Friday, March 30, 2007

Tibetans replace tiger skins with silk brocades from India

WTI[Wednesday, March 21, 2007 21:00]

New Delhi, March 21 - Tibetan people are gradually switching over to exquisite brocade dresses in place of animal skin Chubas - widely used in festivals and ceremonies in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China, experts monitoring the illegal skin trade said.

In a major change from the past, people wore brocades in place of Chubas during the "Losar" celebrations (Tibetan New Year) in February in Lhasa.

At these festivals, in the past, Tibetans used ceremonial dresses stitched with tiger, leopard and otter skins.

People also wore them at popular "horse race" events organized during Losar, however this year it was not in sight.

"This was one of the major achievements following the Tibetan Conservation Awareness Campaign – where people declined to wear them." Pasang Lhamu of Wildlife Trust of India said.

The campaign was launched by His Holiness the Dalai Lama in April in 2005 in conjunction with WTI and the Care for the Wild International.

"Brocade dresses are also called as "Gochein" in Tibetan language and are increasingly becoming popular among Tibetans in China," Ashok Kumar, Vice Chairman of WTI said.

"It also opened up a huge export market in India, since brocades are mostly made in Varanasi in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh."

Early last year, at the height of the protest against animal skins being used in traditional Tibetan dresses – thousands of Tibetans in Rebgong, Amdo and elsewhere burnt truck-loads of animal skins including Chubas, however, officials in Lhasa stopped people from burning them.

The burning was considered a new beginning by Tibetans, which started in response to His Holiness' appeal to give up the use of animal products.

This year, prior to the Losar festivities, some Tibetans symbolically burnt tiger, leopard and otter skins on a bridge in Lhasa - marking one year of an attempted burning which was stopped by local authorities.

"Though the burning amounted to a financial loss, Tibetans are seeing it as a financial gain since they are no longer required to buy expensive tiger and leopard skin Chubas for weddings and other functions." Kumar said.

About 50 Tibetan settlements across India have been identified to create awareness for conservation among the Tibetans as part of the WTI and Care for the Wild International's year-old campaign.

Florida: March 2007 "Panther Update" available

Photo of new-born kittens and more are featured in the update, available at:

In India, the search for tigers provides heart-stopping excitement

By VIJAY JOSHI, Associated Press Writer

CORBETT NATIONAL PARK, India — I would rather be on an elephant than in front of one.

It's no fun when a wild tusker is lumbering toward you, and you are trapped in a Jeep with no choice but to drive in reverse on a muddy, twisting, hilly road flanked by a jungle on the left and a gurgling river to the right.

The heart-stopping encounter with an irritated elephant occurred barely 30 minutes after we had driven into the Corbett National Park — India's finest tiger reserve in the foothills of the Himalayas — in search of the big cats.

At the wheel was a friend, a city lad whose skills in reverse driving were limited to parking between parallel lines. Still, he did an admirable job of driving us — a shaken party of four — backward to safety behind a curve in the forested hill.

The elephant, apparently bored by our lack of sportsmanship, ambled away after a while. We were lucky. Later at a forest lodge — the staging point for tiger safaris — we saw another vehicle that had been gored the same day by a tusker, possibly the one we met. The vehicle displayed two holes in the metal grille in the front. No humans were injured.

But Rajiv Bhartari, the director of Corbett Tiger Reserve, which encompasses the national park, later told us that it is common for wild elephants to confront humans although fatal encounters are unheard of.

Still, he said, we are better off being atop an elephant while in the forest. "Besides, that's the best way to see a tiger," he said.

And nothing can be truer.

Corbett National Park is no Serengeti or Kruger. Unlike those African parks, you won't see hordes of animals under shady trees or watering holes. But tracking and spotting a tiger in the Indian jungle with an experienced guide turned out to be every bit as thrilling as homing in on a pair of cheetahs in the African grasslands.

But more of that later.

Corbett National Park, located in the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand, epitomizes India's success in saving the endangered Royal Bengal Tiger, the magnificent yellow-and-black striped cat found only in Asia.

A victim of hunting, poaching and human encroachment, the tigers were threatened with extinction when the global Project Tiger was launched in Corbett National Park on April 1, 1973. At the time, the tiger population in the park was 44. Across India, only about 1,800 existed, down from 40,000 at the turn of the 20th century.

Under Bhartari's stewardship, the tiger population in Corbett has increased to about 175. Overall, there are about 3,600 tigers in India but other national parks have not fared as well as Corbett and some reserves have no tigers left.

"Right now, what you see is a glorious Corbett. We have never seen anything like it. (Tiger) sightings are becoming more common," said Bhartari in an interview at the Dhikala forest lodge.

It is the largest and most frequented of the 12 lodges, operated by the state forest department, inside the 200-square-mile Corbett National Park.

The park is named after Jim Corbett, a British colonial army colonel who was born in 1875 in Nainital, not far from the sanctuary, and lived virtually all his life in India until 1847. An ardent hunter, he gave up killing for sport after witnessing a carnage of water fowl by three army officers, and dedicated his life to preserving wildlife.

The accommodations in Dhikala lodge are basic but comfortable and adequate. Only vegetarian food is available because meat leftovers and their scent attract carnivores.

Still, the lodge, protected by an electrified perimeter fence, can't be beaten for its location in the heart of the park, overlooking the Ramganga river where tigers sometimes come to bathe and drink in summers.

Visitors to Corbett National Park — about 160,000 come every year — usually spend two days at the lodge. Lodge officials arrange elephant and Jeep safaris that set out twice a day — once at dawn and again before dusk when most animals come out to hunt or forage.

Elephant safaris are highly popular and get booked days in advance. We were slow in booking and had to settle for the Jeep.

Our first day proved to be fruitless. Riding in an open Jeep, we crisscrossed the dirt tracks across the dry brown grasslands and stopped at a spot where a tiger was seen a day before.

But patience proved futile and as dusk began to approach we hurried back to the lodge before the curfew. Big mistake.

M.C. Klaarwater, a young Dutch engineer on his second trip to India, lingered and came across a frolicking tiger, leaping over the grass, its black-tipped tail up in the air. He even had pictures to prove it.

That evening M.C. proved to be the most popular man at the lodge with all residents lining up to see the pictures on his digital camera.

With renewed vigor, despite near freezing temperatures, we set out at dawn the next day to the same spot and parked ourselves. The stillness of dawn was soon broken by jungle sounds.

To us they were just sounds. To our guide, the language was jungle telegraph: a Sambhar deer was alerting its herd and another species, a barking deer, had issued its warning as well.

"It's definitely somewhere here," the guide whispered, urging everybody to keep still and quiet. As the minutes ticked away, The warning calls became more frequent. Soon, the white-and black furred Langur monkeys, perched atop tall Sal trees, joined the chorus with loud "keeee... keeee." They could clearly see the tiger from their vantage point.

Tension mounted as the monkeys' shouts became cacophonous. The tiger was certainly there, but where was it going to emerge from? Suddenly, we all saw a flash of orange and black in the thick shrubs under the trees.

Cameras trained and eyes peeled we tracked the blurred patches of galloping color. The rustling through the dry bushes was loud and clear.

A gasp went up among the assembled audience — many more people had arrived by then in Jeeps including M.C. — as the majestic tiger bounded through the forest, onto the road in front of us, 50 yards away, before disappearing into the foliage again.

A young woman squealed with excitement. Men said "wow" in hushed tones, and immediately began to look at their camera screens to see if the moment was trapped in digital magnificence.

I did too. And realized with great chagrin that I had set the camera on manual and shot on extreme slow shutter speed. The picture turned to be shaky and blurred. M.C., on the other hand, wisely relied on automatic and got a series of terrific images. He was once again a popular guy back the lodge.

Never mind. What I saw that day through my camera's viewfinder will be printed in my memory forever. 2007-03-28-india-tiger-tours_N.htm?csp=34

Nearly 1,000 people say they've seen cougars in Michigan

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Close to 1,000 people have reported seeing a cougar in Michigan in the last five years, says an official with state Department of Natural Resources.

But only one of those reports, of a cougar hit by a car in 2004 in Menominee County, has been confirmed, said David Bostick, a specialist with the DNR Wildlife Division in Lansing.

Still, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service has begun taking reports of sightings of the endangered species in Michigan and other eastern states for the first time since 1982.

The Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, a nonprofit group in Bath, contends that the DNR is refusing to acknowledge a wild, resident breeding population of about 100 adult cougars in Michigan for various reasons.

Dennis Fijalkowski, conservancy executive director, hopes federal involvement will result in a delisting of a so-called subspecies of eastern cougar in Michigan, allowing DNR officials to acknowledge and begin managing the state's cougar population.

Fijalkowski believes Michigan's cougar population is in danger of dying off without state intervention.

"I'm concerned about your child and their children's children having the opportunity some day to see a wild cougar in Michigan," Fijalkowski said.

Cougars were originally native to Michigan, but were extirpated from the state around the turn of the century.

Jane Briggs-Bunting, director of the Michigan State University School of Journalism, is pretty sure she saw a cougar last summer at her cottage in Alcona County's Haynes Township.

She was out for her morning run by the Sturgeon Point Lighthouse.

"I saw a big, huge cat cross the road about 100 yards in front of me," Briggs-Bunting said. "He kind of stopped, looked at me and then he took off like a shot."

Briggs-Bunting said she'd never seen a cougar before, and didn't think much of it until some neighbors down the road also said they'd seen one.

