Sunday, December 31, 2006

India: Tigers are the guardians of Kanha

HUGH AND COLLEEN GANTZER

The survival of this 940 sq km of forest depends on the 128 tigers that live within.

TIGERS are the lure. Even for us, who have seen these magnificent felines in many other wildernesses, the Panthera tigris continues to cast a compelling spell. But, in Kanha, we were looking a little deeper. Was the tiger more than just a symbol of power and majesty? Did it deserve more regard than that accorded to a gravely endangered animal? We had come to suspect that it did; that it was a major contributor to the preservation of the ecological balance of our land. We had decided to test this theory by seeing things for ourselves in this National Park in Madhya Pradesh.

According to the theory, the tiger straddles the top of a food chain. It can survive only if it has enough forest cover to range in and an adequacy of prey species. These prey species, in turn, need extensive self-renewing grasslands to graze in. By preserving such forests and grasslands, rain run-off is prevented, water sinks into the earth recharging the aquifers: the layers of rock and soil able to hold and transmit water. Burgeoning aquifers lead to a growth of natural streams and ponds, the veins and arteries of an eco-system. They spread biological nutrients; sustain an entire web of life. This living web starts from microorganisms that create most of these nutrients by breaking down wastes. The web then reaches up to include more complex forms of life with the tiger at the top of Kanha's food chain.

Welcoming environment

Our theory has sensitised us. The forest impacted on us as soon as we entered it. It was cooler and damper than outside: a microclimate created by leaves that transpire moisture drawn from the soil. It felt fresher: the carbon dioxide that we breathed out was breathed in by plants and replaced by oxygen. Before us a blue forest pond spread, starred with lotuses, hosting a pair of wild ducks. Rainwater had been captured by the forest and a welcoming environment had been created for migratory waterfowl. To our delight, the birds were not disturbed by our presence.

Nor, for that matter, was the delicate chital. In the striated light of dawn, filtering through the trees, a spotted deer stag stood on the road. He did not even bother to look at our jeep. Clearly, he regarded our vehicle and us as just another non-threatening, creature of the forest. In a well-managed National Park, the wildlife accepts humans as a normal part of their existence and not as dangerous intruders.

Kahna, however, has gone beyond this. It has brought the Barasingha or swamp deer of Central India back from the virtual edge of extinction. K. Naik, Director of the Park, told us that, in 1970, only 66 of these animals had been left. Kanha started a conservation project by erecting a protective fence around a large area to keep out predators. The protected Barasingha thrived and increased; a few were periodically released into the wild. Today a basic replenishment stock is still sequestered but now there are 324 swamp deer in Kanha. We got a photograph of one of these beautiful animals in open grassland. He was a little wary but he had, very obviously, acquired enough survival skills to avoid becoming a tiger's dinner.

World's greatest predator

Tigers, however, are still threatened by the world's greatest predator: man. Rich Tibetans in Lhasa like draping themselves in tiger skins; Chinese medicine men do a thriving business peddling parts of tigers as cures for all sorts of diseases and disabilities. And unscrupulous Indians are ready to do anything if the price is right. But thanks to an increasingly enlightened policy of the wildlife management authorities of the state, tigers pay for much of their own protection. Park entry fees, charges for cameras and tiger-sighting elephant rides bring in substantial revenues. Contrary to popular belief, animals soon get used to tourists in non-polluting vehicles. In fact, the presence of observant tourists discourages poachers who would, otherwise, find it easy to deal with a few forest guards. In Kanha, the authorities have done an environmental carrying capacity study, which has placed the maximum number of vehicles to be allowed into the Park at 55.

In spite of the other cars in the Park, however, we had excellent sightings of wildlife. The birds were colourful and varied. A yellow wagtail did its little bobbing two-step; a peacock trailed the heavy extravagance of its tail before taking off in a slow flopping flight. A crested serpent eagle raised its crown and looked at us disdainfully and a scarlet minivet was a flame flaring across the forest. A jackal crossed the road and then sauntered along the verge as if we didn't exist. A wild dog ran into the forest, spotted us, and then returned to see if he had missed anything. Only the sambars seemed to be nervous. A pair, grazing at the side of the road, bolted into the forest when we drew near, stopped in the shadows and watched us through a screen of branches.

And then we joined a line of forest vehicles queuing up behind a uniformed official with a clipboard in his hand and an elephant in attendance. A tiger had been located and we would be taken in to see it on elephant back. Our pulses began to race. When our turn came we scrambled up a ladder and sat on the howdah. Slowly, we galumphed into the forest, brushing aside branches and bamboo fronds. And there, below us, bending over a pool, drinking water, was a superb tiger. Time stood still as our cameras buzzed. The tiger turned and looked up at us. And then it was over.

On this animal, and his 128 fellow tigers, depends the survival of the 940 sq. km of renewing, refreshing, revitalising forest. They are the guardians of our great ecological reservoirs. But even if they weren't, we'd still go a long, long, way to see these magnificent felines living free.

Getting There

Air: Kisli gate entrance is 165 km from Jabalpur and 259km from Nagpur.

Rail: Nearest station is Jabalpur.

Road: Taxis from Jabalpur and Nagpur and buses from Jabalpur.

Accommodation: MP Tourism's Baghira Log Huts and Tourist Hostel at Kisli. Also a number of private hotels to suit all budgets.

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2006/12/31/stories/ 2006123100430200.htm

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Checks on ND mountain lion delayed by fog

KFYR-TV News
12/29/2006

State Game and Fish Department officials say a mountain lion that was fitted with a radio collar last month doesn`t seem to be traveling far.

The mountain lion was caught in a trap last month in Billings County. Biologists tranquilized the animal and attached a radio collar to it.

Wildlife officials say the cougar has stayed within a 15 square-mile area of where it was captured.

Wildlife officials say it`s the first time a cougar has been fitted with a tracking collar in North Dakota.

The cat is about 18 months old and weighs about 110 pounds.

Biologist Dorothy Fecske says it`s unknown whether the cougar has found a place it likes, or whether it`s resting.

Fecske says biologists need more time to get a better idea of what the cougar is up to.

http://www.kfyrtv.com/News_Stories.asp?news=4309

Friday, December 29, 2006

High demand from Asia makes bobcat pelts pricier

By BRETT FRENCH
Of The Gazette Staff
Published on Thursday, December 28, 2006.

Asian countries with strong economies are driving the demand for bobcat fur, keeping Montana and Wyoming pelt prices steady or rising in value over the past few years.

"Those countries that are developing and have good economies, such as China, have an increasing demand for spotted furs," said Brian Giddings, state furbearer coordinator for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "People with growing incomes want to have fine fashions."

The resulting demand, along with strong bobcat populations, has increased the harvest and the number of trappers in Montana.

According to FWP's Web site, bobcat furs have led all other pelt prices, rising from an average price of $280.25 in 2003-04 to $345 in 2005-06. The next closest fur in price was the much more rare wolverine, priced at $300 in 2005-06.

Doug Judgkins, of Bridger Fur Co. in Bridger, said how long bobcat pelts have held their value is uncharacteristic.

"It's really unusual where one item has stayed strong for so many years," Judgkins said. "But the fur market is strong all across the board."

Giddings said it's rare to have high prices and good bobcat numbers at the same time.

"At other times in the past, we've seen high prices and no bobcats," Giddings said, or low prices and plenty of cats.

The high price has tempted some trappers back into the sport and has attracted new ones.

"There's no question more people are trapping across the United States," Judgkins said. "Having enough traps to supply them has been atrocious." Trap makers got caught short of merchandise as demand shot up, he said.

Giddings said trapping licenses are up significantly from the early 1990s. About 3,500 to 3,600 trapping licenses were issued this year, he said, compared with about 1,800 in the early 1990s.

"There's definitely a rising interest," Giddings said. "Price drives the number of trappers."

Joliet trapper Doug Sharbono said the bad thing about high prices is it brings the worst out in some trappers.

"When these cat prices get high, there are a lot of cutthroats out there," he said. "It kind of brings some of the bad things out."

Price definitely fuels the harvest.

"If prices are good, people take the opportunity to harvest what they can," Giddings said.

Size, shade, color and quality drive the price of bobcat furs, Judgkins said. A big tom with a clear belly draws top dollar.

Judgkins said bobcats from Montana and northern Wyoming produce some of the best pelts in the nation.

"It's just a different breed of cat," Judgkins said. "Some areas are just better. Around Libby and the Kalispell area, the bobcats are much darker and don't have the snow white belly."

Giddings said bobcat populations in Montana have remained strong for several years, partly due to mild winters and good numbers of cottontail rabbits, a mainstay in the bobcat's diet.

Because cat numbers are strong, FWP quotas for harvest have remained high.

"The quotas are higher than they've been in a long time," Giddings said - 2,230 for the entire state with Region 7 in southeastern Montana holding the largest quota at 700 animals.

The quota is usually filled by January even though the season doesn't start until Dec. 1. The season closed Dec. 19 in Region 1 in northwestern Montana, which had a quota of 250 bobcats.

In Region 5, the Billings area, the bobcat harvest was halted at 394 animals last year. The year before, the harvest was stopped at 430. FWP institutes a closure when 92 percent of the harvest is met. This year's quota in Region 5 is 400 cats.

"We seem to have a pretty healthy bobcat population," said Jay Newell, FWP wildlife biologist based in Roundup. "To tell you the truth, five years ago I didn't think we'd be able to sustain the quota."

Newell said trappers in Region 5 have doubled since the mid-1990s but are down by about a third from the high of 157 in the 1984-85 season.

"That's price-driven," Newell said, pointing out that in 2000, the average price for a bobcat pelt was only $25.

In the Billings area, Newell said bobcats are spread out over about 9,000 square miles of the region's 12,000 square miles. Out of that terrain, however, some habitat is much better for bobcats.

