WildTiger Coordinator Jack Kinross heads field operations which include initiatives involving rescue/rehabilitation, coexistence strategy and anti poaching/trafficking. Read Jack’s current blog posts below:
Fighting For The Leopard
Many thanks to those who have followed my blogs over the years. For 2019 I’m stepping things up a notch with a new title FIGHTING FOR THE LEOPARD based here at WildTiger.
While the blog will have the main focus of the most neglected and persecuted of the big cats, the leopard, it’s also about how we have to be more of a helping hand to wildlife in general. While I’m involved in various aspects of wildlife conservation I currently have a major focus on our anti-snare work. For more information you can contact me via email HERE.
21 February 2019 – South Asia has the greatest variety of big cats on the planet, the question is how much help are they getting?
Tiger, Lion (Asiatic), Leopard, Snow Leopard, Clouded Leopard, we call them the Great Cats of Asia and South Asia (the Indian sub continent) is the region that houses that variety, from coast to Himalaya. There’s nowhere else like it on earth.
All five are magnificent predators in their own right, millions of years of evolution has seen them become vital cogs in the food chains which drive ecosystems we humans rely on. Guardians of forests and mountains through which massive rivers flow, the Great Cats of Asia are nature’s selection, the team adapted to shape ecological dynamics. Not just that, they are creatures of power, beauty, perfection.
And they are all under serious threat.
There’s been all sorts of figures thrown about lately but it’s fair to say that the overall population of big cats has been reduced to about 25 percent of what it was fifty years ago, this matches the habitat loss which along with poaching and human-wildlife conflict issues is the main reason for the decline. We’re currently preparing figures for our May report and they won’t be pretty, in fact they will be a damning indictment on humanity. A couple of days ago I posted the image below (they are global figures)
and I’ve had those figures on my mind ever since. It’s really made me question the millions of dollars, the endless conferences, the countless PhDs, the constant noise in media and social media. It’s made me question the collective will of humanity but it’s also made me question the individual statement, when someone says they care I have started looking for evidence of that beyond words.
The findings are not good. The tiger is regularly voted the most popular animal on the planet, yet there are barely 4000 left in the wild. The leopard, an animal without parallel when it comes to athleticism and adaptability is essentially treated like shit when it comes to support from the public, something I will be pointing out in no uncertain terms during upcoming publications. Big cats, including the Great Cats of Asia, are now conservation dependent, they are at the mercy of our whim which means that our desire to continue to live alongside these animals, as nature intended, is now being tested.
When I’m with colleagues now I sense a kind of grimness as the reality of this situation is in our faces. I’ve been using the word urgency, we cannot afford to wait until tomorrow to do something which can be done today. I’m now personally bracing myself as winter ends here in Nepal and the heat begins to rise leading into that pre-monsoon period which tests man and beast alike. It’s months where every minute possible must be utilized within the realms we operate in, improving coexistence, rescue and rehabilitation along with anti poaching/trafficking.
And all through this that question keeps bouncing around, do we humans really want to share our space with animals like the Great Cats of Asia? I know I do, I know my immediate colleagues do, I know we will put the effort in and I know sacrifices will be made but how much help will these big cats get from humanity as a whole?
Time will tell, the next few months are part of that time.
This was an interim post, I’ll have more about the bushmeat situation soon, how the snares aimed mainly at species like wild boar and deer also kill the Great Cats of Asia … and how we’re doing our best to stop that from happening.
The post is also at the Facebook page Fighting For The Leopard if you wish to comment.
11 February 2019 – Some progress but a sense of urgency as too many leopards are dying
I was already feeling agitated at a meeting a few days ago where I felt there was disconnect between the discussion and what really happens at ground level when my phone vibrated, an alert that two leopard skins had been seized just a few kilometers away. When I had my say at the table I was my usual direct self in voicing the dangerously disproportionate conservation emphasis on icon species when other animals such as leopard are getting hammered. Soon I was away to verify the news of the latest seizure, a case we are now following up.
My phone vibrates constantly with such news. It can be media alerts or news direct from sources. It’s 24 hours. We tweet some stories we can verify but not all, there’s too many just in South Asia alone.
While video showed the leopard was trapped, the DFO statement has prompted many to allege that the forest department officials are trying to shield the accused.
— WildTiger (@WildTigerNews) February 11, 2019
There is often denial and controversy surrounding leopard deaths and those issues coupled with corruption, mistruth and a general ‘don’t care’ attitude make the leopard a very difficult animal to fight for.