"I have dogs," she said. "I've seen lots of deer. I've seen lots of coyotes and it wasn't any of those."

Briggs-Bunting said her husband later told her to give up her morning run. She hasn't, but she carries pepper spray now.

Bostick said he thinks the Michigan Wildlife Conservancy, is passionate, but more evidence is needed to verify a resident population of cougars in Michigan.

The DNR has been taking cougar sighting reports since January 2002, but more have come in since a Web site was publicized in October 2006, Bostick said.

He said only about 5 percent of 990 reports made since 2002 are "good sightings," with tracks, scat, pictures or video.

He encourages people to call their nearest DNR office if they have a good sighting, rather than reporting it online.

The only verified sighting, he said, is an incident in Menominee County where a motorist hit an animal with a car. A state trooper collected hair off the bumper, and that hair was tested at a lab and found to be "probable cougar hair," Bostick said.

Fijalkowski said his group and other enthusiasts have logged more than 1,500 cougar sightings in Michigan in the last five years.

Eight cougars were positively identified from scat by conservancy and Central Michigan University researchers in peer-reviewed study published in a scientific journal in 2006. The scat was found in Houghton, Menominee, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Presque Isle, Alcona and Roscommon counties.

Fijalkowski argues that "the forces of evil" - money, power, ego and turf - are behind the DNR's reluctance to acknowledge the big cats.

The state doesn't want to argue with the federal government over management, doesn't want to spend the money to manage the population itself and doesn't want to stray from its longtime stance, Fijalkowski said.

He thinks the DNR has discouraged people from reporting cougar sightings because agency officials have "made fools of" people who reported sightings in the past.

Bostick said he's not part of any conspiracy.

He said the DNR is taking cougar sightings seriously and spends a considerable amount of time tracking down cougar reports in hopes of verifying sightings, to address people's concerns about safety issues.

The DNR has developed internal cougar response guidelines and has trained personnel in New Mexico on cougar identification.

"We know there are some out there, so we're not necessarily disputing that there are cougars in Michigan, but in our minds there's some questions as to where they came from," Bostick said

"At this point, no, we do not believe we have a breeding population," he added. "We may have occasional cougars in Michigan, I guess the best way to put it would be 'of unknown origin,"' such as escaped or released pets or transients from western cougar populations.

Fijalkowski said he thinks the involvement of U.S. Fish and Wildlife may be a good thing.

He believes the feds will delist the eastern cougar as a subspecies of the western cougar, allowing the DNR to acknowledge and manage a cougar population in Michigan without federal interference.

"The western cougars aren't protected," Fijalkowski said. "We think it might give the states what they need, a bump to acknowledge these animals, because they'll no longer have the shadow of the federal government on them."

Bostick said that even if cougars were recognized by the DNR, the agency would continue doing things it already does to manage other species, like protecting travel corridors for black bears.

"It's kind of hard to do a management plan for something that is apparently so rare that you're having trouble confirming that it's in the state," he said.

- Jeff Kart covers the environment and politics for The Times. He can be reached at 894-9639 or by e-mail at base/news-9/1175008513254160.xml&coll=4

Leopard cub dies at Rajargh, India

S R Pundir

An about one and half month old Leopard cub died at Rajgarh last evening. The cub was buried by the forest officials of Rajgarh Forest Division in presence of DFO and public representatives this after noon.

Resident of Dilmen village under Rajgarh Sub Division had found an injured Leopard cub near their village two days back which was immediately handed over to the DFO Rajgarh. Forest officials called Veterinary Officers and started treatment. The cub was probably attacked by the stray dogs of the village and was having multiple injuries as per the eye witnesses. Veterinary Doctors however could not save the life of the cub despite their best efforts, says sources at Rajgarh. -died-at-rajgarh-sirmour/1689/news/pundeer

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Cougar enters Colo. neighborhood, kills family's dog

But will the county participate in effort to drive them away?

by Laura Main
March 27, 2007

BOULDER (KWGN) -- A Boulder family is mourning the loss of their beloved family pet. A mountain lion killed their 2-year-old dog early Friday morning. The attack comes right as Boulder County decided to delay a decision on taking part in a mountain lion behavior study.

The attack happened in the Boulder foothills neighborhood of Pine Brook Hills. Wildlife officials confirm the 80-pound dog was killed and taken off by a mountain lion. Neighbord say they're sad, but not surprised.

Pine Brook Hills lives up to its name. There are towering pine trees and a babbling brook gurgling through the large lots. The sounds of birds singing and woodpeckers working on a telephone pole fill the air. But now the serenity seems a little bit more scary after Friday morning's mountain lion attack.

The Homeowners' Association notified residents by email about the attack. Most are taking it in stride. Out for an afternoon walk, Jane Holzman said, "We chose to live up here with the animals and we hafve to take the precautions that we need to, to protect pets and kids." She says she loves living so close to nature, even though it's come right up to the window on occasion. "We've had a bear on our deck take a bird feeder and glug, glug, glug right outside of our bedroom window but we haven't seen the mountain lions."

Other residents have and they'd like to see all the area's mountain lions killed or be relocated. The President of the Homeowner's Association, Tim Triggs says the animal had been spotted in the area for several days before the attack on High View Lane.

It happened just a few hours after Boulder County's Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee voted to delay taking part in a mountain lion behavior study. The Division of Wildlife asked them to take part to better understand encounters between the big cats and humans encroaching on their habitats.

Pine Brook Hills residents hope this particular mountain lion is found soon.

Holzman said, "When you encounter an animal that's being aggressive, I think that's the time to relocate it."

Jefferson County has already agreed to take part in that mountain lion study. It will now be at least late April before Boulder County Commissioners decide if they want to participate., 0,6511210,print.story?coll=kwgn-home-2

California: Family of mauled dog wants cougar tracked

03/23/07 12:30 PDT

The owners of a dog that was put down Wednesday after a mountain lion mauled it in their rural backyard want the state Department of Fish and Game to track the animal.

Shelley Anderson said this morning she doesn't necessarily want the adult mountain lion killed but she is concerned about her two children ages 5 and 8. She said she might hire a trapper to find the lion and kill it.

"They need to take care of it,'' she said regarding the Fish and Game Department.

"I'm keeping my children inside at dusk,'' Anderson said.

Anderson said she and her husband were instantly awakened around 2 a.m. Wednesday by "a terrible noise" outside an open bedroom window at their Fitch Mountain Road home. Anderson's husband Brad went outside with a flashlight and discovered a fully-grown mountain lion 10 feet away with the family dog's head in its mouth. The lion took off in about three seconds, Anderson said.

Her husband brought the 11-year-old, 50-pound female Labrador-mix dog, Emma, inside the house and the dog was taken to a veterinarian around 8 a.m., Anderson said. It was decided that because of the dog's age it was best to put her down, Anderson said.

A neighbor found mountain lion prints and scat containing deer and cat bones in the area Thursday, Anderson said. There are other homes in the area bordered by miles of open space, Anderson said, and there also are coyotes in the area. Sheep have also been killed nearby, she said.

Anderson's family recently acquired a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy that will be strictly an indoor pet, Anderson said. Emma was in the habit of sleeping on a 50-foot hill in the yard during warm weather, she said. The family also has two indoor cats.

The state Department of Fish and Game did not immediately respond to questions about the family's request that the mountain lion be tracked.

Department officials in the past have said families living in rural areas must remember their homes are in coyote, deer and mountain lion habitat and that they can take measures, including not leaving food outdoors, to lessen the chances of contact with the natural predators that typically feed on deer. bcn/2007/03/23/n/HeadlineNews/ MOUNTAIN-LION/resources_bcn_html

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

"Mission Save Lions" formed to help India's lions

Express News Service

Rajkot, March 26: WITH 25 big cats reportedly found drowned in blind wells inside Gir Sanctuary on an average every year, politicians across party lines, the district administration and the Forest Department have set aside 'jurisdiction problems' and joined hands to form 'Sinh Bachao Samiti' (Mission Save Lions) to address the issue. Up till now the Forest and the Revenue Department had been passing the responsibility buck citing jurisdiction issues when it came to covering up wells located inside the sanctuary or along its periphery.

Initiated by senior BJP leader Narsinh Padhiyar, and supported by the Congress, the informal group will be assisted in its task by the district administration including the Collectorate and District Development Officer along with the Forest Department. The SBS will conduct surveys, procure funds and undertake the job of ensuring wells are well covered or parapets constructed around them.

In an inaugural meeting on March 24, a steering committee was formed and assigned the task of building parapets around blind wells located inside and along the periphery of Gir Sanctuary. The meeting was chaired by Padhiyar. The committee, to which six MLAs from Junagadh and Amreli and two MPs from Junagadh have extended support, will be approaching the State and Central governments to raise funds for the same. The committee members will also approach individuals and groups, both within the country and overseas, for donations.

According to a survey conducted by the Forest Department in 2004, there are as many as 1,000 wells within the sanctuary and around 8,000 along its periphery. The number is likely to have gone up in the last three years. Most wells, some of which are as deep as 100 feet, do not have parapets and there have been a number of instances in the past where lions or their cubs have fallen into the well and drowned. In February, two cubs drowned after they were chased into the well. Last week, two more cubs fell into a well located in the area adjacent to the sanctuary in Amreli district. With Gir being the lone abode of the Asiatic lion in the country, the incidences have been a major cause for worry.

