Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Re-inventing Nigerian game reserve

By Mohammed A. Abdullahi
Posted to the Web: Wednesday, November 29, 2006

THE recent unveiling and flagging off of the Yankari Resort and Safari Development Project on Thursday, November 23, 2006 at the famous Yankari Game Reserve by President Olusegun Obasanjo may have proved skeptics wrong over the capability of the Bauchi State Government to transform the Game Reserve to an international tourist attraction.

Analysts believe that the latest development had highlighted many years of anxiety by some environmentalists and conservationists over the rapid depletion of the Game Reserve’s eco-system due to years of neglect, indifference and poor management by the hitherto federal authorities. Recalling with nostalgia his experiences in the early life of the Game Reserve, President Obasanjo vividly recalled how he felt when he was confronted by a flock of variety of wildlife during a visit to the Game Reserve in 1961. The situation, according to the President, has changed due to loss of animal population caused by unprotected poaching activities.

"This is one of the reasons why some people were apprehensive when I decided that a national park like this should be handed over to the state because of the proximity of the state to be able to pay attention to manage it," President Obasanjo said in his remarks at the flagging off ceremony of the Yankari Game Reserve Development Project executed by the Bauchi State Government.
Unveiling the plague to formally give his presidentail blessings to the commencement of development of the Game Reserve, Chief Obasanjo commended Governor Ahmadu Mu’azu for proving skeptics wrong by making the Game Reserve "to be what it is meant to be, a reserve and a resource of diversity of flora and fauna".

Expressing the readiness of his administration to assist Bauchi State in fulfilling the Yankari dream, President Obasanjo admonished the Nigerian elites to imbibe the culture of relaxation by taking advantage of modern leisure facilities being provided at the Yankari Game Reserve by the Bauchi State Government.

"And I believe and hope that two to five years from now, tourism will be a foreign exchange earner probably next to oil, gas and agriculture," President Obasanjo said.

Available records, however, show that the latest transition was not the first of its kind in the 49-year-old history of the eco-park, described by experts as “Africa’s most fascinating animal kingdom”. For example, the Reserve was first created as a game reserve by the defunct Northern Nigeria government before it was transferred to the North-Eastern State after states were created in 1967. With the creation of more states in 1976, the control and management of the Game Reserve was moved to the Bauchi State Government. There are also abundant data to show that the reserve was at different times managed by various agencies even when it was under the legal control of the Bauchi State Government.

For instance, the state government had in 1985 incorporated the reserve into a limited liability company, the Yankari Game Reserve and Tourism Company. Also, the state government in 1990 sought the intervention of the federal authorities to save the reserve from extinction when it was clear that the company could not effectively manage the reserve. This, perhaps, rationalises the decision by the Federal Government to take over the Game Reserve, a development which resulted in its upgrading into a national park until recently.

However, available literature on the development of the Game Reserve show that the park had suffered several losses as evident in the increasing depletion of its flora and fauna due to years of neglect and poor management. Statistics show that before the take-over of the park by the Federal Government in 1991, the Game Reserve, as it was then known, harboured over 50 species of assorted indigenous wildlife, attracting an influx of tourists and visitors from within and abroad. Today, there is enough evidence to show that the Reserve is fast losing some of its finest large mammals, majority of which were now either extinct or deliberately killed by poachers. Experts say that the Reserve has so far lost seven species of its large animals due to poor management.

Mammals such as African hunting dog, cheetah, giraffe and western kob, according to available literature, are now completely extinct from the Reserve. Also, extinct were precious mammals such as korringum, red-fronted gazelle and bucks. The Game Reserve harbours a variety of indigenous wildlife, including anubis baboon, tantalus monkeys, paras monkeys, warthog, hippopotamus, lions, leopards, caracal and spotted hyena.

Mr. Abdullahi is the Director of Press Affairs to the Bauchi State Governor.

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Florida panther's revival raises concerns in suburbia

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

MIAMI -- One curious Florida panther left tracks as it peeked into a home window. One poached four emus from a petting zoo. Others crept into exurban backyards and slinked away with squealing family pets.

As the Florida panther has climbed back from the brink of extinction in recent years, many Floridians have cheered the revival of the state's wildlife icon. But that success is also prompting growing worries, particularly from residents now acutely aware of the danger of living among the predators.

Earlier this month, residents of Collier County met with state and federal wildlife officials to hear tips for staying safe while living in panther habitat, including this one: "Keep children close to you, especially outdoors between dusk and dawn."

"We used to have a large buffer between panthers and homes," said Darrell Land, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. "Now people are here, and literally a few feet away is panther habitat."

"In some cases, the animal seemed to be getting a little too comfortable around people," Jim Coletta, a commissioner in Collier County, recently informed constituents. "I was especially concerned that a small child at play, or at a bus stop, could be vulnerable to attack."

About 20 years ago, there were no such worries. Scientists feared instead that Florida panthers were on their way to extinction. Their numbers had plummeted to 30 or so, mainly because of hunting and loss of habitat, and those that remained showed signs of inbreeding, such as undescended testicles.

Since then, wildlife biologists have introduced closely related Texas cougars to broaden the gene pool, and the number of panthers has at least doubled and may be as high as 100, scientists said. Because the animal's range can extend 100 square miles or more, that relatively small increase in panthers dramatically expands the population's geographical reach.

Although there are no recorded attacks by Florida panthers on humans, as suburbia continues to creep into panther habitat, interactions appear inevitable.

The number of panthers killed on roadways has steadily trended upward in the past six or seven years, Land said, with this year's count at 10 -- a staggering percentage of the total population.

Moreover, while confirmed panther attacks on pets and livestock were almost unheard of a decade ago, this year there have been six, officials said. And many cases of disappearing animals are not reported or cannot be confirmed as panther-related if no tracks or clear signs are left.

"Some people think, 'Hey, the panthers are in our back yards. Let's get them out of there,' " said Capt. Jayson Horadam of the Florida wildlife commission. "Some people say they're bolder, they're more aggressive, and there's something going on. But we believe there are simply more cats and more people and, as a result, more interactions."

While many residents are unconcerned about the dangers -- noting they already live with alligators or bears -- Coletta said some people who have had close encounters with panthers are worried about taking their children outside at night.

The effort to restore the Florida panther population has already come under fire because some researchers say there are few meaningful distinctions between the Florida cats and cougars, which are relatively plentiful elsewhere in the United States.

"People say, 'Why are you bothering?' " Land said. "But these are the last ones east of the Mississippi."

Concerned that fears could doom efforts to rebuild the population, wildlife officials have set out to maintain the peace between people and panthers.

Officials have urged residents to report disappearances of pets and other animals, so they can determine from the "crime scene" whether a panther is involved.

"As soon as Fluffy goes missing, call us immediately," said Dani Moschella, spokeswoman for the wildlife agency.

Pet owners in the affected areas are encouraged to keep pets inside or in an enclosure that has a roof. Residents who encounter a panther should not run, but should make themselves appear larger by opening their jackets or raising their arms. Officials also advise homeowners to remove hedges and other plants that could allow panthers to hide while stalking backyard prey.

"Panthers are ambush predators -- they'll try to sneak up behind you," Land said. "If they don't have that secure stalking cover, that will be of help."

Even so, as Floridians and their favored feline become more numerous, most observers predict more meetings of people and panthers.

"Our panther restoration program has been extremely successful," Coletta said. "But the surplus animals need a place to live. So they're being forced into the urban areas." 11/27/AR2006112701176.html

A thin line of defense against exotic animals, parts and meat

By Margaret Ebrahim

9:50 a.m. November 28, 2006

ATLANTA – Wildlife inspector Bryan Landry can spot threats everywhere at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

A backpack carried off a flight from Nigeria contains plastic bags of meat from the bush that could harbor the lethal Ebola virus.

Those salted duck eggs from South Korea, a delicacy not easily found here, could carry the dreaded bird flu.

And the exotic birds taped to a passenger's legs and the pair of monkey paws concealed in a bag could harbor any one of several diseases that jump to humans.

Landry and fellow inspectors with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service are a last line of defense against such risky items before they come across the border, often with unsuspecting people intending only to bring back a taste from home, an exotic pet or a travel memento.

“The issues surrounding disease are quickly becoming a daily event,” Landry said.

Potential carriers are multiplying. Some 210 million wild animals were brought legally into the country last year, and many more were smuggled. The net of protection is thin.

There are just 120 inspectors like Landry to cover 39 airports and border crossings full time. Though Customs and Border Protection inspectors help monitor some smuggling, the wildlife inspectors are left to check passenger baggage, shipments of hunting trophies, cargo containers destined for the pet trade and suspicious boxes.

“It's tough to cover all the things we have to do on a daily basis with so few inspectors. Now throw in disease-fighting duties and it's really tough,” Landry said.


When Landry is not in a cargo hold, he is on the airport passenger floor scanning weary international travelers as they pour off flights from North Korea, Paris and Nigeria to collect their luggage.

“We don't profile people,” Landry said. “We profile bags.”

After most international flights, mainly from Asia and Africa, containers overflow with seized products including raw chicken, salted duck eggs and pungent meat.

“They want a taste of home,” Landry explained, “so they bring these products in.”

A passenger from Nigeria carried two plastic bags filled with bushmeat and blackened fish in his backpack – a present for his wife and daughter. They missed the flavors of their native country, he explained.

A woman traveling from South Korea carried several bright red bags of moonpies, which are cake-like patties with yolks in the middle. And she brought some salted duck eggs. She had no idea that they might harbor the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus.

Human consumption of virus-laden animals or animal products can mean trouble. Most scientists believe HIV/AIDS started in Africa with human consumption of a primate that carried simian immunodeficient virus. SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, is believed to have originated from the handling and consumption of wild animals in China.

Heather Eves, director of the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, said there are hundreds if not thousands of pounds of bushmeat coming into the United States every day with little or no tracking.