I’ve spent a lot of the last few weeks in dialogue with people who do care and we are closer now to the formation of a rescue/education center for western Nepal which while it will be for wildlife in general it will have a strong emphasis on leopard. I’ll have more about the parties involved down the track but a lot of work has gone into this. It’s not the time for any back slapping, there’s too much to be done, too many leopards are dying and as I’ve written before, based on the figures we have that as you read this there’s no doubt that somewhere in South Asia a leopard is dying a painful death in a snare trap, at least three a day.
There has to be a sense of urgency, this is not the time for procrastination or empty promises… I’d love a dollar for every empty promise, I could build several rescue centers.
There’s been enough awareness, it has to be about action and contribution. The disconnect I mentioned between policy makers as well as non field people to what is really happening on the ground is something we just have to deal with because in many ways it simply symbolizes the growing disconnect between humans and nature… or at least the way we should be coexisting with wildlife. I’ve got my last few days in urban jungle before it’s back to the real thing, mountain and lowland, another year of mosquitoes and leeches fighting for an animal close to my heart, I really thank those who understand the situation, we need more of you. There’s some incredible people involved with WildTiger, some you will never hear of because of security and safety, it has to be that way. As I’ve said before, 2019 has to be step up from last year and the progress for the rescue/education area is a strong start but we have to be urgent, once again, too many leopards are dying…
This post is at the Facebook page Fighting For The leopard if you wish to comment.
07 February 2019 – Interim Update
Many thanks to those who have contacted re holding a photo exhibition, I’ll be in contact soon. We need more people to care.
A colleague said yesterday that people just don’t seem to grasp the gravity of this situation. The last few years have, despite all the awareness, spelled a death knell for the leopard in places and in minds. I’m delaying the next blog, there’s been a spate of seizures across South Asia but please email email@example.com if you can help . The disconnect (which exists badly in the conservation sector too) between people and this animal is actually a disconnect between people and nature. It’s all very well to say you care but unless you do something about it they are just words…
Currently proceeds are directed at our anti-snare work.
I have to qualify all this in that there are people who really do care, are working damn hard, understand the importance of this animal. We’re doing our best to make sure there is a coordinated effort because in this part of the world political, org and personal agendas so much get in the way. It’s a small critical mass fighting for the leopard, when I eventually do publish my book there will be eyebrows raised at some of the things that have happened. Right now, it’s a really crucial time and based on what we know is happening there is almost certainty a leopard in great pain in a snare trap right now, soon there will be another one and it goes on. We have the strategies to prevent this, we’re working hard to get the right people on board, there’s been success but the bottom line is we are losing. The general public needs to do a better job for the leopard, you can’t leave it all to us, there’s been more than enough awareness…
19 January 2019 – Follow Up
FOLLOW UP: This will be my last post for a while, there’s a lot going on but just to follow from the blog on 17 January (below), THE POACHER’S SNARE, as I mentioned there were quite a few messages from people asking for help re anti snare tactics. I will reply to everyone, just give me a few days. Re news like the one below, not every case goes to media so as to safeguard investigation and of course known cases are only a percentage of leopard deaths we don’t know about. The bottom line is the leopard is in real trouble, particularly in India and Nepal, not enough is being done about it. We’re trying our best.
— WildTiger (@WildTigerNews) January 19, 2019
17 January 2019 – The Poacher’s Snare
Blog – The Poacher’s Snare
In 2003 shortly after 109 leopard skins had been seized in Kathmandu, I met with Dr Chandra Gurung in the same city. Chandra, at the time with WWF Nepal, spoke of the difficulty getting support for leopard conservation because the spotted cat was not on Nepal’s protected species list. Around that time there were other seizures and arrests, it was the tiger cases which always took preference. It was during a difficult passage for Nepal as the insurgency, essentially a civil war, was in full swing. Poaching was rife as army battalions which would normally be focused on anti-poaching were otherwise deployed.
Sadly Chandra, a good man, died in a helicopter crash a few years later. Sadly, nearly 16 years after that conversation, the leopard is still not on Nepal’s protected species list.
Nepal is a microcosm for the plight of the leopard because the fact is the species is persecuted throughout its global range. Recent poaching figures from India indicate no slow down in that country. Trophy hunting of leopards continues in thirteen African countries. Add to this the many retaliation killings because of human – leopard conflict and the fact that the leopard has lost 75 percent of its range globally.
