been no confirmed sightings in more than 100 years. But the recent killing of a big cat in Arkansas could indicate they intend to return.
On Nov. 8, a hunter in Bradley County shot and killed a mountain lion. It was only about 80 miles away from Greenville.

According to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Myron Means, the cat was a healthy, 148-pound adult male measuring 7 feet, 3 inches from nose to tail and showed no signs of ever being captive. He was truly a wild animal.

While that cat is dead, Means, AGFC’s Large Carnivore Coordinator, said there are more where he came from. “I know we have documented five sightings in the last five years,” Means said. “Missouri has seen the same thing over the past 15 years. They’ve seen a gradual increase in sightings. Maybe they’re starting to establish home ranges. Maybe that’s happening in Arkansas as well.”

Breeding populations

According to Means, male mountain lions are known to wander farther than females. Much like black bears, young males tend to strike out on their own. But with a steady, though slow, increase in confirmed sightings, Means said it is just a matter of time before the females catch up. “I expect to see more sightings in the future,” Means said. “Five to 10 years down the road, we may have a breeding population. It may be two years, who knows? ... All it takes is for one female to move in. Really, at this point, it’s just a matter of time before the animals establish home ranges.”

Mississippi is in the path and has suitable habitat. The first hurdle is the state line. “He’s still got to traverse the Mississippi River, but cats do swim,” Richard Rummel, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ Exotic Species Program director, said.

Even though cats can cross rivers, setting up shop in Mississippi may take a while. “I think it’s going to be years before we have a breeding population,” Rummel said. “That’s way down the line. Males and females have to show up and they have to find each other.”

Another obstacle the cats face in their journey to find new territory is man.

Fraidy cats

Means said the shooting of the Bradley County mountain lion was the first recorded killing in Arkansas since 1975. The hunter involved claimed he felt threatened and was not charged with any wrongdoing. If an animal is considered a threat to someone, a person can legally kill it, Means said.

While the hunter was not charged with wrongdoing, comments on AGFC’s Facebook page indicated some were skeptical about him actually being in any danger. “You’ve got a large carnivore with a lot of negative folklore associated with it,” Means said. “I really hope it doesn’t open a can of worms where a bunch of trigger-happy guys start shooting them. If you’re going to claim self defense, it better be a good reason.”

In Mississippi, Rummel said it better be a really good reason.
Mississippi is in the historic range of the Florida panther, which varies little from the mountain lion, as it is called in western states. But unlike its western cousin, the Florida panther is endangered and federally protected. According to Dave Onorato, a research scientist with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Florida Panther Project, there are only 100 to 180 Florida panthers.

Because we are within the panthers’ historic range, Rummel said the intentional killing of a big cat in Mississippi will be treated as the killing of an endangered species. “You can expect a visit from federal and state officials who will thoroughly investigate,” Rummel said. He also noted that the mere presence of a panther does not constitute an immediate threat.

If a panther is encountered, Rummel had some advice. “You want to avoid eye contact,” Rummel said. “Back away. Wave your arms. Wave a jacket or shirt. Whatever you do, don’t turn and run. That could trigger a predator response.”

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

DHS-funded jaguar study could be model for future predator rescues

Corbin Hiar, E&E reporter

As part of its broader effort to protect jaguars in the Southwest, the Fish and Wildlife Service is using more than $200,000 from the Department of Homeland Security to fund two opinion surveys -- a novel approach to species recovery that FWS officials believe could help improve future programs aimed at conserving imperiled predators.

DHS's Customs and Border Protection -- the program's unusual benefactor -- didn't agree to fund the surveys because the endangered jaguars pose a threat to national security. Quite the opposite: Citizens living along the U.S.-Mexico border and the federal agency charged with policing that boundary pose some of the biggest challenges to re-establishing the wild cats in this country. "The primary threat to jaguars is human hunting, poaching and poisonings," FWS spokesman Jeff Humphrey said. To reduce those dangers, he said, "we need to understand people's attitudes toward jaguar conservation."

With that goal in mind, the service has proposed surveys that will gauge attitudes of cattle ranchers and others in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico -- the areas of the United States where jaguars are occasionally sighted (Greenwire, Dec. 21, 2012). Public outreach efforts like these, Humphrey acknowledged, "are not common."

