Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Global warming hits world's largest tiger reserve

By Bappa Majumdar
February 26, 2007

SUNDERBANS TIGER RESERVE, India (Reuters) - As the midday sun beats down on the world's largest tiger reserve, fishermen in a small wooden boat slowly manoeuvre their way through the mangrove forests fringing the Bay of Bengal.

Twenty years ago, the fishermen say they would never have been able to venture through the mangrove creek in eastern India to catch fish, too fearful of the tigers that stalked the area for prey and shelter.

But the once lush, dense mangrove cover is sparse now -- reduced to decaying branches -- and the big cats have now moved on in search of food and protection.

Wildlife experts say rising sea levels and coastal erosion caused by global warming are steadily shrinking the mangroves of Sunderbans, threatening the survival of the endangered tigers.

"We are very concerned at the erosion level in tiger habitat, and we are planning to increase mangrove cover in core areas to protect the tiger," said Kanti Ganguly, minister for the Sunderbans in India's West Bengal state.

The Sunderbans, a 26,000 square km (10,000 square mile) area of low-lying swamps on India's border with Bangladesh, is dotted with hundreds of small islands criss-crossed by water channels.

Once home to 500 tigers in the late 1960s, the Sunderbans may only shelter between 250 and 270 tigers now, wildlife officials say, although the Indian Statistical Institute recently suggested the numbers could be significantly lower.

The tigers of the Sunderbans regularly swim between islands in search of food and sometimes stray into villages. They are known to have killed at least 50 people over the last five years.

The area is the world's largest mangrove reserve and one of the most unique ecosystems in South Asia, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

But as sea levels rise, two islands have already disappeared and others are vulnerable.

The destruction of the mangroves has also adversely affected numbers of estuarine crocodiles, fishes and big crabs, said Shakti Ranjan Banerjee, wildlife expert and former secretary of conservation group WWF.

That could leave the big cats hungry.

"We are very worried about the tiger's prey base which may not be breeding as we liked and also the fact that the tiger habitat is shrinking due to rising sea levels," Pradeep Vyas, the special chief conservator of forests, told Reuters.

"But you cannot fight nature and must accept the inevitable that the islands could submerge one day," he said.

As sea levels rise, mangroves have been overexposed to salt water. Many plants have lost their red and green colors and are more like bare twigs, exposing tigers to poachers who hunt them for their skin and bones.

Also, tigresses now have fewer places to hide their cubs from adult males, who seek to kill them in order to stem competition in the group, conservationists warn.

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

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa003&articleID =02F6C78DE6CFDE279480EF7B5CCCDB17

Oregon cougars killed for population thinning study

MEDFORD, Ore. -- A state wildlife agent trapped and shot two young cougars in Jackson County, the first of two dozen to be killed in that part of the state in a study of whether reducing populations of the animals improves public safety and reduces the loss of livestock.

Nine cougars have already been killed in north-central Oregon as part of the study, state figures show.

In Southern Oregon, the "administrative removal" plan aims to reduce up to 20 percent of cougars in a 963-square-mile area and then determine what effect the lower population has on livestock, big game, and humans and their pets.

Dan Jenkins of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife trapped the cougars on a ranch Tuesday and shot them, said Mark Vargas, a department wildlife biologist.

Vargas said the animals were "sub-adults," one male, one female.

Steve Denney, the department's southwest regional supervisor, said Jenkins will continue working half-time to trap cougars in the study area until all 24 are killed.

A critic said the killing is more a way of trying to allay human fears of cougars than a scientific study.

Sally Mackler, wildlife chair of the Sierra Club chapter of Oregon, said randomly targeting cougars could exacerbate conflicts by helping create short-term spikes in the numbers of young cougars, which statistically are responsible for more livestock and pet losses.

"It just confirms my concerns regarding the plan," Mackler said. "We have embarked on indiscriminate killing of cougars in this state."

Two other areas in Oregon are in the study, part of a cougar management plan adopted in April by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.

One is 1,000 square miles in Malheur County, where a maximum of 12 cougars are to be killed, although none have so far, according to department statistics. The other is 1,189 square miles near Heppner in north-central Oregon, where the statistics show that nine out of as many as 30 cougars have been killed.

http://www.kgw.com/animal_news/stories/kgw_022307_ animal_cougar_shot.69f7c6f.html#

New display helps Iowans learn about cougars

A local exhibit is designed to let people know that mountain lions, or cougars, aren't aggressive animals -- especially when they're stuffed.

"Lions in Iowa!" will be hosted by the Dorthy Pecaut Nature Center until May 11. Thursday's opening featured a soup dinner and a speech by Ron Andrews, a state furbearer biologist.

The self-guided display features two full-sized cougars and a handful of kittens. The exhibit has been roaming through Iowa for two years since it started in the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in California 10 years ago. The display also features a large-scale cougar tongue, with hair pins sticking out to replicate its texture.

The exhibit is ideal for class field trips or for families outings and is expected to rival the live bee hive as the center's most popular attraction, said Dawn Chapman, director at the Nature Center.

Most people believe the cougar is an aggressive, dangerous animal, but you'd win the lottery before you get attacked by a cougar, Chapman said.

"There's a mystique about an animal that can hurt you. We want to try and dispel the myths," Chapman said. "It's not it's natural behavior to seek out and harm people."

Cougars used to be seen across North America, and there have been sporadic cougar sightings in the area. Siouxlanders now have a chance to get more educated about how mountain lions live. The exhibit includes dioramas of actual mountain lions.

"It's always one of those things. Are they here or aren't they here?" Chapman said.

It's also important to know that cougars' behavior may change as their habitats get smaller with more houses being built around their roaming areas.

