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Big cat behaviour dictated by ours…

Something touched on many times before, you can see the lack of protection in the enclosure, a situation where tied up livestock has no chance against a leopard or a tiger. The more opportunity we give, the more big cats take, who can blame them for killing cattle in these circumstances, much easier than hunting spotted deer etc. It leads to habituation and too often of late, tragedy. With water shortages, pressure on habitat due to human activity as well as a myriad of other factors it’s more important than ever we decrease opportunity. The images here are at a location not that far from where there was the most recent human fatality, there’s a whole range of big cat dynamics at play here, I’ll describe that more at a later date as monitoring continues.

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From the jungle, happy Holi, happy coexistence


Tigers aren’t Hindu, last night one attacked a cow close by where this picture was taken, we’ll work on getting ID of that cat but another incident early this morning where a man (badly injured but ok) was attacked by tiger in many ways sums things up. The man went into the forest too early, it was still tiger time and the result was conflict. We’ve been really busy getting coexistence guidelines out, the attack was another example as I alluded to yesterday in a post, of someone operating outside that thinking. We have to reduce that, education, education, education is the key. I really hope there are no more fatalities this year, it’s been a difficult time, I believe we can do it, it’s very much about people buying into the process of doing the right thing and while it will never be perfect, it can be a case of Happy Coexistence.

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Human – tiger conflict: Another incident just waiting to happen…

It was really disappointing this morning to get news that people were still illegally entering a jungle area where recently someone had been killed by a tiger. I got the news as an anti-poaching team was showing me where a tigress with two small cubs, maybe only two or three months old, had been frequently using a fire line very close to the range post. There are few animals on the planet which will react more violently to disturbance than a tiger with offspring.

Seeing and hearing all this I got that same sinking feeling I’ve had before where despite constant warnings of an attack, someone will soon be taken. I’ve expressed my frustration many times before in the context that so many attacks could have been avoided if people modified their behaviour. I contacted one my team, we’ll help with cameras and monitoring in late afternoon and we’ve been busy getting guidelines into the community, trying to effect social change. The area I’m referring to is a hotspot, there’s not just been this recent fatality on top of many in the area, it’s also had snare trap issues including the horrible death of another tigress.

The issue here is not tigers entering human areas, it’s people entering tiger areas. Although there can be cross over in shared space dynamics, where I was this morning was protected area, restricted access and cut off from tourism activity. I know the area well through a leopard project and it has had problems of disturbance as local people forage for livestock fodder outside designated zones. Once again, economic and livelihood issues come into the equation but sadly, above all, it is this reluctance to adhere to guidelines and in many cases blatantly break the law.

It has a serious ripple effect. People and big cats have died, tigers have gone to jail. All of this is preventable or at least can be markedly reduced. Education is the ultimate answer, it’s the big solution but change is slow and this current situation represents that.

Teams risk their lives protecting the forest. Patrolling is becoming increasingly dangerous and what many people don’t seem to understand is that it isn’t just about protecting the wildlife needed for ecosystems to function, it’s about the safety of people living in these places, living with big cats isn’t easy. Extra effort, at a time when resources are already stressed, ,will go into the location I’ve just described … watch this space.

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Coexistence guidelines as human – big cat conflict continues

There’s more details re the guidelines at WildTiger but with 2 children killed by leopard in the last few days in Katarniaghat it brings the human fatality toll in the Bardiya/Banke/Katarniaghat area to 30 since the start of 2019.

There’s been a lot of misinformation on media and social media but 3 tigers have been captured for holding, one of which has escaped.

We’ll have an update at WildTiger in early April but for me personally, the frustrating thing is that, as I’ve mentioned many times before, so many of these deaths could have been prevented if people had modified their behaviour and adhered to guidelines which have been recommended for some time now. We’re busy distributing guidelines in the area including to schools, I strongly feel this is the best approach, children are strong messengers. I’ll have more on that in the blog post I make in a few days about a leopard called ‘The Boss’ but a recent fatality where a woman was killed by a tiger in an area I know very well was especially frustrating as for more than 2 years we had been giving warnings, sent in reports and generally tried to get people to understand that fatalities were inevitable unless there was human behaviour change. All we can hope now is that people do understand, it’s sad that people have to die before that happens.

