Tuesday, July 31, 2007

India's leopards threatened by poaching, encroachment

KOLKATA, India - India's leopards are under threat, with increasing numbers of the wild cats being poached for their body parts and villagers killing them for straying into human settlements, experts said.

With tiger populations dwindling in recent years as a result of poaching, wildlife officials say hunters have increasingly set their sights on leopards, killing them for their skins as well as bones, claws and penises for use in traditional Asian medicines.

Depletion of their habitat has also threatened the leopards, forcing them to stray into human settlements -- attacking people and cattle -- and often getting killed in return.

"Leopards were always in danger due to a shrinking habitat, but now with poachers after them there is an immediate need for conservation of the animals," said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Despite being an endangered and protected species, at least 228 leopards have been killed since January 2006, Wright said, 68 of which had been killed this year alone.

India had about 7,300 leopards in the wild according to a 1997 census, but conservationists say the number is now likely to be much lower.

Since July last year, police have seized dozens of leopard skins and body parts near India's northeastern border with Bhutan.

"We have found that leopard skins, claws and penises were in great demand across South Asia and this has its own market worth thousands of rupees," said B.D. Sarkar, a senior police officer.

"A leopard skin is sold for 100,000 rupees (US$2,500) outside India."

Development pressures and encroachment into forest areas have also brought humans and the wild cats into conflict, and media reports have shown villagers brutally killing the animals.

In January, local television footage showed a group of people beating a leopard with logs as it lay on the ground after apparently being cornered in the western city of Nasik. It later died of its injuries.

Story by Bappa Majumdar

Story Date: 31/7/2007


India's Supreme Court to inspect road through reserve

31 Jul 2007, 0145 hrs IST, Nitin Sethi,TNN

NEW DELHI: After celebrating one of the highest recorded tiger densities in India this year, the high-profile Corbett Tiger Reserve is back in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The Uttarakhand government has built a cement road through the heart of the tiger reserve, along an alignment which the government had long expressed a desire to build a tarred road but is still being contested in the courts.

A petition had been filed in this regard before the centrally empowered committee of the Supreme Court on forestry issues.

The SC appointed CEC is now slated to make a spot assessment of the tiger reserve before it recommends further action to the apex court.

State forest officials admitted that mandatory permission from the chief wildlife warden or the director of the tiger reserve was not taken before building the road as required by the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

The construction of the road is also not scheduled in the management plan which is mandated as compulsory to undertake any activity within a protected forest area.

However, state forest officials claimed that the road being a project ordered by the Uttarakhand government, it did not require any further clearances.

The state government has launched a multi-crore project to build roads through all forest areas in order to connect ‘fringe areas’ from where it claims Maoist activity has been reported.

But sources in the government told TOI that the quality of work was so bad that the newly-constructed road had given in to the monsoon showers in one portion, rendering even patrolling by the forest department difficult, which was being undertaken year-round previously even on the kutcha road.


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/SC_to_inspect _road_through_Corbett/articleshow/2245503.cms

Monday, July 30, 2007

Snow Leopard Trust works to develop China program

By Jennifer Snell Rullman, Conservation Program Director

I usually think of myself as prepared for just about anything when it comes to accommodations on my travels, having encountered a variety of interesting circumstances and settings over the years working in Eastern Africa and, since 2003, for the Trust in Central Asia. I was caught a bit off-guard on my most recent trip to China, however, when a legless billiard table was dragged from a nearby horse stall and placed on a cold linoleum floor for Bayara (the Trust's Conservation and Country Development Director from Mongolia) and me to share as a bed for the next 10 days. That was a new one!

We had it easier than our other colleague, China Program Administrator Ge Yun, whose sleeping bag was placed on a very hard tabletop diagonally, so that she would fit! But it didn't occur to us to complain about these accommodations, because the families we were visiting, in the Tomur Nature Reserve's village of Porchenzi, considered themselves so poor they were embarrassed to have us stay in their homes. To them, this room with a billiard table was better than the handsewn mattresses on top of cement or wood-slab beds where they slept.

Bayara, Ge Yun, and I travelled for three weeks through the western part of China to get to know some of the communities we may collaborate with as the Trust begins its community-based conservation work in China. The billiard-table bed was only one of many moments of mild culture shock Bayara and I experienced as we compared China, the world's most populous nation, with the more familiar Mongolia, a small country of just 2.3 million people. Aksu, a Chinese "town" that we visited, had nearly as many residents as all of Mongolia! Aksu greeted us with skyscrapers, neon lights flashing from the city center, traffic jams, and many shops, restaurants, and hotels. A bustling modern city—and quite a contrast from the dusty, crumbling, forgotten-looking province centers we visit in Mongolia.

How will this large human population and access to modern amenities affect the snow leopard, the communities living in snow leopard habitat, and the way the Trust will work in China? I wondered. As we drove three hours from Aksu into the Tomur Nature Reserve, near the Kyrgyz border, I noticed that the roads were very good—not at all like the routes we tend to travel in Mongolia, which are nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding steppe. Good roads mean easier access to remote areas and wildlands, and we learned from local herders that there's increasing pressure from big business to allow harvesting of natural resources within the park, and to build more roads deeper into the park's mountains.

When we began to meet with people living in the small communities near the park boundaries, however, we found a very familiar situation. Although the people in these communities are not nomadic, they earn their living as livestock herders and face many of the same challenges as the herders we work with in Mongolia: poverty; lack of money for children's education or extra food; and loss of their livestock to harsh winters, dry summers, and predation by wolves and snow leopards.

Yet a different economic system also posed some different challenges for the Chinese herders. Instead of owning their land or livestock like many Mongolian herders, the Chinese families rent livestock and land through the government-owned pasture system. At the end of each year, the herders are expected to shear their flock, and are allowed to keep 40% of the wool—their only payment for the year's work. Any animals that die during the year are counted against that payment, a system that has many herders in debt for what will most likely be their lifetime.

Such differences may mean that our conservation programs in this pocket of China end up looking very different from those we have developed elsewhere. But it's clear that just as in Mongolia, protecting snow leopards in China will require sitting down with the local people who share their environment, listening to them tell about their lives, and working together to solve their problems while helping the cats.

FI usually think of myself as prepared for just about anything when it comes to accommodations on my travels, having encountered a variety of interesting circumstances and settings over the years working in Eastern Africa and, since 2003, for the Trust in Central Asia. I was caught a bit off-guard on my most recent trip to China, however, when a legless billiard table was dragged from a nearby horse stall and placed on a cold linoleum floor for Bayara (the Trust's Conservation and Country Development Director from Mongolia) and me to share as a bed for the next 10 days. That was a new one!

We had it easier than our other colleague, China Program Administrator Ge Yun, whose sleeping bag was placed on a very hard tabletop diagonally, so that she would fit! But it didn't occur to us to complain about these accommodations, because the families we were visiting, in the Tomur Nature Reserve's village of Porchenzi, considered themselves so poor they were embarrassed to have us stay in their homes. To them, this room with a billiard table was better than the handsewn mattresses on top of cement or wood-slab beds where they slept.

Bayara, Ge Yun, and I travelled for three weeks through the western part of China to get to know some of the communities we may collaborate with as the Trust begins its community-based conservation work in China. The billiard-table bed was only one of many moments of mild culture shock Bayara and I experienced as we compared China, the world's most populous nation, with the more familiar Mongolia, a small country of just 2.3 million people. Aksu, a Chinese "town" that we visited, had nearly as many residents as all of Mongolia! Aksu greeted us with skyscrapers, neon lights flashing from the city center, traffic jams, and many shops, restaurants, and hotels. A bustling modern city—and quite a contrast from the dusty, crumbling, forgotten-looking province centers we visit in Mongolia.

How will this large human population and access to modern amenities affect the snow leopard, the communities living in snow leopard habitat, and the way the Trust will work in China? I wondered. As we drove three hours from Aksu into the Tomur Nature Reserve, near the Kyrgyz border, I noticed that the roads were very good—not at all like the routes we tend to travel in Mongolia, which are nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding steppe. Good roads mean easier access to remote areas and wildlands, and we learned from local herders that there's increasing pressure from big business to allow harvesting of natural resources within the park, and to build more roads deeper into the park's mountains.

When we began to meet with people living in the small communities near the park boundaries, however, we found a very familiar situation. Although the people in these communities are not nomadic, they earn their living as livestock herders and face many of the same challenges as the herders we work with in Mongolia: poverty; lack of money for children's education or extra food; and loss of their livestock to harsh winters, dry summers, and predation by wolves and snow leopards.

Yet a different economic system also posed some different challenges for the Chinese herders. Instead of owning their land or livestock like many Mongolian herders, the Chinese families rent livestock and land through the government-owned pasture system. At the end of each year, the herders are expected to shear their flock, and are allowed to keep 40% of the wool—their only payment for the year's work. Any animals that die during the year are counted against that payment, a system that has many herders in debt for what will most likely be their lifetime.

Such differences may mean that our conservation programs in this pocket of China end up looking very different from those we have developed elsewhere. But it's clear that just as in Mongolia, protecting snow leopards in China will require sitting down with the local people who share their environment, listening to them tell about their lives, and working together to solve their problems while helping the cats.