The Forest Department had constructed parapets at 700 wells dug and used by maldharis settled inside sanctuary area. However, a number of other wells were left uncovered and parapets not constructed due to 'jurisdiction issues' between the forest and the revenue departments.

"The issue has been hanging fire since years even as wells have been claiming lives of more and more lions," said Padhiyar, adding, "We have spoken to six MLAs and two MPs, who represent three districts of Junagadh, Amreli and Bhavnagar, to provide us grants."

"Around Rs 10 crore is required to cover approximately 8,000 wells on the periphery of Gir (within a 6-km range)," said Junagadh District Collector Ashwini Kumar, adding, "As these wells belong to individuals, grants from MP and MLA funds meant for social welfare cannot be directly utilised. In this regard, the committee has decided to approach the State and the Central governments to provide 25 per cent of the grants for wildlife conservation." newsid=228589

Monday, March 26, 2007

India: Leopard rescued from trap, sent to zoo

From correspondents in Himachal Pradesh, India, 08:09 PM IST

A leopard caught in a trap in a village in Himachal Pradesh was rescued after remaining head down for several hours.

Villagers near Dabdehal village in Mandi district, some 200 km from here, found the growling leopard hanging from a tree and called wildlife officials who arrived after several hours, media reports said Saturday.

The wildlife team injected the big cat with tranquillisers and trapped the injured animal in a cage. The leopard was then sent to the Gopalpur zoo.

The leopard was caught in a trap meant for wild boars. Villagers often trap crop-damaging wild boars and kill them.

The state government has recently relaxed the law by allowing farmers to kill wild boars.

Sharp decline in tigers in India's Valkimi reserve

PATNA, India, March 24 (UPI) -- The tiger population in India's Buhar state has fallen sharply in recent years, and officials are at a loss to explain why.

The Times of India said Saturday that the number of tigers in the Valmiki Tiger Project reserve has dropped by 23 big cats to an estimated population of just 33 in the past five years for reasons that remain unknown.

It is not known if the tigers died or merely relocated outside the reserve.

The Times said there has been increasing human encroachment on the remote reserve by villagers grazing cattle, felling trees and using paths through the forest.

Poaching is also a concern since the staff of the reserve doesn't carry weapons. feed=Science&article=UPI-1-20070324-17035200-bc-india-tigers.xml

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Urban leopard attacks increase as habitat shrinks in India

Development Preys on World's Largest Urban Forest

By Krittivas Mukherjee, Reuters
March 23, 2007

MUMBAI - A protected jungle billed as the world's largest urban national park in India's financial capital is being encroached, built over and damaged as a rapidly growing city takes a toll on the forest's diverse flora and fauna.

Almost 30 times bigger than New York's Central Park, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park on the northern rim of Mumbai is home not only to about 20 adult leopards and hundreds of kinds of animals and birds, but also about 200,000 people, many of whom are involved in illegal forest activities.

As India observed World Forestry Day on Wednesday, authorities and experts expressed concern at the development of new residential blocks that have blurred the distinction between the city and the countryside to accommodate Mumbai's expanding population of 17 million.

"To save this green lung of Mumbai the forest has to be rid of encroachers, and building activities around it have to be monitored," said Kailash Birari, the national park's assistant conservator.

"This is the world's largest national park within city limits and it is unique and vital."

The effects of urban development on the 104 sq km (40 sq mile) forest are easy to see.

In 2004, at least 14 people were killed in attacks by leopards in Mumbai after their shrinking habitat forced them to stray from the national park and enter nearby neighbourhoods.

At least 47 straying leopards were caught in 2004 and 2005 and plans are afoot to release them in the wild with electromagnetic chips in their tails so that they could be tracked and permanently locked up if they attacked people again.

It is illegal to kill leopards, an endangered species in Africa and Asia often hunted for their fur.


The Mumbai national park's predicament is part of a larger problem facing India which is struggling to save its forests and endangered animals such as the tiger.

Experts say about 40 million of India's poorest people live in forests, and while most of them live off minor forest produce some of them are paid by criminal gangs to lay traps, poison water sources and electrocute big cats.

Last year, India passed a bill granting land ownership to those who have lived in the forests for at least three generations, following a long-standing demand from the settlers.

But conservationists say that many illegal settlers could take advantage of the law and hamper efforts to save endangered species.

After years of legal wrangling, a leading Mumbai environmental group got an order to evict 61,000 families living inside Sanjay Gandhi National Park, but authorities admit the forest is yet to be cleared of human habitation.

"It's been years since the court verdict and still hundreds of thousands of people are living there," said Debi Goenka of Bombay Environment Action Group.

Birari says about 35,000 families were eligible for alternative housing.

"About 5,000 families will soon be moved out to alternative accommodation," he said. "The rest would be moved in a phased manner."

Environmentalists said they were hoping the government resettlement programme would be implemented before the forest disappeared.


Arizona: Jaguar conservation plan subject of May conference

The Arizona Republic

He roars like a lion, ambushes prey and kills them with powerful crushing bites.

His name is Macho B, and he may be the single most photographed wild mammal in Arizona.

One of four or five live jaguars seen in the state this century, Macho B ranges across mountainous terrain 30 miles north and south of the Arizona-Mexico border.

More than 70 photographs and videos of the 12-year-old cat have been recorded since 1996 by volunteers who provide state biologists with much of what is known about Arizona's jaguars. The animal became rare about 1900.

So far, Macho B is the star attraction.

Macho B and his breed will come under review May 2-3 when biologists from Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora, Mexico, meet in Douglas to consider renewing the 1997 regional conservation plan for the cats. The jaguar is listed as endangered inside and outside the United States.

The jaguar conservation team includes landowners, ranchers and citizen groups, in addition to state and federal agencies.

While data exist on jaguars in South America, Central America and other parts of Mexico, information on the estimated 100 Sonoran jaguars is more scarce.

Arizona is at the periphery of the animal's range but can play a role in its recovery by protecting it here, Arizona Game & Fish biologist Bill Van Pelt said.

Macho B made his documentary debut in August 1996 in the Baboquivari Mountains when hunter and naturalist Jack Childs of Tucson videotaped him after his hunting dogs tracked the cat up a tree.

A few months earlier, the first known photo of a live Arizona jaguar had been taken by rancher Warner Glenn, but that cat was later shot dead on a Mexican ranch.

Jaguars gained Endangered Species Act protection after Glenn's and Childs' discoveries. Both men are members of the jaguar conservation team.

Glenn started an effort to reimburse ranchers for livestock killed by jaguars. Childs founded the Borderlands Jaguar Protection Project, which has amassed 15,000 wildlife photographs representing 25 animal species.

"We want to learn everything we can about the biology of jaguars. We're looking at land uses, whether they are compatible with the animal," said Childs, 64, a retired surveyor who is not a biologist but conducts research.

Currently, a string of 50 "trip cameras" located in remote areas detect and photograph animals large enough to trip their sensors. Individual jaguars are identified by their spotting patterns, as unique as thumbprints.

The researchers have learned that a handful of male jaguars roam a 900-square-mile area. They don't appear to attack livestock and have been photographed every month. Females and juveniles have not been observed.

Macho B derived his name one night when he was photographed a few hours after another cat was snapped at the same location. For records purposes, they were dubbed Macho A and B. The other cat didn't return, and it's believed that Macho B may have won a territorial claim.

The latest videos of Macho B were taken Feb. 12, when he seemed to make a historic acknowledgment of the camera in two clips. In one, he walks down a trail and looks directly into the lens.

"In the other, he's actually scent-marking right on the camera, just like you see a tom house cat spraying. He checks his cameras as often as we do," said Emil McCain, who checks them every six to eight weeks. He concluded the marking suggests Macho B is communicating with other jaguars.

Spain: Lynx baby boom gives hope to save species

23 March 2007

DONANA – There is a baby boom among the world’s most threatened feline, the Iberian lynx.

Five cubs have been born in captivity in the past two days.

On Friday, two cubs were born to the lynx Saliega at the breeding centre in the Doñana park in Andalucía.

The day before, another lynx, Aura, gave birth to three cubs at the same centre.

This brings a badly-needed boost to lynx numbers.

Six have been born in captivity this year and 44 in the wild.

There are thought to be only 100 lynx left, after persistent  threats to their natural habitats, a reduction in the numbers of wild rabbits which is the animal’s preferred food and the constant danger of getting run over by passing traffic.

But various programmes, including feeding wild lynx a dietary substitute in the form of domestic rabbits, and experimenting with domestic cats to test lynx fertility, have given scientists hope they can stop the animal becoming extinct subchannel_id=81&story_id=38021

India's Gir lions in trouble

Himanshu Kaushik
[ 22 Mar, 2007 0020hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

SASAN: It is a vicious circle in Gir the farmer digs a well to irrigate his crops, lions stray into fields in search of prey and water and fall prey to these wells. These are typical pits, over 100 feet deep, but without parapets, which turns them into a major hazard for the Asiatic lion.

Last month, two lion cubs were chased into a well. Last Saturday, two cubs accidentally fell into an open well in Dhari range and died. Forest officials say, at least eight adult lions and leopards were rescued from such wells, last year.

This should have provoked the authorities to do something, but the issue invariably gets mired in jurisdiction problems. Forest officials say they can do nothing about farmers digging such wells outside the sanctuary, because they are under the district collector's jurisdiction.

Alongside the road from Una to Jasadhar, there are several such open wells in fields which have no barricade either. Conservator of forest, Bharat Pathak says, "This is a costly affair,we have so far covered about 700 wells in Gir forest, but many well are still open."