Appended later in the day:

Sushila and the team give guidelines out at schools as WildTiger and CBAPU (Community Based Anti Poaching Unit) coordinate with school principals in highly affected areas.

So to continue the post, that’s Hemanta explaining the guidelines and a section of one of the communities as we continue communications in different hotspots. Like I’ve said, coexistence isn’t rocket science, it just needs cooperation, common sense and care but above all the understanding that it is people’s behaviour which must change. More on the whole situation soon.

So finally today in this episode of #junglelife, someone turned 9 years old. Ridam is my leopard conservation buddy, she speaks 3 languages and yeah, she cares about what is happening to leopards. The birthday was such a nice quiet, peaceful passing round of fruit, Ridam preparing Tika for her family and of course the cake made by internationally famous cake, coffee and ice cream maker, Ramesh, the pride of Thakurdwara. Anyway, the little Tharu birthday capped off a day which was very much about people and coexistence because it doesn’t matter how many cameras are set, how many pug marks are found or how many tourist jeeps go into the national park looking for tigers, we must make this thing people centric where locals are given every opportunity to learn and be safe with the big cats and other wild animals here.

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Bardia is safe… if you do the right thing…

A quick note on this, seems congruent with my caffeine levels. Bardia has been getting a bad rep lately mainly due to misinformed media and social media, not unusual I know. Yes, sure, the human fatality rate since about the start of 2019 in the Bardia/Banke/Katarniaghat is very concerning, I’m talking about the number of people killed by tiger. I’m going into further detail on this later in the year but the critical point is nearly all these deaths could have been avoided and a lot of work is going in to increase prevention. Human error seems like a light term to use when someone is killed by a tiger, a traumatic event for everyone connected to it but behaviour change by our species is the key to serious conflict mitigation.

Disturbance has serious ramifications but it’s not rocket science to understand the solutions. In the image is a sign at a checkpoint where motorbikes must now convoy through an area where there was a fatal attack. I’ve been through there several times now since the attack, and yes, there is a distinct feeling one must be wary but the strategy works and in the main I feel authorities have done a good job in this situation. Several different big cats have been involved in attacks in different parts of the region but tigers and leopards are not at fault, it is us who must adapt. The more we adapt, the risk reduces markedly. Living with big cats will always have its challenges, it has to be accepted that incidents are inevitable.

Visitors to Bardia are safe. The incidents that are occurring are entirely connected to livelihood and lifestyle at local levels. Disturbance as a dynamic still needs a lot of work, the recent issues with noise and rubbish are part of that, let’s not pretend that respect for wildlife is uniform here, far from it but effort is going in. Visitors can come here and enjoy Bardia in safety, hopefully they are learning what a critical landscape this place is.

I leave Bardia soon, I’ll talk about that in ‘The Boss’ blog shortly, this place has a big part in my heart as does the new mountain area base I’m going to as part of a continuing focus on #AntiSnare. I’ve given several years to try and understand the problems here better, that learning helps in project support and implementation which will continue in this land of the tiger.

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#AntiSnare – Lack of urgency highlights the hypocrisy

The prime of life female leopard you can see here snared in a jaw trap didn’t survive, she died as a result of her injuries earlier this year in Maha. At the moment I’m in liaison with several orgs and individuals gaining understanding of the extent of the problem in South Asia. What we already know is that the situation is bad, in many ways it parallels South East Asia a few years ago where the ongoing problem has decimated wildlife to a degree that ecosystems are unstable. While there is effort from anti-poaching units to combat this considering the resources available, unless there is a greater degree of urgency, particularly here on the Indian subcontinent then the same outcome as SE Asia is inevitable.

At the moment there is a lack of urgency. I was shocked at the lack of reaction here in west Nepal when a small boy was badly injured after getting his hand caught in a snare. The child was simply performing a chore, out cutting grass for the family livestock. The incident should have caused outrage and intense follow up. Instead it seems snares are almost accepted and even if it is not condoned the situation is basically viewed as somebody else’s problem.