In one of the first cases of its kind, New York federal prosecutors charged a woman who smuggled bushmeat into the country with fraudulently importing goods. The woman imported 12 boxes from West Africa with 65 pieces of smoked antelope and monkey parts buried beneath smoked fish.


An “Intel Alert” flier was stuck on a door deep within the Atlanta airport, featuring a picture of a small tranquilized finch stuffed into a hair curler. The alert warned inspectors to be on the lookout for birds smuggled into the United States from Asian countries in unconventional ways.

“When I see hair curlers,” Landry said, “I look a little bit closer.”

That's because it takes only one bird to bring bird flu to the United States, said Simon Habel, head of Traffic North America, a group that monitors illegal wildlife trade.

Birds imported legally go through quarantine.

Many exotic birds are banned from importation because they are endangered, so collectors pay a steep price on the black market. And smugglers are increasingly creative.

One squeezed 44 Cuban melodious finches into small plastic tubes and taped them to his legs for a flight into Miami. Another carved large boxes with air holes into car seats so he could smuggle dozens of colorful Amazon parrots across the Mexican border to San Diego.


Diseases don't just travel in food or live animals.

Recently, Landry examined some medicinal Asian herb packets used to make teas. He noticed dried bird feet, claws, feathers and even bird skulls with dried blood and brains. “If anything will carry avian flu, it will be that,” Landry said.

Another day, Landry spotted a woman arriving from Ghana. Her bags didn't look right, but more importantly they didn't smell right.

Landry asked whether she was carrying any plants, animals or food. The woman said that she was not, but Landry sent her to be inspected by agriculture specialists.

When her bags were opened, plants and fruits spilled out. So did a pair of monkey paws.

Landry asked why she didn't declare them. The woman said she forgot about the paws, which she planned to display in her living room.

The paws violated the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species. They also posed a potential disease risk since primates can carry pathogens, from Ebola to tuberculosis. So Landry carefully placed the paws in a plastic bag to be incinerated.

“In this job, you don't know what kind of diseases you'll be exposed to,” said Landry, a father of three young children. He worries he might unintentionally bring a deadly bug home to his family.

Recently, an inspector found dried but chemically untreated civet cat and primate skins smuggled in the lining of a bag. Civet cats are a potential carrier of SARS. 20061128-0950-threatsfromthewild.html

Indian Supreme Court gives green signal for lion safari park

Monday 27 November 2006

The Supreme Court on Monday gave a green signal to the Uttar Pradesh Government to set up a Lion Safari Park in an area of 150 hectare in Fischer Forests in Etawah district of the state for conservation of Asiatic Lions. A Bench headed by Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal granted the permission for setting up of the Lion Safari on the basis of an affidavit filed by the Chief Conservator of Forests which said that the Central Zoo Authority had already approved the plan on January 23, 2006. The court, however, emphasised that the state government would adhere to the conditions imposed by the Central Zoo Authority and abide by all statutory norms in this regard.

The apex court’s permission was necessary in view of its November 27, 2000 order that no State Government or Union Territory shall set up a new zoo without getting clearance from the Central Zoo Authority and orders from it. According to the Uttar Pradesh Government, the proposed Lion Safari would play a major role in conservation of the Asiatic Lions who were facing a serious threat to their survival.

Apart from the in-situ conservation in its present home range or in any other alternate home range that might have been conceived by the Centre, the proposed Lion Safari would play a major role in ex-situ conservation of Asiatic Lions too, the UP Government said. It also submitted that the proposed Lion Safari would help educate people about wildlife protection and conservation. There are not more than 50 Asiatic Lions in captivity outside Gujarat, which is considered to be the home state of the endangered animal.,0009.htm

Iberian lynx influences future route of Spanish highway

El lince iberico influye en el futuro trazado de la autovia Linares-Albacete

Sunday 26 November 2006

El ejecutivo central, Andalucía y Castilla-La Mancha se decantan por la llamada «Opción Sur» por tratarse de la que menos impacto tendrá en las poblaciones de este felino. No vota, no tiene cuenta corriente, ni DNI, ni tampoco influencias políticas. Ni siquiera sabe lo que es una autovía ni para qué sirve -a él, en realidad, no le sirve de nada- pero ha sido él solito, el lince ibérico, uno de los felinos salvajes más amenazados, capaz de influir en el proyecto de la futura autovía Linares-Albacete. El pasado martes, el BOE publicaba la «resolución de 8 de agosto de 2006, de la Secretaría General para la Prevención de la Contaminación y el Cambio Climático, por la que se formula declaración de impacto ambiental sobre la evaluación del estudio informativo de la Autovía A-32 Linares-Albacete, promovido por la Dirección General de Carreteras del Ministerio de Fomento». La presencia o, al menos, el tránsito de linces ibéricos por comarcas de Jaén y Albacete que marcan los límites entre las comunidades de Andalucía y Castilla-La Mancha es algo bien conocido por los expertos y las personas preocupadas por la conservación de la naturaleza pero no lo es tanto a pide de calle, ya que la población de linces más conocida de España se encuentra mucho más al sudoeste, en el Parque Natural de Doñana.

Sin embargo, la presencia de este felino ha obligado a cambiar el proyecto de la futura A-32. En diciembre de 2003, el Ministerio de Fomento abrió el período de información pública del estudio informativo de esta infraestructura. El estudio en cuestión contemplaba dos grandes corredores -norte y sur- y cuatro conexiones entre estos, denominados corredor Norte-Sur, corredor Sur-Norte 1, corredor Sur-Norte 2 y corredor Sur-Norte cero. Ante estas propuestas, el Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, la Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha y la Junta de Andalucía presentaron alegaciones que, en esencia, decían lo mismo: que el trazado propuesta afectaría a las poblaciones de lince, tanto por la pérdida de hábitats como por el riesgo de muerte de ejemplares por atropello.

A la vez, las tres administraciones apostaban por una misma opción, el «Corredor Sur». Su trazado se apoya sobre la actual carretera N-322 en todo su recorrido, «a excepción de los tramos en los que discurre en variante de población» y del tramo comprendido entre Robledo y Balazote. Tanto la Junta de Comunidades como el Ministerio solicitaron la realización de un estudio más detallado en un área crítica, sobre todo para permitir la comunicación de las poblaciones existentes al Noroeste y al Suroeste de la futura autovía. Esta área discurre entre Alcaraz y el límite con la provincia de Jaén. Finalmente, en mayo de 2005, se incorporaba al expediente de la futura A-32 el «Estudio de Detalles de Afección al Lince Ibérico» que también se decanta por el corredor sur, aunque con correcciones para evitar el riesgo de atropello y permitir la comunicación entre poblaciones. secc=Local&id=388733

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tanzania: Serengeti patrols cut poaching of wildlife

A technique used since the 1930s to estimate the abundance of fish has shown for the first time that enforcement patrols are effective at reducing poaching of elephants, African buffaloes and black rhinos in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.

"Wildlife within protected areas is under increasing threat from the bushmeat and illegal trophy trades, and many argue that enforcement within protected areas is not sufficient to protect wildlife. Some say the $2 million spent annually in the Serengeti on patrols would be better spent on other preventive activities," says Ray Hilborn, University of Washington professor of aquatic and fishery sciences and lead author of a paper in the Nov. 24 issue of Science. The 5,700-square-mile Serengeti is one of Africa's most pristine preserves.

"The animals are 'telling' us poaching is down now that there are 10 to 20 patrols a day compared to the mid-1980s when there might be 60 or fewer patrols a year," Hilborn says. They tell us, he says, by increasing in abundance, something that can measured using aerial surveys.

It's been impossible to actually count the number of animals that are poached because poaching is illegal and most animals -- apart from elephants and rhinos which are traditionally not eaten -- are caught in snares set by local villagers for their own use or sale. A recent article in National Geographic, for example, said estimates of the poaching toll range as high as 200,000 in the Serengeti. Hilborn says that poaching cannot be nearly that great or the populations still would be declining.

"The estimates are just all over the place, not just for the Serengeti but all across Africa," Hilborn says. This confounds efforts to learn how best to solve the problem when wildlife numbers decline catastrophically.

So Hilborn and his co-authors employed the catch-per-unit-of-effort technique used for decades by managers to estimate fish abundance and set fishing limits. Estimates are based on a ratio comparing the number of fish caught in an area with the total number of hours of fishing -- the unit-of-effort -- by all the vessels in that area.

In the Serengeti, which has a 50-year-record of arrests and patrols, the scientists divided the number of poachers arrested by the number of patrols a day to estimate the amount of poaching. They assumed that arrests per patrol were representative of poaching intensity and not, for instance, that officer training or informant networks improved.

"We show that a precipitous decline in enforcement in 1977 resulted in a large increase in poaching and decline of many species," Hilborn and his co-authors write. "Conversely, expanded budgets and antipoaching patrols since the mid-1980s have significantly reduced poaching and allowed populations of buffalo, elephants and rhinoceros to rebuild."

Outside of established reserves, using tourism or hunting expeditions to generate economic benefits for local communities is the cornerstone to enlisting their help in protecting wildlife, Hilborn says. But the community conservation programs initiated in Tanzania since 2000 occurred after stepped-up patrols in the Serengeti proved effective.

"Antipoaching is effective in protected areas," he says.

The work marks the first time anyone has been able to reconstruct a history of poaching going back as far as 50 years, says Tom Hobbs, professor of ecology at Colorado State University and who is not affiliated with the work being published in Science.

"The Hilborn team has shown that protection of wildlife by active enforcement of laws and regulations remains an essential tool for conserving biological diversity," Hobbs says. "This sounds so simple, but it has been controversial."

The work was done with funding from the National Science Foundation.

Co-authors are Peter Arcese and Anthony Sinclair, University of British Columbia, Canada; Markus Borner and Grant Hopcraft, Frankfurt Zoological Society of Germany; Justin Hando and Martin Loibooki, Tanzania National Parks; and Simon Mduma, Tanzanian Wildlife Research Institute. Hilborn, whose primary research is in fisheries management, says there are many lessons from the management of protected land areas that could be applied to marine reserves, which are being rapidly expanded, and that more thought needs to be given to enforcement in marine reserves.

