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Short interim post – Just how marginalized does the leopard have to become before people wake up?

It’s interesting that a prominent international news outlet used this image for news on the coronavirus. An outlet in China has been busted for selling ‘leopard steaks’ among other wildlife parts (UPDATE from EIA who followed up Chinese language reports and have informed us it was most likely leopard cat meat seized). Wildlife trade is a hot issue right now, it should have been a long time ago, the warnings have been clear.

Yesterday as I followed up on leopard skins seizures in Pakistan and another brutal retaliation killing of a leopard here in Nepal I again asked myself the question of just how marginalized and mistreated the leopard has to become before governments, major organizations and the public really wake up and show they care … right now it’s pointing to an overall lack of care with agendas I’m tired of talking about.

Nature evolved this animal to be the apex predator through much of its range. Poaching (parts used for decor, medicine and magic), trophy hunting (including members of the Trump family), habitat destruction and brutal retaliation killings stemming from human and leopard conflict are decimating leopard populations and adversely ecosystems.

And where is the real concern from the parties I’ve mentioned above?

I thank those who do care and do act with support, I mean real support, not the pseudo stuff that has noised up our world for no tangible result. Here on the ground, in a critical big cat area, we’ll continue to do our best using models we believe in because we know they work. We’ll continue to put pressure on those who have the resources to do more and should be doing more. We’ll continue to develop partnerships and support with those who really do care and understand how it is important it is to protect a top predator and its habitat.

A more specific blog post regarding prey species is due, I’ll time it for when the content additions at WildTiger are complete. In the meantime please help if you can, just contact me. Leopards are dying horrible deaths because of humans … we are all part of that one way or another.

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The uncertain future of a school, children and leopards the innocent victims in a coexistence struggle…


It’s the subject few really want to know about, to acknowledge, to help with.  It’s the raw reality in steep jungle country, typical of a situation playing out in too many places in the Himalayan foothills as well as some lowland areas.

The photo shows images from a case we’re working on.  In steep jungle country north of Bardia National Park  leopard is causing fear.  Four schools in the area mean risk for children walking to and from their education.  The school in the photo has an uncertain future, if there are more attacks it may close down.  At one stage 100 children out of a roll of 150 were not able to safely make the walk which for some of them is an hour and a half each way in difficult jungle terrain, as I say, very steep in places.

We’re currently working with NTNC (National Trust for Nature Conservation) on the situation using tech and a second team is prepping to spend time at the five schools working with the children and communities. My own script is very much about understanding the behaviour of the leopard that has killed as well as a tiger which has just ventured into the area. LeopardEye is one of the tools we are using to improve early warning, there is a lot of technical work needed to get this right.

These problems exist throughout the Himalayan foothills of Nepal and northern India.  The issues of prey base depletion due to poaching, disturbance and habitat encroachment (often due to ‘development’) and retaliation killing are to the fore.  While there can be some accuracy in understanding the number of human fatalities (many of whom are children) it’s not possible to know the amount of leopards killed but reports both substantiated and not are numerous.  As I’ve mentioned earlier, info coming through that there are poachers offering communities to ‘solve their problem’ is more common.

We’re working hard on coexistence strategies.  Community anger is quick to fuel if there is not a feeling of being supported.  Legal kill orders are current in parts of both countries.  The illegal retaliation kills, something I’ve witnessed, are a different dynamic which can lead to body parts ending up on the illegal wildlife trade market, a huge problem in South Asia.

Then there is the safety of children.  Leopards are leopards and do what they do, they are supreme hunters and once, often through lack of options, they include children as prey, the problem becomes deadly.  I’ve been on dozens of cases now, every single one is brutally tragic.  Our mandate is simple, stop people and big cats from killing each other. I have great faith in my team and our systems, we just need to work hard and roll it out. This case can be a real model to show success and extend through the region. Resources are going to be the telling factor, once again. Lives are at stake, on both sides.