According to him, the six-km radius of the sanctuary had about 8,000 open wells. Forest officials say that when these wells are dry, it is easy to rescue the big cats but not in winter when the water table rises, filling the wells.

A senior officer pleading anonymity, estimates there are at least 1,000 such wells (15 feet wide and 15 feet deep), which are not in fields, thus making it difficult to fix accountability. According to this officer, this did not amount to a criminal offence.

Neither have any cases been registered by the district administration against anyone's wells becoming death traps for lions. Amreli collector M Shahid says, "The collector does not have powers. There should be better co-ordination between the forest department and government agencies. There should be an adequate policy to cover these wells Cities/Ahmedabad/Gir_lions_in_trouble/ articleshow/1790360.cms

Mountain lion suspected of killing cow in N.D.

Mar 22 2007 6:46PM

A 12-hundred pound cow was killed in a pasture near Tioga last week, and wildlife officials suspect it was a mountain lion that attacked the animal.

Tioga-area rancher Francis Franson discovered the dead cow last Tuesday and notified authorities who tried to track the suspected mountain lion.

Erma Franson says a plane was used in the tracking attempt, but no sign of the cat was found.

John Paulson of the USDA Wildlife Service office in Bismarck says research by his staff indicates the attack on the large cow has all the signs of a mountain lion...

(John Paulson, USDA Wildlife Service) "Some of the more typical signs that we look for is the attack site. In this case it was on the back of the neck. It's also pretty common for the mountain lion to open the chest cavity and eat the heart, liver, and lungs area first and that is what happened with this particular cow."

Paulson says there had been sightings of a mountain lion in the Tioga area in recent weeks, and a confirmed track about eight miles from the site of the attack on the cow.

He says this is the first case of a mountain lion killing domesticated livestock in many years in North Dakota.

Panther killed on Interstate 4 is 6th big cat death of 2007

By Jeremy Cox
Thursday, March 22, 2007

A second Florida panther has been struck and killed on Interstate 4 in Central Florida, a sign that a breeding boom is fueling the big cat’s return to the area.

The flattened male panther was found Thursday between mile markers 60 and 61 in Osceola County. Another panther was killed only yards away along the highway last year, state wildlife officials said today.

State scientists who track panther movements first captured the cat in 2004 in Okaloacoochee Slough in Hendry County and, a year later, put a radio-tracking device on it. The panther was tracked into Glades and Highlands counties before the collar stopped sending signals in November 2006.

The 4-year-old panther’s demise marked the sixth panther death of 2007 and the third from vehicle run-ins. Vehicles are the No. 1 known cause of death among panthers; of which 80-100 are believed to exist, making the species one of the most endangered on the planet. Most of those panthers live in the wilderness south of the Caloosahatchee River, but a few males, in search of territory, do live in Central Florida, experts say. Male panthers need up to 200 square miles of land and will kill other panthers to keep it.

A successful breeding program that involved the introduction of eight female Texas cougars in the mid-990s has led to a threefold increase in the panther population, experts say. The 2.5 million acres of available habitat in southern Florida is at panther-carrying capacity and is shrinking because of encroaching bulldozers. mar/22/panther_killed_interstate_4_ sixth_big_cat_death_20/?latest

Wild tigers face a new threat from China

Doing undercover work across Southeast Asia, wildlife protection activist Chris Shepherd once had dinner with a trader in Myanmar, near the Chinese border.

Noticing several stacked cartons marked "Toilets," he asked his host if he dealt in toilet bowls.

The man laughed and, opening several boxes, revealed body parts of wild tigers and leopards.

They had been flown into Yangon from India, and transported by road to the north of Myanmar, ready to be taken across the border into China.

Malaysia-based Shepherd works with the worldwide organisation Traffic--a unit of World Wildlife Fund-IUCN--which monitors illegal trade in wildlife.

He recalled that encounter at a panel discussion on wildlife trade in Singapore last week during a conference held with the Wildlife Asia Film Festival.

Wildlife activists are now worried that if a move by China to ease a ban on trade in tiger parts succeeds, traders will get bolder and it will spell the end of the tiger in the wild.

China's 1993 ban covers tigers in the wild as well as those in captivity, including on farms in China and elsewhere. But demand for tiger body parts remains strong, particularly in China, where bones are used to treat rheumatism, and other body parts are used in the belief that they promote sexual vigour.

The ban was crucial in ensuring that tigers still exist in the wild today. It is estimated there are only about 2,500 left in the forests of Asia.

Now China, a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), has begun lobbying to secure the agreement of key countries to ease the ban on trade in body parts of tigers, saying many people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis will benefit.

But conservationists fear that lifting the ban, even within China, will affect wild tigers everywhere, and especially in India, which with about 2,000 animals, accounts for around 80% of the world's last wild tigers.

Indian tiger expert Valmik Thapar estimates that of India's 30 tiger reserves, at least five may have no tigers at all. All the tigers in a 6th reserve were wiped out by poachers in 2004.

Among others, China has secured the support of New Delhi-based economist Barun Mitra, who has visited the country and written extensively in the media saying trade in tiger body parts should be allowed.

He founded and runs the Liberty Institute, a New Delhi-based thinktank which has been described as "an extreme right-wing anti-regulation pressure group."

Mitra's argument is simple: Opening up the trade in tiger parts will flood the market, bring down prices, and in turn reduce the incentive for poachers to kill wild tigers.

But on his most recent visit to China about a month ago, three conservationists who were present publicly disagreed.

The conservationists--chief scientist of World Wildlife Fund-India Dr AJT Johnsingh and co-founders of the north India-based Corbett Foundation, Indian Dilip Khatau and his Singaporean wife Rina--said the intent of opening up the trade was clearly not to save the species, but "to satisfy demand, appease consumers and create viability for vested human interests, mainly of tiger farms."

Opening up the trade would benefit individuals like Zhou Weisheng, owner of Guilin Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Farm in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The farm has well over 1,000 tigers, mainly because it continued to breed them after the 1993 ban.

Zhou--and other farmers stuck with thousands of tigers--clearly made a bad business decision in continuing breeding the cats, says Mrs Khatau. In a free market, the government should not intervene to rescue him, she said.

Mitra and others who support lifting the ban say the market could be opened but remain tightly regulated to ensure wild tiger parts are not laundered through it.

But even with the ban in place all these years, tiger parts and products have been traded out of the farms--or smuggled into China from Malaysia, Thailand and India.

The Guilin farm operates a distillery authorised to make tiger bone wine, and a recent undercover team from the British television channel ITV ordered a tiger meat meal at a farm.

Reports of tiger products from farms made headlines in China last year, eliciting a response from a top State Forestry Administration official in January this year that China did not intend to lift its ban.

But he added that a worldwide policy study on how to "effectively protect wild tigers and help them multiply" was under way.

Mitra believes farming endangered species is the key to their survival and cites crocodiles as an example.

But that is no parallel, said Xu Hongfa, China director of Traffic, because crocodiles are far cheaper to breed than tigers.

Besides, breeding has done little to protect animals in the wild, say conservationists.

Thailand breeds crocodiles, but the Siamese crocodile remains endangered. Cattle farming has not stopped poaching of Southeast Asian wild species like the banteng and kouprey, and pig farming has not deterred hunters from going after wild boar.

Dr Ullas Karanth of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, one of the world's foremost experts on tigers, said in Singapore last week that protection of tigers and their habitat remains critical.

"Unless a culture of enforcement is brought in, we will lose the tiger," he said.

Enforcement is weak across the board. Indian and Southeast Asian authorities have been short on political commitment to enforcement, and it is unrealistic to expect China to be able to strictly regulate an open market in tiger products, said Xu.

Enforcement of wildlife laws in China is lax, and this laxity will extend to the tiger farms, he said.

A 75-page report on China's tiger market, written by Traffic researchers Xu Ling and Kristin Nowell and released last week, said, "Business people in China who stand to profit from the tiger trade are encouraging demand for tiger products. And the government of China has been petitioned to ease its trade ban by allowing domestic trade in medicines made from captive-bred tigers.

"Lifting the ban or weakening China's policy by exempting products derived from captive-bred tigers would be dangerous, heightening the possibility that tigers will someday become extinct in the wild." (By Nirmal Ghosh, The Straits Times/ANN)

Sinchew-i 2007.03.21 Section=News_Headlines&CONTENTID=3608&TEMPLATE =/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm

A Year in the Life of a Snow Leopard: Spring

Editor's Note: This is the third in a four-part series of articles about the lives of wild snow leopards at different times of year.
Spring is chilly and snowy at the high elevations—between 3,000 and 5,400 meters above sea level—where snow leopards live. Spring (and early summer) is also the season in which snow leopard cubs are born.

Females who became pregnant during the winter mating season will seek out a warm, protected place to give birth. Snow leopards are so secretive that scientists know very little about these hidden den sites, but based on the behavior of captive snow leopards, the dens are probably rocky caves lined with the mother’s soft fur.

Female snow leopards are pregnant for around three to three and a half months, and cubs are small and helpless when they are born. They don’t even open their eyes until they are seven days old! Usually two or three cubs are born in each litter. Very rarely, snow leopards in captivity have given birth to up to seven cubs at a time. In the wild, it might be hard for a mother cat to feed and successfully raise more than two or three cubs at a time.

