Updates from Jack Kinross

Mission Leopard, a WildTiger Initiative protecting the leopard, people and habitat...

31 May 2022 – “A leopard burns, protected areas more important than ever”

Coexistence is all about respect…

The leopard on the right lives in a protected area, it’s one of my older camera trap images, I arranged it in such a way the big cat is looking at the flames of a leopard being burnt alive, that incident took place in Pauri Garhwal a week ago.

There’s probably enough symbolism in this for you to work it out…

The Pauri incident was a revenge killing, one of many in the wider region.  A woman was killed by a leopard nearby a few days earlier but there is no certainty that the leopard burnt alive was the same big cat.  There’s a whole back story to all this but until I’m more certain of details I’ll leave it at that for now, I’m pretty sure this incident will end up in my book though.  One hundred and fifty people have been charged so it all has a lot to play out.

Had this been a tiger killed like this there would be an international outcry but this leopard is essentially one of so many dying a lonely death. The brutality of the killing is not unusual, leopards are beaten to death (there’s been two more incidents of this in the last few days not that far from where I write this), are killed slowly in snares where in some cases they have spears thrust in their mouths and there is also poisoning, often after livestock kills by the big cats, itself an excruciating way to die.  At Snapshot you can get an idea of numbers but the reality is we really don’t know the true extent.  We do know that it’s frequent and brutal.

A few weeks ago I spent ten days helping a huge male leopard called Raja, he had suffered serious injuries in a snare.  Raja absolutely hated being caged even though it was for his own good, he was the most difficult leopard I’ve ever had to handle and although he lives free now it caused me to reflect deeply on how we can do better.  Improved facilities are now the priority, Raja was one of several snare victims at the time, he was the only one to survive.  Improving treatment is one thing, preventing the injuries and keeping leopards safe is another, both huge challenges.

Live streaming cameras are used to monitor rehabilitating leopards, this is Raja with the box showing the area on his flank where the worst snare trap injuries were.

Protected areas for big cats don’t entirely ensure safety but they do offer a much better chance of survival, a normal life.  It may mean having to put up with rubber neckers in jeeps but that is preferable to being caught in a snare.  I’ve mentioned before in updates and blogs the dynamics behind all this plus there is information at this website.  We’ve got two reports coming out in the next nine months regarding the whole issue but the bottom line is unless there is a change in attitude towards the leopard the carnage will continue, there simply aren’t the resources outside protected areas to prevent the amount of hunting for bushmeat (leopards are often caught in snares set for bushmeat) and targeted big cat poaching at the moment.

As I mentioned even protected areas aren’t full proof.   Just today a conservation officer told me there are no leopards left in the zone he supervises, locals killed them all with poison so as to safeguard livestock which is allowed to graze in that area.  This just shows that even protected area management has to step up but for someone who has witnessed so much persecution of the leopard I still take respite that national parks especially can at least offer a degree of safety. There are those of us in the conservation community that want 30/30 to happen to what ever extent even if it’s partial for a start. It’s the aim to have thirty percent of the planet protected by 2030, it’s ambitious but it’s a vision not just to maintain a healthy planet but to provide refuge for species whether they swim, fly or roam from the atrocities committed by humans against wildlife every day.

With better rehab facilities here in west Nepal we can save more leopards and they can have a chance by being released in these protected areas.  Using this next rehab station as an educational tool through live streaming (leopards recovering from injuries must be kept away from people) and other methods is high on my priorities. At the same time prevention activities must step up, the amount of leopards being injured and killed by people must be reduced.

The next few months will have a strong focus on making that happen, we are some way down the track, if you want to know more with a view to help you can contact me directly at jackkinross@wildtiger.org and there will be other platforms available as the year progresses.

The Pauri leopard burnt alive, Raja and another young leopard Isha, she died in my arms of her injuries also a few weeks ago, are just some of the stories, there are too many stories.  It would be good if more people cared and helped us reduce that.

If you’ve read this far, thank you, there’s a lot going on, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you can help, I’ll be back when I can with a piece which does bring some hope, that coexistence is all about respect. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, please read Snapshot as we lead up to the September report.

Caught in a snare, a lonely way to die…

8 April 2022 – Through April and May I’m focusing on #AntiSnare and leopard rehabilitation, especially improving facilities. We’ll be running a ‘please help’ shortly, in the meantime you can email projects@wildtiger.org to support. – Following on this page is a brief summary of the situation as leopards continue to get caught in snares in South Asia with a spate of incidents locally here in west Nepal typifying the situation.

The image below is a leopard dead from snare injuries in Kailali, the district adjacent to where I write this now:

I could have used any images from a spate of reports in the last few days in both India and Nepal. The one below is of another leopard trapped in a snare a little further west, near the India – Nepal border, it was two days later that the injuries proved fatal.