The ranchers' survey, which is expected to cost the federal government $150,361, was approved by the White House on Aug. 7. It is being conducted by the University of Arizona and will examine 228 landowners' knowledge of jaguars and interest in taking part in efforts to protect them.

The White House's Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a similar $64,699 knowledge and attitude survey of 200 residents. If it is approved, the Harris Environmental Group, a small consulting firm in Tucson, Ariz., will seek out 100 responses from household representatives, 60 from private-sector workers, and 40 from state, local and tribal government officials.

Funding for these innovative studies is left over from a $50 million deal that DHS signed in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration with the Department of the Interior, which oversees FWS. Then-Customs Commissioner W. Ralph Basham entered into the agreement -- amid considerable public pressure -- after former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff invoked a series of congressionally authorized exemptions to environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act in order to speed construction of border fencing (Land Letter, Jan. 22, 2009).

The deal included an account of proposals to protect rare plants and animals harmed by the new border security measures, Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman Erlinda Byrd explained in an email. Interior "provided CBP with a list of proposed 'conservation actions,' which are projects that DOI identified as the most effective in addressing impacts from fence construction," she said.
"CBP and DOI mutually agreed that the mitigation funds would be made available to fund conservation actions in 'increments' over several fiscal years," she added. "The jaguar study is among the conservation actions that have been funded by CBP."

Survey worries green group

The agencies' agreement specifically set aside $2.035 million for jaguar monitoring, conservation and recovery, according to a project description worksheet provided to Greenwire. That pool of money was used to address the research needs of scientists working for FWS, who first called for a survey of ranchers in early 2012. "Results of this study will be used to inform the implementation of future recovery actions in the U.S.," the scientists wrote in their jaguar recovery outline, an interim document FWS officials are relying on while they assemble a full recovery plan.

The outline also notes that DHS's border security construction could harm the endangered cats. "Fences designed to prevent the passage of humans across the border also prevent passage of jaguars," the scientists wrote. "Because jaguars in Arizona and New Mexico are believed to be part of a population centered in northern Mexico, impeding jaguar movement from Mexico to the U.S. would likely adversely affect the presence and persistence of jaguars in the U.S.," they said.

Even though Mexico is home to only about 500 of the estimated 10,000 jaguars left in the wild, the cats actually evolved in North America. By the mid-1950s, though, habitat loss and hunting had decimated the population of jaguars living in the U.S.

The muscular, brownish-yellow animals, which have fur marked by flowerlike patterns of black spots, are the biggest cats native to the Americas. They can grow up to 8 feet long from nose to tail and weigh as much as 300 pounds -- only lions and tigers are larger.

CBP agents' pursuit of people attempting to avoid barriers along the border might have adverse impacts on these wild cats, the outline added. "Fences may cause an increase in illegal traffic and subsequent law enforcement activities in areas where no fence exists. This activity may limit jaguar movement across the border and result in general disturbance to jaguars and degradation of their habitat."

The DHS settlement has also funded about 10 different jaguar-related contracts for things like a big cats photo-monitoring program, a study of the effects of roadways on jaguars and other wild cats, and some feline genetics research, Humphrey said.

But the use of public surveys before the agency has issued a formal recovery plan for the jaguar has some environmentalists worried. "We certainly don't believe that people's attitudes should determine whether recovery takes place or not," said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, an activist group that's frequently at odds with FWS.

Earlier this year, CBD litigation forced the service to designate 760,000 acres of land along the border as "critical habitat" for the jaguars (Greenwire, March 5). That means federal agencies now have to consult with FWS on actions they carry out, fund or authorize within that area to ensure those activities won't destroy or degrade the land's usefulness for the endangered cats.

CBD celebrated that decision but is still critical of FWS's broader effort. "Sadly, the Fish and Wildlife Service has not been very affirmative and proactive in developing a recovery plan for the jaguar," Robinson added, noting that the cat was originally placed on the international endangered species list in 1972 -- even before the passage of the Endangered Species Act. "So we're very interested in exactly how the results would come to specific actions that would need to be taken to recover the jaguar."