Montana: Mountain lion hunting licenses on sale now

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Mountain lion hunting licenses for Montana's 2007 season are available at all Fish, Wildlife & Parks license providers, online at FWP's website, or through the mail.

To hunt mountain lions in Montana, prospective hunters must either purchase a license or apply for a special permit, they cannot do both.

A mountain lion license is not needed to apply for a mountain lion permit. A valid conservation license, however, is needed. Hunters who purchase a mountain lion license cannot apply for a permit.

Hunters are urged to check the mountain lion hunting regulations available at FWP license providers and online at fwp.mt.gov, click 2007 Hunting Regulations.

For the upcoming mountain lion season:

* a permit system for residents and nonresidents in several hunting districts in northwestern Montana's Region 1 remains in effect to help manage competition among lion hunters and prevent accidental over harvest.

* a nonresident permit system remains in effect in southwestern Montana's Region 2 where 10 percent of the overall harvest quota will be allocated to nonresidents. The only exception is Hunting District 292 (Garnet Lion Study area) where a permit is required for residents.

if successful in drawing a special permit, the permit holder will be required to purchase a mountain lion license and can hunt only in the area for which the permit is valid

* a hunting-license validation requirement at the time of purchase remains in effect for either the fall season without dogs or winter quota-based mountain lion hunting season.

* houndsmen can participate in the hound-training (chase) season with appropriate licenses. To participate, residents will need a $5 hound-training license or mountain lion license, while nonresidents will need a mountain lion license.

Hunters have until Aug. 31 to either apply for one of the special permit districts or purchase and validate their license for either the fall or winter season.


Cougar that stalked golfers is killed in B.C.

Allen Best
Vail, CO Colorado
July 23, 2007

WHISTLER, B.C. — He chased several bicycle riders this summer. He looked into windows. And finally, the cougar was seen on the fringes of the golf course at Whistler's Fairmont Chateau, allegedly stalking golfers.

With that, the cougar, also called a mountain lion, was killed.

Chris Doyle, Whistler conservation officer, told Pique Newsmagazine that cougars rarely are interested in people. This one was.

“We pretty much knew, given its past history, that it was going to be destroyed before it hurt somebody,” Doyle said.

He said an autopsy would be conducted to determine whether an injury or illness caused the cougar's aberrant behavior.

If no permit was available for the pelt, the body was to be put in the forest to be picked over by scavengers.


Cougar chase startles family and dog in B.C.

Bruce Bell - The Intelligencer

Local News - Tuesday, July 24, 2007 @ 10:00

A Rednersville Road couple and their Labrador retriever are shaken, but otherwise unharmed after being chased by a cougar near their home.

Rob and Michelle Slapkauskas were walking their dog, Duke in a field behind their home two kilometres west of Rossmore Saturday evening when they encountered the large cat.

"We were out walking Duke, just like we always do and we could see something a couple of fields over," said Michelle Slapkauskas. "His head came up and there was a strong north wind and he must have caught Duke's scent because he slinked over a hay bale and we think he came down the tree line and started charging after us. Rob just yelled 'run' and it was like a football field and a half away so we took off for the house.

"It was terrifying and I had no idea I could feel fear like I did," she said. "We were lucky that Duke didn't catch his scent because he just ran back to the house with us or it might have been a lot different."

Slapkauskas said they immediately called police and animal control officials from the municipality. Although the cougar was spotted again, it was too far away to attempt to capture or subdue it.

"Rob had binoculars when he took them out there and he could see his pointed ears and big, white chest. That's what I remember when he started charging - was that big white chest."

Meanwhile, her husband isn't convinced the cougar was attempting to attack them.

"I don't know exactly what he was doing but there are literally thousands of acres back there and who knows how long he might have been there," he said. "It may have been simply been staking its territory and chasing us out of there. I was a little surprised when I went back there with the OPP officer and the gentleman from animal control and he was still sitting there - you'd have thought it would have been scared off."

Police are warning residents to be on the lookout for the cat.

"We're concerned because there hasn't been any livestock reported missing or any deer carcasses found in that area and that's normally one of the first things that would turn up because it's a large feline and it needs to eat," said Const. Vance Kewley of the Prince Edward OPP detachment. "It was last seen in the Rednersville Road area about 9 p.m. on (Saturday)..."

Garry Davis, Prince Edward County's chief building official, said an animal control officer at the scene was able to identify the animal as a cougar.

"(George) Wilkinson was there and he saw the cougar sitting in a field about 400 or 500 yards away and he said there is no question it was a cougar," Davis explained. "They couldn't get any closer to it than that to tranquilize it. But now it's a MNR issue and cougars are a protected animal, so there is really nothing we can do about it unless it becomes an endangerment."

The Slapkauskas' will not be returning to the field with Duke in the near future, Michelle Slapkauskas said.

"I run back there every day and we are in those fields at least twice a day," she said. "We always see a ton of wildlife, but never anything like a cougar. I got home last night and Rob was in the garage just behind our house and I was petrified to even go there." Davis said he was not aware of a cougar population in Prince Edward County but said he has been receiving calls since Saturday's incident indicating otherwise.

"I wasn't aware of it but now I'm hearing there is a pair back there with two or three little ones, so there could be a number of them out there we don't know about."

Anyone spotting the animal is asked to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122.

http://www.intelligencer.ca/webapp/sitepages/content.asp? contentid=623690&catname=Local+News&classif

Friday, July 27, 2007

China orders Tibetan festival-goers to wear fur or face fines

Jane Macartney in Yushu
July 27, 2007

Tsedang is reluctant to don his traditional Tibetan fur-trimmed robe at the Yushu annual horse-racing festival. It is not what the Dalai Lama would want.

But the 20-year-old student has no choice. The command has come down from the Government of the remote Chinese county that he must defy his spiritual leader.

Tsedang has been practising traditional dances for two months to perform at the biggest such festival to be held in Yushu county. His brown robe, or chuba, is trimmed with blue-and-gold brocade. It is also edged with otter skin, a detail over which he has agonised and that has divided the crowd of 20,000.

"I don’t want to wear this skin but we have to," he told The Times. "It’s an order from the Government. I hate wearing this. It’s a terrible thing. The Dalai Lama said we must not wear skins." He dropped his voice to a whisper: "The Dalai is our king, you know."

Thousands of Tibetans have travelled for days and hundreds of miles to pitch their tents on the slopes surrounding the festival grounds in a remote corner of western Qinghai province, which ethnically is majority Tibetan. Strings of pink, blue, green and yellow prayer flags flutter in the breeze as spectators stand in banks five or six deep for a glimpse of the dances. They unfurl umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun blazing through the thin air in this corner of the Roof of the World, about 3,800 metres (12,500ft) above sea level.

The only cloud over the picnickers,riders, dancers and visitors dressed in their finest is the order to wear furs. Entertainers who ignore it face being fined their appearance money of 3,000 yuan (£200), a huge sum for a Tibetan farmer.

The question of whether to wear traditional fur was sparked by the Dalai Lama last year. He told Tibetans who gathered for a Buddhist festival that he was ashamed of photographs showing his people dressed in robes decorated with tiger skins and other animal pelts. Within days people across the Himalayan region began to set alight mounds of fur-trimmed chubas.

Chinese officials were furious. The display of obedience by ordinary Tibetans to the Buddhist monk, exiled in India since fleeing amid an abortive anti-Chinese uprising in 1959, shocked the authorities, denting their increasing confidence about having established control over the restive region.

The Communist rulers are swift to respond to displays of loyalty to the Nobel peace laureate. His picture is banned. Officials accuse him of seeking independence for his homeland under the pretence of autonomy.

China’s response to his order was not without irony. Officials had been pursuing a policy of trying to discourage Tibetans from wearing their traditional dress as a way of stemming the trade in skins. But the priority for authorities in Yushu county was to counter the Dalai Lama. So they told locals that they must wear skins.

This has led to difficulties for some ethnic Tibetans. At the edge of the parade ground a friend helped Zhouma to put on her many layers of heavy ceremonial robes, including a chuba decorated with otter skin. "We have to wear this because we are dancing. But people who aren’t performing don’t do so." By way of explanation, and in an oblique reference to the Dalai Lama, she added: "He said we shouldn’t." Any government official or state employee who does not don his fur at the five-day festival would be sacked, Tibetan sources said.

Dancers and performers taking part in the opening ceremonies faced stiff fines if they appeared without a skin trim. Mostly students and nomads, they have been paid 50 yuan a day to take part in training and will lose it if they leave their furs at home.

Not everyone at yesterday’s festival agreed with the Dalai Lama. One well-dressed merchant in a gold brocade chuba heavily decorated with otter fur voiced pride in his dress: "I wear this for important ceremonies. It’s unreasonable to burn something like this or to listen to someone who says you shouldn’t wear fur."

A crimson-robed monk looked nervously around him when asked his view of the order to wear furs. "I think it’s bad, but we have been told not to discuss this. Personally, I think it’s important to protect the environment and animals. Plus the Dalai Lama said we should."

But Qiuren, who is 19 and has just completed a stint in the army, strode proudly in a magnificent tiger hide. His younger brother was dressed in a leopard skin. Both young men wore their long hair braided with coral and bone and twisted around their heads.