Having witnessed leopards caught in snares I’m aware of the brutality and agony of the situation so maybe I come from a deeper place of concern. Hypocrisy is truly evident however when those who talk a big game in wildlife conservation, many of whom ride the coat tails financially, show little or no care about the snare situation. Everyone is happy to ooh and ahh over nice photos of tigers but when it comes to a non money maker like the leopard being caught in snares, dying brutal deaths, there is pretty much a shrugging of shoulders and moving on.

For me the hypocrisy was heightened a few days ago when in my own patch I came across a lack of concern at the extent of broken glass in an area a tiger is now moving frequently. Those who follow my social media know we have a plan in place to hopefully fix this situation but once again it was an eye opener as to who really cares about what. I further felt the hypocrisy as we alerted a group of the ‘Living with Big Cats’ kids and enlisted their help in the clean up as well as educating them regarding the problem. I wondered just what right our generations have to educate anyone when we are so negligent and it was no surprise to me the kids were seriously concerned, something I barely see in adults.

The frustration is that there are solutions, it just requires concern and effort. Bardia is a place where it all happens, poaching, serious conflict and constant issues regarding habitat encroachment. There is also intense effort to protect the core area which has some of the highest tiger density habitat in Asia but this is being undone by the problems outside the protected area which in itself is difficult enough to maintain anyway. I’ll have more about those issues in a blog about a leopard called ‘The Boss’ soon, his story pretty much sums up the situation.

I’m not sure people truly understand the extent of biodiversity loss and the ramifications, there is no excuse not to and there is no excuse not to take individual responsibility. People who have been in this game a long time are shaking their heads at what is happening, that saddens me as I know the effort that has gone in. There are still gains being made, time will tell if there will be a groundswell of urgency and effort to recover and secure what is needed … and some of the measures of that will surely be far less incidents like the one in the image. I firmly believe vital top predators such as tiger and leopard have a future, it’s just that I’m not sure how widespread they can truly be, sadly I have lost a lot of faith in current generations really understanding the importance of all this. Time will tell, the only certainty is the next generations have their work cut out…

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A short preview to a leopard called ‘The Boss’

So the sign that ‘The Boss’ was back in the area this morning led me on different tracks this afternoon for a few hours and eventually what I was hoping for, scat. As I’ve mentioned here and at other platforms, more later in the month about this magnificent leopard whose life in many ways sums up the challenges for his species. I’ve tried hard in the last few years to create more understanding about what is going on for leopards in South Asia, I’m hoping that a bit about The Boss’s life will grow that and mean more people choose to support protection of these animals. I think letting the stories of individual leopards themselves be the vehicle for change in attitude, well I hope so, I really do…

UPDATE 24 February – More soon on ‘The Boss’ but a short post HERE as the snare crisis in South Asia continues.

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Caught in a snare, who does really care?

So in the short few hours since I posted on other platforms re a tiger killed in a snare plus a leopard poaching case, two more incident reports have come through. 2 leopard skins were seized in Chhattisgarh and in reference to the image, a leopard was caught in a snare in Odisha. In that incident the cat ripped itself free during the stress as a crowd gathered and later a forest official was injured and hospitalized during the attempt to catch the leopard which naturally was in a traumatic state.
I come from a province which was the first in the world to give a protected area the same rights as a human being. On the island, Te Ika a Maui, we now have a large forest area, a mountain in another zone as well as a river all with the same status with more to come. The people involved in this take the care of nature incredibly seriously. I work alongside people across the world involved in counter poaching/trafficking of wildlife who also have that same level of dedication and I know that there are people reading this who also really care. The problem is it’s a tiny minority group when it comes to real action and support because there’s absolutely no doubt that if the level of care was greater then we as a species would be doing much, much better when it comes to this and so many environmental issues. I thank those who do care enough to actively support, you make a difference. The world needs more of that and the leopard is a prime example. As I mentioned, more on #AntiSnare next month.