For the first few months of their life, cubs remain in the den while the mother snow leopard hunts, but she comes back to the den frequently to nurse the cubs. They eat their first solid food at around two months old. By late summer, the cubs will be following their mother around the high mountain slopes. They will stay with their mothers, however, until they are 18-22 months of age. For this reason, female snow leopards mate only every other year. Females who gave birth last spring will be teaching their year-old cubs to hunt.

For more information about snow leopards and how they live in the wild, go to Cat Facts: catfactsclassroom/catfacts/ snowleopardspring

Friday, March 23, 2007

Florida panther killed on I-4 west of Orlando

Kevin Spear
Sentinel Staff Writer

March 21, 2007, 7:49 PM EDT

The Florida panther killed Wednesday on Interstate 4 may have been one of the famed "leaping kittens" captured on film during its youth in one of the most beloved wildlife photographs of the rare breed.

The male panther, nearly 4 years old, had long drawn the attention of researchers by preferring to prowl in wilderness far north of South Florida swamp and forests that are home to nearly all of the endangered cats.

Known as FP130, the panther captured hearts when photographed with its mother and a sibling when it was just about two months old. The photograph mostly circulated in research circles. Scientists aren't sure which of the two kittens in the photo has died because they weren't identified and tagged until after the picture was taken.

Scientists believe FP130 was one of three kittens born by another often-observed cat, FP 110, in late May 2003 in the soggy Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest near the Everglades. Less than two months later, mom and two kittens were romping through grass at the edge of a palmetto patch in the forest when they passed through an infrared beam, triggering the shutter of a remote camera.

Scientists eventually captured FP130 and fitted him with a radio-transmitter collar. Not long after the photo was taken, he set out on his own.

"It's like somebody lit his afterburners," said Layne Hamilton, manager of the Florida Panther and Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. "One day he was south of the Caloosahatchee River and the next day he was north of the river."

Problem was, none of his species followed FP 130 into Hardee County. Most panthers in Florida are south of Lake Okeechobee.

"Understandably he was looking for females," Hamilton said. "Which are not there."

Researchers studied FP130 for years. But batteries that powered his collar died last year and researchers lost track of him -- until Wednesday.

"I'll bet it's FP 130," said Hamilton, when first told that a panther was hit and killed near the Orange and Osceola county line. "He's one of the leaping kittens in a heart-throbbing picture."

State authorities were able to confirm the cat's identity by its collar. Few details about the accident were available.

A year ago, researchers found FP 130 settled in an area near Highlands Hammock State Park west of Sebring. The cat then was healthy and weighed 137 pounds.

Roughly a third of the 80 to 100 Florida panthers are wearing radio collars, which are attached to the cats when they are captured for health examinations. Between 10 to 20 Florida panthers are killed every year by diseases, fights and cars.

Why FP130 traveled into the Orlando area, a rare long-distance jaunt for panthers, wasn't a mystery to wildlife experts.

Males searching for a mate sometimes roam far from the South Florida wilds, said Mark Cunningham, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission veterinarian. Last year, a panther was hit by a car on Interstate 4 not far from where FP 130 died.

In previous years, male panthers have been killed on roads near Tampa and St. Augustine.

The biggest challenge for Florida panthers, and one that eventually may doom the species, is finding enough room to roam.

"Young males look for new territory and north is the only direction they can go," Cunningham said. "Their habitat is close to filled up down there."

Kevin Spear can be reached at 407-420-5062 or -panther-032107,0,4034370.story?coll=orl-news-headlines

Colo. Dept. of Wildlife plans to track cougars

By John Fryar
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — The Colorado Division of Wildlife wants to monitor the movements and behaviors of six mountain lions in Boulder and Jefferson counties, particularly in locations where cougars might be expected to come into contact with humans.

"We would like to find out how the lions act when they live in close proximity to people," DOW spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said this week.

On Thursday night, the Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee is to consider the DOW's proposal, which initially would involve capturing six mountain lions and putting Global Positioning System devices and tracking collars on each.

The DOW would conduct its study in an area between Interstate 70 and the Boulder-Larimer county line.

DOW staffers have said they'd try to capture and collar two mountain lions in each of three areas: the city of Boulder's mountain open space, Boulder County open space to the north of Boulder and Jefferson County open space to the south of Boulder.

Then, when the cougars are released to roam again, "one of the things they're looking for is what kind of distribution and movement these lions have in relation to people," said county wildlife specialist Dave Hoerath.

"They want to see how and when lions are interacting with people in people country," Hoerath said Tuesday.

That includes "how much ‘lion time' is spent in areas people frequent," Hoerath said, and how much time they stick to locations remote from humans and such human structures as roads, trails and buildings.

County Parks and Open Space director Ron Stewart said the DOW study also could provide information about lions' behavior and movement both when people are around and at nighttime, when public parks and open space areas typically are closed to visitors.

The scientific information collected could allow the county to come up with management techniques to prevent lion-human conflicts, Stewart said.

On April 15, 2006, Shir Feldman, a 7-year-old Maryland boy, was attacked by an 80-pound female cougar while hiking with his family just 30 yards from the parking lot of a popular overlook on Boulder city open space on Flagstaff Mountain.

There haven't been many confirmed lion sightings or actual encounters with humans on county open space, Stewart said Tuesday, but "I can't have any complaint about getting more information about how wildlife operates."

The mountain lion "is a wonderful creature as well as an animal that can be hazardous to people," Stewart said.

Stewart's department has asked the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee to recommend whether Boulder County should proceed with entering into an agreement with the DOW about the mountain lion research study, whose initial nine- to 12-month phase would be fully funded by the state.

If you go

What: Boulder County Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee discussion of Front Range cougar study

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Third-floor hearing room, Boulder County Courthouse, 1325 Pearl St., Boulder

India: Rajasthan govt indicted for disappearing tigers

The uproar over the reducing tiger population in Rajasthan refuses to die down, with the latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India indicting the state government for the sorry state of affairs.

In its report tabled in the state assembly recently, the CAG has said the tiger population reduced drastically — from 47 in 2004 to 26 in 2005 in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, and from 16 to zero in the Sariska Tiger Reserve.

'This showed complete failure of the project authorities and monitoring at government level,' the audit report says. It adds that the concerned authorities had totally failed in checking poaching and encroachment on forestland.

During January 2003-March 2005, no tiger poaching was registered in either Sariska or Ranthambore, even though the tiger population had declined drastically.

Project Tiger was launched in 1973 as a centrally sponsored scheme. Within Rajasthan, Ranthambore and Sariska tiger reserves were covered with a view to conserving tigers and preserving the eco-system.

'The objective of saving the tigers from imminent extinction seems far from realisation as effective measures to stop degradation and fragmentation of the habitats were not taken during 2000-2006,' says the CAG report.

'This review revealed that there were delays in preparation of management plan and transfer of funds, failure in fixing time schedules for achieving targets and improper management of tiger reserves,' the report adds.

According to the report, specific provisions to develop undisturbed breeding sites by reducing heavy tourist pressure in the core areas were not made.

Commercial activities such as the establishment of hotels were totally banned in December 2002 within a radius of 500 meters from the boundary of the park area. Scrutiny revealed that 13 hotels were located within 500 meters in Ranthambore and five in Sariska, said the report.

Two Rajasthan Tourism Development Corp hotels, one each in Ranthambore and Sariska, exist within the protected area (PA). No concrete action seemed to have been initiated at the state level to close down these hotels or commercial institutions.

The reserves have witnessed depletion of habitats because of collection of timber and fuel wood inside the PAs and degradation of the forest areas as villagers depended upon the forest resources.

To minimise the negative impact of these villages on the PAs, relocation of these villages was essential.

Of the four villages at Ranthambore, the relocation package of only one village, Padra, was prepared and sanctioned in August 2001 for Rs.14.6 million by the state government. This was to be completed by March 2003.

Scrutiny revealed that of the 111 families, only 59 were relocated after incurring an expenditure of Rs.9.07 million as of March 2006.

The remaining 52 families could not be relocated due to allotment of unsuitable agricultural land and delays in construction of houses for them, the CAG report says.

The report adds that there was insufficient availability of communication network equipment and arms for protection of wildlife in the tiger reserves. -for-disappearing-tigers.html

Traps set for cougar suspected in Calif. sheep mauling

By Leslie Griffy
Mercury News
Article Launched: 03/21/2007 04:27:48 PM PDT

Reports of four sheep mauled to death over four nights in South San Jose led state officials to lay traps for the suspected killer - a mountain lion or perhaps even two of them, law enforcement officials said.

The owners of Calero Pet Retreat, a dog training and boarding facility near Calero Reservoir County Park, first saw that something had attacked two of the sheep on the five-acre property early Monday morning, Santa Clara County Sheriff's Sgt. Ed Wise said.

Officials believe the sheep were killed sometime between Sunday night and Monday morning.

A few hours later, a dog trainer stumbled across the body of a third slain sheep. About three-quarters of the animal was gone and it's carcass still steamed, Wise said. It was a fresh kill.

Around the body, witnesses reported to authorities that there were paw prints about three or four inches wide - the same size as a mountain lion's prints.

Things quieted down until this morning, when Wise said the owners reported another dead sheep.

Today, according to Wise, officials from the state Department of Fish and Game are at the property laying traps for what may prove to be several mountain lions.

Anyone who sees a mountain lion in the area should call the Sheriff's Department at (408) 808-4400.