Florida panther death toll for year reaches 10

Monday, November 27, 2006

A tenth Florida panther has been killed in a vehicle collision this year, tying a mark for the deadliest year on record for the big cats. A female Florida panther was struck and killed on U.S. 41 East at around 11 p.m. Sunday between Manatee Road and Collier Boulevard, said Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Darrell Land in an e-mail.

The cat was not wearing a radio collar, nor did it have a transponder chip, so the panther's existence and location were unknown

until its body was found. The panther was killed within a few hundred yards of a middle school and an elementary school on a stretch of U.S. 41 that is slated to be widened from two to six lanes in coming years.

The roadkill record was set at 10 in 2003. Last year, nine panthers died after getting hit.

Scientists estimated between 70 and 100 Florida panthers are left, making the species one of the most endangered on the planet. Almost all of them live south of Lake Okeechobee. reaches_10/?latest

India all set for ‘project snow leopard’

S.P. Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 27
With a committee having been set up to formulate an action plan for the protection of the highly endangered species of snow leopard, the stage is set for the Centre shortly announcing a project on snow leopard on the lines of the tiger and elephant projects.

However, problems being faced by the Wildlife Department in managing the high altitude abode of the snow leopard shall have to be dealt with before launching the project.

Wildlife lovers have expressed concern over the fast dwindling number of the species in the country where estimates put the number of snow leopards at only about 500.

The five Himalayan states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, that are the abode of the snow leopard, have expressed inability in conservation of the species with their meagre resources until the Centre comes out in a big way by announcing a project on snow leopard.

Alarmed over the depletion of the species, the Centre has constituted a nine-member committee under the chairmanship of the Additional Director-General of Forests (Wildlife) to draft the project on snow leopard.

An urgent need to formulate the project was emphasised in a recent national workshop that was held at Leh, which is considered as the home of the species. The workshop made 13 recommendations for the protection of the species.

It was stressed that the species could be conserved only through a focused strategy and action plan. It was essential that local communities were involved in the conservation efforts.

The project on snow leopard will promote research-based species recovery programme.

The population of snow leopard in the world went down to about 1000 in 1960s, but it is now estimated to have increased to more than 3500. Snow leopard is found in China, Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Burma, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and India.

The Centre had been going slow towards conservation of the snow leopard as it was about 20 years ago that concern was expressed about the falling population of the species when an international symposium on snow leopard was held at Srinagar in 1986.

It was there that the recommendation of launching a project on snow leopard came. However, the silence of the Centre on the issue was broken only after the national workshop at Leh in July last that was organised by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the five Himalayan states, the Nature Conservation Foundation and the International Snow Leopard Trust.

The workshop provided an opportunity to the five Himalayan states to share their experiences regarding the main issues in high altitude wildlife conservation.

Wildlife experts have expressed concern over the gradual opening of the snow leopard areas to developmental pressures that are threatening its habitat. The Ladakh area has remained neglected from the viewpoint of wildlife conservation.

Piecemeal efforts for conservation of the snow leopard have been made from time to time. A scheme for its protection was formulated in 1988 when an area of 18,627 sq km in the five states was brought under its conservation.

Conservation of the snow leopard again came into focus during 2004 when a two-day workshop was held at Jammu and a concept paper was drafted to initiate the project snow leopard.

During deliberations in the workshop at Leh, representatives of all five states shared common concern that the high altitudes of the country were generally close to international borders, some of which are also conflict zones. The presence of military and paramilitary forces often harmed the interests of wildlife. The issue required to be addressed under a project on snow leopard, they suggested.

Indian NGO wants National Tiger Conservation Authority to act tough

New Delhi, November 27, 2006: "Setting up a National Tiger Conservation Authority was a key recommendation of the Tiger Task Force, and we welcome this step. The real test begins now: the Authority must have clear goals to be able to make a difference," said Sunita Narain, director, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) at a press briefing here today. Narain had headed the Tiger Task Force set up by the prime minister in 2005 to investigate the tiger crisis and to suggest ways to safeguard the magnificent animal.

Detailing the future agenda, Narain said that today India is protecting its tigers against all odds; the biggest threat to the tiger today is not poaching per se, but a deadly combination of the poachers' guns and the growing anger of people who live in and around tiger habitats. "In these circumstances", she pointed out, "if the defences are down, protection will fail, like it did in Sariska. The challenge is to ensure that the siege can be lifted so that tigers can survive."

The agenda for the newly constituted National Tiger Conservation Authority, therefore, must include urgent steps towards immediate protection of each tiger reserve, as well as steps to safeguard the tiger in the long run by deliberately sharing the benefits of conservation with the local people. Narain detailed a 10-point agenda for action, which has emerged from the report of the Task Force.

The protection agenda:
In its detailed analysis, the Tiger Task Force had pointed out that the reserves needed specific strategies for protection. It had provided information on the number of guards; their vacancies; the area covered by them; the patrolling camps in each reserve, etc. The Task Force had recommended that each reserve must have a carefully designed strategy to suit its local conditions. It had also asked for urgent recruitment of guards, to be done as far as possible from among local villagers. The key agenda for the Authority is to develop and implement these specific strategies for protection of each tiger reserve, particularly in insurgency and Naxalite-affected areas. "The Authority must also procure a list of vacancies in each reserve and route money through the Tiger Conservation Foundation to pay for forest guards, hired from among local communities," said Narain.

Fighting tiger crimes:
The Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2006 also includes the setting up of the Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau, which was another key recommendation of the Tiger Task Force. This Wildlife Crime Control Bureau must, as suggested by the Task Force, work to strengthen enforcement at the state level; to investigate international trade links; and to break the network of poachers. The bureau needs to be set up urgently. Simultaneously, the Authority must initiate programmes to involve the local hunting tribes in the management of reserves and provide resources for their development.

Counting tiger numbers
It is essential to get reliable estimates of the numbers of tigers in the country so that policy can be better informed. The Tiger Task Force had, after detailed discussions, recommended the need to go beyond the pugmark method. The Task Force had endorsed the revised census methodology which would include both GIS and spatial information; prey density; as well as techniques like camera traps for tiger counts. "We recognise that this is a time-consuming and vastly complicated exercise. But it is essential that this revised census, which is being done across the tiger range states for the past one year, is completed and the data put out in the public domain. The Authority must finalise an urgent schedule for this work," said Narain.

Relocation and coexistence agenda:
The Task Force report had outlined a twin strategy for tiger conservation. On the one hand, areas must be made 'inviolate' for tigers by identifying villages that needed relocation. The Task Force had, for the first time, collected information on the numbers of people who continued to live in the reserves. The facts were devastating: it was clear that in the last 30 years, only 80-odd villages had been relocated from all the 28 reserves. The quality of relocation had only created more hostility against the tiger. The report had said that another 1,500 villages exist inside, of which 250 are within core areas of tiger reserves and must be relocated.

The Authority must work on a time-bound programme to identify those villages that must be relocated for tiger conservation. It must also ensure that unlike in the past, this relocation must be done speedily and sensitively, with careful consideration of the needs of the people.
The package for relocation must be revised.

On the other hand, the Task Force had also cautioned that it would not be possible, given the past track record and the logistical hurdles, to relocate all villages: "In this case, the country has no choice but to make peace with the communities that share the tiger's home. If not, we will lose the 'war of conservation', tiger by tiger." The agenda for the Authority, then, is to find ways of ensuring that the benefits of conservation are shared with local people. This can be done in a variety of ways - from "preferential shares in tourism to collaborative management involving communities".

Said Narain: "The agenda to secure the tiger's future is in our hands. We need tough action, not just words to make the difference."

* To download this Press Release, please visit:
* If you have questions, e-mail us at souparno@cseindia.orgor call Souparno Banerjee on 98100 98142, 29955125 or 29956399.

The agenda for action

1. Set up the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau and conduct an annual independent audit of tiger reserves.
2. Develop and implement specific strategies for protection of each tiger reserve.
3. Develop specific strategies for tiger reserves in insurgency and Naxalite-affected areas.
4. Procure list of vacancies in each reserve and route funds through the Tiger Conservation Foundation to pay for forest guards, hired from among local communities.
5. Develop specific programmes for working with hunting tribes in each reserve.
6. Publish the national census of tigers by year-end or early next year.
7. Finalise the list and schedule of priority villages that need to be relocated.
8. Develop strategies for joint-collaborative-inclusive management in reserves.
9. Review eco-development strategies in buffer/fringe areas and work out special package in collaboration with territorial forest/revenue departments.
10. Ask for specific plan for tourism for each reserve, which includes money from gates to be used in reserve, allocation of tourism activities for local people etc.

Leopard mauls boy in India


Jammu, Nov 27: A leopard strayed into two villages of Nowshera area of district Rajouri, mauled a boy, and killed a horse and three sheep.

Leopards have attacked people and cattle at least a dozen times in the past two months.

Reports from the area revealed that a leopard strayed over a cattle shed in village Gangroata of Nowshera tehsil, late last night. The wild beast killed one horse and three sheep before fleeing from the village.

The cattle shed owner reportedly raised alarm following which people from the neighborhood came to the spot and forced the leopard to flee, a local villager said.
However, the same leopard is said to have struck another village, Chingus Rashawa, and mauled a boy named Rafeeq.

First ND mountain lion fitted with radio collar

By RICHARD HINTON/Bismarck Tribune

A mountain lion trapped in Billings County over the weekend is North Dakota’s first cat to be fitted with a radio collar and released.

Information gathered from monitoring the 1½-year-old, 108-pound male cat’s movements will supplement the North Dakota Game and Fish Department’s studies of the carnivores, said Dorothy Fecske, NDGFD furbearer biologist. Also in the plans this winter is a snow track survey in the Badlands.