Humphrey suggested environmentalists have nothing to worry about. He predicted that the draft recovery plan would likely be released "this coming year," before the surveys could be completed and taken into consideration. "Is there information that could come from this survey that could help inform the recovery plan?" he asked, before answering the question. "Under the current timelines, probably not."

'Public buy-in'

Regardless, FWS believes the surveys will still be of great value to the wild cat's long-term recovery effort. "This information is pretty important because the jaguar is pretty controversial," said Mary Anderson, an FWS border mitigation coordinator. "There's a lot of concern by the public regarding the presence of jaguars in their area, and we're just trying to find out what those concerns are so that we can educate the public."

For instance, she said, if people don't realize that jaguars mainly eat deer and javelinas, then that fact could "lessen concerns of the public regarding the threat of jaguars to humans." Ultimately, Anderson said, "recovery of endangered species also includes a public component. If we don't get public buy-in, it's difficult."

Getting widespread support for conservation efforts is easier with some endangered species than others, Humphrey noted. As a result, "there are a number of species that are more socially benign where doing this sort of study would not be appropriate," he said. "However, for something that has a broad range and stigma, such as a predator or a jaguar, it'd be very helpful for us to understand people's attitudes toward the animal as well as toward its conservation."

The main question these surveys -- and potentially future ones based on them -- will try to address, the FWS spokesman said, is "for a species whose primary threat has been poaching, how is it that you can affect social change to reduce that threat?"

Even though results from the jaguar surveys are many months away, other predator conservation efforts are already considering public polling as a way to answer that question. For example, a critical outside review of the red wolf recovery program recommended a survey of residents to learn more about their attitudes toward wolf conservation and to rebuild trust with the community in the wolves' recovery area (E&ENews PM, Nov. 20).

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Shooter gone wild

KOLKATA: One of his early encounters with a wild tiger was in the mid-70s at Madhya Pradesh's Bandhavgarh, when it was yet to be declared a tiger reserve. As conservationist Biswajit Roy Chowdhury, then 28 years old, was busy taking snaps of red-wattled lapwing chicks, he suddenly spotted a yellow object melting into the tall grass of the meadow. He soon realized that it was a huge tiger to his left, not more than 50 yards from where he was standing. What followed in the next few minutes was enough for Biswajit to fall for this "large-hearted gentleman", as Jim Corbett had famously called tigers. As he moved forward, the tiger also started moving parallel to him, but the distance between them never reduced. Soon, both of them reached a junction in a forest road, where they parted ways: Biswajit took a right turn to the gate leading outside, and the tiger went left to disappear into the woods. 
 
Under the spell of the wild, this city-based lensman took every opportunity to return to the pristine forests of the country whenever he could. From snow leopards in the Himalayan wildernesses to a whale shark in the Arabian Sea off Gujarat, from the tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats to the mangrove forests of the Sunderbans... the call of the wild grew louder in his heart with every passing day. Packed with about 500 breathtaking images of India's flora and fauna — the result of four decades of hard work — his book 'Days In The Wild' is ready to hit the shelves. The lively pictures, combined with quick facts, promise to take readers close to the heart of wild India while building up awareness and the urge to protect it.

Here are a few highlights from the book:

Big cats The tigers, Asiatic lions and leopards are a feast for the eyes. With every photograph, there's a brief caption providing insight into their behaviour. From a pack of wild dogs chasing a leopard in Madhya Pradesh's Satpuda, to the author's close encounter with a tiger at Uttarakhand's Corbett, the photographs have a story to tell. Rare images — such as the one of a pair of mating leopards in a Chhattisgarh forest — promise an interesting read.

Winged Wonders "My journey into the wilds originally began with birds," says Biswajit. The author was drawn to these winged creatures when he was a child. His family owned a farmhouse in Suriya near the Hazaribagh rail station, now in Jharkhand. A fruit orchard in the backyard with tall eucalyptus trees dotting the boundary wall made the place a paradise for bird watchers. It was here that he first sighted and identified a powerful raptor, the crested serpent eagle, as a young boy in the late 50s. From Indian skimmers in the Chambal to sun birds in Darjeeling and the common shelduck in the Sunderbans, the photo sojourn takes a flight of fancy with these images.