Teachers or groups interested in scheduling visits to the exhibit can call 712-258-0838 for more information.

http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2007/02/23/news/top/ 13565eafb085cba28625728b000539a1.txt

South Africa: 4 cheetahs finally run free in East Cape reserve

By KIM HELFRICH

JOHANNESBURG - A 10-year expansion and reintroduction programme has resulted in the release of four cheetahs into the Mountain Zebra National Park in the Eastern Cape.

Two male cheetahs from the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust were let loose in the 28 412ha park last Thursday, followed a few hours later by two 13-month-old females from the Samara Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet.

Two more cheetah will be released within the next six months.

The release restores the predator/prey balance and enriches the biodiversity of the park near Cradock, said SANParks regional manager Lucius Moolman.

The introduction of cheetah is a “fitting finale” to a 10-year long programme made possible by the fundraising efforts of the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and others including the Barbara Delano Foundation, Sasol and WildAid.

kimh@citizen.co.za


Last updated
27/02/2007 15:53:22

http://www.citizen.co.za/index/article.aspx?pDesc=32926,1,22

India: Tigers, leopards come into conflict with people

report of Archi Rastogi, Udham Singh Nagar

Fear stalks people in Chanda Bhudaria village in Uttarakhand' s Udham Singh Nagar district. A tigress attacked Jagannath Singh, when he went to defecate on the dusk of January 15, 2007. Jagannath, who is 65 and infirm, was using the field next to his home, adjacent to the village road. Ten days before this, Naro Devi of neighbouring Chhoti Bakulia village was killed when she had gone to collect firewood in the forest; Geeta Devi of Dumgarha-also in Udham Singh Nagar-had also gone to the forest for firewood when she was grievously injured.

The same tigress is said to be responsible for all the incidents. Uttarakhand' s forest department has offered compensation and is monitoring the tigress's activity.

Meanwhile, conflicts between big cats and humans have also been reported from other parts of the country.

"The government has advised us not to visit the forest and we have complied. But what do we do when the tigress comes right to our homes?" asks Mamta Devi of Dumgarha. "Earlier, we would collect leaves from the forest and mix it with the feed that we bought. But now we are scared to venture into the forest. So, expenses for each cow have risen from about Rs 20 a day to about Rs 40-50 because we have to buy the entire lot," she adds. Fuelwood costs have also risen.

Tigers were sighted earlier too but there have been many more sightings since the monsoon. "There is hardly anyone in my village who has not seen a tiger", says Umesh Singh of Chanda Budaria village.

Harish Guleria, coordinator of the Terai Arc Landscape Project for wwf-India, who has been asked to looked into the problem has an explanation. "Traditional buffers between the forest and agricultural land have reduced in the Terai, so there is increased conflict," he says.

Compensation for the dead is Rs 1 lakh; that for the injured is Rs 25,000. "If a handicapped person is injured, the compensation is Rs 50,000 (like in the case of Jagannath). But government processes take time", rues TR Biju Lal, range officer in-charge of Surai range, where the incidents have taken place.

"The tigress might have killed intentionally or accidentally. If the killings were intentional, the animal must be eliminated," says YV Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Lal also says that the animal will be declared a man-eater if it attacks more people. It will be then captured or killed, he says. But Guleria does not see any cause for immediate concern. "Six tigers in 150,000 hectares isn't much. The first two incidents took place in the forest, the third, close to it. The tigress might have come close to the village boundary in pursuit of prey. There would be reason to worry if the trend continues, not for now," he says. The animal was more aggressive because it was with cubs, other experts believe.

Human-big cat conflicts have also been reported in other parts of the country, recently. On January 5, villagers in the vicinity of the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra' s Chandrapur district killed a tiger. Their real purpose, according to reports, however, was to kill a wild boar for meat. In Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh, over 25 kg of meat is reported to have been found on January 8. It is suspected to be that of a tiger: the exact cause of the death is not known.

Human-leopard conflict has also been reported. On January 17, a leopard was killed when it reportedly strayed into a construction site in Nasik, Maharashtra. In Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, a leopard was killed on the same day after it injured two persons. Another leopard has spread terror in the state's Anantnag district after killing four persons.

In Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur district, a leopard injured three persons on January 7. Four dead leopards were found in Gujarat's Panchmahal district: poisoning is suspected.

Experts do not believe that there is a sudden spurt in the number of such incidents; it's just that there's more media coverage, they say. Eminent wildlife expert and director, Wildlife Conservation Society's India Programme, K Ullas Karanth, also points to another fact: "Tigers normally do not move out when there is reasonable prey. Conflict with leopard, in contrast, is a perennial, because these animals live across human dominated landscapes."

Jhala believes that in some areas of the country, the administration is prepared to handle big cats. Karanth elaborates: "The approach of the administration is ad-hoc during a crisis. More often than not, lower level officials have to handle cats without training," he says. Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority, however, contends: "Facilities might not be of a high level everywhere, but forest departments largely have capacities to manage conflicts".

Uttarakhand' s forest administration has distributed firecrackers to people in five villages in the 20 sq km area near the forest to scare away the animals. The people are somewhat at peace, but not completely. "Go back before the sun sets," Mamta Devi advises this Down To Earth team as night falls.

-Down to Earth Feature

?http://www.centralchronicle.com/20070222/2202304.htm

NY Times Op-Ed: Borders without fences helps wild cats

By TED KERASOTE
Published: February 24, 2007

Kelly, Wyo.

IN the debate over how to prevent illegal immigration from Mexico into the United States — armed patrols, electronic surveillance, prison time for first offenders and a 700-mile-long 15-foot-high fence — few politicians have voiced concern over the last option’s profound effects on wildlife.