"They like ponderosa pine, interspersed with rocky areas," Newell said.

In addition to rabbits, they will dine on game birds such as grouse and turkeys, as well as small mammals.

Billings trapper Chuck Pollansky said trapping bobcats is mostly about attracting their attention and arousing their curiosity with anything from flagging to a piece of hide hanging in a tree branch to scents.

"They're not trap-shy, but I've had them walk right past the set," he said. "But once you've found a real hot spot, then by nature others will follow the same paths."

Although the bobcat market has been good, it could just as easily swing the other way.

"We haven't had a real major drop in fur dealing in a few years," Judgkins said. "When it did, it broke a lot of buyers."

But as Giddings noted, the market is bound to change sooner or later.

"At some point that will fall off, bobcat numbers will drop," Giddings said.

Brett French can be reached at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2006/12/28/news/state/ 20-bobcat.txt

Florida panther making East Naples his new home

By Jeremy Cox
Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bobcats. Gopher tortoises. Bald eagles. Deer. Wild hogs. Raccoons.

Brian Holley is fond of ticking off the medley of wildlife found in the woods around Naples Botanical Garden at the south end of Bayshore Drive.

His list just got longer.

Since late November, an orphaned male Florida panther has taken up residence in the yawning wilderness south of U.S. 41 East between Naples Bay and Collier Boulevard, state biologists say.

“In some ways, I’m kind of excited about it,” said Holley, the botanical garden’s executive director. “It’s nice to have nature that close to us.”

Such excursions into town are rare for the shy, elusive cats. But the behavior of FP147, as the panther is known, underscores the need to spare as much unpaved land as possible for the endangered cats, a federal biologist said.

“We aren’t going to stop development in town, and these panthers aren’t going to make it in town,” said Deborah Jansen of the National Park Service. “But it just points up the fact that a line needs to be drawn.”

Under pressure from developers and Collier County leaders, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service earlier this month redrew the line used to protect panthers from development.

The new boundaries, touted as a more accurate reflection of where the big cats live, shrank the species’ official territory by nearly 1 million acres across southern Florida. One of the most dramatic changes was in southwest Collier, where thousands of acres of East Naples - FP147’s new home - were removed.

An icon of Florida’s wild past, the charismatic Florida panther now lives on about 2.5 million acres of wilderness in Southwest Florida. Scientists estimate about 80-100 panthers exist.

FP147 was born in Big Cypress National Preserve in an area known as Raccoon Point, a few miles north of the preserve’s Oasis Visitor Center on U.S. 41 East.

Jansen and a team of panther trackers treed the then-11-month-old cat March 3 and placed a radio collar around his neck.

His mother died March 22 under mysterious circumstances, Jansen said. She had a large wound on her neck and lots of blood in her head, but it was unclear what had killed the cat.

FP147 was on his own too soon. Kittens typically don’t leave their mothers’ side until they are a year and a half old, experts say. Yet, he did what young males are supposed to do: He went looking for new territory.

During the summer and fall, the young panther scampered west to Southern Golden Gate Estates, west of State Road 29. Then, farther west to South Belle Meade. State biologists, who monitor radio-collared panther movements by air three times a week, then briefly lost track of him.

“We couldn’t find him at first during the flight, and at the end of the flight (we) did another sweep of the area and found him in Rookery Bay (National Estuarine Research Reserve),” Mark Lotz said.

Somehow, FP147 had found his way across U.S. 41 East and Collier Boulevard and was hanging around Shell Island Road, just north of Marco Island.

By last week, the cat had ventured to a wooded spot about a half-mile west of the southern terminus of Bayshore Drive, putting him within a few leaps of Naples Bay. Instead of getting wet, FP147 turned around and was found Wednesday a half-mile due south of Treviso Bay, a golf course and residential project under construction on U.S. 41 East.

Lotz doubts the panther will stay near the city for long. He will want to mate with a female panther at some point.

Not to mention that the wooded patch of East Naples is too small to support him; male panthers need up to 200 square miles of space.

Jansen worries the young panther will get hit by a car before he returns to the big woods of eastern Collier.

Nearby residents shouldn’t be “overly concerned” about their safety with a predator such as a panther in their midst, Lotz said.

Eagle Creek Country Club resident Michael Morrissey, for one, isn’t bothered. He doesn’t expect many critters to cross his path anytime soon.

“Not with a Super Wal-Mart going up across the street from us,” he said.

http://www.naplesnews.com/news/2006/dec/28/panther_making _east_naples_his_new_home/?latest

Leopard killed by car in Rajasthan, India

Achrol (Rajasthan), Dec 28 (ANI): A three-year-old panther died here late on Wednesday after an unidentified vehicle hit it on a national highway.

Wildlife officials said the accident apparently happened at Achrol along the highway connecting Rajasthan's capital Jaipur with the national capital New Delhi.

"Its body was found on the roadside after an accident with an unidentified vehicle. They come from the forests mainly in search of water," said Ramkumar Sharma, Forest Officer.

The death of the panther comes after a series of similar deaths in recent times where wild animals met with tragic death involving speeding vehicles on highways.

"The behaviour of the panther is mainly nocturnal. They keep roaming around a large area. It's just that people tend to panic when they see them. Even when they have come inside habitations, they don't harm anybody. Usually, people drive fast in vehicles on the highway and perhaps due to poor visibility and fog, the panther met with this accident. There is nothing unusual to this," said Dinesh Gaud, a wildlife expert.

Shrinking habitat and increasing human encroachment into forest areas is forcing wild animals to come to villages and towns in search of food, resulting in more man-animal conflicts of late. (ANI)

http://www.dailyindia.com/show/97679.php/Three-year-old- panther-dies-in-road-accident-in-Rajasthan

Wild tiger mauls woman to death in Sumatra

The Associated Press
Thursday, December 28, 2006; 3:40 PM

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- A 47-year-old woman was mauled to death by an endangered Sumatran tiger in a village on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, police said Thursday.

The tiger attacked the woman at midnight Wednesday near her house and dragged her into the jungle as her 12-year-old daughter stood by helplessly, said local police chief Lt. Col. Arum Priono.

Villagers have been advised to stay inside at night.

There are fewer than 700 Sumatran tigers worldwide, according to conservationists, and the rare animals are being forced to venture beyond traditional hunting grounds as rampant illegal logging, land clearing and commercial development eats into their jungle habitat.

Police were searching with forest rangers, the military and conservationists to try to catch the tiger.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/ 12/28/AR2006122800807.html

Do wild cougars exist in Southern Illinois?

Brooks Ware, NewsChannel 6

Wildlife officials in Illinois say cougars don't exist in the state, but an independent researcher says sightings are on the rise and the big cats are becoming more aggressive. The claim comes on the heels of two confirmed cougar sightings in our region.

Virgil Smith started his cougar research group, Shadows of the Shawnee, after his son spotted one nearly ten years ago. Smith says cougar sightings in southern Illinois have increased drastically over the past two months, with calls coming in daily.

Smith took a plaster cast of a paw print just south of Harrisburg last weekend. He believes the print belongs to a big cat weighing more than 120 pounds. "It was seen by the person. We found it, tracked it and made the plaster cast of it."

But, Smith doesn't think the print came from a typical tan cougar. He believes it belongs to a black cat, sightings he says have become more frequent. "They're starting to establish a very negative and aggressive behavior. In most cases, there's no fear of humans, which is obviously a major concern."

And, this past May, Kristi Stepter of Massac County says she saw a large grey cat in her backyard. "You automatically know it's a big cat because of the way it walks."

Fish and Wildlife officials have only confirmed two cougar sightings in Illinois. And, officials in Kentucky say there's no hard evidence cougars are living there. But, conservationists in Missouri are beginning to believe otherwise.

A motion activated camera recorded a cougar December 7th near Current River in Missouri, the second confirmed spotting in the area this month. The Missouri Department of Conservation believes the big cats are filtering in from the west and could end up in west Kentucky and southern Illinois.

Dave Hamilton, Missouri Department of Conservation, "The Missouri River and the Mississippi River aren't barriers for a mountain lion. They are capable swimmers. Bobcats and mountain lions regularly cross bodies of water."

Wildlife officials in Illinois and Kentucky say they need a body part, hair or pictures to prove the presence of a cougar. To report a sighting to Shadows of the Shawnee, call (618)273-9394.

http://www.wpsdtv.com/news/local/story.aspx? content_id=f6ef9031-2fcd-4d11-aaff-c52fe7206f1c

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Indiana trappers surprised by bobcat catch

By Nick Schneider, ASSIGNMENTS EDITOR

WORTHINGTON - A pair of young trappers got a real surprise earlier this month when they caught a large-sized bobcat in Jefferson Township - about three miles west of Worthington.

Fifteen-year-old Eldon Martin and his 13-year-old brother have been trapping about a year with coons and foxes as their prime targets.

When they ran their cable-type snare on Dec. 8 they were amazed at their catch - a 28-pound bobcat that measured approximately 30 inches in length.

“It was a big cat,” the boy's father, Amos Martin, recently told The Daily World.

He said he had never previously seen a bobcat on his dairy farm property that is located near the Jefferson-Smith township.

“Absolutely, this was a surprise to them,” Amos Martin stated. “At first they were a little bit worried that they'd get in trouble.”

They found a telephone number in a state trapping law publication and called it to alert officials about their catch.

The bobcat carcass was then turned over to Indiana Department of Resources officials for examination.

The bobcat is a wild cat native to North America. They are found mostly in the United States, southern Canada, and northern Mexico. The bobcat is an adaptable animal that inhabits wooded areas as well as semi-desert, urban, and swampland environments. They live in a set home range which shifts in size with the season.