Qiuren said that his robe weighed 20kg (40lb), cost his family 80,000 yuan and came from India. Like many Tibetans, he was reticent about the new rules. "It’s hard to say why so few people are wearing skins this year. One reason is because of the environment. There are other reasons but it’s hard to say what they are."

China is so sensitive to any sign of the Dalai Lama’s continued influence that it has ordered conservation offices to block public mention of the drive to persuade Tibetans to stop wearing skins. A rock group in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, was called in by officials because one of its hits was a song critical of the slaughter of wild animals. After the musicians had reassured the officials that the tune predated the Dalai Lama’s call, they were released. Their song was banned.

Price of tradition

— Tiger, leopard, lynx, otter and fox fur may all be used in making a chuba. Fur is used for decoration and insulation

— A single garment may call for the pelts of 20 foxes to line the main body and three otters for decorative trim

— With a single fox pelt costing 500 yuan and otter skins 6,000 yuan each, a basic chuba, without prized tiger or leopard fur, can cost 28,000 yuan (almost £2,000). The average income of Tibetan farmers last year was less than a tenth of that

— The world population of tigers, used to make the most prestigious chubas, has fallen by as much as 95 per cent since 1900, from 100,000 to 5,000-7,000.

Sources: WWF; China Tibet Information Centre; Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama


India: Leopard trapped in net laid for wild boar

Udupi, Jul 26: A leopard was trapped in the net laid for wild boar when it came in search of food chasing a wild boar and pet dogs near Kokkarne of Brahmavar here on Tuesday July 24. The leopard spent almost 5-7 hours in the net before it was set free by forest department personnel.

The leopard came chasing a pet dog in the forest area belonged to Heggunje Prabhakar Shetty at Kudoor in Kelamangoor near Kokkarne, when it was entangled in the trap laid by some local hunters to trap wild boar, in the early hours. Fortunately the knot was fastened on to its hind portion. If it had it been fastened to the neck, it would not have survived.

The incident took place near one Ramappa Maistry's house. He after learning about it informed the forest department. Forest guard Parameshwar, Vasudev and others arrived from Brahmavar forest department with all the accessories to release the leopard safely.

It was a big task first of all to control the large number of crowd that had gathered and was trying to get a glimpse of the guest of the forest. But the forest department personnel safely released the leopard from the trap by using safety net. The operation was led by Shankaranarayan Range forester Sridhar, with the help of the locals.

http://www.daijiworld.com/news/news_disp.asp?n_id=36209&n_tit=Udupi% 3A+Leopard+Trapped+in+Net+Laid+for+Wild+Boar+near+Kokkarne

Leopard on the prowl in India's Surat

Manish Panwala
Thursday, July 26, 2007 (Bardoli)

The leopard has been causing panic in neighbouring villages in Surat but with rain filling up the fields, it's now out on the state highway connecting Bardoli to Mahuva in south Gujarat.

"The leopard does not like to be in the rain soaked fields. So it has now come out into the open much to the people's scare," said Ajay Patel, Vice President, Prayas.

The leopard has been at large for several weeks but the wildlife department has failed to catch it.

"We have been telling the wildlife authorities that they need to executive some effective plan to trap the leopard, but they have failed so far," said Vinodbhai, villager.

Frequent straying of leopards has also been reported from villages of Surat and Navsari and the authorities are baffled.

Wildlife experts suggest the use of modern gadgets to counter these animals.

"There are modern gadgets available now. For instance guns, which can administer tranquiliser, can be used," said Karmavir Bhatt, Wildlife Expert.

But till the time this leopard moves back to his habitat or is trapped these villages will live in constant fear.


Ariz. run-ins with cougars, bears caused by drought, disharmony

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

BERLAND LAKE, Ariz., July 26, 2007

Outside the small log cabin high up on Narbona Pass smoke gently rose from the stovepipe.

The land around the cabin was covered with green vegetation and wildflowers. For miles, the only sounds were the bleating of sheep and goats and the tinkling of their bells.

But this picture of serenity belied the havoc that reigned a few days earlier, when an adult red bear slaughtered and ate eight sheep and lambs over a three-day period.

Alvin Allen, who built the cabin for his parents, said the livestock had belonged to his paternal grandmother, Rose Mike, of Toadlena, N.M.

She doesn't usually keep her animals at his family's summer camp, he added, but this summer she asked permission to graze her animals there, high above the drought-bleached plains of eastern New Mexico.

He pointed to a corral behind the cabin and said the sheep and goats there belong to his elderly parents, John and Christine. His grandmother had taken her remaining livestock - 55 in all - back to Toadlena after the attacks.

Farther away, almost hidden among tall pines, was another corral. That's where the bear attacked first on July 11, killing four sheep and lambs, Allen said. After that attack, the livestock were moved to a corral much closer to the cabin.

The bear returned two days later, on July 13, killing four more animals and ravaging the carcasses of his first victims.

Two days after that, tribal ranger Mike Deswood returned with some non-Indian hunters who tracked down the bear with dogs and killed it on July 15.

In the Navajo way, it is forbidden to kill a bear because they lend their power to aid humans in the Protection Way ceremony.

Decade of drought

Allen said it had been so long since he'd heard of a bear attack that he could not remember how many years ago it was.

But over the past 10 years, he said, rain has continuously decreased in the once-lush high country around the cabin. Allen pointed to a dam across a small stream, designed to channel water into two stock ponds.

His father built the dam, he said, and he and his siblings would jump off that dam into 14 feet of water.

If they jumped off it today, they would hit dirt.

Alvin sighed and said the bear probably attacked his grandmother's livestock because it was hungry.

In a separate interview July 18, tribal Fish and Wildlife Director Gloria Tom agreed.

Bears usually avoid humans, but Tom said they are attacking livestock because the drought has made their usual foods, like berries and acorns, scarce.

The attack at the Allen camp may be the worst incident so far, but Tom said her department has received many calls this summer about bears being sighted near residential areas or attacking livestock.

One bear was seen roving around the old Mustang gas station in Navajo, N.M., about 15 miles south of the Allen camp.

Tom said that in one week, she received three calls about bear attacks on livestock in the Narbona Pass and Chuska Mountain areas. Further to the west, mountain lion attacks are also being reported, she said.

"They're out and they're wandering - looking for food," Tom said. "But to this day, there have been no major conflicts with humans."

Tom emphasized that people should stay clear of a bear if they see one, because the bears are under stress from the drought and their behavior is not normal.

Harry Walters, curator for the Diné College Museum, agreed that people should avoid contact with bears.

"These animals are powerful," Walters said, speaking of their physical and spiritual properties.

He explained that the bear and mountain lion play a role in the Protection Way ceremony, which confers protection from evil.

Tom added, "By their own nature, they have their own domain and they stay away from people."

Sending a signal

When bears or mountain lions venture into residential areas it means something is not right, Walters said.

Under normal conditions, if a bear or mountain lion bothers a human dwelling, it could signal that someone in the house has transgressed against something or someone, he explained.

He said that's usually when people should consult a Navajo crystal gazer, who acts as a diagnostician.

In the present situation, however, the multiple sightings and attacks are the animals' way of saying they know society - as a whole - is doing something wrong, Walters said.

"Nature does not normally act this way," Walters said. "What is causing the drought? What are we doing wrong?

"In many cases, humans are usually to blame," he said. "Maybe power plants or humans are infringing on their habitats. So those are some of the things we must ask ourselves."

A couple of years ago, a bear killed 40 sheep in the St. Michaels summit area west of Window Rock, Tom said.

"There are certain instances when one bear goes crazy and kills everything in sight," he said.

Tom advised people living or camping in the mountains to keep their surroundings clean, leaving no food out including dog food.

Many times when bears are sighted in residential areas or have attacked livestock, Fish and Wildlife officials find that the bear was attracted by dog food, garbage or food left out in the open, Tom said.

"Of course, once they develop the habit of killing livestock, they're doomed," she sighed.

Tom said the agency tried capturing and relocating bears that killed livestock, but they eventually returned to their original habitats and resumed causing problems.

So Fish and Wildlife maintains a list of people who own dogs that are specifically trained to chase and tree a bear and then it's put down, she said.

While bears have been a problem in the mountain areas, Tom said mountain lions are attacking livestock in the western part of the Navajo Reservation.

One mountain lion killed five sheep near Shonto, Ariz., the week of July 9, Tom said.

Fish and Wildlife has only two rangers to cover the entire reservation, she said.

In the past, the agency got funding for additional rangers to help control livestock attacks by bears, mountain lions and dogs, but it's not been a priority for either the executive or the legislative branch for several years, she said.

"The other pressing needs are public safety and social work, not wildlife damage," Tom said with frustration.

She said studies of bears and mountain lions are also needed to track where most of them are living, what they're eating, where they roam, and how many there are on the Navajo Nation.

The last bear study was conducted in the 1970s or '80s, she said, and much has changed since then.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

India: Tiger numbers may drop by 60%

Jay Mazoomdaar
Wednesday, July 25, 2007 (New Delhi)

Finally, the Centre comes clean, India has lost just too many tigers so now the prime minister is himself stepping in to launch what many believe is the last battle to save the big cat. However, the numbers of big cats left in the country are simply shocking.