Authorized by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, this barrier (83 miles of which have already been built) will bisect a border region that has some of the most ecologically diverse landscapes in the hemisphere. It is here — in a land of deserts, mountains, conifers and cactus — that bird species from North and Central America share territories and cross paths during migrations. It is here that endangered wildlife, like the jaguar and gray wolf, have an opportunity to reoccupy lands from which they were extirpated during the last century.

The list of other beautiful common or rarely seen animals that live along the border is long. A small sampling would include cougars, desert bighorn sheep, ocelots, pronghorn antelope, road runners, white-tailed deer and hundreds of species of birds and insects. The fence would physically prevent both large and small mammals as well as reptiles from traveling across the border, and the lights atop the fence would attract insects, making them easier prey for birds that feed on them. Some of these insects pollinate the plants of the region, including cactus.

Since the secretary of homeland security will have authority to waive laws that stand in the way of building the fence — like the Endangered Species Act — wildlife and habitats could be destroyed on a scale not seen since the 1960s, when the nation’s first wilderness and environmental laws were passed. Of course, many argue that the fence is an issue of national security and the safety of the American people trumps that of American wildlife. But that reasoning is flawed. The economic health of many people is increasingly reliant on the health of their natural surroundings.

In fact, studies done at the Universities of Montana and Colorado show that intact natural landscapes attract not only tourists to a region but also new residents and businesses that pump dollars into local economies. It isn’t just plentiful sunshine that has made the Southwest one of the fastest-growing regions in the nation, it’s also the region’s diverse natural attractions, one of which is wildlife.

The fence, however, will reduce wildlife-viewing opportunities in the many national parks, monuments, refuges, wilderness areas and forests that garland the United States-Mexico border. And its effects will be felt far to the north and south, along the mountainous backbone of the continent, where conservationists have spent decades mapping and preserving migration corridors that allow the free movement of wildlife between the two nations.

Such ecological damage has already been seen around the world, where a variety of high, long fences have been constructed. In Botswana, for instance, the government erected fences, starting in the 1950s, to separate wildlife and livestock. As a result, at least 250,000 wildebeest, unable to reach water, perished from 1970 to 1984 and tens of thousands of antelope have died. In Asia, the migration of gazelles has been curtailed by the fence that the Chinese government built along the border with Mongolia in the 1990s. And in Australia, a 3,300-mile-long fence built in the 1950s to keep dingoes out of the southeastern part of the continent deprived kangaroos of their natural predator. Thus, the kangaroo population flourished, reducing the number of sheep the land could sustain, a result that the backers of the fence — sheep ranchers — neither foresaw nor intended.

Unfortunately, since the fence along the United States-Mexico border is designed to keep people out, it can’t be outfitted with features that allow wildlife to migrate over and under livestock fences and highways. Let’s hope that when it comes time to appropriate the money to build the entire fence, cooler Congressional heads will prevail. There are better ways to protect our borders than building a wall that people will inevitably find ways around but wildlife won’t.

Ted Kerasote is the author of “Out There: In the Wild in a Wired Age” and the forthcoming “Merle’s Door: Lessons From a Freethinking Dog.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/24/opinion/ 24kerasote.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

India: Three leopard skins seized

Tuesday February 27 2007 10:30 IST

NAYAGARH: Forest officials seized three leopard skins, a country-made pistol and arrested two from Daspalla area bordering Phulbani district on Sunday.

The Daspalla forest range staff and Nayagarh DFO Sudarsan Behera received information about a gang trading in animal skins with the inter-State smugglers.

The forest officers later laid a trap and two officials arrested them at Banigochha area. The DFO said that the skins recovered from them were well-tanned and estimated to be worth over Rs 1 lakh in the international market. One of the leopard skins measured eight feet and others over a foot.

http://www.newindpress.com/NewsItems.asp?ID=IEQ20 070227000920&Page=Q&Title=ORISSA&Topic=0

Free endangered wildlife ringtones made available

RING OF AWARENESS
By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 27, 2007 - 12:50AM

ALBUQUERQUE - Amid the cacophony of cell phone ring tones these days, add these: the clickety-click-click of a rare Central American poison arrow dart frog, the howl of a Mexican gray wolf and the bellows of an Arctic beluga whale.

An environmental group is hoping that the more people hear these sounds from threatened animals, the more they’ll wonder where they came from — and question the fate of the animals and birds that make them.

“The point here is education and inspiration,” said Michael Robinson, a conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity’s office in PiƱos Altos, N.M.

Like other activist groups, the center is looking to the immediate attention cell phones can bring to its cause.

“With the ring tones, this is the tip of the iceberg,” said Peter Leyden, director of the institute, which studies the impact of cell phones — what he and others call “mobile media” — on political and social campaigns.

Take for example the efforts of U2 front man Bono. He got thousands of people to sign up for the ONE Campaign, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting global AIDS and poverty, by asking fans to send a text message during the band’s concerts.

Amnesty International also uses text messaging to send action notices to members.

Katrin Verclas, executive director of the Nonprofit Technology Network and a coordinator with MobileActive.org, said there’s a lot to be learned as campaigns — political and social — try new ways to connect with people.

“Nonprofits have been using online tools such as Web sites and e-mail to get out a message, but the handwriting is on the wall as far as the possibilities for mobile devices to be added to that mix,” she said. “Mobile phones are just another piece of the equation. There is still so much room for experimentation.”

Peter Galvin, a co-founder of the Center for Biological Diversity, came up with the idea for the free ring tones of endangered and rare species as a way to educate people — especially the younger, technologically savvy generation.

“And with young people, it has to be interesting and it has to be cool,” Galvin said.

The rings are certainly that.