In appearance, the bobcat has characteristic black bars on its forelegs and tail. They also have prominent, pointed ears with short tufts of black hair at the tip. Their coat is most often light gray or various shades of brown in color, with varying degrees of black spots either dispersed along much of their body or relegated to the otherwise white underparts.

The bobcat is twice as large as a house cat but typically smaller than the related Canada lynx, according to Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia.

Amos Martin said the “cat” did not have a radio-detection device or any other banding to indicate it was part of a DNR tracking study that has been under way for several years at the nearby Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center.

The NSWC/DNR bobcat program started in 1998 to discover more information on the native bobcat habitat. Other information regarding the animal's home range and movement patterns have helped Indiana biologist learn more about the wild cat.

Most of the bobcats in this area are in the eastern Greene/Crane area, IDR Conservation Officer Greg Swanson told The Daily World.

“It's unusual for you to see one. They don't like people,” he said.

http://www.dailycitizen.com/articles/2006/12/27/news/catch.txt

Leopard attacks in Indian district on rise

Express News Service

Vadodara, December 27: Four people have been reported injured due to leopard attacks in Shehra taluka of Panchmahals district. It is the third reported instance of leopard attacks in four months within Vadodara, Panchmahals and Dahod forest circle. Earlier, a child had been mauled to death by the animal in Lunavada. Forest officials have set a trap and are trying to trace the leopard.

Out of the four injured people, Vijesinh (40) from Chitripura village, is reported to be in a serious condition and is undergoing treatment at the Godhra Civil Hospital. According to Panchamahals forest officials, Vijesinh’s nose was ripped out by the leopard when he was working in his field late on Tuesday afternoon. Also, two more persons in Chitripura village were injured by the animal on the same day. A day ago, an eight-year old boy was attacked by a leopard in the nearby Gokulpura village.

MN Patel, Range Forest Officer (RFO), Shehra taluka, said that the first incident occurred on Monday evening when Jitendrakumar Talar (8) from Gokulpura, who was playing with his friends in a field, was attacked by a leopard. ‘‘There were many rocks in the field and leopards are generally found taking shelter behind them, which the children did not know ,’’ said Patel. The animal is believed to have escaped after the children raised a din. Jitendra was injured on his head and was taken to the nearby Public Health Centre (PHC) for treatment.

On the following day, three persons in Chitripura village were injured in leopard attacks within an hour’s time.

The victims were Hemlata Patel, who was working in her field, a boy who was flying a kite, and Vijesinh.

Panchmahals forest officials believe it could be a single leopard which was behind these attacks and have set up a trap—a cage with a goat to entice the animal. Also, seven to eight forest officials are keeping guard, trying to track down the animal.

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=215000

Spain: Scat of endangered lynx adds to highway expansion controversy

Los excrementos avivaron la polemica

Monday 25 December 2006 at 19:13

El lince se convirtió en el mes de marzo en el protagonista de la controvertida ampliación de la carretera de los Pantanos. Los resultados del análisis de ADN realizados a una muestra de excremento aparecida en los alrededores de la M-501 que, por su forma y tamaño parecían ser en principio de lince ibérico, han confirmado la presencia de al menos un ejemplar de esta especie en el suroeste de la Comunidad de Madrid. Así lo ponía de manifiesto el profesor de Ecología de la Universidad Rey Juan Carlos Emilio Virgós, tras el análisis realizado en el laboratorio de Ignacio Doadrio, en el Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, perteneciente al CSIC. El Ministerio de Medio Ambiente convirtió este hallazgo en «caballo de batalla» para intentar paralizar el proyecto de la Comunidad de Madrid para la carretera de los Pantanos. Pero para el Ejecutivo de Aguirre no fue motivo suficiente para no acometer una obra necesaria ante los altos índices de siniestralidad que presentaba esta vía. La presidenta del Ejecutivo puso en duda el origen de los excrementos y la obra se puso en marcha en el tramo que une Quijorna con Navas del Rey.

http://www.carnivoreconservation.org/dotclear/index.php

Tourists return to Indian tiger reserve

Jaipur, Dec 26 (IANS) Tourists and wildlife enthusiasts are back at the Ranthambore National Park, one of India's premier tiger reserves, after a court temporarily lifted a ban on the entry of private vehicles.

Tourist activities in Ranthambore, over 170 km from here, came to a standstill after a single bench of the Rajasthan High Court imposed restrictions on vehicles Dec 8.

As neither park authorities nor the tourism department operate vehicles inside the park and only private operators ply these, no tourist was able to enter the park after the ban.

Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL), a two-judge bench of the court Friday set aside the ban and allowed private vehicles to take tourists inside the park till Jan 16 - the date for the next hearing.

Hundreds of tourists are again thronging the reserve for a glimpse of tigers.

'There has been a heavy rush for the morning and evening visits to the park to catch a glimpse of the wild cats,' said Nandlal Alavada, assistant director, department of tourism.

The heavy rush can be gauged from the fact that 40 vehicles, 21 vans with a capacity to carry 20 people and 19 six-seater jeeps have been pressed into service since Saturday.

And the visitors have not been disappointed. As the mercury dipped in Rajasthan, several wild creatures including tigers were seen resting in the sun.

'I went in Saturday morning and was able to spot a tiger in Zone 2. In the afternoon I saw more tigers,' said Ramesh Gupta, a tourist from Uttar Pradesh.

German Markus said: 'It was so fascinating to see a tigress with two cubs playing around in the open.'

Those associated with the tourism industry around the park are smiling. The 14 days of the ban led to an estimated loss of Rs.60 million.

Tourist operators and hotel owners offered a thanksgiving prasad at the Trinetra Ganesh Temple situated inside the park after the court order.

The Ranthambore park, spread over 392 sq km, is famous for tigers. It is one of India's Project Tiger reserves and home to 36 wild cats including 10 cubs.

The park is also home to the leopard, dhole, monkeys, wild pig, sambar and chital as well as a wide variety of trees, plants, birds and reptiles.


http://news.monstersandcritics.com/india/news/article_1236712.php/ Tourists_return_to_Ranthambore_tiger_reserve

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

New Colorado development may put lynx at risk

Even developer Ginn Co. says 'project will result in an adverse affect'

J.K. Perry
Vail, CO Colorado
December 25, 2006

EAGLE COUNTY - Some conservationists believe development of a private ski resort on Battle Mountain, as currently designed, will destroy potential lynx habitat and areas the animals might travel through.

Colorado Wild conservationists based in Durango and others evaluated the Ginn Co.'s development south of Minturn and submitted their findings to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal agency is conducting an environmental study of the development and what may have to be done to lessen the effect on wildlife.

Ginn Co. officials hope to build 1,700 homes, a golf course and 1,100 acres of ski terrain on and around Battle Mountain.

"Serious adverse impacts to lynx habitat ... appear inevitable from development of the Ginn property at anything approaching the scale proposed," said Ryan Demy Bidwell, director of Colorado Wild.

Ginn Co. representatives familiar with the lynx issue were not available to comment.

Lynx became a federally threatened and state endangered species after the animals were eliminated by humans in Colorado during the early 1970s.

Whether lynx roam Battle Mountain is debatable. The Ginn Co. found no traces of lynx in the area, although the Colorado Division of Wildlife has tracked lynx moving across the property.

The largest population of lynx exists in the San Juan Mountains, southwest of Eagle County, where lynx were reintroduced beginning in 1999 as part of a Division of Wildlife program. Lynx have since popped up on Vail Pass and Independence Pass, and in Summit County and Aspen.

Battle Mountain includes places hospitable to lynx - the dense underbrush of spruce fir trees where their favorite prey, snowshoe hares, also reside. The Ginn property is also considered a link between Eagle's Nest Wilderness and Holy Cross Wilderness, Bidwell said.

The high-altitude development of homes on Battle Mountain, increased traffic and the presence of humans, cats and dogs will eliminate the habitat and that link, Bidwell said. He suggested several changes to the development, such as limiting the number of homes built.

"Whatever development occurs up there needs to be consistent with the protection of lynx habitat on the property and the connectivity of habitat in the region," Bidwell said.

Even Ginn Co. researchers admit the development will hurt lynx.

"(The) project will result in an adverse affect to Canada lynx and lynx habitats through direct habitat loss and the indirect effects of increased traffic along U.S. Highway 24, which would fragment habitat and increase the chances of lynx mortality from traffic strikes," a company report said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately decides how the Ginn Co. must lessen the blow to lynx. What exactly the service might decide is unknown, said Al Pfister, Western Colorado supervisor for the agency.

The Fish and Wildlife Service gathered public comments - including those from Colorado Wild - which it plans to consider in a study of the Ginn development's effects on lynx and other wildlife. The study will include ways to lessen the effects.

A draft of the study is expected next spring, with another public comment period to follow, Pfister said. The final draft might be completed six months later, he said.

Staff Writer J.K. Perry can be reached at 748-2928 or jkperry@vaildaily.com.

http://www.vaildaily.com/article/20061225/NEWS/112210072

Steps to spotting a leopard

Elusive animal gives experienced tracker a run for his money
By Scott Calvert
Baltimore Sun Foreign Reporter

December 24, 2006

NGALA PRIVATE GAME RESERVE, South Africa -- A leopard, it is said, never changes its spots. But veteran tracker Richard Khosa knows that's bunk in one regard. Today's perfect hiding spot - a cozy den for a mother and two big-eared cubs, say - is often tomorrow's Bushveld version of a vacant lot, abandoned with no forwarding address.
Khosa, like some khaki-clad bill collector of the bush, sets out daily on foot, unarmed, to see where the stealthy leopards have crept off to next. If all goes well, he'll find one by the afternoon game drive, payoff time, when wowed tourists fire away with digital cameras from the Land Rover.

Trackers are the backbone of South Africa's growing safari industry. Guests pay upward of $1,000 a night to stay in posh lodges and "tents" - think W Hotel with a canvas ceiling - and they want to see the Big Five: lions, elephants, rhinos, buffaloes and, most elusive, leopards.