The national tiger census figures are still some months away, but field reports suggest the national count may come down by about 60 per cent.

"The picture outside the tiger reserves and some of the protected areas is not good. We may not have 50 per cent tigers outside the reserves system," said Rajesh Gopal, Member-Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The four main states of the tiger belt Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh have already recorded a loss of about 750 tigers, that's more than 60 per cent since 2002.

"Because the land use outside, it may not hold viable population of tigers. So may be the trend gets repeated, Gopal added.

On being asked whether tiger numbers are more than 1,400, Gopal replied that we will have to wait for the final outcome.

Gopal sounds cautious, as many states are not ready to acknowledge the crisis. Till now, states conducted their own tiger counts and their ambitious numbers added up to nearly 4,000.

Realistic findings

This time, the Centre is in charge and many states are contesting the more realistic findings. Also, many states are yet to respond to directives issued by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

"Advisories have gone to the states, some states have responded but we need more responses from several other states. Fortunately, the prime minister himself wanted the real picture," Gopal further said.

"We gave a complete picture of the situation the meeting was very useful. We have issued directives for deploying the ex-Army personnel along with the native workforce through central assistance, which we give to states," he said.

"Monsoon patrolling is required to be done urgently. We are coming with a better relocation package so that all the 273 villages that are in the core get a fare deal," Gopal added.

Other key measures include:

* Central assistance to states for recruiting forest guards.

* Creation of a Park Development Fund.

Two and half years after the Sariska fiasco, the government is finally out of its denial mode.

With tiger numbers down to about one-third of what was being officially claimed till recently, the prime minister's positive intervention is perhaps the last hope for the big cat's future in India. Only if, the states come clean and offer full cooperation.

http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx? id=NEWEN20070020267&ch=7/25/2007%2010:47:00%20PM

Texas: Move to re-classify mountain lions as game animals

09:38 PM CDT on Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Orie Gilad would like to elevate the status of Texas mountain lions from varmints to game animals. Gilad is director of the Research and Conservation Program for Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Inc. of Kendalia, Texas.

The organization has announced plans to present the Texas Legislature with a Texas Mountain Lion Initiative. The initiative upshot is that the lions' non-game status amounts to no status. A change to game status under a responsible, adaptive wildlife management plan would be good for the state's biggest mammalian predator, according to WRRI.

I have to agree with Gilad that mountain lions are terrific animals and, as former Texas Parks and Wildlife executive director Andy Sansom once said, we shouldn't be killing them like cockroaches.

There's just one problem with helping mountain lions. They're doing fine without our help. Despite the fact that I've never even seen a mountain lion in the wild, I have too much respect for these wonderful animals to entrust their fate to the Texas Legislature.

San Antonio, for instance, closed three city parks earlier this month after a series of mountain lion sightings near I-10 on the city's northwest side. TP&W investigators found no physical evidence of a big cat's presence but that doesn't mean much. A month earlier, a car flattened a 3-year-old female mountain lion on a San Antonio I-10 service road about two miles from the new Bass Pro store.

John Young is a TP&W biologist who tracks mountain lions, mostly via the telephone or the Internet. Though lion sightings have been reported in every Texas county, most reported sightings are not particularly believable.

Young does the best he can to document mountain lion mortalities, however. TP&W has been tracking those numbers since 1983. Though the highest annual mortality number is 88 since that time, lion mortality averages about 30 certifiable deaths a year.

Most of those mountain lion deaths are the result of being hit by an automobile, caught in a trap or whacked by a bullet. There are still government trappers who respond to complaints by ranchers and attempt to catch or kill problem lions. The number of lions killed by trappers has been documented since 1919.

Deer hunters pick off an occasional big cat, including those who learn deer hunting is good near a corn feeder. There are a handful of guys in West Texas who maintain hound packs and actively hunt mountain lions, often following behind the chase on horses or mules.

Most Texas lions sightings occur in West or South Texas, but mountain lions are travelers by nature. That's how they wind up in places like Jack County, a short drive northwest of Fort Worth; Wood County, about 100 miles east of Dallas; and Bosque County, 90 miles southwest of the city.

A lion tagged in South Dakota wound up in Oklahoma. A Utah lion fitted with a GPS tracking device wandered into Idaho, then back through Utah and into Colorado. The female lion covered 950 miles. Males tend to move longer distances.

TP&W officials do not attempt to count mountain lions, which are very secretive animals. Texas A&M did perform a DNA analysis on samples taken from 89 lions in West and South Texas and fed the results to a computer, which estimated 5,600 breeding animals were involved in that DNA sample. Young suspects that number could be on the conservative side.

Oregon, which does protect mountain lions as game animals, estimates its population at more than 5,000. British Columbia, which has experienced more lion attacks on humans than any other place, estimates its big cat population at 4,000 to 6,000.

In short, mountain lions are about as abundant in Texas as anywhere. Young said Texas mountain lions may be at an all-time population high. They're doing fine in spite of humans. They don't need to hear those dreaded words – "We're from the government and we're here to help you."

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/ outdoors/stories/072607dnsposasser.26cf417.html

State raises hunting pressure on Wyo. cats

Cougar Fund says Teton County hunting quotas are not based on science.

By Rebecca Huntington
July 25, 2007

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission voted Friday to allow hunters to kill more mountain lions in many hunt areas across the state while maintaining the status quo in Teton County.

Cougar Fund Co-Founder Tom Mangelsen called the decision disappointing, saying that it didn't reflect the intent of a new statewide mountain lion management plan designed to inject more science into the process.

"We were very hopeful that the mountain lion management plan would bring some more science and some sanity to the cougar management in Wyoming," Mangelsen said Monday.

Game and Fish Assistant Division Chief for Wildlife Bill Rudd defended the higher quotas, saying a statewide analysis showed Wyoming has a healthy cougar population that could sustain higher hunting quotas.

"We're producing lots of excess cats," Rudd told the commission, which adopted the department's recommendations during a meeting Friday in Pinedale. Rudd said after the meeting that many regional managers acted conservatively and even reduced the quota in at least one hunt area where managers felt the lion population was not in good shape. The quotas are in effect for three years.

But Mangelsen said the new quotas increased almost across the board, showing a bias for killing predators – not better science. As for Teton County, the Cougar Fund had requested a moratorium on sport hunting of cougars in Hunt Area 2 because field research has indicated a lack of reproducing females in the area.

"They ignored that science," Mangelsen said.

Game and Fish Commissioner Clark Allan, who represents Teton County on the commission, disagreed, saying science did play a role in the decision.

The area's missing females

The science in question is data collected by the Teton Cougar Project run by Craighead Beringia South, a Kelly-based nonprofit. The Cougar Project has been studying cats around Jackson Hole for the past seven years.

The project's study area overlaps with Hunt Area 2, which includes the Buffalo Valley. Project Director Howard Quigley said that researchers noticed a natural loss of adult females beginning in 2004 in the Buffalo Valley.

Although losing adult females over time isn't a surprise, researchers saw a "red flag" when those females were not replaced. Since 2004, five home ranges formerly occupied by reproducing females have become vacant after three females died and two moved out of the area, he said. Field studies from other areas show that when females disappear from a home range, they're typically replaced within a year to a year and a half, he said.

"We're not getting that," Quigley said Tuesday. "Right now, as far as we can tell, those five home ranges are vacant."

Moreover, the study shows no "recruitment," which means kittens successfully growing up and remaining in the area to produce young of their own.

"We're getting reproduction, we're just not getting anybody who sticks around and reproduces themselves despite the vacant territories," Quigley said.

The only radio-collared cougar born in the area that stayed in the study area to produce young died of natural causes, he said. State lab tests show the cougar had the plague, which may have been a factor in the death.

Wyoming's field study

Under the state lion management plan, Hunt Area 2 is deemed a "source" area, which means it's producing "excess" cats, according to state officials.

The Cougar Fund, an advocacy group for cougars, points out that the Teton Cougar Project is the only field study of cougars underway in the state. In areas where the state increased hunting quotas, wildlife managers had no field studies to support those decisions, the Cougar Fund argues. Yet in Teton County, where a field study provides evidence of vacant home ranges and a lack of recruitment, the state responded by making no change to the quota.

Rudd and Commissioner Allan defended the decision saying the state acted conservatively by not increasing quotas in Teton County. The state mountain lion management plan indicates Hunt Area 2 could support a quota of 14, or double the current quota, Allan said. Allan voted in favor of keeping the quota at seven, however.

"We're at half of the quota we could be [at]," he said Tuesday. "I'm happy that we're at half. I just want people to understand that we're being conservative in Area 2."

Allan also said that researchers are not detecting all of the cougars in the area because the cats are secretive and hard to find.

"Despite my concerns about that study, that study is a factor that played into the fact that our quotas are so low in Area 2," Allan said.

Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, a hunting group that advocates killing predators to enhance game herds, said it was backing the quotas but would have preferred higher quotas in some areas.

"We are compromising on this plan," said Bob Wharff, executive director of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. He said that he hoped hunting seasons could be made more liberal in the future. Also, the group's Teton County Chapter representative Robert Richards said not everyone in Teton County wanted lower hunting quotas for cougars.