Contact Leslie Griffy at or (408) 920-5945.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Bill would ban leghold traps and snares in Maryland

March 20, 2007

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Humane Society of the United States in testimony today urged the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee to give a favorable recommendation to S.B. 822, a bill that will ban the use of cruel leghold traps and snares in the state, and to pass the bill on for a full vote in the Senate. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Gwendolyn Britt (D, 47).

"Two principles of hunting and wildlife management are the notion that there should be no commercialization of wildlife, and the importance of delivering a quick kill to the animals who are hunted," said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The HSUS. "But leghold traps and snares – used to kill animals primarily for the commercial sale of their fur pelts – violate both of these principles. There is no quick kill with steel-jawed leghold traps or wire neck snares, which are left unattended and checked by the trapper only every 24 or 36 hours. The hapless animal languishes for hours and even days, with some animals twisting off or chewing off their trapped limb to escape the vise grip of the trap."


Steel-jawed leghold traps and snares are cruel and indiscriminate, catching wildlife and family pets in addition to their target fur-bearing animals.

In the United States—the world's leading supplier of fur from trapped animals—countless dogs and cats are injured and killed each year in indiscriminate steel-jawed leghold traps, Conibear traps and snares.

The exact number of American dogs and cats injured or killed in traps is unknown because most incidents likely go unreported. But dogs are caught often enough that a large trapping association recently advertised an insurance policy for its members, offering as much as $300,000 in protection from dog owners who sue after their animals are injured in traps.

Animals caught in these traps can suffer excruciating injuries in impact—and then often aggravate these injuries when struggling to free themselves.

Since trappers must only check their traps every 24 to 36 hours in Maryland, animals caught in traps can suffer for hours.

Leghold traps are already banned in five Maryland counties and snares are banned in seven.

Timeline of Maryland Trapping Legislation

March 2007 – Bills H.B. 1369 and S.B. 822 are introduced by Del. Barbara Frush (D, 21) and Sen. Gwendolyn Britt (D, 47).

May 16, 2006 – H.B. 465 banning leghold traps in Howard County (except on farm land and under water) signed into law by Governor Ehrlich.

February 23, 2005 – H.B. 372 sponsored by Del. Frush receives an unfavorable vote by the Environmental Matters committee.

2004 – H.B. 498 sponsored by Del. Frush receives unfavorable rating from House Environmental Matters Committee.

2004 – S.B. 279 sponsored by Sen. Grosfeld did not advance past committee.

2003 – H.B. 365 sponsored by Del. Frush did not advance past committee.

2003 – S.B. 272 sponsored by Sen. Grosfeld did not advance past committee.

2002 – H.B. 377 sponsored by Del. Frush did not advance past committee.

2001 – S.B. 543 sponsored by Sen. Sfikas receives unfavorable rating from Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee. press_releases/committee_urged_to_ban_cruel.html

Should lions, cheetahs be introduced to the Great Plains?

By Kirsten Weir

Dreaming of traveling to Africa to see lions and elephants in the wild? Wait a few years, and you might be able to save yourself the international plane fare. A group of ecologists and conservationists hopes to "rewild" North America by introducing camels, elephants, cheetahs and other big animals to the Great Plains.

The scientists, led by Cornell University ecologist Josh Donlan, first announced their plan in 2005. The idea grabbed headlines, but not the support of many conservation groups. According to Donlan, "People jumped to a conclusion that we wanted to back up a van and let out a bunch of cheetahs, or that we wanted to take Africa's wildlife and raise it for them in North America. That's not the point."

The point, he says, is to actively transform a dysfunctional North American ecosystem into a functional one. To clarify their intentions, Donlan and his colleagues recently published a more detailed version of their proposal in the scientific journal The American Naturalist. And they're serious.

Once upon a time, some 60 species of "megafauna" (animals over 100 pounds) roamed North America. Mastadons grazed and saber-toothed cats hunted, contributing to the continent's biodiversity. Top predators and huge grazers often have a top-down effect on habitats, helping to shape the landscape and preserve biodiversity.

North America's big beasts weren't just an Ice Age anomaly. For hundreds of millions of years, all around the globe, huge vertebrates dominated most ecosystems. "Before 50,000 years ago, the distribution of the body sizes of mammals was roughly the same on all continents," Donlan says. As humans began to migrate across the planet, the distribution shifted. By the end of the Pleistocene era, around 10,000 years ago, North Am-erica's charismatic creatures had disappeared. "Whenever and wherever humans showed up," Donlan says, "all the big stuff went extinct."

He and his colleagues believe that by carefully and systematically returning large vertebrates to the American West, they can restore the fractured ecosystem to its pre-human health. As Donlan sees it, big species would be introduced to large, fenced-in tracts of private land on a species-by-species basis. The project would likely start with the introduction of camels using controlled, scientific methods. If all went well, cheetahs, elephants and lions could follow.

Those species aren't as foreign as one might think, advocates say. The so-called "African" lion is actually the same species that once roamed North America. The continent was also home to four varieties of camels, two types of American cheetahs and five mammoth and mastodon species—all now extinct. Asian camels, African cheetahs, and Asian and African elephants could act as ecological stand-ins. Asian elephants, in fact, are more closely related to mammoths than they are to African elephants, the scientists note.

An expert working group would be established for each species and start with a feasibility study, looking at issues ranging from captive breeding to sociopolitical hurdles. Social challenges may prove one of the project's biggest hurdles. How many landowners are eager to live next door to a pride of free-ranging lions, fenced or not? But, the ecologists say, the plan would also create social payoffs in the form of ecotourism. When South Africa's Kruger National Park was established, it was home to nine lions, eight buffalo and not a single elephant. Today, more than 2,000 lions, 28,000 buffalo, 7,000 elephants and 700,000 annual tourists—worth $26 million per year—roam Kruger National Park.

Could a Pleistocene Park be as beneficial for North America? Despite assurances that the reintroductions would be careful and scientific, some conservationists are concerned about using non-native species to act as understudies for roles played by animals that disappeared thousands of years ago. "You're not really putting back the animal that was there," says Sanjayan Muttulingam, lead scientist for the Nature Conservancy. "That's a dicey proposition."

Bringing back Ice Age stand-ins, Muttulingam fears, will only make conservation seem more elitist and irrelevant. "The reason that people aren't behind the conservation movement is because we haven't done a good job of saying it's relevant to real people dealing with real problems in the real world," he says.

Eric Dinerstein, chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, also takes issue with the plan. He agrees that some parts of America's central and western grasslands are dysfunctional. "How do we make things more natural?" he asks. "It's a genuine concern for a lot of ecologists." But introducing exotic species will only make things less natural, he argues. Dinerstein is working with other conservation organizations to restore parts of the American west. They've purchased thousands of acres for grassland reserves in Montana and have reintroduced genetically pure American bison. Instead of bringing species from Asia or Africa, Dinerstein says, why not restore American bison, pronghorn antelope, mountain lions, grizzlies—the big North American species that survived the Ice Age?

Other conservationists are coming around. Tom Gavin, a professor of natural resources at Cornell, was originally critical of the idea. Now Gavin says, "We're talking about introducing species that are similar but not the same into an ecosystem that is similar to, but not exactly the same as, it was 13,000 years ago. Do two wrongs make a right?" he wonders. "It could be catastrophic, or it could be really interesting."

Why should the conservationists simply manage extinctions, Donlan asks, when they can instead take steps to actively restore a wounded ecosystem? "We're talking about taking a proactive approach," he says. "We're affecting future biodiversity whether we like it or not. The idea of not doing anything is essentially as big a risk as taking these bold actions."

—Kirsten Weir

Arizona: Presence of jaguar has foes of mining worried

Tuesday, March 20, 2007 10:01 AM PDT

By Dick Kamp

This is the second of a two-part series about recent mining activities in and around Santa Cruz County by Kamp, a Wick Communications Co, Environmental Liaison.

Santa Cruz County residents worry about a Rosemont Mine spinoff; Do jaguars worry, also?

Some residents of the Patagonia-Harshaw area have polluted wells. Ranchers and landowners in the San Rafael Valley were rattled when BHP Billiton began unsuccessfully looking for copper this year. Now the possibility of open-pit silver mining has them worried, particularly if possible evidence of a jaguar in the Patagonia Mountains proves real.

Hardshell mine: Augusta or not Augusta, or is that the question? In February, Vancouver, British Columbia-based Wildcat issued a report on its Web site that they had analyzed old Asarco drill cores and found substantial silver and zinc resources that they felt could be economically mined. Additionally, there is manganese and some copper. The silver would be removed from ore by leaching with a cyanide solution and the zinc by a chemical-electrical process known as solvent extraction-electrowinowing common in copper mines. According to Wildcat President Donald Clark, "We expect to widen the roads quickly (under a Coronado National Forest permit) by the third week in March. After that we will probably drill 3 exploratory holes on our patented (private) land. We'll have to see what we find at that point."

The company projects a 13.5 year mine life for a potential mine on 486 acres of federal unpatented mineral claims and about 135 acres of patented land.

Coincidentally, Clark is also a board member of Augusta Resources, owner of the Rosemont Ranch, which shares the same suite at the same address in Vancouver as Wildcat. The chief financial officer, controller, corporate and communications directors are also the same. However, Clark said, "Wildcat and Augusta don't really have anything to do with each other."

Both companies, or perhaps more accurately, the folks who make up the management of both companies are speculative purchasers of mining property, which they develop and promote. Neither has ever run a mine, and the term in the industry for Wildcat and Augusta would be "juniors," however Augusta has certainly taken the speculative development of the Rosemont mine quite far and has said that it intends to develop a mine.