SHIFTING TIDE
- 24,000 people have downloaded the rare rings for free from the center’s Web site (www.biological diversity.org).
- 80 percent of voting-age Americans have cell phones, and that number is expected to keep growing.
- 30 percent of wireless users by 2008 are likely to forgo their land lines, according to a New Politics Institute study.

http://www.gazette.com/onset?id=19591&template=article.html

Tracking tigers in India's Tadoba Andhari reserve

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 00:45 IST

Fellows at Wildlife Institute of India are camera-trapping tigers at Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve. DNA’s Ashwin Aghor takes a safari in the wild.

With the major Project Tigers like Ranthambore and Sariska in Rajasthan proving to be big failures, the tiger has fewer jungles to roam in. Sadly enough, noted environmentalist and Tiger-Man of India, Valmik Thapar, who once boasted the success of Project Tiger and grabbed every opportunity to promote Ranthambore as a success story, was one of those who learnt about failure of Project Tiger rather late in the day.

However, before the striped majestic animal can fade into oblivion, the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) is proving to be the silver lining.

In fact, the real land of the tiger in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra is one place that has seen a consistent rise in its tiger population over the last decade, especially after being included in Project Tiger. The population of the big cat in TATR has increased manifold over the years, courtesy dedicated and whole-hearted efforts put in by forest department officials and positive support they have got from people of the region.

The tiger population in TATR — in 1995 when it was declared a Project Tiger — was around 27. As per the Census conducted in 2006, that has gone up to 41. The biggest achievement of TATR is that the big cat is not only moving freely inside the protected area, but also outside it. This is proved by the fact that the tiger population in the non-protected area adjoining TATR is 49. According to the first and only Review of Tiger Reserves Assessment Report prepared by IUCN—the World Conservation Union, Asia Region Office at Bangkok, published in 2005, TATR ranks 9th among 28 Project Tigers in India. Sariska ranks 28th while Ranthambore is on 26th place.

The concern raised following the sharp decline in the tiger population in the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve and its extinction from Sariska Tiger Reserve in Rajasthan, the Ministry of Forest and Environment along with the Government of India jumped into action and began assessing tiger density in the country. The outcome of marathon high-level meetings was the All-India Major Carnivorous and its Prey Assessment and Evaluation of Habitat Programme. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehra Dun, was chosen for the project as the institute was the best agency to take on the mammoth task. The WII is a part of this programme started a massive study that began in July 2005 with the training of forest officials and preparation of a model for the programme.

The programme is now in the final stage of camera-trapping which began in the state at two major Project Tigers — at 104 sq-km Dhargarh range in Melghat Tiger Reserve (MTR) in Amravati and at 210 sq-km of Tadoba Range in Chandrapur districts of Vidarbha.

Camera-trapping is also proposed at Pench Tiger Reserve in Nagpur and is scheduled to begin in the first week of March. A team of research fellows from WII are camping in these tiger reserves and have set up their motion sensor cameras at various places with maximum tiger movements. According to forest department sources, camera trapping will be completed on February 28 and the scientists at WII will compare data collected during three phases to arrive at approximate range of total number of tigers in the state and country.

The main objective of camera-trapping is to collect data about the tiger’s presence, its prey base and habitat in the protected areas in the country, explore possibilities of tiger growth and to submit scientific report about possibilities of existence and growth of tigers in non-protected areas.

Photographs of tigers trapped on cameras will be compiled and every tiger coded for identification depending upon pattern of strips. Like in humans, every individual has distinct finer prints, every tiger has distinct strip pattern. Cameras are set on both sides of roads to take pictures of every tiger from both - right and left sides - so as to prevent any error in counting.

According to the assistant conservator of forests, TATR Girish Vashishth, “Two cameras are necessary because there is a possibility of the same tiger being counted twice if it repeatedly comes in the camera’s range.”

The WII is likely to submit a final report of the programme to the Ministry of Forest and Environment by July. The institute will also provide scientific guidelines about measures to be taken to establish tiger in those parts of non protected areas where it dose not exist today.

“Major areas in the non-protected areas are favourable for the tiger’s dwelling and growth. The final scientific report by WII will enable the state forest department to initiate steps to ensure this,” Vashishth said. “The hope of tiger growth outside protected areas is high and encouraging results can be expected if the entire process is based upon a scientific report,” he added.

However, fate of the WII report hangs in balance. Given thtat the state has yet to act on a similar report submitted by noted environmentalist and tiger expert Ullah Karanth, who also carried out camera trapping at TATR, MTR and Pench Tiger Reserve between 2001 and 2003. Karanth had submitted his final report to the state in 2005.

Apart from the camera trappings, Karanth had also provided an approximate picture of tiger population and the prey base in these projects. But policy makers seem to have lost the report mid-way.

Honorary Wildlife Warden, Chandrapur Uday Patel feels, “The state should have acted on Karanth’s report. The hard work put in by Karanth and his team has gone down the drain due to lake of political will.”

http://dnaindia.com/report.asp?NewsID=1082207

India: Two lion cubs, leopard die by falling into wells in Gir

Haresh Pandya

Rajkot, February 26, 2007

Open wells with no parapets on the periphery of the 1400 sq km Gir forest in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat continue to be the fatal death traps for lions and other big cats, particularly their cubs. Already a number of lion and leopard cubs have died after unknowingly falling into such wells, which are numerous around the sanctuary, and others keep dying similarly at regular intervals.

In two separate incidents that occurred on Sunday, two lion cubs and a leopard met with tragic end after they accidentally stepped into two water-filled open wells on the border of the eastern Gir. The cubs, barely two months old, fell into an open well in the farm of Jilu Jebaliya about 6 km from Dalkhaniya Range of the forest.