Another huge male we called Raja, rescued from a hill district northwest of where we try to rehabilitate here at Bardiya National Park, is now free in the park after a difficult ten days in rehab. Raja still has injuries to heal but I’m hopeful his resilience and strength will see him through after a harrowing time caught in the snare, rescued and then a long journey here. Improving rehab facilities to cope with the amount of injured leopards coming in and to provide a better chance of recovery is a strong emphasis but so is improving prevention strategy through #AntiSnare, I’ll have more on this in an update in May.

I’ve written many times before about leopards dying in snare traps and the reasons why this is happening but we have hit another spike in the amount of incidents which combined with leopard body parts seizures. retaliation kills and poaching in general continues the persecution of the Indian leopard, a sub-species of an animal globally declining in population.

The current trajectory if it continues will lead to untimely end for the leopard in many places, that is inevitable. The efforts to protect this animal need much wider support. Please consider that. Right now it is about saving every leopard we can. More in a week, there are a series of crisis meetings but it’s only action that will reduce the number of leopards caught in snares, the brutality of which you can see in the images and usually resulting in a lonely death.

20 March 2022 – Read a little about Ashi HERE, she’s a young leopardess in rehab as part of Ecosystem Reboot. UPDATE at the bottom of the POST, sadly the little leopardess passed away, our goal is that her death was not in vain and that rescue/rehab capacity can be increased.

7 March 2022 – Latest blog post, AI and wildlife tech are only as good as the trust involved is HERE and as it mentions, a really busy few months now prior to monsoon plus this whole site will have content add and updates during this month

1 March 2022 – Many thanks for arriving at this page, I’ll post short a blog of on 7 March when I’m at my laptop but sadly it’s already been a shocking start to the year as indicated by seizures/poaching incidents of around 50 and even as I write this we’re working on a poaching case from just a few hours ago. For now please read below but also focus on what is reported at Snapshot, we’re trying tremendously hard to combat the situation

1 February 2022 – Year of the Tiger. Many thanks for visiting this page, my first blog in this new beginning. I also want to thank all those who have read my posts since the last Year of the Tiger in 2010, there’s been so much support over the years, the work continues, there’s a lot to be done before big cats and biodiversity are in the place they need to be. For now I’ve put all those previous blogs into archives to be used in a larger body of work but most importantly I’d really like you to contemplate the content on the front page Mission Leopard and in this short commentary below. 21 February – Interim Blog Post HERE, another sad incident, one of so many, a leopard dies a brutal, lonely death…

I still get asked many questions about my time with Asa, the leopard of hope, our journey together for him to live wild. In the course of time I’ll tell his full story along with those of other leopards but for now I just want to touch on two other significant events which influenced my motivation.

The first was in 2003 when I was in Kathmandu shortly after 109 leopard skins had been seized in the city.  I was in a discussion with WWF Nepal head, the late Dr Chandra Gurung, he said that sadly there was little interest in the seizure, the leopard was not high priority.  Nepal was in turmoil with the insurgency and like any war torn state it was in survival mode.  Chandra, an internationally recognized conservationist who was tragically killed in a helicopter accident explained that so critical was the situation with tiger poaching that all available resources had to be poured into protecting the great striped cat.  Nearly 20 years later of course that continued effort has born fruit as Nepal has successfully recovered its tiger population but for the leopard the situation is still not good as the country still remains a major trafficking hub for leopard body parts.

The second incident was just a few years ago in a rugged hill district where very sadly fifteen children had been killed by leopard.  Three days after the most recent tragedy I was at the scene when the grandmother of the little four year boy who had been killed, approached me crying and then fell into my arms, sobbing uncontrollably for many minutes, her grief and sadness I could feel in every pore of my body.  A few days later after an intense collaborative effort the leopard was caught, the big cat did not survive the ordeal, something my thoughts still see, something I will never forget.

There have been many other experiences, I remember a leopard giving its last roar before dying of snare trap injuries and there was the entire family still in a state of post traumatic stress several years after the youngest member was killed by leopard.  These collective experiences have given me insights that in many ways I do not wish for but they add up to a determination to keep striving for a better coexistence between people and leopards.

After many years Mission Leopard is the result.  This Year of the Tiger is a line in the sand and we can be measured by results in twelve years time at the next one.  It’s critical we are successful for many reasons, I hope you can join us, the solutions are there, they require will, effort and support at a time when biodiversity loss is at a critical stage.

The online component of Mission Leopard is a place you can reflect for now, you can become involved, please consider it, the future of many of these highly evolved ecosystem engineers and the people who live with them is at stake.