Any of the several hundred trackers, nearly all of them black and with deep roots in this area around Kruger National Park, can make that happen. But few are better than Khosa at using paw prints, sounds, smells and other tricks handed down by his father to catch up with Panthera pardus.

For two days recently, Khosa gave a rare behind-the-scenes look at how he does it. Be warned: This is no Discovery Channel episode with weeks of action packed into a thrilling 15-minute segment. This, alas, is about the leopard that got away. But then, pursuit's half the fun.

The quest began, as always, at first light. The bush is a bit like New York City. It never sleeps. Dawn is merely a shift change, as nocturnal creatures like the leopard bed down and the birds and insects go to work, loudly. The crested francolin screeches; the white-browed robin whistles. The cicadas buzz in the mopane trees.

The bush unfolds for miles and miles in a flat carpet of thick brush, grass and low trees, with taller trees popping up here and there, often by dry riverbeds. Ngala encompasses 54 square miles and is one of several private reserves with a no-fence border along Kruger Park, itself as big as New Jersey.

The terrain teems with wildlife. Besides the Big Five, one finds giraffes, hippos, warthogs, zebras, anteaters, wildebeests, mongooses and antelopes, plus scores of bird species. Leopards, often weighing about 150 pounds as adults, are among the hardest of all to see.

Which is exactly why the 36-year-old Khosa loves trying. "If I follow a leopard and don't find it," he said in his rich baritone one evening at camp, "I'm not happy. It's a big challenge for me. That's why I keep practicing, practicing to find some leopard. But it's not easy."

Males cover huge distances, while Ngala's half-dozen females claim somewhat smaller territories of around 10 square miles. A leopard can easily traverse four miles a day, and unlike the plodding lion, it usually walks alone and as daintily as your domestic tabby. While nighttime is the leopard's (and the lion's) busy time, tracking then is too dangerous

Fresh footprints are the key. On this warm morning, beneath smudgy clouds and a robin's-egg blue sky, Khosa set out along a sandy riverbed called Tekwane Donga, near where he had found a female known to locals as Clara and her two 4-month-old cubs in a shrub two days earlier.

Half an hour in, he suddenly stopped in his tracks and eyed the sand. "A baby leopard was playing here," he said, absently tapping a stick against his leg. He aimed his pointer at a series of small, round prints pointing this way and that.

Baby leopard prints can be tricky to identify, resembling a porcupine's front paws. So Khosa looks at the hind prints. These were definitely leopard cubs', and they were not alone. Clara's tracks were there, too.

Intriguingly, her tracks indicated that she had left and not returned. The cubs' prints did not indicate that they followed. Khosa crept into the surrounding brush that leopards prefer as den sites. Maybe, he whispered, Clara went off to hunt and left the cubs. Or maybe she was still with them, despite the print evidence.

"We must look carefully," he said. When he works alone, Khosa carries nothing but a walkie-talkie. Because a reporter was along, Ngala had sent ranger Dave Waddington with a rifle just in case. "If something does happen," Waddington warned, "don't run."

Khosa laughed. His father long ago told him that if a leopard charges, hold your ground and shout. That should - should - stop the charge; he had survived hundreds of such "mock charges." With elephants, it's the other way around: Run like the wind, he says, because they might not stop no matter what you do.

For several minutes, Khosa peered intently into thick bushes and under thorn trees looking for those telltale spots. Nothing. Either the cubs had walked with their mother on the grassy river bank, leaving no prints, or Clara had retrieved them via another route. All he knew was they were not there but had likely gone to a new den partly to avoid hyenas.

Back to the riverbed he went, looking for fresh tracks. Their prints are theoretically easy to identify: Adults leave a fist-size mark that has four distinct toes and three pads at the rear of the foot.

To the untrained eye, the riverbed was a riot of random gouges and grooves. Having grown up in the bush and begun tracking at age 12, Khosa saw it differently. He could pick out myriad creatures' tracks, many barely visible even from inches away. This path seemed to have led to some animal kingdom convention: Hippo, elephant, impala, hyena and leopard had all walked this way.

Some leopard prints told a story about the animal's behavior. When a leopard walks, its hind paw usually lands where its front paw had. But when stalking prey, it gets low to the ground and takes exaggerated steps, so its hind paw lands ahead of its front paw. Trouble was, it appeared Clara had last stalked here days ago.

"Old tracks," Khosa said, meaning two or three days old. Often he just mumbled, "Mmm, no."

Old tracks betray themselves in various ways: loose grains of sand (from wind or gravity), dryness, an upright blade of grass (since that blade would be horizontal if freshly trod), a tiny spider web or another creature's print on top. Because leopards roam far, only fresh prints, from the last 12 hours or so, are worth following.

This is a tough time of year to see animals in the bush. The rains have returned, filling watering holes and fueling the growth of grass and leaves. Since the rain hardens the ground and washes away dust, tracks are harder to see. So Khosa also uses his ears, at one point tiptoeing after hearing twigs break. In this case it turned out to be nothing.

Khosa professed not to be worried about any of this. "Let's carry on until we find the fresh tracks," he said.

Until, not if.

Khosa's confidence stems from a lifetime in the bush. He was born nearby at what was then a hunting camp. His father, known only to him by his nickname, Cowboy, worked as a tracker. His family is Shangaan, an ethnic group from the Kruger area renowned for tracking skills.

Today, two of Khosa's brothers are in the business, one as a ranger at Ngala and one as a tracker at Thornybush Game Reserve. (Rangers know their way around the bush as well but spend more time with guests at camp and in the Land Rover. Khosa jokes that they are lazy "taxi drivers.")

When he was 12, his father took him out to teach the art of tracking. When he was 17, his father died, so he dropped out of high school to take his job. In 2000, he joined Conservation Corp. of Africa, a safari company that runs Ngala and lodges across Southern Africa. In South Africa alone, CC Africa employs 86 trackers.

Khosa's monthly pay of $260 plus tips and free room and board may not sound like much. But it isn't bad relative to prevailing wages in the economically depressed region. With his lack of education, the only other job he figures he could get would be as a lower-paid security guard. His salary will rise by $70 a month soon, since he has reached the second-highest tracker category: Level III.

"He's way above average," said Adrian Louw, an instructor at the Field Guides Association of Southern Africa, which accredits trackers. Three weeks ago, Khosa scored a 95 percent on his Level III test, a rare feat on the first try.

Ngala ranger Mark Shaw described Khosa this way: "If he gets onto a fresh set of leopard tracks, he goes into a different world. He almost becomes like a leopard. He doesn't like not finding that leopard."

Yet that is how the first day ended, with no leopard after seven hours of trying. By nightfall Khosa was already looking ahead to the next day.

The second day began promisingly. While headed to a new swath of territory, Khosa somehow spotted a track on the dirt road as the Land Rover rolled along at 20 mph. It was the freshest track yet, from last night. He knew that because it was not there the previous afternoon and because a genet, a catlike animal that prowls in the evenings, had stepped on the leopard's print.

Khosa's nose sniffed out the popcorn smell of leopard urine sprayed on a shrub. Some leaves still glistened. At last, it seemed, 14-year-old Clara and the kids would be seen - from a respectful distance, but seen nonetheless.

Khosa and Shaw decided to drive on, guessing she had crossed the road and moved north since the prints were at the southern end of her range. Nothing appeared, though. So Khosa headed on foot down yet another streambed. Nothing. A red-chested cuckoo seemed to mock the attempt with its call: "Ha ha ha."

The night before, a male leopard had boldly stridden through camp. But Clara was playing hard-to-see. After more than 12 hours in the bush over two days, Khosa conceded defeat, for now.

"The bush is like this," he said. "Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's not. Always, it's changing."

The bush is indeed like that. But sometimes a search ends on a high note. A couple of days earlier, Khosa had found fresh prints and soon spied Clara and her cubs. He crept away and radioed the find. That afternoon, Bradley Deckelbaum and Ashley Walker of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., were gazing from the Land Rover as Clara and a cub ate from an impala carcass.

"The difference between that and spotting elephants from the road is phenomenal," said Deckelbaum, 32. "It's more rewarding and rare. Even though you did nothing to find it, it's a more rewarding thing. And the cubs are cute."

scottmcalvert@gmail.com

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/nationworld/bal-te.tracker24dec24,0,2049141.story? page=2&coll=bal-home-headlines

Caracals, other wildlife disappear from Indian region

Wildlife disappears from fragile Kutch
Paul John
[ 24 Dec, 2006 2159hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

BHUJ: Kutch would have to bid adieu to some of the rarest species in the world, warn ecologists and conservationists, if there are no efforts made to curb the frantic rate of degradation in the region.

For instance, the next time you spot a dugong off the Kutch coast, it could just be the last of the species. The species has not been spotted off the coast for the past two years.

The spotting of three caracals — a rare nocturnal cat species — in Narayan Sarovar sanctuary in Kutch early this year has excited conservationists.

Another endangered species, the great Indian bustard, has grown from 27 members in 1995 to only 45 recently in their grassland habitat in the Naliya region of Kutch.

The hatching of three eggs of the endangered bird was a delightful sight for forest officials. Conservationists have already sounded the alarm on the bustard.

The government had increased the area of the bustard sanctuary from 200 acres to 2,000 acres this year.

Conservationists at Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) feel that this is not enough and the bird needs more land.

"Two dead dugongs with gashes were spotted two years ago after they were hit by boats. The species has not been sighted since then. They generally prefer shallow waters and are never aggressive,"says chief conservator of forests, HS Singh.

A nation-wide study has been entrusted to the Gujarat Environment Engineering Research( GEER) Foundation to search for dugong habitat along the nation's coast.