Keith Zastoupil, of Dickinson, notified NDGFD Saturday night that he found a mountain lion caught in a foot-hold trap. After reaching the site, NDGFD staff determined the lion received only minor injuries and appeared to be healthy enough to tranquilize, collar and release.

NDGFD staff retrofitted a VHF pronghorn collar to fit the lion, and the frequency is the same as the pronghorn collars, Randy Kreil, NDGFD wildlife division chief, said Monday.

“When we fly our pronghorn monitoring out in that country, it will be a natural fit,” he explained. NDGFD tries to monitor pronghorn movements from the air every 10 to 14 days, Kreil added.

With icy conditions on Monday keeping many small planes grounded, Fecske was on the ground Monday in Billings County hoping to pick up the signal from the cat’s collar and “trying to determine how it’s doing,” Kreil said.

“When you tranquilize a wild animal, there always is a chance of a negative reaction,” Kreil explained. There is a misconception among the public that you tranquilize an animal and turn it loose with no ill effects. They can die during or after tranquilization.”

The collar’s frequency can be monitored from the air or ground, Kreil said. If the animal wearing the collar doesn’t move for a certain amount of time, the collar transmits a mortality signal showing that either “the collar slipped off or the animal is immobile,” Kreil added.

Lions in North Dakota cannot be legally trapped or snared, but incidental trapping of mountain lions can happen, said Greg Link, NDGFD assistant wildlife chief. “We appreciate the trapper promptly contacting the department,” he added.

NDGFD was notified Saturday night and had the collar, drugs and dart gun in place by Sunday morning.

“Hopefully, it will work out and we will get some valuable information on lion movement. It was an opportunity that presented itself, and we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and slip a collar on it and see what we can learn,” said Kreil. “The information we get will supplement all we are learning through the season, snow track survey and other sources of data.”

North Dakota’s second mountain lion season closed Nov. 9 after the season quota of five cats had been reached.

(Reach outdoor writer Richard Hinton at 701-250-8256 or news/update/doc456b689313256359679936.txt

Forest people must help conserve India's tigers

NEW DELHI - Hundreds of thousands of poor people living in India's tiger reserves must be involved in conservation efforts and benefit from them if the endangered big cat is to survive, a leading environmental group said on Monday.

India is home to half the world's surviving tigers, but experts say it is losing the battle to save the big cats, citing one of the main causes as inability of the authorities to involve local people living in forest areas in conservation.

"One of the most important things that must be done is to link the local people living in reserves with tiger conservation efforts," Sunita Narain, director for the Centre of Science and Environment, told a news conference.

"The fact that we have neglected this issue is a key part of the crisis we are facing with our tigers today."

There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago, but decades of poaching and depletion of their natural habitat have cut their numbers to 3,700. Some wildlife experts say the total could actually be as low as 1,200.

Experts say around 300,000 of India's poorest people live in around 1,500 villages located in its 28 tiger reserves.

Most eke out a meagre living from forest resources by cutting down trees to sell for firewood, collecting honey, picking fruit, hunting wild game and simple farming.

But many are also paid by criminal gangs to lay traps, poison water sources and electrocute tigers to meet increasing demand from neighbouring China, where skins have become status symbols in Tibet and body parts are used in traditional medicines.

Environmentalists say poor forest dwellers are paid an average of $5 for each tiger killed, while a single skin is sold on the international market for up to $20,000.

"Wildlife crimes, illegal wildlife trade and growing pressures of urbanisation and development are posing severe threats to the survival of our fauna," said Suresh Pachouri, parliamentary affairs minister at a meeting on wildlife crime.

"Our inability to effectively tackle wildlife crimes has led to the rapid depletion of wildlife species ... and India has become one of the major source countries for illegal products."

In September, India passed new legislation aimed at tackling the tiger crisis, providing for a National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCS) and a Wildlife Crime Bureau to investigate poaching and curbing the illegal trade in wildlife parts.

Speaking on the eve of the first meeting of the NTCS, which is headed by the environment minister and includes wildlife experts, Narain said hunters could become tiger guides for tourists or were hired as forest guards.

"We cannot conserve without the cooperation of people," said Narain, who headed a Tiger Task Force set up by the prime minister in 2005 to investigate the tiger crisis and suggest ways to safeguard the animal.

Story by Nita Bhalla
Story Date: 28/11/2006

Monday, November 27, 2006

Gutsy Malaysian granny wards off tiger

27 Nov 2006
Sheridan Mahavera and Sharifah Mahsinah

JELI: Tiger sightings were not uncommon near Mek Jah Ismail’s rubber smallholding, yet she continued to tap her trees as she had a bed-ridden husband to support at home.

Yesterday, her worst nightmare came true when the 65-year-old grandmother was mauled by a tiger on her daily trip to her five hectare plot on a small hill near Kampung Sungai Long here.

What saved her, according to Nor Fatimah Omar, a neighbour who had gone out together with Mek Jah and who helped her down the hill, was some ilmu (arcane knowledge) the latter had learned from her forefathers.

Nor Fatimah said Mek Jah had gone further up the hill to her plot while she stayed near the knoll’s base to tap rubber from her own trees.

At about 10am, a panic-stricken Mek Jah came running down towards her, saying that she had been attacked by a tiger.

"Her head was covered in blood and her clothes were blood-stained. Blood just kept running down the back of her head.

"I asked her how it happened and she said a tiger just lunged out of the bushes at her."

Mek Jah recounted to Nor Fatimah how she had tried to get up, but the tiger kept pouncing and knocking her to the ground.

When Mek Jah finally got on her feet after being knocked down for the fourth time, the woman recited several prayers and picked up a stick that was lying nearby.

"She hit the ground with the stick three times and this scared the animal off."

Nor Fatimah, 45, was speaking at her house in Kampung Sungai Long.

Her younger brother, Zakaria, 40, who was also at the base of the hill, took Mek Jah back to her house on his motorcycle. She was taken to the Jeli district hospital and later transferred to the Raja Perempuan Zainab II Hospital in Kota Baru.

When approached at the hospital in Kota Baru, Mek Jah was weak and could barely speak to reporters.

Besides serious injuries on her head, the woman also suffered lacerations on her neck and arm.

Mek Jah, a mother of seven, has been supporting her husband Ismail Mamat, 82, who suffered a stroke four years ago on the income derived from their smallholding.

Kelantan Wildlife deputy director Wan Azali Wan Ali said three ranger teams have been sent to the scene and are planning to trap the animal. National/20061127082256/Article/local1_html

Tanzania: Maasai-lion rivalry revived?

Daily News; Friday,November 24, 2006 @12:54

The killing of six lions by Morani warriors at Mswakini village, Monduli District in Arusha Region recently, could signal revival of an old tradition to prove manhood.

The animals, killed last Monday, had strayed to the village from nearby Tarangire National Park.

Lion researcher with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Centre (TAWIRI), Dennis Ikanda said here yesterday that ritualistic lion hunting as proof of bravery and achievement was an old tradition and practice among young Maasai.

"Lion hunting is an ancient practice that played an important role in the Maasai culture. The practice is different from trophy hunting; it is symbolically a rite of passage and ritual," he explained. All the lions were speared to death.

Whether retributive or ritual, lion hunting was until recently, viewed largely by Maasai society as bravery and achievement. However, the practice has declined considerably.

Elders allegedly encouraged warriors to hunt from a pride of ten or more lions in order not to decimate the resident lion population. The practice is known in Maasai as 'Olamayio' or 'ala-mayo'. It was still a great source of pride among warriors.

The practice allows warriors to show off their beast fighting prowess while gaining ''blessings' for bravery within their age set. At the end of each age-set, usually after ten years, the warriors tally the number of lions killed and compare them to the 'achievement' of their predecessors.

Maasais do not eat game meat and hunt lions purely for trophies, usually the mane, tail, claws, right palm and ears. The mane is beautifully beaded by women and given back to the brave hunter. It is usually worn over the head, only during special occasions.

The mane also helps hunters from distant communities to identify the toughest warrior in a group. The palm and the ears are given to warriors who led the hunting.

Cougar sighted close to Weiser, Idaho

by Rob Ruth

Oh dear, it wasn’t a deer.

When Weiser Flat resident Peggy Gray caught sight of the creature in her headlights, it gave her quite a start.

It was a cougar, sure as shootin’.

Her sighting occurred last Monday, Nov. 13, around 5:40 a.m. on County Road 70 at Pioneer Road. The cougar was standing just off the northern edge of the road in some tall grass down from the railroad tracks.

Gray, who was on her regular morning drive to work, said she was only traveling at around 35 mph because that section of County Road 70 is near a hay field where deer often graze. It’s not unusual for her to have to stop or slow for deer in the roadway.

She said that as her car approached the brown form in the grass, she expected to see just another deer, but then she saw it was a big cat’s face that was staring back at her. Later that morn-ing she reported the sighting to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, which in turn contacted Mark Sands, Idaho Fish & Game’s conservation officer for the local area.

The County Road 70/Pioneer Road intersection is only about a mile from the western Weiser city limit on Pioneer, and a little farther from the limit at County Road 70.

In an interview on Friday, Sands told the Signal American of two other cougar sightings west of the city within the past month, but both of those were a couple of miles farther west and down by the river. He said he has no way of knowing whether the recent sight-ings have been of multiple animals or all of the same cougar.

Whatever the case, Sands says it’s not uncommon for the big cats to be in the area at this time of year after following their food source, deer, down from the mountains.

More important, Sands doesn’t consider our local big cats to pose much threat to humans because these animals are subject to hunting in Idaho. As a result, he said, they’re pretty shy around the two-legged set, and even a child’s human scent is enough to send a cat packing nearly every time. He said cougars tend to be more dangerous to humans in states where the cougars aren’t hunted and are therefore less fearful of humans.