This adds up to many thousands of leopards losing their lives to the human hand and that’s just since the turn of this century. We’re currently working on statistics as part of a report for mid year release but even though we have a huge amount of data, there cannot be great accuracy because poaching is a darkness which hides a lot of its evil. What we do know is the numbers are frightening and for an animal that is found in over 70 countries there are few safe havens. As time goes by this blog will give more of those details.
However, despite the shocking figures it is my own personal experiences which in many ways have caused me to rethink. Witnessing awful retaliation killings, very sad instances of children losing their lives to leopards and constantly confronting apathy mixed with politics, agendas and ineptitude have been part of my recent time frame, these last few years. There’s also been some incredible experiences, not least actually living with a leopard during a rewilding project., a story which I have shared some of but the full account is for another day. It was a time which taught me more than I could have ever imagined and reinforced my resolve to protect big cats. I saw the world through a leopard’s eyes while up there on that mountain with him, it changed me.
Right now though I want to say a few words about a form of poaching which revolts me, I’ve seen with my own eyes just too much horror because of it.
Perhaps no other dynamic sums up the sheer persecution of the leopard. I’ve written before about certain instances but seeing a magnificent animal literally ripped to shreds because of its struggles to escape from a snare are visions I can’t ever shake off. Different snares work in different ways and if the skin is the target for a trader then a long painful death can result. Or it can be faster if the poacher arrives on the scene while the cat is still alive, a bullet may be used but perhaps not, perhaps another slower lethal means. Other traps where the noose means neck or body is snared may mean a gradual shredding as the leopard fights. Seeing the results of this, particularly if the animal is still alive, is not for the faint of heart, it shouldn’t be for anyone. A claw trap is a brutal spring clamp, the pain must be excruciating, these are often aimed at animals like bears, leopards get caught in them too.
Of course it’s not just leopards which get caught in snares. A lively bush meat market throughout south Asia isn’t just about remote villages, it’s about restaurants in Kathmandu, Delhi and many other cities. Deer and other meat is served up to those in the know. These animals are prey for leopard, tiger and other carnivores so their demise is a disturbance of habitat and there is enough written about the tragic human-wildlife conflict ramifications that everyone reading this should know. No food in the forest means big cats look elsewhere and having spent time with many families of victims of big cat attacks I can tell you there are some absolute horror stories. So this means that the ‘fat cats’ eating bush meat at a restaurant table are contributing to the whole unstable situation. Not to mention the totally inhumane way that deer and other wildlife die in a snare trap, just like leopard.
I hate snare traps.
To me they are the epitome of cruelty. They represent the coward.
But this begs the question of what is happening to the leopard. The world has known of the slaughter so why is there not the same support for this animal as there is for the so called icon species? Do you want me to video a leopard caught in a snare trap? Do you want me to show the actual brutality?
Right now I’m following up some leopard body parts seizure cases and working on anti-poaching activity to reduce snares. There’s other work surrounding leopard conservation which will be mentioned in future blogs, it involves coexistence strategy and leopard rehabilitation but for now, here are some questions to ponder, to think about:
If we are losing a leopard a day to poachers in South Asia alone what is the ecological effect of that?
Why, despite being the apex predator through vast areas of its range does the plight of the leopard only get lip service from most of the major conservation organizations?
Following on from that why in its recent publication Inside the Himalayas did WWF not once mention the leopard despite the seriousness of poaching and human-leopard conflict? Yes, it was about the usual darlings, tiger, snow leopard and rhino … is panthera pardus not even worth a mention?
Are the elite sitting in restaurants knowingly eating illegal bushmeat any less culpable that the poacher?
Why does the outrage culture make so much noise when we present the problems but give very little tangible support to an animal that has just as much right to it as tiger, rhino and elephant?
Why has the thousands of leopard trophies imported into the US after their slaughter in African nations not raised the ire of the masses that trophy hunting of other species does?
What’s it like to be looked in the eye and told directly “no, there’s no poaching here” before going off and finding five snare traps in the space of 30 minutes?
What’s it like being a leopard conservationist and being told “we want a leopard free zone!”
What would it be like to be a leopard caught in a snare…
These are just a few of the issues that will be touched on in future blog posts. We’re not that far away from Chinese New Year at which point it will be three years until the next Year of the Tiger in 2022. I don’t really want a leopard day or year or whatever. I just want this animal to get a fair deal. The team and myself will be fighting for the leopard until that happens. And then we won’t stop.
Support the leopard if you have the courage…
In the first instance, to hold a photo exhibition in which I can live stream to your audience and where we supply the images, find out more HERE.