Herbivores Did you know that elephants have matriarchal families? The leader of a herd is the most senior female and the rest of the elephants in the herd follow her commands. Strewn with several such basic facts, the book promises to make the photo sojourn more interesting. The 63-year-old conservationist recalls how, on two separate occasions, his car was chased by an elephant and a rhino — in Bengal's Jaldapara and Assam's Kaziranga, respectively. At Kaziranga, the author recalls, the rhino had even banged the vehicle's rear with its horn. "Giant, yet gentle" — this is how Biswajit describes the powerful herbivores. A striking image in this section is that of a Markhor, an endangered wild goat, in a forest in Jammu and Kashmir.

Lesser cats The author expresses concern at current conservation efforts that are centred only around tigers and lions. Indian forests also harbour 15 lesser wild cats, he reminds readers. He recalls how fishing cats were once seen regularly around the wetlands of Panchla, a village in Howrah. "Caracal sightings were not rare in Panna or in many places in Rajasthan. But now, sighting lesser cats has become very difficult in Indian forests," he rues. To drive home this point, he uses several images of lesser cats, including that of a Binturong — the largest member of the civet family — in the forest of Darjeeling's Singalila. The images of a snow leopard in Ladakh and a clouded leopard in Meghalaya's Balphakram are worth a special mention. 
 

Big Cat Week Google+ Hangout: A Life Among Lions

Posted by Andrew Howley of National Geographic Society in Explorers Journal on November 21, 2014

Dereck and Beverly Joubert have lived in the bush among the beasts for decades, capturing on film the big cats in all their tenderness and power. (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
Dereck and Beverly Joubert have lived in the bush among the beasts for decades, capturing on film the big cats in all their tenderness and power. (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
Since the 1980s, National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert have captured some of the most eye-opening and enlightening big cat footage in the world (see photos and get stories from throughout their career).

Ever watched something about the long standing rivalry between lions and hyenas? That was them.
Ever seen a water buffalo chase down lion cubs? Them again.

Do you feel that there’s one particular leopard you know better than the rest? Her name is Lagadema, and you have the Jouberts to thank for that one too.

Their dedication to recording and sharing the lives of Africa’s big cats is matched only by their dedication to protecting them. As co-founders of the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, they’ve started one of the most successful and results-based conservation projects around.

Now, as part of Big Cat Week on Nat Geo Wild you can meet the Jouberts online. On December 3 at 1pm ET, join Dereck, Beverly, and other big cat experts for a live video chat via Google+ Hangouts and ask your questions about watching, photographing, protecting, and living with big cats in the wild.

Now take a moment to just enjoy some of Beverly’s big cat splendor before getting the rest of the details below …
This world is big enough for the two of them, but only if we give them the space and protections they need. (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
Lions and elephants. This world is big enough for the two of them, but only if we give them the space and protections they need. (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
Incredible patience has allowed the Jouberts to witness moments few would even think ever occur. Here a young lion's growing strength is still no match for a leopard tortoise shell. (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
Incredible patience has allowed the Jouberts to witness moments few would even think ever occur. Here a young lion’s growing strength is still no match for a leopard tortoise’s shell. (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
Some day a nip like that could help this lion take down an elephant. For now, it's just some good-hearted fun.  (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
Some day a nip like that could help this lion take down an elephant. For now, it’s just some good-hearted fun. (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
How to Participate in the Hangout

You can help us Cause an Uproar and answer your burning questions about big cats and their world by taking part in our Google+ Hangout. Send in your questions for these National Geographic Explorers and they may be asked on air. Submit your questions by posting a question on Google+ or Twitter with hashtag #bigcats or commenting directly on this blog post.

Follow National Geographic on Google+ or return to this blog post to watch the Google+ Hangout Wednesday, December 3rd at 1 p.m. EST (6 p.m. UTC).
To the mother, washing the ears is simply necessary. To the offspring, it appears to be unwelcome but accepted. Seem familiar? (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
To the mother, washing the ears is simply necessary. To the offspring, it appears to be unwelcome but accepted. Seem familiar? (Photo by Beverly Joubert/National Geographic Creative)
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Colorado poacher sentenced to prison for maiming, killing Utah lions