Occasionally, though, Fish & Game will take action against a worrisome cat hanging around for too long in areas where humans live. Last year in the farmlands southeast of Fruitland, Sands said, F&G hired hound hunters to track a cougar that had been lingering. The animal disappeared. Sands said the cougar was not involved in any harmful incidents while in the area.


Sunday, November 26, 2006

First major book about bobcats in 40 years published

Kate Nolan
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 24, 2006 12:00 AM

While half of the world's wild cats are in danger, the bobcat appears to be expanding its range in North America.

Its resiliency is the topic of Bobcat: Master of Survival, the first major book about the species in 40 years.

Its author, Kevin Hansen, has worked as a park ranger and biologist all over the country and lives in Cave Creek, an area on the Valley's urban perimeter where the tufted-eared, short-tailed felines can be seen increasingly.

Hansen said he was astonished to find thousands of studies of bobcats. He had done a similar book on mountain lions and found mere dozens of studies, largely because mountain lions are not harvested for their fur, he concluded.

That anomaly is the crux of his new book, Hansen said in a recent interview.

"Bobcats are the most exploited and the most studied wild cats in the world," Hansen said.

He believes the two facts are closely connected.

Bobcat economics

Hansen wrote the book to examine the seeming robustness of the U.S. bobcat population against the fluctuating history of the fur business and other human activities. He has concluded that both bobcat scholarship and population follow the turns of the fur industry, particularly in the past three decades.

The bulk of bobcat research dates from the 1970s and 1980s, an era when their pelts soared in value.

At that time, a worldwide ban on killing endangered spotted cats, such as leopards and ocelots, created a fur market demand for a substitute.

Trappers and furriers picked up the slack with bobcat pelts, according to Hansen. In a single year, the annual bobcat harvest jumped from 5,000 to 90,000. And at the height of the market, pelts were selling for more than $350 apiece.

Hansen speculates the species was saved by the stock market crash of 1987, when discretionary purchases including fur coats went the way of junk bonds.

Many furriers failed, and trappers were suddenly lucky to raise $50 a pelt.

Bobcat scholarship had soared with the price of bobcat pelts because wildlife agencies needed to manage the bobcat population more closely with the increased trapping.

"The big message of the book has nothing to do with science, but rather that economics is driving management of fur-bearing animals, independent of population dynamics," the author said.

Hansen is often appreciative of bobcat management by state wildlife programs, including Arizona's, but has severe doubts that anyone knows how many of the creatures exist, despite the use of radio-tracking devices and other tools. He said wildlife agencies haven't been able to assess the impact of the fur business on the animals.

The book provides a fairly exhaustive look at how the cats hunt, kill, breed and die - and how they coexist with humans, perhaps their only obstacle.

The cats make dangerous pets; keeping them in Arizona is illegal. Bobcats range from southern Canada to central Mexico and from California to Maine and are making a comeback in the Midwest, where they were hunted and trapped out.

Stealthy creature

Hansen describes the bobcat as "an animal that hides in the open." Although it is common in North America, it is rarely seen, Hansen said. Bobcats hide, sometimes for hours, studying their prey. Their coloring is adapted for stealth.

Maybe the cat's air of mystery makes Hansen's first-person accounts of bobcat encounters particularly compelling.

Amid the book's ample scientific findings and economic theorizing, the biologist chances upon a cat transfixed by a beautiful sunrise over the Florida Everglades. Another, slowly angling toward Hansen in a California wildlife preserve, finally urinates on the naturalist's truck tire and leaves.

Hansen foresees a growing threat to bobcats. Habitat destruction can only rise as development gobbles up more grasslands, wetlands, forests and deserts across the U.S. Hansen takes comfort in Arizona's golf courses, which produce ample rabbits, a bobcat dietary staple.

But worrisome, Hansen said, is the fact that both the number of annual bobcat kills and the price for their pelts are on the rise. 1124bobcat1124.html

Lynx reintroduction in Spain, Portugal will require 600 sq. kilometers

Expansión lince en Península requerirá 600 kilómetros cuadrados

La reintroducción del lince ibérico en Portugal, Extremadura y Castilla-La Mancha, acordada esta semana en Sevilla por la comisión de conservación de este felino, obligará a acondicionar en cada uno de estos territorios zonas de unas 20.000 hectáreas, lo que supondrá actuar en unos 600 kilómetros cuadrados.

Estas zonas deben ser de matorral mediterráneo, con un mínimo del 50 por ciento de cubierta vegetal y una población de más de tres conejos por hectárea que garantice la alimentación de este felino, según dijo a Efe el director del plan de conservación del lince de la Junta de Andalucía, Miguel Angel Simón.

Simón explicó la experiencia para conservar este felino seguida desde hace lustros en Andalucía, donde sobreviven los últimos doscientos ejemplares de lince ibérico, concentrados en sendas poblaciones en Sierra Morena y Doñana.

Destacó que para aumentar la población de Sierra Morena ha sido crucial firmar casi un centenar de convenios con fincas privadas para aplicar en ellas medidas para favorecer su conservación.

Simón, experto en el lince ibérico -el de mayor peligro de extinción de las especies de felino que viven en el planeta- cree que el éxito de su reintroducción en Portugal, Extremadura y Castilla-La Mancha no sólo dependerá de un 'complejo' trabajo científico sino, también, 'de lograr el máximo respaldo social posible'.

'La labor de los científicos no sirve para nada si no está acompañada de un amplio respaldo social', enfatizó.

Abogó por que esta reintroducción se intente con la suelta de ejemplares nacidos en cautividad en espacios de unas 20.000 hectáreas porque, destacó, 'con la suelta de una pareja no haremos nada'.

Opinó que Portugal, Extremadura y Castilla-La Mancha cuentan con espacios suficientes para esta reintroducción, aunque deberá realizarse en ellos manejo de hábitat, gestión de alimentos y, sobre todo, planes de eliminación de riesgos como cebos envenenados o tráfico rodado a cierta velocidad.

Paralelamente al acondicionamiento de estas zonas -que se prevé acabar en 2009- se construirán en estos territorios tres centros de cría en cautividad, que requerirán una inversión conjunta de 4,5 millones de euros y otro millón al año para su mantenimiento.

En las zonas acondicionadas se liberarían ejemplares del plan de cría en cautividad que dirige la científica Astrid Vargas en El Acebuche, en Doñana (Huelva), donde ya se ha logrado el nacimiento de media docena de cachorros en los dos últimos años.

La Junta de Andalucía tiene previsto reforzar este centro -donde ya viven una veintena de linces- con otros en La Aliseda, en Despeñaperros (Jaén) y en Los Villares, en la Sierra de Córdoba.

También trabaja la Junta en elegir una zona de reintroducción del lince entre cuatro emplazamientos seleccionados de las provincias de Sevilla, Córdoba y Jaén.

El incremento de los centros de cría en cautividad y la expansión del lince en más territorios diversificaría el actual riesgo de que los últimos doscientos ejemplares estén concentrados en sendos enclaves de Andalucía.

Para 2009 se prevé haber logrado medio centenar de nacimientos en cautividad, cifra que permite preservar un 85 por ciento de la variabilidad genética de la especie y contar con un número suficiente de cachorros cada año.

Simón aboga por que los ejemplares se liberen con 'sueltas blandas', es decir, en cercados de 6 a 8 hectáreas y con una elevada densidad de conejos que facilite su alimentación.

Estos linces serían seguidos con cámaras y radiotransmisores para comprobar que su adaptación se realiza 'de la forma más parecida a la vida salvaje', momento en el que se les abrirían las puertas de los cercados para liberarlos.

Otra técnica prevista es introducir en cada cercado una hembra preñada para que los cachorros nazcan dentro de él y se adapten con más facilidad al territorio que se pretende colonizar.

Simón rebatió las críticas al coste de la conservación del lince ibérico y recordó que los 26 millones de euros presupuestados en el segundo programa Life para conservar este felino suponen invertir 20 euros por ejemplar, año y hectárea en la zona donde se trabaja.

'El lince ibérico es una especie única en el mundo y un patrimonio que los españoles tenemos la obligación de proteger de igual manera que protegemos nuestro patrimonio cultural', apostilló.

Recordó que esta 'especie singular' es el resultado de miles de años de evolución que 'sólo tenemos los españoles' y que debe preservarse para generaciones futuras.

'Debemos ser capaces de defender el lince como defendemos un monumento, porque es un monumento de la naturaleza tan importante como las obras de arte de nuestro patrimonio cultural', concluyó.

Terra Actualidad - EFE expansion_peninsula_lince_requerira_cuadrados_1234630.htm

Indian Forest Dept. provides technical/veterinary support to wild carnivores

Technical and veterinary support provided to wild carnivores cared by the Maharashtra Forest Department

Friday 24 November 2006 at 23:00

This project aimed to provide technical and veterinary support to wild caught carnivores that had to be cared by the Maharashtra Forest Department (India). In the case of carnivores (mainly leopards), researchers inserted microchips (or PIT tags) so that they could be identified in case of recapture following translocation. Most of their visits were to the Nashik and Ahmadnagar Forest Divisions. As part of their work researchers also provided recommendations to the field staff and senior officers for better managing human-leopard conflict. They also used the opportunity to obtain measurements of leopards. The most important result of this work is the documentation that leopards can live in high density human inhabitations without any attacks on people. It is important that management action consider this aspect when devising management strategies to deal with human leopard conflict. Download the project report: Athreya, V.R. & A.V. Belsare. 2006. Providing the Maharashtra Forest Department technical and veterinary support to better deal with wild animals that require human intervention . Technical report submitted to Wildlife Trust of India, New Delhi and the Office of the Chief Wildlife Warden, Maharashtra.

Interview with Snow Leopard Conservancy program director

‘Human threat to snow leopard’

Concerns have been raised worldwide over the decreasing population of endangered snow leopard found in the upper reaches of Himalayas. Until a few years ago, this magnificent animal was on the brink of extinction when some individuals and organisations took up the fight for its survival. Snow Leopard Conservancy is one such premier institution.