The Jaguar: Mining disturbs some people; to others it smells like a job. But a jaguar, unlike mountain lions or deer or other animals that commonly observe humans, is different from animals we are used to-it stays very hidden.

Hunted close to extinction by the 1960s, the jaguar is an endangered species with a small population in Sonora, Mexico and a range extending south to northern Argentina. After not being seen in the United States for 25 years, one was photographed in 1996 and again in 2006 in the western New Mexico borderlands by Cochise County mountain lion hunter and rancher Werner Glenn.

Two different jaguars have been remotely photographed in Santa Cruz County by Borderlands Jaguar Protection Project (BJDP) founder Jack Childs of Tucson. Both Glenn and Childs are deeply devoted to protecting the animal. Childs believes that "a large scale mine in any of their travel corridors would be catastrophic to a viable jaguar population in Arizona." (Werner Glenn 2006 photo)

In October, a mountain lion hunter reported to resident Jon Coppa that he felt that the tracks he had seen - and a half-eaten bobcat found two miles east of Harshaw - were evidence of a jaguar.

On March 5, Sonoita resident Quentin Lewtin took photographs and collected samples of suspected jaguar scat in proximity to an area in the Patagonia Mountains with mining claims staked out on public land. He contacted the BJDP for advice as well as the Coronado National Forest, and was told that DNA sampling could help determine whether he had found evidence of the real thing. He is awaiting the availability of a University of Arizona lab analysis.

Childs is very conservative on accepting evidence of where Panthera Onca (jaguar) has been actually sighted. "We have documented the presence of jaguars in other ranges of the Coronado National Forest and BLM lands as recently as Feb. 22, 2007. Due to the wide-ranging nature of the jaguar, the possibility of a jaguar showing up in the Patagonia Mountains is a very real possibility.

"This fact alone should speak for the need to preserve our forests for a possible future jaguar population. The project only deals in confirmed (backed up by physical evidence) jaguar sightings and does not support the reporting of possible or unconfirmed jaguar sightings."

There is consensus that jaguars in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico are part of a Sonoran population. From 1971 to 2001 there were no sightings or photographs in Santa Cruz County. It is endangered, but has no special protections in the United States under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). If the existence of a mine poses a risk to its presence, a hot debate, probably coupled with litigation, will ensue over how well federal land managers are protecting it under the ESA.

For now, adds Childs, "1,350 square kilometers is the minimum home range of one resident jaguar as calculated by camera trap photos. This possibly represents the largest home range ever recorded for one individual jaguar. Keep in mind that this is the only jaguar that has ever been studied in the Southwestern United States."

Withdrawing Coronado lands from future mining: So, where do these stories of jaguars and mining and local fears lead us? In part, to the commitment of Arizona Congressional Respresentatives Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) to address withdrawal from future mining of sensitive lands in the Coronado National Forest. Congressional withdrawal, under current mining laws, has limits but provides some protection to forest lands withdrawn. Legislation would not stop mining on valid mining claims existent at the time of withdrawal, but the validity of the claims would be examined, which might impact whether mining actually took place - and those who have claims could agree to sell out or to not mine.

Both Congressional representatives will be consulting with experts on the ecological values of the land. They'll listen to the voices of those who want mountains instead of tailings (seemingly the majority these days) and to those insisting that some lands need to be preserved to provide us needed metals for our standard of living and jobs.

Tom Colazzo, TNC Arizona Director of Conservation, suggests that interested parties look at the Arizona Nature Conservancy database that prioritizes conservation of lands throughout Arizona and surrounding states within five different "ecoregions".(

Colazzo adds "If asked by Congress to provide a TNC opinion on land values, this would be a national TNC decision. However, you'll find that Huachuaca Mountains Grassland complex-- including the Huachuacas, San Pedro Grassland complex, the San Rafael and Cienegas in the region surrounding the Patagonia Mountains-- would rank No. 1 in conservation values in the Apache Highlands Ecoregion. Scientifically, from the perspective of the lands in Santa Cruz County that the supervisors were looking at, I'd say the conservation rank is pretty darn high." 03/20/news/news3.txt

New turnpike could spawn sprawl in Fla. panther habitat

By Ryan Hiraki
Originally posted on March 20, 2007

A new toll highway proposed between the Orlando and Immokalee areas is a driving force behind development that could generate urban sprawl from Central Florida to east Lee County.

There are eight development applications filed or on the way, according to state officials, from landowners who own more than a million acres. The owners are asking for permission to build towns and villages that would house hundreds of thousands of people, mainly in rural Glades, Hendry and Highlands counties. And growth advocates have been promoting their agenda.

A key element is the Heartland Parkway — a new, four-lane toll highway estimated at $7 billion for which construction on the first phase has yet to begin and, at best, would be complete in 10 years. No state money is committed to construction, and tolls and private funding likely are essential.

The 152-mile corridor is expected to enhance commerce, hurricane evacuation and travel between Southwest Florida and the Lakeland and Orlando areas.

And the highway has raised questions about urban sprawl, impacts to environmentally sensitive lands, and its potential path through the Alva and Lehigh Acres communities, which could require property acquisition.

Monday, The News-Press editorial board met with Polk County attorney Rick Dantzler and other members of the Heartland Economic Agricultural Rural Task Force, or HEART — a group trying to generate a plan that covers a mix of development, environmental preservation and agricultural sustainability in Central Florida.

"The last thing I want to do is punch a new road through one of the last undeveloped regions of Florida," Dantzler said. He then warned: "Over 6 million new residents are coming south of I-4 by 2030. If you wait until the growth occurs, you get this hodge podge."

The parkway, he said, could include a commuter rail, bike paths, wildlife crossings — elements that allow for better travel, whether it's a family piling in their car, someone taking a train or an endangered Florida panther trying to get from one part of the state to another.

The big players in HEART are the Lykes Bros., a longtime landowner in rural Florida; The Bonita Bay Group, a well-known Southwest Florida developer; Collier Enterprises and Barron Collier Companies, both high-profile landowners in Collier County; and the Atlantic Blue Group, led by CEO and state Sen. J.D. Alexander, grandson of Ben Hill Griffin Jr., a longtime Florida family known for large land holdings, including those in Lee County.

Jon Peck, spokesman with the state's Department of Community Affairs, which oversees big land-use changes, admitted having concerns.

"The question, of course, becomes how many towns that size can that area support and provide the necessary resources for," he said. "What you want to avoid is having a road determine where growth will occur. It ought to be the other way around."

Brad Cornell, a policy advocate with the Florida Audubon Society, is concerned with the development process.

"If you listen to the consultants and the landowners talk about this issue, they would like the policy on how this area gets planned to be based on incentives," Cornell said. "But not everyone's going to play that game. Some will want to do something completely in their own self-interests."

Dantzler did not deny that possibility, but he said this is a long process full of possibilities, some that might happen, some that might not, and they're working on a blueprint to benefit everyone.

"We're only in the first or second inning of a nine-inning game," he said.

The first piece of the Heartland Parkway that would get under way is probably in the Polk County area, and even that's another decade before this piece of road would be built.

Then in east Lee, where the corridor would surely impact residents in Alva and Lehigh on its way to connect with State Road 82, Dantzler said it is just a concept, open for change.

The plan is to avoid sprawl of the past near other major interstates, Dantzler said.

"If it becomes what I-75 is in Southwest Florida, what I-95 is in Southeast Florida, we've failed." AID=/20070320/NEWS0106/70320004/1075

Fla. panther license plate trust likely to have $1.1 million deficit

Specialty license plates a drain on FWC

NBC2 News
Last updated on: 3/20/2007 7:02:42 PM

FORT MYERS: Specialty license plates don't seem to be so special anymore. People in the Southwest Florida have so many options to choose from when picking out tags for their cars – it's actually costing the agencies that depend on the money.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission currently has six different tags it benefits from. But officials with the agency say the sales are lacking so much, some of the trust funds they support are losing money by the millions.

"I think we offer 120 if you're talking all the tags," said Tammy Helmer of the Lee County Tax Collector's Office.

Officials say too many choices and not enough marketing have Florida Fish and Wildlife programs suffering. The manatee and panther trust funds are going bust because they're spending more money than the tag sales are bringing in.

"For fiscal year 2010-2011, we're predicting a $1.1 million deficit on the panther trust fund and a $1.4 million deficit for the manatee fund," said Ken Whittington of FWC.

But it's not that the tags aren't popular. In fact, the Florida Panther tag ranks number two on the list out of more than 100. But panther tag sales have dropped by more than 21,000 tags over the past four years and the manatee tags are down more than 26,000 tags.

Helmer says she agrees drivers are spreading the wealth in all directions.

"They do change because some people want this plate this year then one comes out that's more colorful and they want that," said Helmer.

Officials with FWC are planning on a new marketing campaign this year to boost tag sales. It includes more press and the introduction of extra decals if you buy a tag.

If the campaign doesn't help though, officials say over the next five years some programs will be cut.

Colorado county delays decision on cougar study

By John Fryar
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee members voted 7-2 on Thursday night to postpone deciding whether to recommend that Boulder County participate in a mountain lion movement and behavior study being proposed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Most committee members indicated they felt they needed more specific details about the research the DOW is suggesting for capturing, collaring and tracking six cougars ranging in parts of Boulder and Jefferson counties where there are likely to be encounters between those big cats and humans.