I’ll update in early February either from in the field or from base, around the same time our changes at WildTiger are complete.

27 JANUARY BRIEF UPDATE – A tiger has entered the area, killing livestock. With natural prey base a problem this has further complicated the situation.

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Using tech to save lives of people and big cats…

This is just a quick interim post as we make final preparations before working an area where a leopard has made three attacks on people in the last two weeks, incidents that sadly resulted in a fatality and serious injuries. The leopard is now considered highly dangerous and our aim is to put in safeguards. The location provides challenges due to steep terrain and recent high rainfall. Su Se La and Manju of the Coexistence Team have been gathering information from locals and making sure people understand guidelines to hopefully prevent further attacks. My role is to understand how LeopardEye can be applied in the area and then work with partners for effective implementation.

I’ll describe this in further detail when back from the field but technology used correctly is a real lifesaver. We’ve made strong advances with LeopardEye, particularly in the last few months and a major focus will be the further development of early warning systems. In mid February we’ll be appealing for support so community based monitoring can be rolled out further in highly affected areas and beyond, this will be done in accordance with local and national authorities. We do have an urgent need right now though so if anyone can help in the short term it would be incredibly appreciated, especially with this current situation, one of four main monitoring sites at the moment. You can contact me at my social media sites or email projects@wildtiger.org.

Every little bit helps and I’ll keep saying it, people feeling protected means increasing tolerance thus reducing retaliation. In other words, saving lives on both sides…

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A cold place to die…

Not the start of the year I wanted. A woman taken by a leopard early in the morning two days ago means we now have four monitoring areas at the moment, we’re stretched. The incident occurred while the woman was cutting grass (a term for vegetation collection, to feed livestock) in an area bordering Bardia National Park and the buffer zone. I don’t know the exact altitude (over 1000m asl) at the moment, I will when I’m at the incident site in a couple of days, it’s a fairly remote area and monitoring is problematic.

It pretty much always is problematic.

It was cold when the woman was taken. Decent December snowfalls in the Himalaya mean temperature drops we even feel down here on the lowland known as the Terai, where I’m based at the moment. Those of you who have been following my blog posts and/or our work at WildTiger know that 2019 was a hard year of human and big cat conflict, many human lives lost in our region which extends into northern Indian States. Add to this the figures and situation I’ve shown in the previous post, the amount of leopards dying at human hands and you can understand the challenge.

The goal is simple. Reduce the number of deaths on both sides. Increase the tolerance of both people and big cats for each other.

So 2019 ended badly for a woman on a cold day, now her family suffers. My plan for 1 January was altered, this particular case is complicated, I’ll be in the field, the two weeks after a big cat strikes are crucial not just to prevent another human fatality but to lessen the chance of retaliation. The raw reality of the situation means 2020 starts with no false illusions, not that my team or myself had any. We’ll do our best in each case as we begin a decade where hopefully there is a greater involvement and support to meet the goal.

I don’t usually go into too many details publicly when people have been killed by big cats, out of respect for those lost and those in grief. I will update (just what is appropriate) on this case however, we need people to truly understand why we all have to do better…

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Over 5200 killed leopards and counting…

I write this on 28 December 2019, the image above just sent to me, more leopard skins seized here in Nepal, part of an ongoing crisis here in South Asia. From the year 2000 just in India and Nepal the body parts of over 5200 leopards have been seized. As we near the end of this two decades of carnage it is frightening to think how many leopards have actually been killed in this time. We’ll never know for sure as seizures are only an indication of overall poaching…. it could be 5 times more, it could be worse than that.


Our aim is to reduce the slaughter. 2020 is the beginning of a new resolve. So many of these animals die brutal painful deaths in snares or by poisoning. The marginalization of the leopard here in South Asia is a crime in itself, we all must do better…

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WildTiger is back 1 January 2020 Our online platforms including wildtiger.org and wildleopard.net are currently being updated as we move into the new decade of human and big cat coexistence