A man who is passionately involved in this battle in India is Rinchen Wangchuk, programme director of Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) - India. Son of an illustrious father, Colonel Rinchen, who was conferred with Mahavir Chakra twice, Rinchen Wangchuk, a Ladakhi Buddhist based in Leh, oversees projects for the conservation of this big, magnificent cat and provides necessary input for developing the ongoing programme in India.

Rinchen’s commitment to working for the conservation of wildlife, especially the snow leopard, has grown out of his own Ladakhi village upbringing and his experiences as a skilled mountaineer.

With fellow Indian climbers, he conquered the 24,660-foot Saser Kangri II in Ladakh’s Nubra region. Trained in community-based tourism from The Mountain Institute (Nepal) and RECROFT (Thailand), Rinchen also assisted researchers to develop the Earth Watch programme, “Land of the Snow Leopard.” Besides, he has served as a naturalist and assistant on several BBC and National Geographic documentaries filmed in Hemis National Park, Ladakh, including the widely acclaimed “Silent Roar: Searching for the snow leopard.”

Rinchen Wangchuk recently spoke to KAVITA SURI in Leh about SLC efforts to conserve the snow leopard and sensitise the local population about the threatened animal. Excerpts:

Q: The snow leopard is a seriously threatened animal and thus an endangered species. But how serious is the threat?
Well, the snow leopard is a seriously threatened animal. Found in the upper reaches of the Himalayas including India, Nepal, Tibet, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Bhutan etc, it is a threatened species in all these regions. The threat is serious. The ever growing human population has threatened the snow leopard’s survival. Villagers with growing domestic herds have moved into snow leopard habitat crowding out the native prey, thus making the conflict with villagers and pastoralists more intense. Also, an ever growing market for the bones, skin and organs of snow leopards for traditional Asian medicine is another real challenge.
The real question is how to maintain depredation at a manageable level while helping local people to perceive the greater worth of having a live snow leopard than a pelt of one that took their livestock.

Q: How is the Snow Leopard Conservancy working in India?

In India, the Snow Leopard Conservancy (SLC) is working to promote innovative grassroots measures that lead local people to become better stewards of endangered snow leopards, their prey, and habitat. SLC-India is a registered charitable trust established specifically to work with local communities within India’s snow leopard range. We at SLC save snow leopards through direct partnerships with local people. It creates conservation and education activities that grow from within communities, building strong foundations for locally-driven protection of snow leopards and their habitat.

In high altitude mountains, people regularly lose their livestock to the snow leopard due to which they even poison or kill snow leopard. SLC helps communities to improve their corral and herding techniques to reduce livestock losses. At the same time, it trains and assists communities to set up home-stays, work as wildlife guides and set up small eco-tourism enterprises. The income these mountain people earn from tourists who come to see and learn about the snow leopard helps offset livestock losses, and pay for children’s school fees and the cost of alternative fuel to reduce reliance on scarce fuel wood.

Q: Which areas do you cover in India for snow leopard conservation?

Much of the SLC’s work is in the Ladakh region.. Mostly it is in the Hemis National Park but now we have started a project in Zanskar also. Named after the famous monastery, Hemis Gompa, the Hemis National Park, known as the snow leopard capital of India, has an altitudinal range of 3,300 to 6,000 metres. Established in 1981, the 3,350 square-kilometre Park offers excellent habitat for snow leopards and harbours four species of wild sheep and goats, giving it international bio-diversity importance.

The Park is famous for its population of the rare snow leopards and the ibex. It has been earmarked as one of the snow leopard reserves under a Central government project to conserve the species.

Q: You just said that you are working with local communities for the conservation of the snow leopard. Would you please elaborate how you are working with them to protect the endangered animal and its prey?

See, about 2,000 people live in the Hemis Park in more than a dozen villages. We have helped the villagers in constructing summer corrals. We had conducted a survey in the Park and found that 58-60 per cent of the livestock and animals of the villagers were killed by snow leopards and foxes. Sixty per cent of the livestock was lost in the open, while 40 per cent was killed in the enclosures. The impact for a poor family was huge. Even if one of their yaks, which is very expensive, or other animals were killed, it was very difficult for them to bear the loss. So, the easy method for them was to kill the snow leopard or even poison the big cat.

So we provided supervisory support to the villagers for constructing solid enclosures, wire mesh, doors and roofing materials. This helped in checking multiple losses; the hatred towards the poor animal was reduced. Thus, we have been able to reduce the heavy losses of the villagers and thus save the snow leopard.

Q: What difference does such initiatives make to the locals as far as snow leopard conservation is concerned?

Apart from reducing depredation, our endeavour is to increase local incomes and strengthening community stewardship of alpine ecosystems. This is the challenge on which the Snow Leopard Conservancy is focusing its efforts; seeking ways of helping local people regain their willingness to co-exist with large predators. That is how we initiated the concept of home stays in Hemis. Each such trip helps funds the SLC to support this ongoing work.

Q: How does community-based eco-tourism help save snow leopards?

It does-by minimising livestock depredation while empowering local people to directly benefit from an ecosystem that includes snow leopards. The goal is that these local communities should become guardians of healthy populations of snow leopards. For this, we build on already-existing opportunities for generating income. We train and support village women’s cooperatives to offer tourists traditional Himalayan Homestays and Parachute Cafés. We also train men and women to be village-based nature guides, offering visitors short walks or day hikes to look for plants, birds and other wildlife.

These eco-tourism activities preserve the traditional culture while improving livelihoods; and it all adds up to communities being willing and able to protect their fragile, high-altitude ecosystem, and the snow leopards who make it their home.

Q: To create awareness among the Ladakhis, especially school children, regarding the snow leopard, you have undertaken some activity. Would you please tell us about it?

Yes, we at the SLC-India, have started an education programme. It is a collaborative effort between the SLC and Kalpavriksh, an NGO to facilitate the development and implementation of an education programme in Ladakh, focused on the conservation of snow leopards and other wildlife of the local trans-Himalayan region. This programme has been financially supported by the Association for India’s Development (AID-Columbus) and Snow Leopard Conservancy-USA.

While SLC-India has worked closely with local communities in villages in and around remote areas of Ladakh and Zanskar, including the Hemis High Altitude National Park, a need was felt for more focused efforts to raise awareness among the children about the environment with specific focus on Ladakh’s biodiversity and the conservation of snow leopards.

Ladakh is a region that is witnessing rapid changes due to recent external influences. Hence, it is important to enable the children to understand their rich natural biodiversity, to become its protectors and to grow up to be responsible citizens with sensitivity to their environment.

Retaliatory killings of the snow leopard and wolf do happen when local communities suffer livestock losses to these predators. Hence, the need for a programme was felt that could instil in children a sense of feeling in which wildlife and people might live in better harmony.

Q: Have you collaborated with local organisations of government agencies?

Yes, the SLC, in collaboration with Ladakh’s Department of Wildlife Protection, has produced interpretive materials for visitors to the Hemis National Park. A handout contains information about the park, its wildlife, and certain regulations of which tourists should be mindful.

Q: What is the status of present research that you are doing on snow leopards in India?

We have photographed territorial marking behaviour in wild snow leopards. This is the first time any of these behaviours have been photographed in the wild anywhere in the world. We laid camera traps which provided us with excellent opportunities for data collection. In addition to the videos, four still cameras were set up to monitor the snow leopard population. We could see snow leopards face-rubbing scent-spraying, and exhibiting a scent-triggered response known as flehmen (lip-curl with open mouth and bared canines). One male almost does a somersault in its eagerness to scent-spray!

We’re researching camera-traps as a non-invasive way of obtaining reliable population estimates of snow leopards in a given area by identifying the individuals who pass through the camera stations.

(The author is the Special Representative of The Statesman based in Jammu) &usrsess=1&id=137960

One of first papers on wild clouded leopards published

Clouded leopards, the secretive top-carnivore of South-East Asian rainforests: their distribution, status and conservation needs in Sabah, Malaysia
Friday 24 November 2006 at 15:39

This is one of the first papers on wild clouded leopards. Freely available since open-access: Wilting, Fischer, Abu Bakar and Linsenmair. BMC Ecology 2006, 6:16 (doi:10.1186/1472-6785-6-16):

ABSTRACT -> Background: (...) In this study we utilized, for the first time, a rigorous track classification method to estimate population size and density of clouded leopards (Neofelis nebulosa) in Tabin Wildlife Reserve in north-eastern Borneo (Sabah). Additionally, we extrapolated our local-scale results to the regional landscape level to estimate clouded leopard population size and density in all of Sabah's reserves, taking into account the reserves' conservation status (totally protected or commercial forest reserves), their size and presence or absence of clouded leopards. Results: The population size in the 56 km2 research area was estimated to be five individuals, based on a capture-recapture analysis of four confirmed animals differentiated by their tracks. Extrapolation of these results led to density estimates of nine per 100 km2 in Tabin Wildlife Reserve. The true density most likely lies between our approximately 95 % confidence interval of eight to 17 individuals per 100 km2. Conclusion: We demonstrate that previous density estimates of 25 animals/100 km2 most likely overestimated the true density. Applying the 95% confidence interval we calculated in total a very rough number of 1500–3200 clouded leopards to be present in Sabah. However, only 275–585 of these animals inhabit the four totally protected reserves that are large enough to hold a long-term viable population of > 50 individuals.

Colorado's lynx program gets $250,000 boost

By Rocky Mountain News
November 24, 2006

Colorado’s lynx reintroduction program received a $250,000 boost from the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation.

"This generous donation will go a long way to ensuring the ongoing success of one of the most popular and important programs the Colorado Division of Wildlife has implemented," said state Division of Wildlife director Bruce McCloskey.

"This demonstrates the foundation’s continued commitment to the lynx program in a very real and significant way. I am very pleased with their monetary assistance in helping the DOW accomplish our objectives."