"Dugongs are the only marine herbivorous mammals that grow up to eight to 13 feet and live up to 55 to 70 years. Conservation is tough as they breed once in three to seven years. One has to look for an alternative location for them other than the Jamnagar coast,"says chairman of Corbett Foundation in India, Dilip D Khatau.

For the caracal,Kutch conservator of forests RL Meena says, "We could only spot three caracals after nine years recently.

These are shy creatures and highly endangered. Human interference in surrounding areas of the 443 square kilometre Narayan Sarovar sanctuary is one of the main reasons for their disappearance."Adds BNHS director Asad Rahmani, "The great Indian bustard would soon disappear if we do not stop excessive grazing in the Naliya grasslands.

Forest officials should cordon off the sanctuary limit between July-September every year if they want the rare bird to survive."

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Ahmedabad/ Wildlife_disappears_from_fragile_Kutch/articleshow/915532.cms

Arkansas: Cougar seen in wild is probably former "pet"

Killing animal for personal protection is legal, commission says

By Warren Watkins
The Daily Citizen
Friday, December 22, 2006 6:09 PM CST

Another panther has been spotted near the community of Plainview in north White County.

Reports last week were that one or two panthers, also called a mountain lion or cougar, had been seen several times four miles north of Searcy on Foster Chapel Road. Plainview is four miles north of Searcy, but about five miles away from the first sightings and on the opposite side of the Little Red River, so the latest reports may represent a different animal.

April Skinner almost hit a panther with her car Monday, Dec. 18. on Harden Mill Road.

“I seen a panther right down the road from me,” Skinner said. “It was black and had yellow eyes.”

Officials say a brown panther often appears black at night, and there are no black panthers. Pumas, not found in North America, are black and are the size of tigers.

“I was coming back from the grocery store last night and was driving kinda slow,” Skinner said Tuesday. “I thought I seen something in the road, and it was big. I didn’t really know what it was because it was dark, but when I got up close it had jumped into a bush and sunk its head down low. It had a great big head. I seen great big yellow eyes glowing at me. It had a great big old long tail.”

Skinner said Larry and Debby Harrison, also on Harden Mill Road, had seen the panther several times. Sonya Spears, Skinner’s mother-in-law who lives on Red River Shores Road, has also seen the panther.

“A year ago I saw a big black animal jump the fence. It ran so fast it scared me. I thought it was a deer at first,” Spears, said. “I called the game and fish commission because we have a lot of small children in the area.”

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission began its latest monthly meeting with a discussion of the sightings, issuing a statement to the public from board chairman Sheffield Nelson.

Citizens can defend themselves if they feel they are in eminent danger from an animal, according to the statement, and shouldn’t be afraid to go out into the wilds of Arkansas for fear of being attacked by a mountain lion.

“People should know that if they feel that they are in danger, they can kill an animal to protect themselves,” Nelson said. “I don’t want people to be afraid to deer hunt because someone has released an animal into the wild.”

Mountain lions were historically present throughout Arkansas until their apparent eradication, which occurred by about 1920. Since that time efforts have been made to determine the existence of the animal in Arkansas.

There is no evidence that there is a wild, reproducing population of mountain lions in Arkansas, but it is probable there are a few free-ranging mountain lions that are most likely either escaped or released pets, rather than remnants of the state’s original mountain lion population.

In order to reduce the chance of escapes happening in the future, the commission passed regulations last year requiring owners of pet mountain lions to obtain permits and meet minimum caging standards in order to keep their animals.

http://www.thedailycitizen.com/articles/2006/12/23/ news/local_news/news02.txt

China tiger farms lobby to sell animal parts

Scott Norris
for National Geographic News

December 22, 2006

A controversial proposal to lift China's 13-year domestic ban on trade in tiger parts has conservationists baring their teeth.

At issue is the sale of bones, organs, claws, fat, and blood from "farm-raised" tigers—an idea proponents say will help stem poaching of wild tigers.

Illegal trade in tiger parts for traditional medicine has been a major factor driving wild populations steeply downward. And wildlife protection groups say that poaching would only increase if China's trade ban were to be lifted.

About a dozen privately owned, government-licensed tiger farms currently exist in China, most of them operated as tourist attractions.

The farms hold about 4,000 tigers. Conservationists and animal rights advocates have long criticized conditions on the farms and argued for their closure.

Farm operators say they can help with tiger conservation by legally selling products derived from captive tigers that die a natural death.

Flooding the market with farmed tiger parts, supporters say, would lower the profitability of poaching, thus reducing its occurrence.

Wildlife advocates maintain that the proposal is motivated by commerce, not conservation, and would likely spell doom for the last remaining wild tigers.

"China has taken excellent actions to enhance enforcement and to educate its public" about tiger conservation, said Sue Lieberman, Global Species Programme Director for the international conservation organization WWF.

"Any lifting of the ban would undermine efforts they have put in place over the last 16 years."

Economic Solution?

Materials such as powdered tiger bone have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and can fetch a high price.

When the domestic trade ban went into effect in 1993, such goods continued to be sold on the black market.

Despite a government-run education campaign to discourage the use of tiger products and promote wildlife-friendly alternatives, demand remains high.

Barun Mitra is director of the Liberty Institute, a pro-free-market think tank in New Delhi, India. He says wild tigers remain at risk because mainstream conservationists have been taking the wrong approach.

In his view the problem is essentially an economic one—and it requires an economic solution.

"Trying to choke demand by greater investment in law and order has always failed, whether you look at the tiger in India or Prohibition"—the domestic ban on alcohol sales from 1920 to 1933—"in the U.S.," Mitra said.

Instead, Mitra believes that wild tigers would be best served by allowing Chinese tiger farmers to meet the demand for medicinal products.

Mitra has been making the case for farmed tiger trade in newspaper editorials and public appearances, including participation in a debate last month in Washington, D.C., hosted by the nonprofit Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

The free market can protect endangered species, Mitra says, by according the animals their full value as private, saleable property.

Demand cannot be wished or regulated away, he says. If the only way to meet demand is by hunting wild animals, populations will inevitably decline.

After a recent tour of tiger farms hosted by the Chinese government, Mitra cited officials as saying that the country could produce a hundred thousand farmed tigers in the next 10 to 15 years.

By Mitra's reckoning, a captive population of that size could produce up to ten thousand tiger carcasses a year.

If the market were flooded by such an abundant source of tiger products, Mitra believes prices would drop sufficiently so that poaching and smuggling would no longer be worth the risk.

More resources could then be devoted to developing local economic incentives for tiger conservation.

"To save the tiger in the wild," Mitra said, "we need to ensure that the value of a tiger alive in the forest is higher than the value of a dead one."

Out-of-Control Market

But Mitra's "sell the tiger to save it" proposal has drawn a sharply negative response from conservation groups such as WWF, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Save the Tiger Fund.

WWF's Lieberman says Mitra's argument has already been proven incorrect.

"It was the so-called free-market approach that led to [tigers] becoming so endangered in the first place," she said.

"China once had one of the largest tiger populations in the wild and now has one of the smallest. This is agreed by experts to be due to the unregulated, out-of-control domestic market in tiger parts."

Last month a coalition of animal welfare groups issued a joint statement during Chinese president Hu Jintao's visit to India urging the Chinese government to maintain the ban.

And in last month's CEI debate, Grace Gabriel, Asia regional director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said that tiger farming and trade would only stimulate consumption.

Poaching would remain profitable, she said, since it will always cost less to kill a wild tiger than to raise and feed a captive one.

Lieberman agrees, adding that consumer preference for wild tiger materials would help keep the black market in operation.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/ 2006/12/061222-tiger-farms.html

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Blind mountain lions may be suffering symptoms of STDs

By Ryan Woodard, Journal Staff Writer

South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks officials and South Dakota State University researchers say chlamydia could be causing blindness in Black Hills mountain lions.

"Right now, it looks like, at least with the blindness issue, it could be chlamydia," GF&P regional supervisor Mike Kintigh said.

Two blind lions were euthanized by GF&P officials this year, and both were sent to SDSU researchers. Only the eyes were sent from the first lion, a five-year-old emaciated female cat found July 7 wandering near Nemo Road.

Researchers tested that lion primarily for physical defects in its eyes, Kintigh said.

But a necropsy was performed on the other lion, a 7- to 9-year-old blind female big cat that was found and euthanized Nov. 8 in Custer State Park.

Veterinarian David Knudsen, who works in SDSU's diagnostic lab, assisted with that exam. Knudsen suggested that the cat may have had chlamydia, according to SDSU wildlife and fisheries sciences professor Jonathan Jenks.

"The veterinarian that assisted my graduate student during the necropsy suggested that the inflammation was consistent with chlamydia," Jenks, who is overseeing the lion project for the GF&P, said.

The big cat is the first one considered to be a possibility for chlamydia, Jenks said.

"We just have one lion that we've been able to get that far with so far," he said.

Jenks and Kintigh said that chlamydia has not been confirmed to have existed in the animal. Kintigh said researchers need another sample before they are able to confirm the existence of the disease.

It takes several tests on different lions to narrow down what could be causing the blindness, Kintigh said.

"We find ourselves sitting in the middle here," Kintigh said. "We don't have a patient that we can just run and go do more tests on. We're waiting for the next one that might show up. Now, we have some more specific questions or tests to run if another blind one shows up."

He said researchers want an immediate eye swab taken if the GF&P comes across and euthanizes another blind lion. Kintigh has said that blind lions are a danger to the public because they have a hard time finding food and will likely be more aggressive and threaten the public.

Jenks said he has contacted researchers in Wyoming and Florida to see whether any chlamydia cases have been documented in lions. He has yet to find a documented case, although he said chlamydia is "pretty common in domestic cats."

The chlamydia researchers are looking at in the lions is "similar to a chlamydia that's associated with birds," Jenks said.

Kintigh said he doesn't know how the GF&P would react if it was confirmed that Black Hills lions are being infected with chlamydia.