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Big Cats, Wildlife, Monitoring, Learning, Coexistence, Survival…

Today I was due to tell more about a leopard called ‘The Boss’ but there’s so much going on right now I’m going to delay until early next month. The Boss has a compelling story though, he survives a difficult life with tigers and humans around him and he is ‘good friend’ to different female leopards in the area including a rewilded cat a huge amount of effort went into. Those stories to come but for now just a quick post as we deal with electricity issues in the run up to an early election here, a poll which many doubt will actually happen. We live in a world of uncertainty.

Tigers and leopards are incredibly important animals so monitoring them is a vital component in their protection. The camera models in the image are just a few I’ve tested over the years. Lenses, sensors, light systems, battery systems and durability differ and I’ve been working for some time to understand and help develop what is best for certain situations. One has to understand what the prime objective is, it could be identification, activity, pre-capture, early warning, just some examples in within the spheres of human-wildlife conflict mitigation, anti-poaching and research. It takes time to get it right and nothing is foolproof when it comes to dealing with nature. Thousands and thousands of hours have taught me that.

Add technology to tracking along with sign and sampling it then becomes possible to build understanding of certain situations. It takes dedication and learning.

Transferring that learning to the next generations is more vital than ever. It’s not just about living safely with the animals living around us, it is about helping those generations understand that ecosystems, particularly protected areas, are what enables them to breathe, eat and drink clean water. Kids seem to understand this very quickly.

It concerns me that more people in more recent generations don’t truly understand this. We are never to old to be educated. In the meantime, protected areas must be valued and ‘protected’ more intensely than ever. They are not here for our entertainment, we need them, as do tigers, leopards and other wildlife, to survive…

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Thoughts on a day when hopefully environmentalism takes a turn for the better

The reason I chose this photograph is at the bottom of the post. My day usually begins around 5am, those urgent email replies as well as trying to clear the backlog. It was no surprise to hear music blaring in the distance, around 4am, probably a wedding celebration, they go on for days here. The volume of the music here in a protected area, well, I’ve written about this before. Noise pollution, it’s not just that it happens, it’s the disappointment that so few people care about it. In a jungle area yesterday, big cat habitat, as I was checking for leopard sign in a place where I should only hear birds or perhaps the alarm calls of deer and monkeys, I could hear music blaring from two sides, the volume must have been so high for me to hear it where it was. It was a bit depressing. I immersed myself in my work, later finding some leopard scat cheered me up.
I’ll be back in that area in a couple of hours. I’m hoping it will be peaceful, it’s not only easier to work, it’s the way the jungle should be. Protected areas aren’t here for our entertainment they are here because they are crucial to the very air we breathe and the water we drink, our health, the health of all living things. I know for a very fact that tigers and leopards hate unnecessary noise, I spend a lot of time on this, trying to understand what can work for these incredible wild animals as we strive for coexistence.
Something else I’m hoping for today is that the Biden inauguration signals the start of deeply necessary repairing of environmental policy in a country which whether the rest of us like or not, has a massive global impact. The Trump administration has been a f…… disaster for the environment, for wildlife. Making the clubbing to death of wolf clubs legal? What the hell? Disturbance takes many forms and wildlife conservation today is as much about understanding who is doing what, humans that is, as it is understanding wildlife behaviour. I could go on but my choice today is one of hope in hopefully a peaceful jungle. The reason I chose this photograph is I guess it’s because it shows a half smile, we’ve got to keep trying to keep our sense of humour but we have to take things seriously to … and form strong allies with those who also do. It’s about balance, blocking out the noise and getting on with it…

Appended later in the day:

Coming back from the jungle late this morning (and yes, despite it being a bitterly cold, thick fog morning I could still hear music blaring) I bumped into a local. I asked him how it was going, he replied that it was a bit like the leopard, not that great. I get back to my laptop, the alert system buzzes, this seizure of skins in Chattisgarh, the phone goes, an important disturbance issue comes up, I’m off to find out more now … I think it’s fair to say it never ends but I thank those who do genuinely care and help, I wish there were more of you, I guess that’s part of the goal.