The DOW points out that since 1973 the species was believed to have become extinct in the state.

The reintroduction program began in 1999 and since then, 218 of the spotted cats from Alaska and Canada have been reintroduced in southwestern Colorado.

The donation will allow the DOW to expand its monitoring efforts of females to determine reproductive successes, and to support an intense analysis to understand why they use certain habitats over others, said Jeff Ver Steeg, assistant director of wildlife programs.

The Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation was created in 1989 as a result of the Governor's "Wildlife 21" task force that recognized the contribution wildlife makes to the economy and quality of life of residents of the state.

The Foundation was formed to raise funds to help fill the gap between available funds and wildlife needs.

Karin Ballard, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Heritage Foundation, explained, "The Foundation gives those who wish to donate to wildlife an opportunity to join others in supporting that which they care most about whether it is projects like the lynx reintroduction, species recovery, education, habitat or research." 0,1299,DRMN_4_5167398,00.html

Thai villagers told to call off tiger hunt

Locals say big cat ate their buffalo, cattle

By Subin Kheunkaew

The chief of Sri Lanna National Park yesterday told troubled Chiang Dao villagers to stop hunting a tiger they believe has eaten their buffalo and cattle. "Tiger hunting is against the law. The villagers were advised to raise their cattle well away from the park for safety reasons," said park head Amporn Panmongkol.

The park covers 800,000 rai of mostly mountainous terrain. Located 40km north of Muang district, it spreads across three districts _ Phrao, Chiang Dao and Mae Taeng.

Inkaew Sompan, kamnan of tambon Lhongkod, said villagers were petrified after a search for a lost 300kg buffalo, left grazing near the park, turned up nothing but a carcass on Nov 2.

"After hiding in a bush with another cow left as bait in the same spot, villagers spotted a two-metre-long tiger," he said. The site was only 1km from their village.

At the end of their rope after losing four buffalo and five cattle in less than a month, troubled villagers formed a hunting party, but it returned empty-handed, Mr Inkaew said.

"Three cows were recently gorged in one day with their carcasses left behind as usual," he said.

"I feared for our safety so we went to seek help from park officials."

Mr Amporn said the kamnan did the right thing by approaching him because their hunting expeditions could have taken a deadly turn.

Another cougar killed in Southern California mountains

Look who's stalking: a new cougar killer
Another cub is killed. Was it the usual suspect or a newcomer?

By Amanda Covarrubias
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

November 25, 2006

On Sept. 25, when the radio tracking collar of a young male mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains emitted a "mortality signal," indicating it had not moved for at least eight hours, biologists feared the worst.

The 2-year-old puma, one of only three known mountain lions left in the coastal range, was either seriously wounded or dead.

Wildlife ecologist Seth Riley went to investigate, pinpointing the puma's location from its collar and then heading out to the scrubby hills west of Topanga Canyon. There, he found the lifeless cat, its forelegs chewed and its head bearing several puncture wounds.

It appeared that P1 had struck again.

P1, short for Puma 1, is the dominant male mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains and the father of the dead cougar.

Riley and the other National Park Service scientists who track the region's mountain lions (also known as cougars or pumas) had been joyous in 2004 when P1 mated with the only other big cat researchers knew to live in the Santa Monicas. Later that year, she bore four kittens.

But since then, for reasons that remain unclear, P1 has gone on the attack, killing his mate and one of their offspring in 2005 and another cub in June. Now a third cub was dead, and P1 was the logical suspect.

When Riley returned to the ranger station to review the global positioning system data from P1's collar, he was surprised at what he found.

GPS data showed that at the time the latest cub was killed, P1 was at least 35 miles from Topanga Canyon, roaming an area far to the west near Point Mugu. And that opened the door to an interesting possibility: Perhaps there was another cougar in the range.

Genetic tests of swabs taken from the dead lion's claws confirmed that he had fought an adult mountain lion other than P1.

For Riley and his colleagues at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, it was the latest twist in what has been an emotional saga.

For five years, they had tracked the mountain lions' movements, hoping their research would help them and the public better understand how this resilient species adapts and survives in urban parkland.

Now, the idea of another adult male, one that had never been tagged by scientists and whose whereabouts were unknown, had added another layer of mystery to the tale.

"We have always said, just because these are the lions we know about these aren't necessarily the only lions," Riley said. "Another lion could move in, or there's lions out there we just don't know about."

A solitary species

Riley and his colleagues at the largest urban national park in the U.S. began monitoring cougars in 2002, when they received state funding to launch the Mountain Lion Project. The scientific study was designed to allow researchers to learn more about the habits of cougars in the 154,000-acre park.

When they started the project, scientists had only a rough idea of how many pumas lived in the mountain range. Solitary by nature, the buff-colored cats generally avoid people. Bobcats, which look similar but are smaller, with tufts of hair sprouting from their ears, are much more prevalent.

To find the mountain lions at the beginning of the project, biologists looked for signs of the cats, then set up remote-controlled cameras in the hills and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains and in the nearby Simi Hills.

Using the information they gathered, researchers were able to capture all four of the pumas caught on camera and fit them with collars containing radio transmitters.

The lions dubbed P1 and P2 roamed a huge territory in the Santa Monica Mountains south of the 101 Freeway.

The other two, P3 and P4, lived in the Simi Hills north of the 101.

When P2 gave birth in 2004, the biologists were understandably excited. The known cougar population had climbed to eight, although only six lived in the Santa Monicas.

But at the time, scientists quietly worried that the fragmented mountain range would not be large enough to support so many of the large cats, especially as freeways, business parks and houses steadily encroached on open space.

Male mountain lions, weighing up to 200 pounds, need about 150 square miles of "home range" to survive, and the smaller females about 40. Although male and female territories may overlap, males must stake out their own turf in which to roam and hunt prey, or eventually they will fall victim to the prevailing male.

In August 2005, scientists received the news they had been dreading: P1's radio collar showed him near a wooded area north of Mulholland Highway between Kanan and Las Virgenes roads. That put him in the exact area where P2 and her cubs were living.

Rangers believe P1 approached P2 as she was feasting on a freshly killed mule deer and that all or some of the pair's yearling cubs were nearby.

The two big cats brawled fiercely for several hours in the forested area. At the time, park biologist Jeff Sikich was close enough to hear the growls and howls.

But he could not see the pair and was uncertain if they were breeding or fighting. The park's policy is not to interfere, so he did not approach the lions.

The next day, researchers in the office heard the radio transmitter around the female lion's neck giving off the mortality signal, a fast beeping sound that indicates a lack of activity.

Biologists waited a day to give P1 time to clear out, then hiked in to collect P2's body. It was covered with wounds from the struggle.

"It's not surprising when males run into females with kittens, the female will often try to protect them, and the male will try to kill the young males," Riley said.

"We're thinking maybe she was trying to defend those kittens, and that's how she got in the fight."

Earlier that year, P3 and P4 had died after eating coyotes that had ingested rat poison. Now there were only four known mountain lions left in the study area.

In June, P1 struck again, killing one of his female offspring, P7, who was found with puncture wounds in her skull. Through genetic testing, scientists determined that P1 was the culprit.

Riley and his colleagues are not sure why P1 killed P7 but speculate that she may have been guarding a kill that P1 coveted.

Last fall, biologists noticed that the two male cubs, P5 and P8, had moved to the farthest reaches of P1's territory, one on the east end, the other on the west.

"P5 and P8 were looking for somewhere to go," Riley said. "They were trying to stay clear of P1."

Perhaps, eventually, they would have crossed over the 101 Freeway into the Simi Hills and farther beyond into the Santa Susana Mountains or Angeles National Forest.

"If lions are to survive in the Santa Monicas, it's critical for them occasionally to get from north to south," Riley said. "That's where the new genetic material is."

But neither of the cubs made it to a new range. On Sept. 8, P5 was found dead on the western edge of the range near Point Mugu. Veterinary pathologists confirmed that he had died in a fight, and park service biologists were able to download information from their radio collars showing that P5 and P1 were in the same area in the days leading up to the fatal confrontation.

"It looks like they had run into each other, and P1 had chased him," Riley said.

Eighteen days later, P8 was killed by the previously unknown puma just west of Topanga Canyon.

Insufficient habitat

Biologists are still puzzling over what the presence of an unknown cougar tells them. They doubt there are many more lurking in the coastal wilderness because the habitat is not large enough to sustain them.

Still, surveying cougars is an imperfect science. Researchers learn of them through sightings by hikers and campers and by the carcasses left behind when a lion kills a deer for food. A few years ago, an unknown cat turned up dead after being struck by a car near Pepperdine University.

Riley said they will try to incorporate the new puma into their study if they can find it, but he is keenly aware that it could have been injured in its fight with P8 and perhaps even died. Researchers would love to know whether it was a new arrival, a temporary visitor or a longtime resident.

"If we see evidence that the lion is out there, we're interested to see what it's up to," Riley said. "We'll spend time walking trails, streams, ridges, looking for tracks and things. We may even put out remote cameras to get photos."

But Riley said further research is contingent on attracting new funding. The budget for the Mountain Lion Project, which was cobbled together with private donations and a grant from the state of California, is scheduled to run out at the end of the year. Riley and his colleagues are now attempting to raise money to continue their work.

In the meantime, the researchers continue to traverse the craggy hilltops and steep cliffs of the Santa Monica Mountains in search of clues to mountain lion behavior.

On a recent morning, Riley bushwhacked his way through deep underbrush in Nicholas Flat near Malibu hoping to find evidence of a kill made by P6, a 2-year-old female and the sole remaining offspring of P1 and P2.

Data downloaded from P6's collar had shown that the cougar had recently stayed in the same location for more than 24 hours, or about the amount of time it would take to kill and consume a deer.