Forest authorities had difficult time taking the carcasses of the cubs out of the well. As per the postmortem report, there were no signs of external injuries on their bodies. According to local people, two lionesses and six cubs were seen around the place of incident.

The lionesses had killed a blue bull about 150 metres from the farm. It is presumed by the forest officials that the cubs had probably visited the open well to quench their thirst after having feasted on the kill of the blue bull.

In another similar incident, forest authorities brought out the carcass of a leopard from an open well in the farm of Nanubhai Rudani near Amreli in Sarasiya Range of the eastern Gir. The postmortem report confirmed that the leopard had sustained no external injuries.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/ 181_1938802,000900040003.htm

Monday, February 26, 2007

India: Organized poachers have been in tiger reserve for 25+ years

Where is the Melghat Tiger?

Vivek Deshpande
NAGPUR, FEBRUARY 25

What is the real tiger count in Melghat? That's the question confronting wildlife activists and the Forest Department alike. While the Forest Department gets away with putting the count between 65 and 70, activists have always been discounting the claim, saying it would be good news if the 1,150-sq km tiger reserve has even 25 big cats.

Last month, the sustained interrogation of a poaching accused brought to fore how organised poaching has been on in Melghat over the past 25 years, lending credence to the dwindling tiger count.

According to exclusive information available with The Indian Express, Sachmer Singh alias Dadi Pardhi has told investigators that the infamous Katni poachers from Madhya Pradesh were active in Melghat for over 25 years before they tactically reduced their presence there following the arrest of Sansarchand, India's most notorious poacher. They, in turn, have been in league with similar gangs in Rajasthan and central India.
The 40-year-old Dadi, arrested on January 22 in connection with the seizure of a leopard skin at Betul in Madhya Pradesh, is understood to have revealed how Dharni, the tehsil headquarter of Melghat, has been a camping site for organised poaching gangs for long. "All your tigers have gone via Dharni," he is reported to have told the officials.

Dadi recollected how as a child he would visit those camps with his father who had regular contacts with those people. He said the Katni gang had formed a league with the Pardhis in Betul and Khandwa districts bordering Melghat, whom they would pay for killing wild animals, including tigers and leopards. The Pardhis, in turn, took help from Korku tribal herdsmen who could track the movement of cats in the area.
Incidentally, Jagan Dhurve, one of the suspects arrested on February 2 in the Betul case, was a Korku herdsman in Melghat. He had admitted to killing a tiger in the Jarida range of the reserve three years ago. He later took Forest officials to the spot, from where a tiger skull was recovered. A frightened Dhurve, however, hung himself in the custody on February 3.

Dadi has also admitted to knowing some of the big names in the world of poaching, like Ricard Pardhi (accused in a tiger poaching case in Tadoba reserve), Harprasad Pardhi (accused of tiger poaching in Bandipur and Nagarhole) and Siddhesingh Pardhi.
Incidentally, Dadi's brother Laxman Pardhi has been absconding since middlemen Rafiq and Hafiz Qureshi blew the lid off massive leopard skin movement in the area. Laxman was one of the main links in the gang and a visiting card of Sansarchand was found in his house in Betul, establishing the link from Fatehpur to Melghat.

"I have been claiming for many years that organised gangs of poachers have been active in Melghat. All these links conclusively prove that it is a truth that can't be denied. There is no doubt that poachers could be smuggling away a lot of tiger and leopard skins and, as such, the Forest Department's claim that the reserve still has around 70 tigers appears too far-fetched," says Wildlife Protection Society of India's (WPSI) central India director Nitin Desai. Desai, who was a member of the WPSI team that cracked the tiger skin trade in Tibet last year, blames the erstwhile forest managers of Melghat for not making a serious effort to nip the trouble in the bud.

Melghat field director Nitin Kakodkar, a decorated officer known for his excellent conservation work in Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve prior to being posted in Melghat about two years ago, says: "I would still dare to say that there are about 67 tigers in Melghat. The difficult hilly terrain is what makes tiger sighting difficult here, but no sighting doesn't mean no tigers."

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) B Majumdar says, "I am sure there has been no organised poaching in Melghat. How can you say there is organised poaching based on man's statements? If that were the case more traps would have been found there than tiger reserves like Pench and Tadoba where indications of poaching pressure are more evident."

http://www.indianexpress.com/story/24283.html

Snared mountain lion may have been N.D.'s 'Eve'

Associated Press

A female mountain lion that was caught in a bobcat snare in northwestern North Dakota might have played a big role in the increase in cougars in North Dakota over the past few years, a wildlife official says.

The state Game and Fish Department determined the lion to be at least 10 years old. Wildlife chief Randy Kreil said it might have been one of North Dakota's first resident females, and possibly responsible for several offspring.

"This could be 'Eve,'" Kreil said.

Kreil said the cougar likely was in the area for at least seven years. "Breeding females establish a territory and generally don't wander anymore," he said.

Wildlife officials tried to save the lion - even bringing it to Bismarck's Dakota Zoo - but the animal's injuries were too extensive, so it was euthanized.

Dorothy Fecske, furbearer biologist with Game and Fish, was examining the animal to determine its reproductive history.

http://www.bismarcktribune.com/articles/2007/ 02/25/news/state/129364.txt

TIMES VIEW: Government tipped to allocate Rs 65 crore for tiger conservation in budget

Forget about the Budget allocation for tiger conservation — the process is what really counts. While it is fine to say that the tiger is, after the Taj, India's biggest tourist draw, a larger budget on this count may not solve the problem of the vanishing tiger.

It will lead to a stronger forest department, without doing the animal much good. The forest bureaucracy has done little by way of environment protection and conservation to inspire any kind of confidence.

