Many thanks for your interest by coming to this update, it will be the last of the year, I’ll be back in mid January (HERE) with a leadup to our reboot at the end of the Year of the Tiger. There will be a new section at the site as part of the reboot, based around leopard behavior, there’ll be notifications when that is published later in 2023. I’ll explain the significance of the image above further down the page, it was an important moment for me but please watch the short video below on the new Mission Leopard YouTube channel and it would be great if you could subscribe to that channel.
In the video you see the 5000 figure (also explained in Snapshot), the amount of accountable leopard deaths in India and Nepal since the year 2000 according to seizure data. The unaccountable figure due to trafficking which slips through the net, retaliation kills after conflict, roadkill and general ill health for leopards when confronted with disturbed habitat issues, is obviously very much higher.
Another major consideration, this is something I’ve written about before and it saddens me there is not more concern, is the brutal nature of these deaths. Having had so many incidents I’ve had to follow up, it never ceases to be confronting, it is not possible to turn a blind eye to that if one cares.
By the same token is the other side of the conflict, when people are attacked, particularly if children are killed. The far reaching effects of the trauma for families and the wider community is a major factor surrounding attitudes towards the leopard.
The problem is far reaching across too many areas of South Asia but my philosophy is, and it’s the word I’m trying to spread, that if full effort saves one life on either side then it is worth it. The big picture, however, must always be at the front of mind and this is where there must be a much more united roadmap, at the moment it really does feel like there’s only a small critical mass trying to deal with the problem. This is where the moral responsibility of society comes into play.
As we near the end of this Year of the Tiger, I really hope that in twelve years time at the end of the next one, we can report progress that shows much less killing of big cats as well as human fatalities. In many ways this is a line in the sand moment and as someone who is involved in solution making, through a neutral lens but deeply concerned, my hope is that along with the partnerships and collaborations in existence and developing, we get a whole new breed of leopard champions, globally, in support.
At the moment we have live sites where conflict is being understood and mitigated through various strategies. Education is fundamental to this and over the next few months you’ll see more and more material here at the site reflecting what is happening in the field. The reboot in February will show progress on this in the report.
We’ve taken the approach that needed changes in human behavior can be greatly influenced by the deeper understanding of the leopards themselves. Working with different communities over the years I’ve experienced great variations with regards to understanding and tolerance. The key to all this is these communities have greater ownership of the problems and having the resources to be far more proactive rather than reactive. This is fundamental to our approach using LeopardEye.
I’ve written before how the 2003 Kathmandu seizure of 109 leopard skins was pivotal in my own life. It is disappointing, I’m not going to hide that, with thousands of leopards being killed since that there is still not enough emphasis or care with what is happening to the leopard and to many people living with them. I’ve done my best to bring attention to the issue, along with practical efforts working with the small number of people who really do care. The building relationship with a prominent French wildlife documentary team is leading to some powerful story telling which will not only go deep into the issues but also examine why there has not been enough care and resources devoted to human and leopard coexistence challenges. It has been a good learning curve for me to be part of a creative process to developing the story and I have not strayed at any point from being outcome orientated, why there is no point telling a story if we don’t get results. I’m sure we will. We have to.
This leads me now to the image, it is Asa on one of the last times I ever saw him. Asa’s story is going to feature in the documentary which is running hand in hand with the Sacred Valley Concept which will be expanded on in the next update in January. You can see in the photo that Asa was keeping his distance, we were at the last stages of contact, he had completed the stage of his rewilding where his need to be dependent on me had finished, in his eyes. It was a pivotal moment, I will be telling that story along with many others I haven’t before, it was a moment which gave me hope for Asa’s species, it was a moment that once again I made promises to do my very best for leopards, a persecuted animal but one which if we can improve coexistence with, we will ourselves benefit, for many reasons.