First Published Nov 21 2014


A Colorado outfitter who maimed and killed more than 30 mountain lions and bobcats, including animals from southeastern Utah, was sentenced to prison Thursday.
Christopher W. Loncarich of Mack, Colo., was sentenced to 27 months in prison and three years probation for conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, a federal wildlife conservation law.
Loncarich, his two daughters and an assistant violated numerous state and federal laws between the 2007 and 2010 hunting seasons, according to a release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
As part of his outfitting business, 56-year-old Loncarich would trap lions and bobcats prior to his clients’ hunts and hold them or injure them by "shooting the cats in the paws, stomach, and/or legs, or attaching leg-hold traps prior to the client arriving on scene," the release states.
Officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources cooperated in the investigation.
A Utah conservation officer first raised suspicions about Loncarich after encountering the Colorado man near the state line at the south end of the Book Cliffs, according to Tony Wood, law enforcement chief for DWR.
Utah investigators suspect as many as 50 bobcats were illegally killed in the state and transported dead to Colorado. And Wood said his agency is confident at least 12, and as many as 15, mountain lions were killed in Utah. "The code of fair chase is something those of us lawful and ethical hunters live by and it means a lot to us," Wood said. "He was not a hunter, but a businessman, who took great pains and went to great lengths to make a buck."
Colorado wildlife officials reported that Loncarich’s group captured a mountain lion and put a radio-tracking collar on the animal. They used the tracking device to catch the animal a year later, eventually caging the cat at a house in Mack, Colo., where it was held for a week while Loncarich waited for a client to arrive from Missouri. The lion ultimately was transported on a snowmobile and released for the hunter.
Fish and Wildlife Service investigators say Loncarich charged up to $7,500 for lion hunts.
Loncarich and his assistant, Nicholaus Rodgers of Medford, Ore., were indicted on 17 counts of illegally capturing and maiming mountain lions and bobcats.
The joint investigation found approximately 18 clients had taken part in the illegal killing of more than 30 wild cats. "Many of the violations committed by Mr. Loncarich appear to be the result of greed, unlawfully killing and maiming wildlife to increase his profits," said Special Agent in Charge Steve Oberholtzer, who oversees U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enforcement operations in the Mountain-Prairie region. "These convictions, and those to follow, send a clear message that unlawful commercialization of wildlife will not be tolerated."
Many of Loncarich’s clients did not have tags or licenses for Utah and sneaked the illegally killed animals into Colorado using coded language during radio communication to keep from being caught.
Loncarich admitted to personally assisting clients in unlawfully killing 15 mountain lions and four bobcats. "Hunting is a wildlife management tool and where all these animals were coming out of Utah and being checked unlawfully and fraudulently in Colorado, that erodes the ability of the states to manage lions and bobcats," Wood said.
Rodgers, who pleaded guilty, will be sentenced Jan. 6, 2015. Another assistant, Marvin Ellis, was sentenced to three years of probation, six months of home detention and fined $3,100.
Loncarich’s daughters, Caitlin and Andie, also were involved. Caitlin Loncarich was sentenced to two misdemeanor Lacey Act violations and received one year of probation, a $1,000 fine and 60 hours of community service. Andie Loncarich was sentenced on a misdemeanor Lacey Act violation and received one year of probation, a $500 fine and 36 hours of community service. 

Leopard cub at the river 

Leopard cub at the river by Tambako The Jaguar

Next-door leopards: First GPS-collar study reveals how leopards live with people

Date:
November 21, 2014
Source:
Wildlife Conservation Society
Summary:
In the first-ever GPS-based study of leopards in India, biologists have delved into the secret lives of these big cats, and recorded their strategies to thrive in human-dominated areas.








Scientific team attaching a GPS collar to a leopard.
Credit: www.projectwaghoba.in
 

In the first-ever GPS-based study of leopards in India, led by WCS and partners has delved into the secret lives of these big cats, and recorded their strategies to thrive in human-dominated areas.

The study concludes that leopards in human areas are not always 'stray' or 'conflict' animals but residents, potentially requiring policy makers to rethink India's leopard-management strategies.
 