One potentially controversial part of the study would involve tests of “aversive conditioning techniques” — including firing bean bags at mountain lions that get too close to human-frequented areas or chasing them with dogs — to see whether those would be effective in getting the individual cougars to avoid those areas in the future.

“I really am opposed to collaring a lion that’s minding its own business,” Sugarloaf Mountain resident Marsha Barber told the county parks panel, and she said she’d be “totally opposed” to aversive conditioning.

Jim McKee of Longmont, however, expressed his strong support for the DOW proposal, saying the information collected could be “as important to the lions as it is to the people who live here.”

McKee warned that lion attacks on humans could renew calls for allowing the hunting of cougars on county open space, even though “hunting doesn’t seem to reduce aggressiveness in lions.”

David Baron of Boulder, a volunteer naturalist for the County Open Space and Parks Department, also endorsed the DOW’s study proposal, saying “there’s a lot that’s not known about mountain lions, particularly in areas like this.”

But Wendy Keefover-Ring, the organization Sinapu’s carnivore-protection director, questioned what the Division of Wildlife’s goals and protocols for the study are. She asked, for example, how the DOW would decide which lions to haze in its aversive-conditioning experiments.

DOW officials had asked the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee to consider such issues as whether to grant access to county open space lands for the study, and what methods Boulder County would consider acceptable for capturing the lions for the study, such as by using cage traps baited with deer carcasses or by cornering lions with hounds. Also being sought were the county panel’s opinions about acceptable techniques of aversive conditioning.

While Jefferson County already has agreed to the study on its open space, and while DOW officials are to make a presentation next week to Boulder city officials about using that city’s mountain open space, it now may be at least late April before the Boulder County parks panel will revisit the issue and forward its decision to the Board of County Commissioners.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Sport hunter cougar kills reach record high in Oregon

Nearly 39,000 tags sold in Oregon last year; most hunters 'stumble' upon cats

By Mark Freeman
Mail Tribune

Sport hunters killed a record 284 cougars in Oregon last year, helping lead to the highest total mortality of cougars ever logged in the state.

The increase in sport-hunting kills occurred despite the 1994 ban on hound-hunting — which once was the most common form of cougar hunting — in part because more hunters in the woods now carry cougar tags, biologists say.

The 38,719 cougar tags sold in 2006 also were a record, as were 442 documented cougar kills overall for damage and human safety and by other means, such as poaching or roadkills, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"Our stats go back into the '70s and these are the highest we're ever recorded," said Ron Anglin, the ODFW's Wildlife Division administrator.

The sport-hunting harvest has increased while damage kills have declined slightly and human-safety and other reasons for dead cougars have held steady or slightly declined.

"We have a large, healthy cougar population and 38,000 people with cougar tags in their pockets," Anglin said.

The numbers, finalized Friday by the ODFW, startled some wildlife advocates such as Brooks Fahy of Predator Defense, a vocal critic of the ODFW and its bear and cougar policies.

Fahy noted that the overall cougar deaths in 2006 more than doubled those killed in 1994 when voters passed Measure 18, which Fahy panned as worthless.

The increases come while the ODFW projects that the statewide cougar population has increased from about 3,500 animals to more than 5,100 since 1994.

"It's incredible, and it's upsetting," Fahy said of the dead cougars. "I'd hope these numbers upset the public and show them that, once and for all, Measure 18 is meaningless."

Sally Mackler, wildlife chairwoman for the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club and one of Measure 18's sponsors, said she believes the increased cougar killing here stems not because of the measure but because of a "dramatic overreaction" by the ODFW.

"Nobody could foresee the extensive and radical management changes that have taken place," Mackler said.

Before Measure 18's hound-hunting ban, cougar tags were limited to fewer than 600 annually statewide, and almost all hunting was with the aid of tracking hounds.

But after the ban went into effect, the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission dropped the tag price from $50 to $10 and removed the cap on tag numbers.

Tag sales have grown exponentially since then. Now, the majority of sport hunters who shoot cougars do so while hunting deer, elk or other species and stumbling upon a cougar, Anglin said.

"It's not inconsistent with what we hear from hunters," Anglin said. "They're seeing cats when they're out in the woods. Fifteen years ago, we didn't see or hear about that like we are today."

Also, more hunters in recent years have begun targeting cougars in winter, Anglin said. They look for cougar tracks in fresh snow, then use predator calls to lure the cougar into range, he said.

Duane Dungannon, secretary of the Medford-based Oregon Hunters Association, said he believes hunters are targeting cougars more now than ever as sport-hunting pursuits extend year-round.

"I think folks are more willing to go out and hunt cougars because of the burgeoning population we have," Dungannon said. "And if you're going cougar hunting, the tag costs less than the gas."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail local/stories/cougarkilled.htm

In pictures: Counting Namibia's cheetahs

Namibia is known to have the largest cheetah population in the world. The Okatumba Wildlife Research project aims to find out how many there are.

Mountain lions are North Texas natives, too!

By Matthew Price
(Created: Monday, March 19, 2007 5:48 PM CDT)

Reports of coyotes and bobcat sightings in North Texas have surprised many residents, but many still have no idea that this area is home to a few mountain lions, and possibly even black panthers.

There has been a confirmed mountain lion sighting in Collin County within the past year," said Trevor Tanner, a wildlife biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife. "Our native big cat in Texas is a mountain lion, not a panther. There is a difference in the species."

Tanner, unaware of direct evidence confirming the presence of black panthers in Collin County, did say, "I'm not saying it's entirely impossible seeing as how there have been people who kept black panthers as pets in the past, and someone could have possibly released one, so I'm not saying it's impossible."

The town of Gunter website,, lists possible sightings of a black panther in Grayson County, Texas. Some skeptics attribute such sightings to mountain lions with darker coats. Black panthers are considerably larger than mountain lions and not native to the area.

Mountain lions on the other hand are one of the most widespread mammals in North America. The large predator is capable of jumping 45 horizontal feet and can weigh over 150 pounds. Tanner estimated the range of individual mountain lions to be around 40 to 100 miles with variation depending upon availability of basic resources.

Advice on reacting to a mountain lion encounter varies. Park officials often recommend making oneself appear large and to yell and even throw sticks to deter the animal.

Tanner suggested that the proper reaction depends on the situation. "Typically your best bet is not to run so as to avoid presenting yourself as a prey species."

Reports of attacks on humans are extremely rare. The best thing a person can do to avoid confrontation with a potentially dangerous animal is to avoid contact. Feeding or nurturing such wild animals is a bad idea and is a major cause of unsafe conditions with animals. celina_record/news/u-celina497lion.txt

Monday, March 19, 2007

CNN airs 4-part series on illegal wildlife trade in SE Asia

Please join CNN's Anderson Cooper, Jeff Corwin and Wildlife Alliance for a special four-part series this week on Southeast Asia and the impacts of the illegal wildlife trade and the destruction of habitat.

As part of CNN's Planets in Peril series, CNN's Anderson Cooper and Animal Planet's Jeff Corwin will be broadcasting live from Thailand and Cambodia each night between March 19th - 22nd, 10:00 pm - midnight Eastern (7:00 pm - 9:00 pm Pacific), spotlighting the work of Wildlife Alliance in protecting Southeast Asia's wildlife and forests. These pieces will appear alongside the regular news and special features on Anderson Cooper 360°, so please stay tuned for excerpts throughout the broadcasts.

This series will feature:

* Undercover efforts to bust black market tiger merchants in Bangkok's notorious Chatuchak Wildlife Markets

* Anti-poaching patrols in Thailand and Cambodia's magnificent and imperiled national parks

* Cambodia's Wildlife Rapid Rescue Team and its efforts to prevent poachers and dealers from profiting from the illegal wildlife trade

* Care and rehabilitation for rescued animals at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Center

This series will offer viewers around the world an unprecedented glimpse inside Wildlife Alliance's work protecting Southeast Asia's forests and wildlife. Even if you're not in the United States, you'll be able to watch broadcasts around the world on CNN International, so check listings on CNN in your own country. If you're unable to catch the broadcasts, check for transcripts later on at /

Malaysian restaurants contributing to tiger, leopard extinction

The Associated Press
Friday, March 16, 2007

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Restaurants selling exotic meat in Malaysia are contributing to the extinction of endangered species as the ever-scarcer delicacies fetch steadily higher prices, a news report said Saturday.

The animals that end up on dinner plates at the country's illegally operated restaurants include tigers, bears, pythons, macaques, porcupines, panthers [leopards] and civet cats, the New Straits Times said. Many of these species are nearly extinct.

"The protected species can only be saved if these people change their eating habits," Malaysia's Wildlife Department enforcement division director Misliah Mohamed Basir said, according to the newspaper.

Misliah said only eight exotic animal restaurant owners have been prosecuted in the past five years, according to the report.

Even then, the top fine was 5,000 ringgit (US$1,425; €1,070).

No one has served a jail term even though offenders can be jailed for up to five years, the paper said.

A bowl of bear paw soup can sell for around 850 ringgit (US$243; €182) while a tiger penis — thought to increase sexual virility — can retail for up to 2,000 ringgit (US$570; €428).

Prices have risen because the animals are now harder to obtain, and because customers believe in their medicinal powers.

"With this belief, many restaurateurs are capitalizing by charging exorbitant prices for their meat," Malaysian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals branch director Christine Chin said in the report. "I am sad that there are those who feel the meat has a potent which is a superstition," the report quoted her as saying.

Wildlife department officials could not be immediately contacted for comment. -Exotic-Meat-Restaurants.php