Richards and Allan also spoke in favor of removing female sub-quotas for mountain lions even though Allan ultimately voted to maintain the female sub-quotas, which discourage hunters from taking females. They both said that the sub-quotas skew the hunter-kill data that Game and Fish uses to track mountain lion population trends.

But Mangelsen countered that protecting females, the reproductive segment of the population, should outweigh data collection desires. Moreover, he said hunter biases also skew the population data – not just the subquotas.


US border fence seen harming ocelots

US: July 26, 2007

ON THE RIO GRANDE, Texas - The riot of green vegetation that lines both sides of the Rio Grande river along the southeast Texas and Mexican border can give a canoeist the impression of gliding past unbroken wilderness.

But the strip of riparian forest that runs a few miles between the Texas towns of Fronton and Roma is deceptive.

In reality one of the most ecologically diverse corners of the United States has been diced up by farming and urban sprawl into isolated fragments of habitat that support far less wildlife than when they were whole.

Now, conservationists are concerned that a planned border security fence to stem illegal immigration from Mexico could cut this delicate area up even more and possibly remove the corridor of vital riverbank habitat that remains.

"We know as habitats become fragments whether by roads, fences or walls animals become much less capable of roaming widely," said Dr. Joel Berger, a senior scientist with the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society.

"As these restrictions occur animals become isolated and with isolation the risks of local extinctions greatly increase," he said.

Animals at risk of local extinction include the US population of the ocelot, a wild cat that is down to a few dozen animals, and several species of birds. Rare native plants such as sabal palm trees are down to a few isolated patches.

Driving along Route 281 which hugs this section of the Rio Grande reveals what lies behind the forested facade on the river's edge -- fast-growing border towns and cultivated fields of corn, sugar cane and other crops.

At stake is the sheer diversity of life in a region of lush subtropical vegetation threaded by a great river, lying between vast arid landscapes to the west and the Gulf of Mexico to the east.

Few Americans are aware of the area's ecological significance, which in four counties includes 300 butterfly species -- more than the rest of the country east of the Mississippi -- and over 500 different birds.


Ecologists are trying to reconnect the dots by revegetating old farmland with native plants which they hope to link up.

At the Nature Conservancy of Texas' 1,000-acre Southmost Preserve, the contrast is plain along a dirt road with a cornfield on one side and wild bush on the other.

"This side looked exactly like that cornfield seven years ago," said Lisa Williams, a local project director with the Nature Conservancy, as she pointed to the tangle of wild growth which included haunting tepegauje trees -- a key species of the area -- their feathery leaves blowing in the wind.

"These are the pearls in a necklace which we are trying to string together," she said.

A pair of coyotes ran furtively through a field while a coot, an aquatic bird, chattered from a wetland.

When ecologists look at a patchwork of ecosystems cut up by roads or farms they think of islands -- and like islands out to sea, their isolation can be the undoing of their inhabitants.

According to the World Conservation Union, about 800 species have become extinct since 1500, when records began. Most were on islands.

But scientists say that extinctions and steep local population declines are now creeping onshore because continental habitats are being diced up by human activities.

Isolation makes populations more prone to sudden die-offs from disease or drought and also limits their genetic pool.

Other tracts of land besides Southmost are being protected in the area and reverted to their original state -- but there are worries the wall could cut through some of this work.

"There are two dozen species of very specialised birds that only live in the river forest and if that was cleared for the wall they will be lost to the area," said Martin Hagne, the executive director of the Valley Nature Center.

Supporters of the wall say it is needed to stem the tide of illegal immigration into the United States and the government says one green spin off will be a reduction in the mountains of litter which illicit crossers leave behind.

"I think it's well documented the affect that illegal border crossing activity has on the environment. The result in many cases is refuse left behind such as plastic bottles, clothes and discarded rubber rafts," said Michael Friel, a spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection.

He also said that in areas where effective control of the border has been reasserted such as near San Diego, local wild habitat which was trampled by illegal crossers has regrown.

Elsewhere international fences are being dropped for conservation reasons. The fence between South Africa's famed Kruger National Park and Mozambique is being removed to make more room for elephants and other wildlife.

Story by Ed Stoddard


S. Africa: Pro hunter 'killed collared cheetah'


JOHANNESBURG – A well-known professional hunter is facing criminal charges after he allegedly hunted a collared cheetah which had been released in Botswana by the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust.

It had crossed the Botswana border and returned to South Africa, where it was allegedly shot by the hunter and a client from Spain.

A trust spokesman said the female cheetah was one of two that had crossed the border after being "re-wilded" in Botswana.

The other was also shot dead and left to rot near a fence beside a tar road in Swartwater, Limpopo.

The spokesman said both animals were accustomed to humans, and hunting them would be as easy as "clubbing them over the head".

"Information reached us through the farming community that a well-known professional hunter in the Swartwater area had hunted the remaining cheetah female with a client from Spain," said the spokesman.

Both cheetahs were fitted with Satellite/GPS collars, and researchers were able to monitor their movements.

One collar was retrieved next to a tar road near Baltimore in Limpopo, where the professional hunter had allegedly discarded it.

It was still transmitting a strong signal.

Limpopo conservation authorities found the skin of the cheetah at a taxidermist in Ellisras.

"It was confiscated and the professional hunter was arrested.

"He admitted guilt after being questioned," said the spokesman.

The hunter will be brought before a magistrate on Thursday.

Last updated
23/07/2007 10:44:38


Woman, hiking alone, fights off cougar in B.C.

Cathy Ellis
For The Calgary Herald

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A woman from Spruce Grove was forced to fight for her life to fend off an aggressive cougar that had been stalking her as she hiked alone on one of the most popular trails in Kootenay National Park.

The rare encounter, which happened in broad daylight, occurred just a few days after a different cougar began preying on pet cats at nearby Radium Hot Springs, putting residents in that B.C. tourist town on high alert.

The Spruce Grove woman, said to be in her 30s, spotted a cougar about 18 metres away as she hiked on the popular Kindersley-Sinclair Loop in Kootenay on Saturday, quickly recognizing the wild cat's behaviour and posturing as being predatory.

The cougar came to within about two metres of the woman, rearing up at close range. The woman threw rocks, shouted and repeatedly swung her backpack to try to scare the cougar away.

Ironically, the woman had stopped at a visitor information centre at nearby Radium, about 25 kilometres from the park trailhead, earlier that day and read what to do in the event of a cougar attack.

"She did everything right and that probably saved her life. She is very, very lucky and managed to get away completely unharmed," said park warden Grant Peregoodoff, a human-wildlife conflict specialist in Kootenay National Park.

"Cougars are quite different from bears in that a bear might bluff charge someone just to scare them off. But our knowledge of cougars is that if they're attacking you, they are going to try and kill you and eat you."

The incident happened around 2:30 p.m. Saturday when the woman left the main trail to climb a small sub- peak in the area, about halfway through the six-hour loop trail.

Just a few hours later, the cougar began stalking three other hikers that had separated from four others in the same area. The wild cat came to within about six metres of them before turning around and taking cover in some bushes.

Wardens immediately swept the area by helicopter in search of other hikers on the trail. Wardens have been spending time in the area looking for the animal, but there have been no signs of the cougar so far.

The area has been closed to the public until further notice.

Peregoodoff said it is possible this cougar may have been protecting a kill site or hunting in the area, which is a popular spot for Bighorn sheep. There was no sign of a den.

He said the cougar might be sick, especially given aggressive up-close encounters such as these are considered very rare. Cougars are solitary animals, very elusive and are mostly active at night.

"If it had shown up, we probably would have destroyed it right on site, but we didn't see it at all," said Peregoodoff.

Meanwhile, the cougar warning in the Village of Radium Hot Springs has been in place after two domestic cats were reported missing last Thursday.

Residents are being advised to keep pets indoors at night, not to leave pet food outside and to supervise small children at all times when playing outdoors.

"We want people to be aware there is a cougar, but we don't want to start a panic," said Gary Burford, protective services officer for the Village of Radium Hot Springs.

"The bottom line is this is their territory. There are cougars and bears around. It hasn't been a nuisance up until now, but obviously there are now some concerns."

Burford said the cougar might end up being tracked and relocated if it becomes too much of a problem.

"If we keep losing pets, we'll have to take a closer look at what our next steps will be," he said.

In January 2001, a cougar stalked and killed Canmore woman Frances Frost as she cross-country skied alone in broad daylight near Lake Minnewanka, about 12 kilometres from Banff.

Parks Canada encourages anyone heading into the mountain national parks to stop by a visitor centre or read a mountain guide to know what to do in the event of an encounter with wild animals, including cougars and bears.

Wardens Provide the Following Tips for Cougar Encounters:

- Never approach a cougar; allow the animal a means of escape.

- Pick up small children and pets.

- Don't run. You may trigger a chase.

- Make yourself big, wave arms, sticks and objects over your head.

- Shout, throw rocks and sticks, use pepper spray.

- If approached, be aggressive and fight back.