Another lion suspected to be at least partially blind was taken in the first Black Hills mountain lion season on Oct. 24, 2005. That lion had shading in its eyes, which was seen as an early sign of blindness.

The only other blind lion documented by the GF&P is a lion shot April 15, 1996. The lion had already been hit by a car, Kintigh said, which could have caused its blindness.

Jenks said he and his assistants are left to wait and see if any other blind cats come in to confirm their suspicions.

"We don't have one right now. We're waiting to get another one. That's where we're sitting right now," he said. "If we see this in any other lions, we'll test this and see if we can confirm they had a problem."

http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/articles/2006/12/22/ news/top/news04.txt

Project Tiger: Indian report raps state government

Special Correspondent

'Tiger habitat in Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary shrinking'

HYDERABAD: The State Government was rapped by the Comptroller and Auditor-General of India for assigning "very low priority" to `Project Tiger,' a Centrally-sponsored scheme, to ensure a viable tiger population for scientific, economic, aesthetic, cultural and ecological values.

According to the CAG report for the year-ended March 31, 2006, placed in the Assembly on Thursday, the performance audit review "showed that the tiger habitat in the Rajiv Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary (RGWS) is shrinking and that there is real danger that the number of tigers in it is dwindling".

It said the consolidation of the reserve was delayed for nearly 20 years leading to continuous encroachment. "No action has been taken for checking encroachment or for the translocation of people from the sanctuary. There is a large and growing increase in the human/cattle population causing enormous biotic pressure on RWGS."

Poor allocation

It said the management plans were not comprehensive and the allocation and expenditure on `Project Tiger' was only a meagre 3 per cent of the total expenditure on all the schemes in RGWS.

The report also faulted the tiger census conducted every year as "unscientific, unsystematic and therefore unreliable for verifying the actual population of tigers."

http://www.hindu.com/2006/12/22/stories/2006122207890400.htm

Forest law brings hope, danger for India's tigers

NEW DELHI - A new law giving rights to millions of poor Indian forest dwellers has provoked debate among conservationists who disagree over whether it will help save or further threaten the nation's dwindling tiger numbers.

The Recognition of Forest Rights Bill 2006 -- approved by lawmakers on Monday -- granted some of India's most impoverished and marginalised communities the right to own and live off resource-rich forest areas for the first time.

But while some wildlife groups say it will help efforts to save endangered tigers by making forest dwellers more accountable, others fear it will lead to more big cat poaching.

"Entire forest village communities will actually now ensure that no one in their community is involved in poaching and other illegal activities as they could all face penalties," Nitin Sethi of the Centre of Science and Environment think-tank said on Thursday.

Allowing forest dwellers to legally use and sell minor non-timber produce such as bamboo, honey, wax, fish and medicinal plants and herbs, would also help, he said.

But others argued the law would give rights to "encroachers" recently settled in forests and not just to those living there for at least three generations as the bill specified.

"How do you prove your family was there for generations?" said Tito Joseph of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

"Lots of people will take advantage of this and our fear is that more people will mean more poaching and more destruction of the natural habitat of wildlife such as tigers," he added.

India is home to half the world's surviving tigers, but experts say it is losing the battle to save the big cats, citing poaching by some of the 300,000 people living in the country's 28 tiger reserves as one of the main causes.

Most eke out a meagre living by cutting down trees to sell for firewood, collecting honey, picking fruit and simple farming. But some are also paid by criminal gangs to lay traps, poison water sources and electrocute tigers.

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

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 be as low as 1,200.


Story by Nita Bhalla
Story Date: 22/12/2006

http://www.planetark.com/avantgo/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid=39596

India: Too many leopards means too few endangered stags

Toufiq Rashid

SRINAGAR, DECEMBER 21 -
Wildlife experts in Kashmir are facing a dilemma: one of the reasons for the dwindling population of the “critically endangered” hangul [Kashmiri stag] is the healthy rise in the leopard population.

The authorities at the Dachigam National Park, home to both the hangul stag and the leopard, are considering translocation or, as a last resort, culling the leopard population.

The threat to the hangul from the leopard was one of the findings of a six-year study conducted in the 140 sq km park by J&K’s Department of Wildlife Protection, supported by the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun.

“The study has shown that the predator population in the area is beyond the carrying capacity,” said Farooq Geelani, Regional Wildlife Warden for Kashmir.

Officials have figures for the decrease in hangul population — from about 850 in the 1988 census to between 170 and 250 in the 2005 census — but there are no figures for the leopards in the area.

Even so, the study blames falling hangul population chiefly on leopards, and experts say that large-scale grazing of sheep and encroachment in the upper reaches of the park have led to the shrinking of the hangul’s home range, making it easy prey for leopards in the lower reaches.

Like the leopard, the population of Asiatic black bear has also increased in the park, and this, too is proving fatal for the hangul.

“The black bear is an omnivore. It feeds on young hangul. The female to fawn ratio is very low now,” says Rashid Naqash, the park warden. “The absence of the fawn means that there is an increase in frequency of attacks and overpopulation of predators.”

He said that an increase in the number of predators “cuts parental stock, which causes inbreeding depression and is fatal for hangul growth.”

In view of the findings, the department, in consultation with the Centre, is considering translocation of some of the leopards. Culling is being considered as the last step.

“But before taking any such steps, we have to access the home range of the hangul, said Geelani.

The Wildlife Institute of India has suggested satellite tracking of hangul to determine the home range. “They have procured GPS system to track and see where the hangul goes during summers. This will tell us whether we need to increase our coverage area or whether the predator population needs to be decreased,’’ said Geelani

In the sixties, the barasinga had faced a problem similar to that being faced by the hangul: at the Kanha National Park, an increase in the tiger population, had led to the decline of the barasinga.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/19138.html

Wandering lynx caught in Utah, sent back to Colorado

Officials feared they might be mistaken for bobcats, which are not protected

By Brett Prettyman
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune

Article Last Updated:12/21/2006 01:09:38 AM MST

Wildlife officials in Utah have captured two Canada lynx and sent them back to Colorado. The animals, listed as threatened on the Endangered Species List, were caught Dec. 7 and Dec. 12, after being treed by dogs and tranquilized.

Employees from Wildlife Services, a federal agency that manages predators and nuisance wildlife, first caught a female on the north end of the Book Cliffs in eastern Utah. The animal was transported to Meeker, Colo., and handed over to Colorado Department of Wildlife officials.

A male lynx was caught nearly a week later in the Mineral Mountains between Beaver and Milford. The male was delivered to Grand Junction, Colo., where officials picked him up.

The animals migrated from the San Juan Mountains in Colorado where state wildlife officials started a reintroduction program in 1999. Once Utah biologists learned the locations of the two lynx, they moved quickly to catch the animals.

Trapping season for bobcats, a species not federally protected, started in Utah on Nov. 16 and officials feared the lynx could be mistaken for the smaller cats. In addition to being taller and heavier than bobcats, lynx are more of a grayish color while bobcats are more reddish. Lynx also are easily identified by a tuft of hair on the point of each ear.

Kevin Bunnell, mammals program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said both of the animals were in good condition when they were captured. He said the lynx would probably have been captured before the trapping season opened, but Colorado officials had stopped sending updates to DWR biologists several months ago.

"They had been in the state and we were not aware of it," he said. "Once we realized they were in some vulnerable places we decided we better move them. There was some miscommunication; it won't happen again."

One other Canada lynx has been captured in Utah and returned to Colorado. DWR biologists caught a male lynx in Emery County in November 2004.

Other lynx have spent time in Utah, but eventually moved back to Colorado. Each animal introduced to the lynx project is fitted with a tracking collar, but kittens born in Colorado may wander into other states and go undetected.

Prior to the 2004 trapping, there had been no confirmed sightings of wild lynx since the 1970s.

* BRETT PRETTYMAN can be contacted at brettp@sltrib.com or 801-257-8902.

http://www.sltrib.com/news/ci_4877701

Bobcats returning to Central New York

Last Update: 12/21/2006 3:31:52 AM

Cortland (WSYR-TV) - You'll usually find them in the Southern Tier or up north, but here in Central New York, you normally don't see bobcats.
Their population is growing in this area and the DEC needs your help finding them.

Underneath a silky sun, walking through a Scroungey Trail, is where you'll likely find a bobcat. The problem is, most people don't.

“Bobcats are a species that haven't been common, they've been really uncommon in Central New York for the past 100 years,” says Mari Kautz of the DEC.

Kautz is DEC Regional Wildlife Manager for region seven, and says there have recently been a number of sightings, ranging from Cortland to Madison Counties, and all points in between.

“A few from Onondaga County and Oswego County, primarily those are the places where we're getting credible reports,” says Kautz.

One of the most recent sightings was along John Glenn Boulevard. Apparently a driver spotted a bobcat dead on the side of the road.

Researchers aren't sure why there's so many bobcats coming into our area, it could be a number of things like migration, some of them could be moving up from Pennsylvania.

But when it comes down to it, Marie Kautz says there's nothing to worry about. The cats are pretty much harmless. They're more afraid of you, than you are of them.

“Just seeing it eye to eye and face to face up close and personal, it's a thrilling experience and generally people are excited to see this animal,” she says.

The DEC will start its field research sometime next month.

It's illegal to hunt bobcats in our region, region seven. If you've seen one, you're asked to call the DEC at 607-753-3095 ext. 247.

http://www.9wsyr.com/news/local/story.aspx?content_id= 512cceb8-3020-454a-9e5a-1a22b7714caf

Mountain lion goes on the attack in California town

by CLAIRE MARIE TEETERS
Editor

Department of Fish and Game representatives reported the presence of six mountain lions in the community last year. Three were seen in one night on security tapes at Yucaipa High School. But the one observed last Friday was on Panorama Drive in Yucaipa and it was definitely an agressive predator.