The study was a collaboration of Vidya Athreya of WCS India (Wildlife Conservation Society), scientists from Norway (Morten Odden from Hedmark University College and John Linnell from Norwegian Institute for Nature Research), Sandeep Rattan of the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, Maharashtra Forest Department and Asian Nature Conservation Foundation. Their findings were published recently in the journal PLoS One in the article "Adaptable Neighbours: Movement patterns of GPS-collared leopards in human-dominated landscapes in India."

Five leopards (two males and three females) perceived as "problem animals" and captured from human-dominated areas despite no predatory attack on people, were radio-collared for the study. Two were translocated and released more than 50 km (31 miles) away, while the remaining three were released near the site of capture.

The scientists monitored the animals' activities from the time of release, for up to a year, recording their behavior -- including strategies they adopt to avoid direct contact with people.

The findings

Immediately after release, the two translocated animals moved away 89 km (55 miles) and 45 km respectively (28 miles) from the release sites.

Said co-author Vidya Athreya of WCS India: "This indicated futility of translocation as a management strategy; this could have in fact, aggravated the conflict, as these animals passed through highly-human dominated (even industrial) areas," contended the scientists.

However, the animals applied tactics to avoid encountering people, despite dependence on their resources.

Firstly, the animals mostly moved at night, which timed perfectly with low human activity. They also spent more time closer to homes (<25 m [82 feet] in many location recordings) at night, than during the day. "This gave them an access to people's livestock, and yet kept them safe from people," Athreya explained.

That these leopards were residents in these human-dominated areas was also confirmed by the study.
The two translocated animals occupied bigger home ranges (42 km [26 miles]and 65 km [40 miles] respectively), including one in the outskirts of Mumbai. The other three lived in areas with highest human densities, but occupied smallest home ranges (8-15 sq km) (3-5.7 square miles) ever recorded for leopards anywhere. "The home ranges of the three animals are comparable to those in highly-productive protected areas with a very good prey density," said Athreya. "This indicated that food sources associated with humans [domestic animals] supported these leopards." Moreover, two of the females even gave birth to cubs during the course of the study, confirming their residence.

Despite living in close proximity to humans and even being dependent on their resources, none of the leopards were involved in human deaths during capture or following release.

The authors stress that the presence of wild carnivores like leopards in human use landscapes in India need to be dealt with proactive mitigation measures.

The authors say there is a need for more studies on ecology of wildlife that share space with humans in India, so that better understanding can feed into better policy. Efforts should be put into preventing losses to people rather than react after losses have been incurred. The management policy should also work towards retaining the acceptance and tolerance of the local people.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Morten Odden, Vidya Athreya, Sandeep Rattan, John D. C. Linnell. Adaptable Neighbours: Movement Patterns of GPS-Collared Leopards in Human Dominated Landscapes in India. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (11): e112044 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112044

Wildlife Conservation Society. "Next-door leopards: First GPS-collar study reveals how leopards live with people." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 November 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141121121232.htm>.

Camera trap images help wildlife managers ID problem #tigers in India

Date:
November 19, 2014
Source:
Wildlife Conservation Society
Summary:
Researchers are using high-tech solutions to zero in on individual tigers in conflict and relocate them out of harm’s way for the benefit of both tigers and people.

Researchers with WCS and other partners in India are camera traps to ID individual tigers in conflict and relocate them out of harm's way for the benefit of both tigers and people.
Credit: WCS



Researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society and other partners in India are using high-tech solutions to zero in on individual tigers in conflict and relocate them out of harm's way for the benefit of both tigers and people.
In recent tiger-conflict cases involving both a human fatality and the predation of livestock, both occurring near two of India's national parks, WCS scientists helped to identify problem tigers using stripe pattern-matching software and additional information to make the connections. Both tigers have been captured and relocated to a nearby zoo.

Reducing human-wildlife conflict while promoting human welfare and conservation in important wildlife habitats is one of many topics under discussion of the World Parks Congress, a once-in-a-decade event focusing on the management and expansion of the world's protected area networks and the wildlife they contain. The congress, which took place in Sydney, Australia concluded today.
A new paper titled "Photographic Database Informs Management of Conflict Tigers" appears in the latest version of the journal Oryx. The authors are: Ullas Karanth, N. Samba Kumar, and Divya Vasudev of WCS's India Program.