Cathy Ellis is a reporter for the Rocky Mountain Outlook

http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/ story.html?id=367b6b9e-

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tracking the plight of the Florida panther

By Kevin Lollar
Originally posted on July 22, 2007


* Scientific name: Puma concolor coryi
* Status: Endangered
* Population in the wild: 80 to 100
* Size: Adult males weigh 130 to 160 pounds with an average length of 6 to 8 feet. Adult females weigh 70 to 100 pounds with an average length of 5 to 7 feet.
* Historic distribution: Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina.
* Present distribution: The breeding population is in Lee, Collier, Hendry, Dade and Monroe counties. A few males have ventured into Central Florida, but no females are known to have crossed the Caloosahatchee River.
* Home territory: Male panthers have territories that cover 150 to 200 square miles; female territories are about 80 square miles.
* Habitat: Hardwood hammocks, low pinelands, and palm forests, mixed swamp and cypress swamp.
* Diet: White-tailed deer, wild hog, raccoon, armadillo.
* Causes of death: The most common documented cause of death is roadkill. Since 1972, more than 100 panthers have been killed by traffic. The second leading cause of death intraspecific aggression (when one panther kills another). Since 1972, there have been 43 documented cases of intraspecific aggression.


Without the backstory, they're just a couple of really nice wildlife photographs.

One, taken July 26, 2003, shows a female Florida panther — impassive and graceful — striding through Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest in Hendry County, while her two 2-month-old kittens bounce along through the grass.

The other, taken May 11, 2004, shows a very cute 2-week-old Florida panther kitten, spots on its head, tongue sticking out, in Big Cypress National Preserve.

But with a little digging through maps of 148 panthers' movements and information about their births, lives and deaths, the photos tell a story that can give insight to the plight of the most endangered mammal in North America.

Panther history

For any of this to make sense, though, a little panther history is necessary.

Florida panthers, a subspecies of the mountain lion, also known as cougar and puma, once ranged through Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina and interbred with the Texas cougar and a now-extinct Northeastern subspecies.

In the 16th century, more than 1,000 panthers are estimated to have lived in what is now Florida; like many large predators, panthers were considered pests and routinely shot until the late 1950s, when it was listed as endangered under Florida law.

As the state's human population grew, urban and agricultural development cut the animal off from other states, and the population was confined to South Florida, less than 5 percent of its historic range.

The cat's low numbers and isolation led to inbreeding and genetic abnormalities, some of which are harmless (a kink in the tail and cowlick on the back), while others are harmful (heart defects and deformed sperm).

By the 1980s, the panther population had dropped to between 20 and 30.

In 1995, state and federal wildlife officials released eight female Texas cougars to breed with Florida panthers and improve the gene pool.

The Texas cats produced 20 offspring, 10 of which were fitted with radio collars — researchers track panthers by radio signals from the collars. Eight of the collared offspring are still alive.

Today's panther population is 80 to 100; about 40 live panthers are wearing collars.

Panther researchers say the genetic restoration project was a success.

"We've seen the kinked tail go away, and heart defects seem to be going away," said Layne Hamilton, manager of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. "The problems with male reproduction have gone away, and kitten production has increased.

"That's what the population needed, the reintroduction of genetic material lost because of isolation."

Five Texas cougars died in the wild; the other three were removed in 2002 and 2003 and placed in permanent captivity.

"We're seeing positive results, but it's not a one-time, forever fix," said Darrell Land, leader of the state's Florida Panther Recovery Project. "Introductions of Texas cats need to be periodically repeated.

"We need to predict when we're seeing genetic issues so we'll know when to bring in new material, maybe once every 15 to 20 years or once every five to 10 years."

Which brings us back to the photographs.

One of the kittens with the adult female — officially known as FP110, the FP standing for Florida Panther — was captured and collared March 4, 2004, becoming FP130.

Male panthers move around more than females, occupying an average home territory of 200 square miles (nearly twice the size of Cape Coral), compared to a female's 75 square miles, and in August 2004, the male FP130 crossed the Caloosahatchee River near LaBelle.

Most panthers live south of Immokalee, and only three collared panthers had crossed the river before FP130. Five collared panthers have been documented north of the Caloosahatchee, but certainly uncollared panthers live north of the river, as evidenced by the fact that vehicles have killed five uncollared panthers north of the river, the earliest in 1983.

"Those cats crossing the Caloosahatchee are just dispersing males, looking for greener pastures," Land said. "It's tough on males down here. There's a lot of competition, and once in a while, one shoots across the river.

"Now there's a steady presence of males north of the river. The real challenge is how accepting people are going to be if females go up there and start making babies."

FP130 kept moving, traveling through Charlotte, Glades, Highlands, Desoto, Hardee and Polk counties before being killed March 21 by a vehicle on Interstate 4 near Kissimmee.

As South Florida continues to develop, traffic continues to be an issue for panther researchers: Almost half of all recorded panther deaths have been the result of vehicle collisions.

So far this year, vehicles have killed a record 14 panthers. The previous roadkill record was 11, set last year.

"Since the mid-'90s, we've seen a dramatic increase in the number of panthers, and we've seen an increase in traffic," said Paul Souza, field supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's South Florida office. "More cats and more traffic results in more collisions."

More development also means less panther habitat.

But what seems a disastrous development for panthers might not be.

Seven panthers related to FP130 in one way or another have used land on or bordering the 5,000-acre Ave Maria University and town that is opening this summer. In return for permits, developer Barron Collier Co. agreed to set aside 17,000 acres of the company's undeveloped land.

"There are good and bad things with Ave Maria," Land said. "The placement of the university and town was in low-quality panther habitat, agricultural fields. The company set aside high-quality habitat forever. The mitigation is a bright spot, but, yeah, each new acre bulldozed is an acre less for panthers."

Even with South Florida's unrelenting development, Land said, the panther will maintain its population.

"The question is how much land is enough," he said. "We drew a range of the Florida panther south of the river, and it's 2.2 million acres. Of those, 70 percent are in public hands.

"When you start throwing in conservation easements, we may be closing in on 80 percent in some sort of protection. The remaining 20 percent is the challenge."

The FP11 and FP12 dynasty

Incest, panthers killing panthers, including relatives and pregnant females, panthers being crowded out of their territory and moving north, panthers breeding with Texas cougars, roadkill panthers — the backstory of these two photographs creates a kind of wildlife soap opera that defines the Florida panther experience.

And it all goes back to female FP11 and male FP12, the great-great grandparents of FP110, which had four kittens in March, and great-great-great grandparents of FP130.

In 1987, FP11 and FP12 produced FP19, which, two years later, mated with her father, FP12.

From that incestuous union came a family tree that includes dozens of panthers that we know about and, no doubt, dozens more we don't.

"If the human population was reduced to 100, we'd quickly be marrying our cousins," Land said. "I can count 100 in my extended family, and if that's our little world, well, guess what."

FP19 and her father FP12 produced male FP45, and here's where things get a little complicated.

FP45 mated with one of the Texas cougars to produce FP65, a wide-ranging male that has popped up on I-75 in western Broward County, LaBelle, Alva and I-75 in Lee County between Luckett Road and State Road 82, which mated with FP82 to produce FP110, mother of FP130.

But we're not done with FP65.

While passing through Gum Slough in Hendry County on Jan. 15, 2003, FP65 killed female FP67, which was his stepsister (both were sired by FP45 but by different females).

Researchers call it "intraspecific aggression," but all it comes down to is one panther killing another.

Dating back to 1972, researchers have recorded 43 instances of panthers killing each other, 41 of those involving collared panthers, so, certainly, many uncollared panthers have been killed by other panthers and never found.

"When you have a high density of panthers, you expect that's going to happen," Hamilton said. "Males don't tolerate other males. You have females pop out kittens, the males try to disperse, but a lot of them stick around and kill their fathers or kill their mothers."

FP67's death left a 7-month-old orphan kitten, which panther researchers captured Jan. 15, 2003. The cat was collared and released as FP116 Aug. 20, 2003.

In late April 2004, FP116 gave birth to three kittens, one of which is the very cute, spot-headed two-week-old in the May 4, 2004, photograph.

The kitten's father?

FP65, her great-stepuncle, the same cat that killed her mother's mother.

FP116's story ended Jan. 10, when she was killed by another panther — she was pregnant.

The abstract cat

For the huge majority of Florida residents and visitors, the Florida panther is an abstraction, an animal that exists only in photographs and the words of the few who have seen them.

Although most people will never see a Florida panther, and although the Florida panther is a subspecies of an animal that's plentiful — and shot as vermin or game — elsewhere, they should be protected, Land said.

"The Endangered Species Act allows us to protect distinct population segments, including subspecies, so we're on solid ground legally," he said. "Besides, we know for a fact that this population is the last remnant of the mountain lions that used to be east of the Mississippi.

"They got hunted and killed all the way down, except for in the swamps of South Florida. I think it's pretty cool to know that we've got the largest predator east of the Mississippi, in the same place they've been since even before Columbus got here."

http://www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article? AID=200770711061

U.S. could reverse suspect endangered species rulings

WASHINGTON - The US Fish and Wildlife Service, accused of letting a political appointee meddle in the science of endangered species, said on Friday it could reverse eight decisions if it finds they were inappropriately influenced by political concerns.

The decisions under review affected species as varied as the Hawaiian picture-wing fly and the white-tailed prairie dog. All involved input from Julie MacDonald, a former deputy assistant secretary who resigned in May after government scientists complained of political interference.