It antagonises local communities by treating demarcated forest areas, sanctuaries and national parks as its zamindari, which in turn allows it to collaborate with poachers without being answerable to anyone.

Hence, conservationists are mistaken when they lay stress on increasing the workforce of the forest department in order to combat poaching.

Tiger conservation is best achieved when local communities are made central to the project. A focus on conservation is best replaced by one that promotes the tiger trail by encouraging hotels and tourist infrastructure within the vicinity of forest areas — subject, of course, to environmental regulations.

Once locals realise that tiger tourism rakes in more money than poaching, they will develop a vested interest in protecting the tiger and its habitat.

The involvement of local populations in Kenya has worked as a model of wildlife and environment conservation. In India, gram sabhas can be vested with the responsibility of managing forest regions, allowing them a stake in proceeds such as entry fees.

For too long has India persisted with a state-centred approach to conservation and environment protection. A process that relocates people from forests borders on the absurd — they are shifted elsewhere, requiring the government to cut trees and displace other settled populations.

Trees and animals are best preserved by those who realise their material usefulness. The Tawa Matsya Sangh is an example in this respect.

The organisation comprises people who run a fishermen's cooperative in the midst of a forest and realise the value of the forest as a source of livelihood — unlike a babu who gets his salary from elsewhere.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/OPINION/ Editorial/TIMES_VIEW_Government_tipped_to_allocate_Rs_65_ crore_for_tiger_conservation_in_Budget/articleshow/1680165.cms

COUNTER VIEW: Government tipped to allocate Rs 65 crore for tiger conservation in Budget

Yamini Lohia

The largest of all cats, the tiger, is perhaps the most beautiful and evocative of creatures. It has no natural predators other than man, and man is responsible for the extinction of three of the eight tiger subspecies.

India's national emblem is in grave danger of being relegated to the history books. On the face of it, Rs 65 crore is an adequate amount to save tigers from persecution.

However, the government's decision to budget only that amount for tiger conservation coming fiscal year is a serious error.

At least half this figure will have to be earmarked for relocation of the estimated 300,000 people who live in the wildlife reserves.

India has almost half the world's population of tigers, but studies suggest that this figure could be as low as 3,600.

Understaffed forest departments, lack of incentives and equipment have only created more problems. Clearly, minimal government involvement has not resulted in any significant increase in tiger population.

If the Tiger Conservation Authority is to perform its tasks, it must be given all the financial support it needs from the government.

It has been argued that the government is wasting its time and resources by allocating even Rs 65 crore. The lack of success in conservation so far has been cited as a reason for tiger conservation to be left to indigenous communities, with the government having little or no role.

However, the government represents the community, and it must take on the task of conservation. Organising communities to make a concerted effort towards conservation requires a central authority.

In a utopian world, forest dwellers would take on the responsibility themselves, and decentralised endeavours would save the tiger.

However, dwindling tiger populations, in India and abroad, do not allow the luxury of missteps. The time for experimentation is past, and it is only by providing the authority with all required resources that the tiger can be saved from extinction.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/OPINION/ Editorial/COUNTER_VIEW_Government_tipped_to_allocate_Rs_65 _crore_for_tiger_conservation_in_Budget/articleshow/1680162.cms

Big cats sighted, but S.C. DNR still wants proof

By David Williams (Contact)
Sunday, February 25, 2007

When Terrance Fletcher saw a big, black cat crouching and looking at him "like a cat looks at a bird" he knew it was time to run for his life.

Mr. Fletcher, 24, of Clarksville, Ga., is a U.S. Forest Service worker who was walking along the Chattooga River on Jan. 10 near a popular camping and fishing area south of Burrell's Ford Bridge.

"I looked over my shoulder, about 25 yards away, it took off running and I ran to the river and jumped in," Mr. Fletcher said.

Mr. Fletcher was not fleeing an oversized feral feline. He said it was a black panther.

Mr. Fletcher was gathering information about the public's use of the Chattooga River north of the S.C. 28 bridge for a Forest Service study when he saw the cat.

Dave Jensen, district ranger in Georgia, said he has no reason to doubt Mr. Fletcher, particularly since Mr. Fletcher elected to jump into the icy waters of the river to avoid the charging animal.

"It was a split-second decision," Mr. Jensen said. "He said it was black, low to the ground, about 1 to 2 feet and about 6 feet long and moving toward him rather rapidly."

When it comes to seeing big cats, black or the more familiar tawny color of cougars, Mr. Fletcher is one of a growing number of people in the Upstate who say they have had close encounters.

But when it comes to substantiated sightings, officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources say the official wild cat count is still zero.

"What we tell people is, we've been unable to document a wild cougar for many, many years," said Derrell Shipes, with the DNR in Columbia, S.C. "The last incident is before many of our lifetimes. There are sightings and then there are substantiated sightings: a photo, tracks, droppings or an unfortunate incident where there would be a body."

Mr. Shipes said a big cat was killed in Anderson County near Townville several years ago. The cat had wandered onto someone's deck and was eating dog food.

"It was determined it was an escaped animal," Mr. Shipes said. "We believe there are a number of big cats in captivity — lions, tigers, cougars — and they are not controlled by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources."

Clemson-based wildlife biologist Skip Still said he wouldn't put it past anybody to turn animals loose in the wild.

"People will turn loose anything," Mr. Still said. "Stuff like emues, boas and Western cougars or other exotic animals, but we will investigate credible evidence."

Mr. Shipes said he knows some really credible people who have said they've seen a cougar.

"We do not discount information and we are interested, but we can not spend an incredible amount of time and money," Mr. Shipes said.

Bobby Revels, 62, a plant manager with Construction Techniques in Calhoun Falls for 23 years, has spent a considerable amount of time and money on cataloging big cat sightings and on trying to get the elusive substantiated evidence.