"The vast majority of tigers generally avoid humans and focus only on natural prey species," said Dr. Ullas Karanth, WCS's Director for Science-Asia and lead author on the paper. "Using scientific methods to locate individuals involved in conflict with humans and livestock helps us to mitigate threats to people and prevent the capture of the wrong tigers, especially wherever tigers may venture beyond protected area borders."

While tigers struggle to survive in other landscapes across their range through Asia, the big cats in the Malenad Tiger Landscape of southwest India have thrived, becoming one of the largest tiger populations in the world with an estimated 400 animals.

Part of this conservation success has been due to a WCS research program focused on the identification of individual tigers. The system uses unique stripe patterns to identify and track individual animals, and software programs have greatly improved the speed and accuracy of the process. Since the initiation of the research protocol, more than 750 tigers have been identified from six protected areas in the Malanad Tiger Landscape in the Western Ghats across India. The system also enables researchers to keep track of other data such as home range locations, age and ex of individual animals, activity patterns. Over the longer term it even enables estimation of survival and recruitment rates and changes in numbers, all of which can be used to inform management decisions on wild tigers.

The tiger database has become a key factor in finding and capturing problem tigers. One of the recently captured animals was involved in the loss of human life near Bandipur National Park in late December of 2013. Scientists managed to get pictures of the animal from camera traps set up near the area of conflict and discovered a match with an animal photographed over a 5-year period and probably past its prime. Old tigers unable to catch natural prey animals can sometimes resort to hunting livestock, bringing them in conflict with people.

Another tiger, involved in the killing of cattle in a village next to Nagarahole National Park, was by contrast a 2-3 year old youngster some 35 kilometers from locations in which it was previously photographed. Scientists concluded this young tiger was likely searching for a territory, beyond protected areas.

Once ranging across Asia from Turkey to Indonesia, the tiger has been decimated by a combination of habitat destruction, overhunting of prey animal, poaching for the illegal trade and retaliatory killing by humans. The total wild population has been reduced in numbers from perhaps 100,000 at the turn of the 20th Century to a current estimate of fewer than 3,500 animals remaining in only 6 percent of the species' historic range.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Wildlife Conservation Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Wildlife Conservation Society. "Camera trap images help wildlife managers ID problem tigers in India." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141119125112.htm>.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Your Daily Cat

Happy Djamila 
Happy Djamila by Tambako The Jaguar


Djamila relaxed with open mouth 
Djamila relaxed with open mouth by Tambako The Jaguar

Santa Monica Cougar

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
 
Here's a recent shot of P-12, one of two dominant males currently living in the Santa Monica Mountains. Now about eight years old, P-12's claim to fame is that he is the only lion documented to have crossed the 101 Freeway near Liberty Canyon. Location is north of Leo Carrillo State Park and south of Circle X Ranch. -Ranger Kate

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On patrol with the lion guardians in Tanzania

Nigel Richardson meets a biologist and Tusk award nominee with an innovative plan to save the big cat

Tusk Trust Conservation Awards: On patrol with the lion guardians in Tanzania
Amy Dickman with young Barabaig tribesmen who help track and protect lions from attacks by villagers 
During the first night that Amy Dickman, an English conservation biologist, spent in Ruaha, Tanzania, 30 stone (190kg) of killing machine parked itself on top of her. She was sleeping in a tiny pup tent in the bush when a lion seeking a pillow lay down on top of it, crushing her arm and giving her the most “deeply terrifying” moments of her life.
Dickman survived, not only to tell a great yarn but also to become a champion of the lions of Ruaha, which constitute one tenth – around 3,400 – of Africa’s entire lion population. “People are really amazed that a species as iconic as the lion is under threat,” she says. “They think that because everyone goes on safari and sees them, somehow they are stable – and they really are not.”
Now her innovative work to protect the lions and other carnivores of the remote East African wilderness has won international recognition with her nomination for the Tusk Award for Conservation, the winner of which will be announced next Tuesday at a ceremony in London attended by Tusk’s patron, the Duke of Cambridge. Dickman, the Kaplan Senior Research Fellow at the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit in Oxford University’s Department of Zoology, is the third and final nominee to feature in these pages.
In 2009, she set up the Ruaha Carnivore Project, based at a camp a few miles outside the border of Ruaha National Park, among pastoralist communities mainly belonging to the Maasai and Barabaig ethnic groups. The project now has a permanent staff of 12, who are carrying out ecological research in a severely understudied area of Africa – but Dickman wasn’t among them when I visited recently as she is currently back in England, having just had a baby (I interviewed her separately for this article).
The project camp is located in the middle of an age-old conflict zone. Within Ruaha National Park lions live harmoniously, but on its edges, where villages, grazing lands and bush come together, they share their habitat with people. The consequences have been negative on both sides – lions killing livestock, lions being killed in retaliation – and the project’s main aim is to mitigate the conflict. Their motto – “For carnivores and people” – is a clue as to how they have gone about it.
“What we’re trying to do is conserve carnivores through community conservation, not only to protect carnivores for their own sake but so they provide long-term benefit for local people,” says Dickman. In five years she and her team have achieved startling results: retaliatory killing of lion is down by at least 80 per cent and depredation of livestock has been more than halved.