Dale Hall, head of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said hundreds of endangered species decisions from MacDonald's five-year tenure were reviewed after her resignation, and eight were singled out for further evaluation and possible reversal.

"These are important because it's a blemish, I believe, on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior, so we're going to place a pretty high priority on trying to get these done," Hall said in a telephone briefing.

Without being definitive, Hall indicated reversals were likely: "We wouldn't be doing them (the re-evaluations) if we didn't at least suspect that the decision will be different."

The selection of which decisions to review was made by the agency's regional directors, whose original judgements were changed by MacDonald, Hall said.

Hall gave no timetable for the re-evaluations, but said three had already begun in response to court challenges against them. The other five will not begin until the start of the federal fiscal year in October.


The Union of Concerned Scientists, which has reported extensively on political inteference with science in the United States, gave the announcement a qualified endorsement.

"While we welcome the revisiting of decisions where political interference has been documented, the list of species under consideration is neither comprehensive nor exhaustive," the group's Francesca Grifo said in a statement.

"If the agency truly wants to get to the bottom of this, then asking the regional directors to identify the problems is not enough. Any agency scientist should have been able to provide input."

A report earlier this year by the Interior Department's inspector general gave numerous examples of political appointees in the Bush administration interfering with science at the Fish and Wildlife Service, but focused on MacDonald.

The report said she was heavily involved in editing scientists' reports to favor business interests and had showed internal documents to lobbyists. It noted she was trained as a civil engineer with no formal education in the natural sciences, such as biology.

The decisions under new review involve the following species: the white-tailed prairie dog, Preble's meadow jumping mouse (two decisions), the Hawaiian picture-wing fly, the Arroyo toad, the Southwestern willow flycatcher, the California red-legged frog and the Canada lynx.

Story by Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent
Story Date: 23/7/2007

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/ newsid/43195/story.htm

Indian state plans special tiger unit to check poaching

Sunday 22nd of July 2007

Rajasthan will soon set up a special cell comprising policemen and forest officials to ensure the security of tigers in the state, especially in the Ranthambore and Sariska sanctuaries.

'We have decided to set up a tiger cell and the process will start soon,' Forest Minister L.N. Dave told IANS.

He said the cell would work on the lines of an intelligence bureau, tracking poachers and maintaining a record. The team will comprise a deputy superintendent of police, a forest range officer and other forest department officials.

Apart from checking poaching, the cell would investigate people considered as possible threats to the animal.

The need to set up a separate cell for the safety of tigers was felt because poachers increasingly have been found to have links with international networks that smuggle animal parts.

The state government has come under severe criticism over the disappearance of tigers from the Sariska reserve.

While an official census in 2004 had indicated that 16 to 18 tigers lived in Sariska, by the middle of the year no tigers could be seen. Other animals such as panthers have also been targeted.

Now there are plans to relocate tigers from the Ranthambore National Park, home to 32 tigers, to Sariska, Dave revealed.

The tiger population in India has dwindled over the years. In its partial tiger report released earlier this year, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) said there were only 490 tigers in 16 reserves of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. The 2002 census had recorded 1,233 tigers in these states.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Malaysian restaurant serves tiger meat to regular customers

By Mohd Haikal Mohd Isa

KLUANG, July 22 (Bernama) -- Kahang town, about 40km from Kluang, seems like any other towns in Malaysia except that it is surrounded by virgin jungles and the Endau-Rompin National Park, and hosts a number of exotic food restaurants.

"If you are a regular customer and the restaurant operator knows you, you will be offered a variety of dishes made from protected animals including tiger meat," said a private sector employee, Danny Chin.

He said the tiger meat, said to be good for health and contain aphrodisiac value, was served either fried with curry powder or cooked with various herbs.

"But I think, the customers prefer tiger meat fried with curry powder," said the man in his 50s from Taman Perling in Johor Baharu who has gone to the restaurants several times with friends.

"Because the supply is inconsistent, only the lucky ones who come on certain days will be able to enjoy it," he said and added that the price for a plate of tiger meat fried with curry power was about RM40.

Besides tiger meat which is considered a special menu, the restaurants also offer dishes made from piglet, wild boar, mountain goat, squirrel, mousedeer, bat, porcupine, ant-eater, tortoise, civet and various types of fish and prawn found in rivers in the Endau-Rompin National Park.

"The meat of young wild boar, mountain goat and mousedeer is sweet and tender," Danny said.

Lek Keng Chai, 40, also from Johor Baharu, said Kahang was not only popular among local residents as an exotic food destination but had also drawn visitors from Singapore.

He said the restaurants obtained their supplies from middlemen who bought the animals from the Orang Asli.

Lee Siak Liang, 62, from Kluang, said the restaurants also offered python soup and Kahang was not the only place where protected animal dishes were served because such restraurants could also be found in Jementah and Labis in the Segamat district.

Johor National Park Corporation director Abu Bakar Mohd Salleh said his corporation had received reports about such restaurants in Kahang.

He said the price of exotic animals like tiger in the black market could fetch between RM100,000 and RM200,000 each "but normally, the meat, teeth, whiskers and sexual organ are sold to different people."

Some Orang Asli in Kahang acted as agents who caught the animals including tiger in the jungles and sold them in the black market, he said but dismissed allegations that the tiger meat served in Kahang was from those caught in the Endau-Rompin National Park.

"So far, we have not detected any tiger hunting activities in the Endau-Rompin National except only one case in 2004," he said and added that the corporation did not have information about the number of tigers in the park.

A researcher working for a non-governmental organisation said those involved in the smuggling of wild animals including tiger around Kahang carried out their activities in a very organised manner to avoid detection by the authorities.

"It is an organised crime," he said, refusing to disclose his identity for safety reasons.


Cougar eats penned goat at Calif. kids' camp

10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Press-Enterprise

A mountain lion killed a goat at a children's camp this weekend near Big Bear Lake, prompting warnings that camp operators should protect their young visitors by securing garbage and small animals.

"You don't want anything that will lure mountain lions or bears into your camp. That's probably what happened here: The mountain lion was unintentionally lured," said biologist Kevin Brennan, of the California Department of Fish and Game.

"The problem with this cat is its bold behavior," Brennan said. "It entered a camp and took a goat among 200 sleeping kids."

The big cat dragged the goat away from an animal pen to an outdoor amphitheater, where it ate its fill and abandoned the carcass before dawn Sunday at Camp Oakes.

The YMCA-owned camp is off Highway 38 about six miles southeast of Big Bear City.

"One of our wranglers, who takes care of the horses, went out and found the drag marks and discovered the carcass," said Jeff Darling, the camp's executive director.

The attack prompted the closure of the camp's small petting zoo of goats and chickens.

"We don't have any more small animals on site," Darling said. "Anything that could be considered (predator) bait we got homes for."

There are about 4,000 to 6,000 mountain lions, also known as cougars, in the state, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

Although no children were hurt, state officials immediately tried to hunt down the mountain lion and warn other camps.

"Apparently there are about 40 of these group camps -- Boy Scout, Girl Scout, YMCA and church camps -- in the San Bernardino Mountains," said Brennan, the biologist.

His message to camp staff: Keep garbage stored in predator-proof containers and keep small livestock in roofed pens.

The ill-fated goat was penned, but the pen had and no roof and short fences.

"The lion just jumped over it," Brennan said. "We know it from the tracks and drag marks."

And what tracks.

"It has the largest tracks that any of us have seen on a mountain lion," Brennan said, recalling that the heel pads alone are 2.6 inches wide.

"He's definitely in excess of 140 pounds."

Federal hunters initially tried to track down the big cat, but their dogs couldn't find its scent in the hot and dry conditions. So they set a cage trap for the animal.

"We caught a bear in the trap instead of a mountain lion," Brennan said.

The good news is that large male mountain lions have a tendency to relocate themselves, without any help from fish and game officials.

Big males typically range across 120 to 200 square miles, Brennan said.

So why were hunters trying to kill the animal?

Based on the lion's unusually large size, Brennan said he believes that the same animal caused problems two years ago.

"A guy north of Lake Arrowhead had just let his dog out ... and there was this immediate commotion," Brennan recalled. "He had a rifle by the door and he fired a shot, and the lion let go of the dog.

"Also, keep in mind that he didn't finish his meal (Sunday), so we didn't know if he was going to come back."

http://www.pe.com/localnews/sbcounty/stories/PE_News_Local _H_lion19.3fa1d8f.html#

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Decision on lynx sparks Maine investigation

By Kevin Miller
Saturday, July 21, 2007 - Bangor Daily News

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is revisiting a controversial decision affecting Canada lynx habitat in much of Northern Maine in the wake of allegations that a high-ranking political appointee wrongly influenced a handful of agency decisions.

The director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, H. Dale Hall, announced Friday that the agency is reviewing eight decisions made under the Endangered Species Act. One of those under review is the agency’s November 2006 decision to exempt vast expanses of land in Maine and other states from "critical habitat" designation for Canada lynx.

All of the cases involved a former U.S. Department of the Interior official accused of pressuring agency scientists to alter their findings on endangered species and of leaking information to industry officials.

Julie MacDonald, the former Interior Department deputy assistant secretary, apparently met with representatives of Plum Creek Timber Co. and members of Maine’s congressional delegation several months before USFWS staff decided to exempt commercial timberlands from "critical habitat" designation.

