Updates from Jack Kinross

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

19 August 2022

REGIONAL EXTINCTION MUST BE TAKEN MORE SERIOUSLY… I’m going to have more later about Tau Sheri, the last known leopard in Kazakhstan who was killed a little over a year ago. Tau Sheri, like so many, had body parts missing when he was found. In the context of regional extinction, yet another country had lost leopards (there is now a project for reintroduction of Persian leopards in certain areas) but this issue must not be limited to thinking of numbers and nations. When leopards are wiped out or thinned from any bio zone, be it forest, mountain or whatever, there are negative ecological effects. Top predators are fundamental to many ecosystems, a prevalence of leopards in one area counts for nothing if they are regionally extinct in another. Reintroduction is an option but it should be the last resort. There has to be far more support for prevention of regional extinction and increased monitoring is key. I’m gathering information from certain mountain areas at the moment, hugely important ecosystems, the results so far are worrying. It’s not too late but unless there is change, that day will come. The leopard is highly adaptable and resourceful but not invincible, Tau Sheri a sad example of that…

18 August 2022

REFLECTING ON COEXISTENCE GOING WRONG, WE HAVE TO BE MORE HONEST AND SHOW MORE COURAGE … Yesterday while working in the forest on a component of the LeopardEye system development (live view integrated with deterrent LEDs) I was getting updates on two more cases, a leopard skin (along with red panda skins) seized in North Bengal and a leopardess with 2 tiny babies ripped to shreds by a snare in far west Nepal. I woke up often during last night deepening my reflection. We have to start bringing wildlife crime more into the coexistence dialogue. I’ve got an update pending on the statistics but the ongoing carnage is very much linked to lack of understanding because of the perceived adaptability of the leopard when in actual fact an animal which has many sub species critically endangered and local extinctions are on the march, is on a global downward spiral. This is becoming increasingly hard to take not just because of the lack of care about the situation but the ignorance (yes I use that strong word because it’s the right one) regarding how important these predators are. Apex in so many regions and subordinate to tiger/lion (being pushed out of fragmented PAs) in others, these remarkable ecosystem engineers are getting smashed. In too many places we are playing lip service to coexistence, it’s a fancy word on funding applications and soap box conservation when the reality is human and leopard conflict (and I include wildlife crime in that) is at deadly serious levels. There are many people who want to coexist with leopards but there are too many who don’t which combined with a wider apathy from beyond is increasing the challenge daily. My mandate is to never give up, keep finding a way and I will never stop because I believe we can do it, the bottom line is though our overall treatment of wildlife right this minute badly needs reflection, we as a global community have to change our attitude quickly, that starts with individuals looking deep within. Above all we have to be more honest about the reality and show more courage to fix it…

14 August 2022

“The leopards, then, enter human habitation in search of food and are killed in the most horrendous ways – snares, trap guns, poisons, et al. – often in agony for many hours and days before death releases them. There is a mistaken belief, amongst some, that the population of leopards is increasing. In fact, it is just that they have become more visible, drawn towards human settlements in search of food”.

The image and the paragraph above are from articles discussing the plight of the Sri Lankan leopard, the scenarios also apply in too much of South Asia especially India and Nepal. I’ll have the first podcast next month (September), it goes deeper into the issue and certainly reiterates that we as a global society are badly letting this animal down. Leading up to our report in February 2023, a detailed extension of Snapshot, the podcasts examine coexistence in ways that go beyond the constant political speak which influences big cat conservation, those narratives playing their part in issues such as estimated tiger numbers. Below are two links to articles from Sri Lanka out today:

Conservation of the Sri Lankan Leopard

Snares in plantations, land seizures put leopards in peril

29 July 2022

How was this leopard killed? What happens in a community when a child is killed by a leopard?

29 July 2022, International Tiger Day, the latest update is HERE “Coexistence stretched… acting on solutions with key emphasis on more positive perspectives”. Notifications @jackkinross and please read below…

Previous updates and links to blog leading up to the 29/07 update are HERE.

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.