Greg Gage said he and his Springer spaniel-mix dog were outside early in the morning when he spotted the cat slinking toward them east from Panorama. The cat stopped about 15 feet from them, looked Gage in the eye, over at the dog and pounced, pinning it to the ground. Gage was waving and making a lot of noise and began to pelt the cat with rocks at the same time the dog began to fight back. The lion took off, Gage said, leaving them both shook up.

While Gage said he did not want the lion to be destroyed, the Yucaipa Police Department was contacted in an effort to protect the neighborhood. Gage also said he called his neighbors to let them know about the attack. A department representative said he had contacted Fish and Game.

Messages were also left for Wildwood Canyon State Park Ranger Sue Neary.

Meanwhile, on the North Bench, Judy Burton reported a mountain lion had killed two of her goats.

In Wildwood Canyon, a resident looked up from her cookie-making to see a female watching her bake through the window.

http://www.newsmirror.net/articles/2006/12/21/ news/03news.txt

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Colorado officials want deer hunting to control mountain lions

Mike Hooker
Reporting

(CBS4) BOULDER, Colo. The state wants to make sure hunting is an option in managing mountain lions in Boulder County, but it's not the lions they're considering hunting. Instead, it's their prey -- deer.

When mountain lions cross paths with people it's sometimes deadly for the people and the lion.

There are mountain lion warning signs at some Boulder County open space areas to reduce the chance of conflict.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife believes that hunters could perhaps help control the people vs. mountain lion situations by hunting deer.

"The lions will disperse and manage themselves to a degree if the prey base is dispersed," said Rick Enstrom, a wildlife commissioner.

He said the state will soon embark on a study of mountain lions on the Front Range.

Flagstaff Mountain, just outside Boulder, is where a 7-year-old boy was attacked by a mountain lion last spring.

Enstrom hopes big game hunting can be part of the mountain lion discussion in Boulder County parks.

"What we don't want to do is react to another disaster where they call the Division of Wildlife and say 'come and get your cat,'" Enstrom said.

"There are a lot of people who would not like to see hunting on open space at all," said Ron Stewart, with Boulder Co. Parks and Open Space. "I mean any king of hunting."

He said the mountain lion study will provide a crucial scientific base to make decisions about hunting deer to reduce the mountain lion numbers on public land.

"Just jumping to conclusions ... is the sort of thing that needs to be examined," Stewart said.

The commissioner agreed but said historically, hunting is the single most effective tool for managing big game and their predators.

The DOW said it already has longstanding hunting arrangements on open space in Jefferson and Larimer counties.

http://cbs4denver.com/local/local_story_354004312.html

Nevada: Scientists embark on mountain lion behavior study

Story by: John Trent
12/20/2006

Though they are often feared -- but rarely seen -- by humans, mountain lions play an integral role in many of Nevada’s ecosystems. They prey on native animals such as mule deer and bighorn sheep, as well as introduced species such as wild horses and domestic livestock. On occasion, this predation can influence the populations of these species, which can, in turn, impact habitat characteristics.

Knowledge concerning this relationship between predator, grazer and ecosystem is scarce, and there is still much to be learned.

In an effort to better understand the predation patterns of mountain lions in the Virginia Range, scientists from the University of Nevada, Reno’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources (CABNR) have embarked on a study that will track a collared mountain lion.

The tracking program will help scientists plot the mountain lion’s range, as well as note the type of prey it seeks. The Virginia Range, located on the southeastern flanks of Reno, encompasses parts of Washoe and Lyon Counties as well as Storey County. On Dec. 11, a 125-pound, 6-foot-long, 7- or 8-year-old female mountain lion was trapped, collared and released to help initiate the project.

The study is part of a larger examination by scientists from CABNR regarding the behavioral effects of using contraceptives with the area’s wild horse population. Scientists are interested in determining if contraception and fewer foals can lead to prey switching by animals such as mountain lions.

David Thain, an assistant professor of veterinary medicine in CABNR as well as state extension veterinarian for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, says the study will do much to improve the scientific community’s understanding of mountain lion behavior.

“It’s an important study because we still don’t have a clear idea what the cats in our local mountains are doing,” Thain said. “It’s hard to get a sense of them. By tracking them, we’ll be able to get a better sense of what they’re doing, what species they’re eating and whether they are crossing into the community or heading up into the Sierras at certain times of the year.”

CABNR graduate student Meeghan Gray and a team of other researchers and wildlife experts established the trapping area in a remote area of the Virginia Range. The team trapped the mountain lion, sedated it with a tranquilizer, measured its size, estimated its age and fitted the animal with a Global Positioning System (GPS) telemetry collar that will allow the team to track its movements through the coming months.

“This is part of an ongoing project looking at the behavioral effects for contraception of wild horses,” Thain said. “The data that we have indicates that there are probably only a few mountain lions in the Virginia Range. Since we’ve been lucky enough to catch and track one, the data that we have should increase dramatically. The collar will be able to capture four points a day and at night we’ll have the capability to upload all the information, so that we can continually follow where the cat was before.”

http://www.unr.edu/nevadanews/detail.aspx?id=1954

2006 deadliest year yet for Florida panther

Eleven of the endangered big cats were killed on roads, mostly in Collier.

By KATE SPINNER
kate.spinner@heraldtribune.com

Roadways proved deadlier than ever for Florida panthers this year.

Eleven of the endangered cats have became roadkill since January, more than any year on record.

Biologists estimate that 90 to 100 Florida panthers, a subspecies of the cougar, exist.

"Obviously, losing 11 panthers in a year is not a real good thing," said Chris Belden, panther recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Increasing traffic and development in the land where panthers roam does not bode well for the cat's future.

"I don't think we'll ever recover the Florida panther. Right now we're more or less trying to prevent its extinction," Belden said.

The latest panther death occurred last week on a rural Collier County road, which has become a notorious death trap in the past two years.

Mark Lotz, wildlife biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the danger zone seems to lie within a five-mile stretch of County Line Road near Immokalee.

Transportation officials are already planning to build a wildlife crossing there.

Last year and the year before, nine panthers died on Florida roads, many of them also on County Line Road.

Ten died on roads in 2003, the last record-setting year.

Elizabeth Fleming, the Florida representative for Defenders of Wildlife, said the number of panthers dying on roads is too high for a species so close to extinction.

"If you think of what the size of the panther population is, it's a huge hit to take every year," Fleming said. "The answer is not to develop the only place in the world where panthers live."

Belden said he is not shocked by the rising number of deaths because both panthers and people have become more plentiful in recent years.

"The more panthers, the more cars, the higher the probability of panthers being hit," Belden said.

Panthers recently rebounded from a low population of about 25 a decade ago.

But the panther's shrinking habitat barely supports the population that exists today in South Florida.

"Panther have just about filled up the habitat they can occupy," Belden said.

So, the animals die crossing roads and in fierce battles over territory.

All told, wildlife officials found 19 dead panthers this year. Four of them died in territorial disputes in the wilderness.

Lotz said most panther deaths away from roads are not recorded because only about a third of the panthers wear radio collars, which transmit data on their whereabouts to scientists.

The male panther that died last week was not collared.

Based on data transmitted by the collars, the wildlife service recently shrunk the boundary where it assumes panthers live.

The wildlife service uses the boundary to guide development decisions in panther habitat.

Lotz said the change probably won't make a difference because the regulatory boundary that existed has not stopped growth in panther habitat.

Development "is going to happen regardless. I haven't seen anything to stop it yet, except the Atlantic," Lotz said.

Last modified: December 20. 2006 5:39AM

http://www.heraldtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=/20061220/NEWS/612200414

$100,000 milestone for lion conservation/research initiative

Thursday 21 December 2006

The P.R.I.D.E. Initiative stands for "Protection, Research, Implementation, Development, and Education" and is dedicated to raising resources and awareness to save Africa's imperiled lion population through a combination of applied scientific research, preserving large conservation landscapes, and community development. In November 2006, the Lion P.R.I.D.E. Initiative achieved a historic milestone when it surpassed its first year fundraising goal of $100,000. "We are absolutely thrilled that the Lion P.R.I.D.E. Initiative has secured over $100,000 in support for lion conservation and research projects in Africa," commented John Banovich. "We are very proud that P.R.I.D.E. is supporting some of the most passionate and brightest conservation professionals working in Africa today." Funding for the P.R.I.D.E. Initiative has been made possible by the generous donations of Banovich supporters around the world.

"AWF is extremely pleased that P.R.I.D.E. is providing substantial support to lion research and conservation efforts in East and Southern Africa," said AWF President Patrick Bergin. "The projects supported by P.R.I.D.E. are answering important scientific questions regarding lion conservation and enabling our talented conservation professionals to work with communities to ensure that lions survive in Africa for future generations."

The African Wildlife Foundation and internationally recognized artist John Banovich partnered to launch the Lion P.R.I.D.E. Initiative. Banovich is among the most renowned wildlife artists in the United States, and his art is appreciated by collectors internationally. He specializes in large oil paintings of animals from around the world. Banovich is talented, prolific and dedicated-both to his art and to preserving the wild places where the animals live.

Funding from the Lion P.R.I.D.E. Initiative presently supports three important lion conservation and research initiatives:

AWF's Large Carnivore Research Project. Since 2003, Gosiame Neo-Mahupeleng has been studying the population dynamics, movement patterns, and incidents of conflict between humans and lions in AWF's Kazungula Heartland, which spans the border regions of Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.

AWF's Maasai Steppe Lion Research Project. Led by Bernard Kissui, this is AWF's newest species research project. Its launch in mid-2006 would not have been possible without critical funding from the Lion P.R.I.D.E. Initiative. Bernard has been investigating the demography and dispersal patterns of lions in and around Tanzania's Tarangire National Park and conflict between lions and humans in surrounding communities.