That decision angered Maine environmental groups. MacDonald also apparently ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to exempt all U.S. Forest Service lands from the designation, which was highly controversial in Western states.

Hall said the agency plans to "make sure that the science is true" by revisiting the eight nationwide cases.

"It’s a blemish, I believe, on the scientific integrity of the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior, so we’re going to place a pretty high priority on trying to get those done," Hall said in a teleconference. "We wouldn’t be doing them if we didn’t at least suspect that the decision will be different. But I don’t want to predetermine outcome."

About 10,600 square miles in northern Maine and another 5,000 square miles in other states were exempted from "critical habitat" designation for Canada lynx in November 2006.

Critical habitat designation means that a landowner or developer must submit to an additional layer of bureaucratic review for any projects involving federal money or permits. Projects on private land that do not have any federal involvement are not subject to additional review.

Some of Maine’s large forestland owners — most notably Plum Creek Timber Co. — were opposed to the designation. And in 2006, MacDonald met with representatives of Plum Creek, the Maine Forest Products Council and Maine’s congressional delegation about the issue, according to internal memos released by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Presumably anticipating that Ms. MacDonald would not want Plum Creek lands designated as critical habitat, the Washington office verbally directed that critical habitat would not be designated on Plum Creek properties," reads the June 21 memo to Hall from staff in one of the agency’s western offices.

"Because of the inequity that would result if the only private commercial forest land excluded from designation was Plum Creek property, we determined that all private commercial forest lands should be excluded thereby maintaining cooperative working relationships with landowners."

At the time, Fish and Wildlife Service staff said that Plum Creek and Maine’s other large timberland owners were already working cooperatively to preserve lynx habitat.

"We felt the benefit of maintaining these partnerships and these working relationships ... was much more important and beneficial than designating critical habitat," Lori Nordstrom, a Fish and Wildlife Service biologist based in Montana, said in November.

Nordstrom, who recently became the head of the agency’s Maine field office in Old Town, was traveling Friday and could not be reached for comment.

A Plum Creek representative also could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

The other species’ cases that will be reviewed are: White-tailed prairie dog, the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse (two separate decisions), 12 species of Hawaiian picture-wing flies, Arroyo toad, Southwestern willow flycatcher and the California red-legged frog.

http://bangordailynews.com/news/t/news.aspx? articleid=152298&zoneid=500

S. Africa: Perfume used to attract study leopards

John Yeld
Cape Argus (Cape Town)
20 July 2007

The leopard wears Prada? Or is it perhaps Dior, or Chanel?

The hidden Cape mountain leopards of the Cederberg are revealing some of their secrets, thanks partly to their weakness for expensive perfumes.

This surprising trait is being exploited by the Cape Leopard Trust whose researchers spray a liberal dose of perfume - deodorants are also effective - on the cage traps they're using to catch, collar and release these charismatic but threatened animals.

The latest leopard to be seduced by a gorgeous perfume is "Oom Arrie". This very healthy and unusually large 44kg male leopard - named after the manager of the Bakkrans game reserve in the Cederberg - was finally physically trapped a full 18 months after being first "caught" by a camera trap.

"On December 15, 2005, the chairman of the Cederberg Conservancy, Jannie Nieuwoudt, several of his employees and I carried a very heavy leopard cage trap a couple of kilometres over some exceptionally rocky terrain in order to be able to capture 'M2' who had been seen in our camtrap picture," Cape Leopard Trust project manager Quinton Martins recalled this week.

"I knew very little of this male's movements, other than from the records from our camera traps and from his spoor.

"Little did I know then that it would take one-and-a-half years and more than 200 trap nights before we would finally manage to collar this animal - the eighth we've managed to collar since the inception of the project in the Cederberg."

This cage trap was situated along the Groot River near the mountain lodge, Mount Ceder.

A VHF transmitter was attached to it and the signal was checked twice a day to see whether it had been triggered.

Martins and field assistant Willem Titus also monitored the cage on foot every second or third day to see whether there were tracks in the area.

"Luckily, other than a baboon and a klipspringer, both released unharmed, there was little 'by catch' in this trap," Martins said.

Oom Arrie had a "big round tummy" - most likely from eating a small antelope - when captured.

His collar will allow the researchers to monitor his movements over the next 14 months.

Martins declined to reveal the particular perfume used to trap Oom Arrie.

"Ah ha! Was it Coco, or Tommy, or ... mmmmm!" was all he would say teasingly, but added: "We'd like to thank all our supporters for their generous donations of various exotic perfumes and deodorants used as part of our trapping technique.

"We now have enough scents to trap all the leopards in the Western Cape - thank you!"

Unfortunately, it's not all good news from the project.

"We recaptured him just over two months ago, and found him in excellent health," he said.

They fitted a new collar on the big leopard, but since then have been unable to locate any signals and - ominously - have also not found any tracks.

"There's a possibility someone trapped Johan and on seeing the collar, buried both him and the collar," Martins said, adding that they were appealing to anyone who can provide information to come forward.


Texas: Mountain lions here to stay

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pity the poor mountain lion.

He's loved and hated, either a mega-predator that's a symbol of wild Texas or a remorseless haint, a killer of livestock and a danger to kids and pets.

Mountain lion encounters are on the rise as more people encroach on the animals' natural habitat. Texas does not classify the lions as game animals.

We can't even decide on his name. He's called lion, puma, cougar, catamount, panther, leon. He's been extirpated from much of his traditional range, pushed into deeper, darker, more remote habitat by humans eager to live or run livestock on the ground he once walked.

Despite the twisted love affair we have with the big cats, lions basically are doing well through much of the western United States and Canada.

The Texas population has been stable or increasing for about 100 years, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, which continues to study mountain lions and to develop methods for tracking their numbers.

"We don't have an exact estimate of their numbers; no state does," said John Young, a mammologist with the Wildlife Diversity branch at Texas Parks and Wildlife. "We look at (annual) harvest data as one measure, and we're looking at lion genetics to get an effective size of a population by determining the genetic differences within a population."

Young said Texas has two distinct populations of lions in the south and west, which don't share much DNA. Genetic work on those populations run through computer models indicates a statewide breeding population of as many as 5,600 adult animals. That number doesn't include lions too young or too old to breed.

Texas doesn't classify mountain lions as game animals, and thus has no closed seasons or restrictions on killing them.

Many landowners, especially in West Texas, routinely call trappers and hunters to take lions they see or to track them after they've discovered lion signs on their ranches. That leads to occasional attempts to persuade Texas Parks and Wildlife officials to grant the cats game animal status and to impose some kind of harvest restrictions or seasons.

Orie Gilad is director of the research and conservation program with Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Kendalia, just west of Canyon Lake.

She recently posted a position statement online about the status of lions in Texas, and she will meet with Young and other Parks and Wildlife staff this week. Gilad believes the elusive nature of lions, along with landowners' emphasis on controlling their population, means they need to be studied more if not protected by new laws or regulations.

"We don't have any information about mountain lions," said Gilad, who holds a doctorate from Texas A&M and has researched lions in Texas. "We're not out there to tell people what they can do. We want to come up with something that works to protect lions."

Gilad said she studied lions in the mountains of West Texas and has reviewed Parks and Wildlife studies on lion home ranges and diet.

There is no comprehensive research that would provide a real number of lions in the state.

"We're early in the game," she said. "We want to make sure that we have a viable population. We are just beginning to contact organizations that have any stake or interest in mountain lion conservation in Texas."

Gilad said she already is hearing from landowners who consider mountain lion hunting and harvest — especially for the protection of livestock — to be a private-property issue. They don't want the government coming onto their property or controlling their lives, even in the form of seasons or harvest restrictions on lions.

That's not surprising. West Texans especially are extremely sensitive to any hint they might lose control over their land or their livestock.

Many of them consider lions a threat to be controlled when they show up. Kill one and there will be another one to replace him, they say. Often they're right.

Lions tend to travel the same corridors and live in the same canyons their ancestors did for decades. I've hunted with some of the old lion guys in West Texas, and they know where lions are going to live and how long it will take a new lion to move into territory vacated when a resident lion has been killed.

And the lions keep coming back.

"Compared to other states, our harvest estimates are toward the high end," Young said, indicating lions in Texas can sustain those harvest rates. "Not everybody is shooting them. We have a high genetic diversity in the West Texas population." That's another indication of a strong and viable group of animals.

Young said Parks and Wildlife could regulate harvest of lions through non-game status. Proponents could lobby the Texas Legislature for a change in status to a game animal, which would allow — though not mandate — closed seasons and harvest restrictions.

I have really mixed feelings about this. Should mountain lions, just by virtue of their being, count for more than a coon or a coyote?

My answer would be yes. We protect bears and wolves, though they've slid to threatened or endangered status because of loss of habitat and outright persecution.

Lions aren't endangered. I would kill one, though I don't think they should be shot on sight.

They have about as much habitat west of Interstate 35 and south of Interstate 10 as they ever did. They are rare sights but not necessarily rare animals. What we've been doing seems to be working. Maybe we should just leave them alone, the way they are.

http://www.statesman.com/sports/content/sports/ stories/other/07/22/0722legcol.html