The first problem she and her team addressed was the security of livestock enclosures, known as bomas. Most lion attacks were taking place at night when herders had placed their goats and cattle within bomas made of circles of thorn bushes – a barrier that lions, in particular, are able to overcome with ease. The project has been introducing sturdy, predator-proof bomas (86 so far) which have proved totally effective. But protecting livestock on their daytime grazing grounds remains a problem.

(Getty Images)
 
Dickman may have found the answer in Namibia, where Anatolian shepherd dogs keep leopard, cheetah and other carnivores at bay. As part of a trial, three Anatolian shepherds have been given to herders in Ruaha who have lost the most goats and cows, including a Maasai called Mr Matambile of Tungamalenga village. The dogs have yet to encounter lions but the verdict so far is positive. “It helps a lot, not only at home, even when we go out for grazing,” Matambile told me as he stood outside his new, predator-proof boma, proudly patting Shujaa, his one-year-old Anatolian shepherd.

All this amounts to sound practical intervention but the key to Dickman’s approach – and, indeed, to all progressive conservation practices – is to turn hunters into conservationists. Ruaha Carnivore Project's partnership with Panthera and the Lion Guardians project in Kenya means that villages are now protected by “lion guardians” – expert trackers who, for a salary, monitor the movements of predators, warn livestock owners if trouble is heading their way and persuade villagers to call off lion hunts.

Who best to fulfil this role? Young warriors who by tradition have killed lion, not just in retaliation for livestock depredation but for their own social aggrandisement. “It gives them social status through other means – a way of making them key people,” says Dickman.

These elements – the bomas, the dogs, the guardians – are shored up by a programme of benefits to the community. Local schools have been twinned with schools in the US and UK, which brings in books and equipment; the project puts six “Simba scholars” – students taken from the pastoralist communities – through secondary school each year; while herders receive veterinary care for their livestock and a local clinic has been given medicines and equipment.

Ruah National Park (Alamy)
 
All this has certainly won the minds of Ruaha’s traditional pastoral communities but another initiative – as simple as it is persuasive – is winning their hearts. Despite living within 20 miles of the border of Ruaha National Park, most villagers had never been there and had never seen “dangerous wildlife” in anything but a negative and threatening context. So the project takes them on game drives in the park, to observe lion, in particular, in relaxed family groups. “One of the reactions we get is, 'I didn’t know lions could be gentle’,” says Dickman. “They’re amazed they have that capability. It’s a real shift in attitude.”

The shifting of attitudes, not just here but across Africa, will be crucial to the survival of this most charismatic of big cats. “They are undoubtedly very difficult animals to live alongside, but as human-dominated land is so important for the remaining lion range, it has reinforced to me just how critical community-based conservation is for their future,” says Dickman – who knows better than most what it is to share living space with a lion.

A lion's cub (Alamy)
 
About the Tusk Conservation Awards
The Tusk Trust (tusk.org) is a British charity, with the Duke of Cambridge as its patron, which supports conservation projects in Africa. Its Tusk Conservation Awards, in association with Investec Asset Management, recognise work in the field. In addition to the Tusk Award for Conservation in Africa, sponsored by Land Rover, it will be making an award for lifetime achievement, the Prince William Award for Conservation in Africa, at a ceremony in London on November 25. Next week we profile the winner.

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