Mr. Revels has not always been drawn to the big cats. In 2003, Mr. Revels, who was born and raised in Iva and has been a resident of Due West for 31 years, was a serious gold prospector.

"I really want to get back into it," Mr. Revels said. "I have five grandsons and I hope to get everyone of them involved in outdoor recreation."

But in 2003, Mr. Revels was prospecting on about 860 acres he had leased in Abbeville County just off S.C. 28. He and his partner, Steve Kelly of Williamston, had done all the "do's and don'ts" required by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control for prospectors and were walking up a creek with their shovels, pans and snacks.

Mr. Revels said Mr. Kelly was up on the creek bank when they heard a big growl.

"I knew in the beginning it was a cat," Mr. Revels said. "Steve looked down at where I was and said, ‘get out from down there. It has a little one with it.'"

Mr. Revels said he has not been prospecting since, but he has gone looking for the cats.

"I'm not as young as I used to be, but I have a lot of cameras in the areas where cats have been sighted," Mr. Revels said. "My grandson Adam (Adam Scott of Abbeville) who is a fourth-grader helps me collect the memory cards and set up at new locations."

Mr. Revels has a picture of a bobcat — he knows the difference between the two cats — and said he doesn't need a photo to convince himself that cougars are back in South Carolina. He believes the cats could have migrated from Florida where there is a known population of the Florida panther, or a government agency has re-introduced the cats to the area and is shying away from publicity.

In fact, Mr. Revels said he believes there is a small population of big cats, either the Florida variety or Eastern cougar, in northern Pickens County.

Mr. Shipes said the Florida Panthers have left tracks and droppings in Florida but there has been no interaction with humans that presented problems in the sunshine state.

"They have had a few get hit on the road," Mr. Shipes said. "If there had been one in South Carolina that got hit there would be more than just talk."

Mr. Shipes said only two species of cats are known to be black and they are the jaguar and the leopard and neither one is native to North America. The jaguar is native to South and Central America and could have ventured as far north as Mexico, Mr. Shipes said.

Mr. Revels said that with hundreds of sightings over many years the state should investigate the possible migration of the cats into the state.

"We're talking about educating the public about the recovery of the Eastern cougar," Mr. Revels said. "There may be a lot of resistance to it because of deer hunters and livestock owners, but if it has already happened then the public should be told and warning signs need to be put up in places where they know these cats are living and hunting for food."

David Guynn, a professor of forestry and natural resources at Clemson University, said he's aware of more than 100 captive cougars in the Upstate.

"Most are Western cougars that have been brought here," Mr. Guynn said.

Mr. Guynn, an avid deer hunter, said he has colleagues who swear up and down they have seen big cats, but he also said otters when walking across land have a cat-like shape and a long tail.

"I was in a deer stand and one came across a point in front of me real quick," Mr. Guynn said. "If it hadn't come back across with another otter, I might still think it was a big cat."

Bob Downing of Clemson, who worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for more than 20 years, spent five years tracking down all reported big cat sightings in the Eastern and Southeastern United States. He was unable to substantiate any of the reports he investigated.

Mr. Downing said the big cats ended up eliminated in the area because they are easy to hunt.

"Any kind of dog will trail one and run him up a tree," Mr. Downing said. "You can kill one with a .22 rifle. People were trying to protect their livestock."

Mr. Downing, who served on the Eastern Cougar Network board, said he is aware of the reported sightings, but he too has not seen any substantiated proof of any return of the wild Eastern cougar.

Some people do not need to see the big cats to know they are in the Upstate.

Chuck Mulkey of Chuck's Deer Processing and Taxidermy on the Abbeville Highway said his neighbor lost a horse to something that pulled it down.

"He wasn't 100 percent sure it was a cat, but it had claw marks on its hind quarters," Mr. Mulkey said.

Mr. Mulkey also said he has heard stories of hunters and rural residents finding half-eaten deer carcasses left high in trees.

"I believe the cats are around," Mr. Mulkey said. "Maybe they were pets or released, but I would swear on a stack of Bibles there was one near my shop standing on the side of the road. It was a black cat with a three-foot-long tail.

http://www.independentmail.com/news/2007/feb/25/ big-cats-sighted-dnr-still-wants-proof/

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Indian police catch gang with leopard skins, ivory

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Bhubaneswar, Feb. 24: A joint eight-member team of police crime branch and forest officials claimed to have busted a poaching gang after arresting three persons from a city hotel and seizing leopard skin and ivory from them.

The sleuths struck a deal with the unsuspecting poachers feigning as customers for an ivory weighing 14.3 kg and a 6-ft-long leopard skin.

Satkosia forest division divisional forest officer Susanta Nanda acted as a Calcutta-based trader and paid Rs 20,000 as advance. The deal was fixed at Rs 14,000 per kg.

“The telephones of the arrested persons were tapped,” said an officer on condition of anonymity. After two days, the officials arrested Prafulla Raut, Salim Khan and Seikh Majbur Rahman while they were finalising the “deal” at the hotel this morning and seized the ivory and the leopard skin that bore two gunshot wounds.

It seems to be the handiwork of a highly professional gang, said B.K. Sharma, IG (crime branch).

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070225/asp/ jamshedpur/story_7437416.asp

Iowa DNR plans meeting to discuss cougar sightings

Saturday, February 24, 2007, 8:33 AM
By Darwin Danielson

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the Hamilton County Conservation Board are planning a meeting in March to discuss mountain lion sightings.

DNR specialist Ron Andrews says the meeting is informational to knock down rumors, not because of an increase in the animals. Andrews says there have only been three dead mountain lions found in Iowa since 2001 and it has been over two years since they've had an authenticated report of a mountain lion. Andrews says the DNR believes the "lion's share" of sightings are mistaken identities.