Crawling on hands and knees, spiny branches tugging at his backpack, Riley finally spotted the lower portion of a fawn's leg on the ground, its black hoof still intact. A few yards away lay a small pelvis bone. He picked up the body parts, looked at them closely, then dropped them back on the ground.

A good hour later, the area thoroughly canvassed, Riley moved on to another spot where P6's collar showed she had recently spent a day and a half. As Riley moved over the terrain, branches and twigs breaking under his weight, all he uncovered were a few samples of dried puma scat that he collected in his backpack. Later, he would wash and inspect the fecal matter to determine what P6 had eaten.

Although no signs of the mystery cat turned up, wildlife biologists are hopeful. They look forward to the rainy season, when paw prints are easier to detect than when the earth is hard and dry.

"This just highlights that the Santa Monica Mountains and the open space in Los Angeles and Ventura County areas are true wilderness areas in many respects," said Rorie Skei, president of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, a group that works to buy and preserve undeveloped land.

"And the fact that there does seem to be a heretofore unidentified lion is a very good sign. It signifies that the ecosystem is still healthy."

amanda.covarrubias nov25,0,799100.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Mountain lion sighted in suburban Sacramento

By: Sherri L. Shaulis, The Press-Tribune
Friday, November 24, 2006 1:07 PM PST

A family arriving at their home in the Grosvenor Downs neighborhood in Granite Bay earlier this month caught a glimpse of an unusual site: a mountain lion standing in the alcove near their front door.

The incident prompted leaders from the Eureka Union School District to issue a letter of warning to parents and officials from the California Department of Fish and Game to remind local residents that wild animals are just that - wild.

"The area is not a bad territory for mountain lions," said Troy Swauger, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Game. "More than half of the state is prime mountain lion territory. They have always been here."

Swauger said it's difficult to determine how common mountain lion sightings are throughout the state, let alone in the Roseville and Granite Bay areas, since not every sighting can be confirmed, nor is every sighting reported.

In fact, a second mountain lion sighting near the Maidu Interpretive Center in Roseville has yet to be confirmed. The sighting reportedly took place earlier this month, employees as the facility said.

Hannah Thompson, who works at the center, said no one was injured in the incident, but had no other details of the sighting.

Swauger said there are some broad reasons why a mountain lion might be spotted in a residential area, including a younger male being pushed out of a territory by an older male, or even one of the animals making a "wrong turn" and ending up in an area it has no desire to be in.

"They are predatory animals, designed to be stealthy," Swauger said. "They do not mean for you to see them, even though they might see you."

After the Granite Bay sighting, Greenhills Elementary School Principal Peter Towne sent home a letter to parents after the incident.

"A family with students in the Greenhills/Eureka/Olympus attendance area located in the Grosvenor Downs neighborhood (Seeno and Douglas Roads) arrived home (the evening of Nov. 11) to find a mountain lion in an alcove area by their front door. They were able to back away and contact law enforcement, but the animal was not captured," the letter said.

Also in the letter, Towne offered tips from the Department of Fish and Game on what to do in a similar situation:

* Do not approach the animal. Most mountain lions will try to avoid a confrontation. Give them a way to escape.

* Stay calm and speak loudly and firmly.

* Do not run from a mountain lion. Running may stimulate a mountain lion's instinct to chase. Protect small children so they won't panic and run.

* Stand and face the animal. Make eye contact.

* Appear larger. Raise your arms. Stand as tall as you can. Open your jacket if you are wearing one.

* Throw stones, branches, or whatever you can reach without crouching or turning your back. Wave your arms slowly. The idea is to convince the lion you are not easy prey and you may be a danger to it.

* Maintain eye contact and slowly back away toward a building, vehicle or busy area.

Swauger also suggested homeowners don't create an environment that might attract wildlife: Bring pets and pet food inside, keep trash cans covered.

"There's a reason they are called wildlife," he said. "They are wild, they are not pets."

To report all mountain lion sightings, call 911, the Placer County Sheriff's Department at (530) 886-5375 or the Department of Fish and Game at 445-0045.

- Sherri L. Shaulis can be reached at news/top_stories/03lion.txt

Flurry of cougar, bobcat sightings in Southern California

For the Orange County Register
Friday, November 24, 2006

LADERA RANCH — There are mysteries afoot in Ladera Ranch, mysteries about the denizens of a dark underworld around and in Ladera Ranch.

This is the story of those inhabitants of the wild nightlife of Ladera and their families.

Some of the residents have sighted these occupants; others just see the results of their passing.

Mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes and deer are the occupants of this community within the Ladera community.

"The residents of Ladera Ranch live in what is and was wide-open country and the wild animals are going to wander into the area," said Naturalist Don Thomas.

"Ghost Cats" and Bobcats
On Nov. 3 Charlene Gundlach on Mayville Place in Ladera was out watching her children at play when she saw a big cat on the slope at the end of their street. Looking through her binoculars she thought she saw a long tail on the cat.

Thinking the animal was a Mountain Lion, Orange County Animal Control and O.C. Sheriff's deputies were called to search for the cat.

The deputies searched again when the cat was sighted again on Nov. 7.

"(At that time) they were able to determine that the mountain lion is truly a bobcat. They were able to snuff him out of the brush to get a better look, and found his hiding place with stool droppings," Gundlach said. "Apparently he is "mangy" which I guess means sick, and he looked blind in one eye. They decided to let him "be" and did not relocate him. So I guess we have a new resident joining us in our neighborhood."

According to Steve Martarano, spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game, this is not uncommon. He said that bobcats are often mistaken for mountain lions.

Thomas said that looking for the tail is a good way of determining what kind of cat you are looking at. A Bobcat's tail is short and stubby, about 6 inches long, while a mountain lion's is much longer. Also the mountain lion is much larger than the bobcat.

"About the biggest (Bobcat) I've seen was about 30 pounds," Thomas said, "Also, unless you bother them, bobcats are harmless."

In Orange County cougars, another name for the Mountain Lion, are smaller then the northern brothers. Still, Thomas said, a female in Orange County would be 75 to 80 pounds and 6 feet in length.

Thomas also said that you probably won't see a Mountain Lion.

"The Native American's called them "Ghost Cats," an apt name for them," Thomas said. "We cannot know how many times we passed within a few feet of a Cougar. Paul Beier, in his Santa Ana study, found collared Cougars lying just a few feet off trails in well-used County Parks (Caspers, O'Neill, and Trabuco Canyon).

"None of the passersby knew the cat was there but it is certain that the Cougar was watching the passing parade," he added.

Martarano adds though that unprovoked attacks are rare. Since 1890 there have been only 15 verified attacks in California. According to the DFG Web site two young children were attacked in 1986 in the Caspers Wilderness Park, both were non-fatal attacks. There were two more attacks in Whiting Regional Park, a 35-year-old man died in his encounter.

However both Martarano and Thomas say that the cats are there.

"Deer will attract lions because deer are the primary prey for (the cugar)," Martarano said.

Deer in the Headlights
Kathy McGowan of Potters Bend was walking to Starbucks with her family one Friday night at 6:30 p.m. and saw a deer family taking a nightly stroll as well.

"About 25-30 feet away from us was a Doe, Buck and a fawn. Our dog was tugging away at his leash but never barked. We had our flashlight and flashed it in the direction of the deer family and the buck stopped and stared us down until his family was a safe distance from us." McGowan said.

"We just kind of stood there with big smiles on our faces as it was pretty darn cool. My 2 year old daughter was remarkably quiet and whispered to me that they were reindeer," She added,.

Many residents have seen deer. But sometimes these encounters between deer and human can turn tragic, usually for the deer. Animal Control is called when car and deer collide.

"I was just amazed that (the deer family) was so close and the traffic was moving so fast down O'Neill that I was hoping that they weren't going to try to cross," she said.

Deer, however, can be very aggressive, especially at this time of year which is the season they are mating, or in Rut

"This is the time of year when buck deer are 'in the rut,' or exhibiting breeding behavior and becoming more aggressive," said DFG Director Ryan Broddrick. "Californians need to be especially careful that they do not break the law and compromise their own safety by providing an available food source for these animals. While deer are usually not a threat to public safety, problems can occur when they lose their fear of humans."

In October of 2005 a man died when he was gored by a deer he surprised in his backyard.

"These events are extremely unusual but not unheard of. Whenever deer begin to associate people with food, problems are guaranteed to occur," said Craig Stowers, coordinator of DFG's deer program. "Deer, even the small ones, can be quite aggressive and they are much stronger than people imagine. Like most species of wildlife, they are best viewed at a distance – it's safer for everyone and everything involved."

Disappearing Pets
Jim Kupsch, who lives in the Claiborne neighborhood, had a rat problem near his home. His cat loved Kupsch's problem. The cat feasted on the rodents. The cat eventually, though, disappeared.

Noticing an owl near his home, Kupsch, is convinced that the owl got tired of the cat feasting on his prey and took out the competition.

Thomas said that though it is possible that a Great Horned Owl could easily take a house cat, the cat probably succumbed to a Coyote.

"Even though Great Horned Owls have been known to prey on skunks and small dogs they are not territorial and not that smart," Thomas said.

Martarano agreed.

He said that the culprit was more than likely a coyote.

According to a wildlife services report on the DFG Web site, the coyote adapts well to change.

"Hardly any animal in America is more adaptable to changing conditions than the coyote. Coyotes can live just about anywhere," the report states.

The report also states the key to a Coyote's diet.

"One of the keys to the coyote's success is its diet. A true scavenger, the coyote will eat just about anything. Identified as a killer of sheep, poultry and deer, the coyote will also eat snakes and foxes, doughnuts and sandwiches, rodents and rabbits, fruits and vegetables, birds, frogs, grass and grasshoppers, pet cats and cat food, pet dogs and dog food, carrion, and just plain garbage."

Martarano said that the Bobcat has also been known to prey on small dogs.

For more information on the wildlife that lives around Ladera visit the California DFG Web site at or by calling the San Diego regional office at 858-467-4201.

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