Dr. Laurence Frank's Laikipia and Kilimanjaro Predator Projects. Through these two projects, Dr. Frank and his team collaborate with communities in Northern and Southern Kenya on ways to ensure that humans and lions can continue to share the landscapes they have for millennia.

http://www.carnivoreconservation.org/dotclear/index.php/?2006/12/21/ 801-lion-pride-initiative-reaches-100000-milestone-for-lion-conservation-and-research

If cougars aren't safe in a refuge, where are they protected?

Source: Mountain Lion Foundation
Date: 12/19/2006

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed a sport hunting season on mountain lions in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. Kofa Refuge is located in Arizona on federal land and belongs to every one of us.

The USFWS claims that 5 mountain lions (two males and one female with two kittens) call the Kofa Refuge home. The reported population estimate is a speculative guesstimate and is certainly not adequate to support opening a hunt. As a matter of fact, several efforts by experienced trackers to locate, capture and radio-collar a mountain lion on the Kofa Refuge ended in failure. This decision does not hold the best interests of the local mountain lion population or the American public at heart.

Regardless, there is a great deal of political pressure being used to push this hunt through. Much of the pressure is coming from the Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club, whose legislative chair is also the chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission, which sets hunting regulations and policy for the state.

The estimated cost to the Kofa Refuge to administer the proposed hunt will be $24,000 annually! Since the funds for the Kofa NWR ultimately come from federal taxes, you would be subsidizing the hunting of America’s Lion on our public lands.

Learn more about the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and the proposed mountain lion hunting season.

Help Stop Proposed Mountain Lion Hunt on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge

Write the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and tell them to stop this misguided and scientifically indefensible plan. Your letters must be received by Friday, December 29th, 2006.

Send your letters to:
J. Paul Cornes, Manager
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Kofa National Wildlife Refuge
356 W. 1st Street
Yuma, Arizona 85364
Paul_Cornes@fws.gov
Phone: 928-783-7861
Fax: 928-783- 8611

Take it a step further! Ask your Congress person to tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect America’s lion on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

Find your Senator’s contact information

Find your Representative’s contact information

Your personal letters have far more impact than a form letter provided by the Mountain Lion Foundation. While e-mails and phone calls help, your letters faxed or sent by US Postal Service have the maximum impact.

Here are a few points to consider for your letter:

There is not enough sound-scientific information on the status of mountain lions on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge to provide a biological justification for a hunt.

The American public should not be expected to pay $24,000 a year to subsidize the hunting of America’s lion so one or two private hunters can take home a trophy.

If wildlife is not safe on a refuge, where on earth are they protected?

It is important that they receive as many letters opposing this proposal as possible. Please forward this email to your friends, family, and co-workers. Let's all speak up to save America's lion in Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.

For the lions,

Karen Cotton, Director of Outreach
Mountain Lion Foundation

http://www.racingwest.com/news/story.php3/14562/

Snow leopard skins recovered in India

By Pradeep Sharma

Kathua, Dec.19 (ANI): Police in Jammu and Kashmir's Kathua District recovered two snow leopard skins from two persons at Lakhanpur.

The two arrested persons have been identified as Mohammed Din and Ghulam Hussain and were trying to smuggle the leopard skins out of the State. They were booked under the Forest Act and Wildlife Act.

"The two skins are of snow leopards, which are rare, and as an endangered species, come under the Wildlife Act. Probably the skins were being transported to other States," said J P Singh, Superintendent of Police, Kathua.

The snow leopard is mostly found in the Ladakh region.

"These snow leopards are mostly found in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir instead of Kathua or Jammu Districts," said Imtayaz Ahmed Lone, Chief Warden, Wildlife Jammu-Kathua East.

The alleged smugglers were paid Rupees 2,000 each to smuggle the skins out of State.

The minimum punishment for such an act is a jail term of three years and a fine of Rupees 25,000.

There are just about 600 snow leopards in India, the third-largest population of the wild cats after China and Mongolia. Around half of these 600 inhabit Kashmir 's Himalayan mountain range at altitudes of about 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) in the mountainous regions of Ladakh and upper stretches of Himachal Pradesh.

The Snow Leopard, however, which is also known as the Ounce, is a large cat native to the mountain ranges of central and south Asia

Well known for its beautiful fur, the snow leopard has a soft grey coat with ringed spots and rosettes of black on brown. Its tail is heavy with fur and the bottom of its paws are covered with fur for protection against the snow and cold

Weighing up to 75 kilograms, the snow leopard can be distinguished from other similar species by its proportionately longer tail, which helps it to maintain its balance on the rugged terrain.

Snow leopards are opportunistic feeders, eating whatever meat they may find. They often kill animals three times their size, including domestic livestock.

Snow leopards inhabit a rugged mountainous region of approximately 1,230,000 square kilometres, which extends through 12 countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

The estimated global snow leopard population is between 3,500 and 7,000 individuals. (ANI)

http://www.dailyindia.com/show/94736.php/ Endangered-snow-leopard-skins-recovered-in-Kathua

Before the last roar: Preventing the demise of wild tigers

By Dr. Eric Dinerstein

Intensive conservation efforts have led to a recovery of tigers in the Russian Far East, where in the 1940s there were only 40 individuals and now there are 500.

Almost everyone loves tigers. These magnificent cats draw crowds at zoos and are often the most popular animal on display. Hundreds of sports teams - professional, collegiate, little league - venerate tigers as their mascots. Advertisers seek to cash in on the tiger allure, urging children to eat breakfast cereals or encouraging motorists when buying gasoline. Even the surging economic powers of Southeast Asia are dubbed "economic tigers," a cultural symbol of strength and prosperity.

If only the security of tigers in the wild were as strong as the symbolic role this majestic animal plays in our society. But that is not the case. A new comprehensive report co-authored by WWF, Wildlife Conservation Society, and Save the Tiger Fund, on the distribution and status of tigers and their habitat offers two grim headlines:

Tigers now reside in only 7 percent of their historic range.

Even more alarming, occupancy of tiger habitat is down 41 percent from what was estimated a decade ago.

Not all of the area estimated as unoccupied today is a result of habitat loss through, for example, conversion of natural forests to industrial agriculture, as is the case on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Some areas were assumed to have tigers 10 years ago but, after thorough checking by field researchers, were in fact found to be absent of tigers or the large prey - typically deer and wild boar - to sustain them. It's like driving through neighborhood after neighborhood and finding the houses still standing, but no lights on and no one home.

The study confirms an inescapable truth about the ecological health of our planet: Wild tigers are slipping away from us. There are some stunning examples of this trend: In 2005, tigers were eliminated by intense poaching in formerly well-protected Indian sanctuaries such as Sariska Tiger Reserve. This triggered an investigation by an Indian Prime Ministerial Commission which uncovered widespread poaching where tigers were once thought to be relatively secure. The lesson from Indian reserves is clear: Look away for a moment and tigers vanish. Poaching of tigers and the wildlife on which the species depends has led to extinction of tigers in Southeast China and a serious drop in Cambodia.

The irony of this decline is that tigers possess traits that should make them easy to conserve. Tigers and wolves are the two large carnivores that often breed faster than their prey. We only have to look at the dramatic recovery of wolves in Yellowstone to see an alternative future for tigers. And while some species require long-established habitats, tigers can prosper in habitat that is only a year or so into recovery from human or natural disturbances such as logging or floods.

Thanks to WWF's work over the past three decades, episodes of recovery dot the tiger range. Where WWF has provided protection from poachers and safeguarded wild prey and sufficient habitat, tigers have come roaring back. The overall picture painted by this new tiger report masks some success stories where tiger conservation is succeeding. In the Terai Arc, WWF is partnering with conservationists in both the public and private sector to reconnect and manage wildlife corridors. This includes linking 12 tiger reserves spread over 600 miles in southwestern Nepal and northwestern India, the two states thought to hold most of the world's wild tigers. The goal is to manage tigers as a single population where dispersal between refuges can maintain the genetic integrity of the tiger population and the ecosystem in which it thrives. This year, we are experimenting with new incentive-based approaches to make tigers worth more alive than dead to local communities.

Our intensive conservation efforts have led to a recovery of tigers in the Russian Far East. Where there were only 40 individuals in the 1940s, today there are 500 tigers living in what is by far the most intact and extensive tiger landscape in their entire range. These ambitious recovery efforts offer models for reversing current trends, not just in small reserves but across large landscapes.

http://www.worldwildlife.org/wildplaces/amur/ updates/beforethelastroar.cfm?enews=enews1206t

India: Two leopard cubs rescued from tea gardens

Jaldapara (West Bengal), Dec 19 (ANI): Forest officials here have rescued two leopard cubs from tea gardens.The cubs were apparently orphaned or abandoned by their mother.

Barely a few months old, the young cats were taken by a rescue team to a rehabilitation centre in a wildlife sanctuary nearby.

The cubs have been put on a milk diet. Caretakers at the rehabilitation centre say they will start feeding them minced meat when they are six months old.

"In North Bengal, protected forest areas like the Buxa Tiger reserve and Jaldapara are mostly located next to tea gardens.

This (leopards straying away) happens when they are born near the tea gardens," said M.L. Biswas, Divisional Forest Officer, Jaldapara.

Wildlife officials are concerned about the cubs not being able to acclimatise themselves to the wild after growing up.

The increasing demand for animal hides in the international market makes the leopard and tiger population of India under constant threat from poachers.

It is estimated that for every tiger killed; at least 25 leopards are killed.

If this trend continues, wildlife officials fear leopards might soon get extinct.

An estimate made recently estimated the leopard population in the country at around 10,000. (ANI)

http://www.dailyindia.com/show/94737.php/ Two-leopard-cubs-rescued-from-West-Bengal-tea-gardens