Andrews says conservation officers across the country have found several animals that seem to be mistaken for a mountain lion -- yellow lab dogs, yellow shepherd dogs and bobcats. He says the sightings are often in low light conditions and once the rumor gets out that a mountain lion might be in the area "all of a sudden everything they see becomes a mountain lion."

Andrews says pictures circulating over the Internet have also helped fuel the stories about mountain lion sightings. Andrews says there was a picture circulating that was supposed to be a mountain lion in Fort Dodge. "It's really unfortunate that the Internet is being used by some folks to create undue paranoia," Andrews says. The photo that was supposed to have been from Fort Dodge was from another state, according to Andrews.

He says your chances of seeing a mountain lion in Iowa aren't very good, as they'd rather not see you. According to Andrews, the mountain lions sense the presence of humans much quicker than humans sense them and the mountain lion wants to leave as soon as it gets the sense of a human.

There have been mountain lion attacks on humans in western states, but Andrews contends the concern in Iowa is overblown.

The mountain lion meeting is March 7th at the Briggs Woods County Park two miles south of Webster City.

http://www.radioiowa.com/gestalt/go.cfm?objectid= F4303354-9A39-9A51-70D32CED50596A2A

India: Leopard believed to have killed 17 sheep, goats

Srinagar, Feb 23: A leopard killed 17 sheep and goat and injured four others in north Kashmir, an official spokesman said.

A leopard entered the cowshed of Gani Bakerwal at Burnate, Boniyar, in the north Kashmir district of Varmul late Thursday, the spokesman said.

However, before the leopard could be caught, he killed 15 sheep and two goat and injured four.

Leopard later escaped back into the nearby forest, he said.

About a dozen people have been killed by leopards in the Kashmir valley during the past six months. Two leopards were also killed by the people during the same period.

http://www.greaterkashmir.com/Home/Newsdetails.asp?newsid=4441

Bobcat population large in Pennsylvania

By Bob Frye
TRIBUNE-REVIEW OUTDOORS EDITOR
Friday, February 23, 2007

Sydney Serjak issued her dad a stern warning at the beginning of the school year.

There was no way, she said, that she was going to miss Mowhak High School's homecoming to go trapping with him.

She said nothing about the Snowball Dance, though.

So, when it came time to pick between a weekend in the woods with her dad or an evening out with a boy from school, she headed to hunting camp.

That decision paid off Feb. 3. Hunting in Clearfield County, the just-turned-18 Serjak killed an 18-pound, 4-ounce female bobcat.

"I was excited," said Serjak, who lives near New Castle. "It was fun. And I didn't want to go to the dance anyway."

Getting a bobcat was no easy trick, however.

Serjak and her dad, Ted -- who also had a bobcat permit, making them perhaps the first father-daughter duo to draw permits in the same season -- tried first to trap some bobcats. When four days of putting out sets in Clearfield County got them nothing but some porcupines, they decided to try hunting instead.

They hooked up with guide Cliff Cessna of Clearfield, who chases bobcats with his Walker hound, Annie. Cessna and Annie led them on some wild chases through the mountains that seemed near-vertical at times.

"I said to Cliff at one time, 'Cliff, we've got to stop.' He turned and looked at me and asked why, and I said 'Because I can't lift my legs," Ted Serjak said.

"My mind was telling my legs to go, but they weren't listening any more."

Added Sydney Serjak, "(Cessna) was following the dog and winding through the woods, and we were just going straight, trying to keep up, and he still beat us to the top of every mountain. That made us feel awesome."

Cessna and Annie put out at least one cat on each of four consecutive weekend hunts, though. That's good, but perhaps not overly surprising.

Pennsylvania's bobcat population is so large and widespread that in the 2005-06 season, 221 of the 615 hunters and trappers with a permit got a bobcat.

That 36 percent success rate is among the best anywhere in North America, said Matt Lovallo, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's furbearer biologist.

This year's season ended Feb. 17, and as of Jan. 21, 183 of the 720 people with a bobcat permit had killed one.

More than half of the annual bobcat harvest typically occurs after Jan. 1, however, so Lovallo is expecting this year's harvest to ultimately meet or exceed last year's.

Ted Serjak didn't get a bobcat, though he saw one on a weekend when he was hunting without Sydney. He said he's no particularly disappointed.

"No, because you know what, the older you get, it seems like if you get one, you get one, but if you don't, you just don't, and that's OK," Serjak said. "We just had so much fun. It was a blast."

Sydney agreed, even while admitting that she rolled down more than one hill, trying to keep up with Annie in the snow.

"My pants were frozen almost stiff because I spent so much time in the snow. "But I'm glad I got one."

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/ sports/outdoors/s_494615.html

N.D.: Trapped mountain lion killed after unique effort to save it

By BLAKE NICHOLSON
Associated Press Writer

A mountain lion caught in a bobcat trap in western North Dakota was killed after a unique attempt to save it.

The effort was the first time the North Dakota Game and Fish Department had brought a live cougar in from the wild, and the first time Bismarck's Dakota Zoo had taken in an animal straight from the wild.

"It's a very significant departure on how we handle wild animals," said Randy Kreil, wildlife chief for the Game and Fish Department. "We manage for populations, not individuals. Typically, the welfare of one animal is not going to have a big impact on the population of the animal you're managing."

Kreil said the special effort was made this week because of the opportunity to put a tracking radio collar on the adult female, which furbearer biologist Dorothy Fecske estimated to be at least 10 years old. The department has a collar on only one other mountain lion - a 2-year-old male that was caught in a bobcat trap last November.

"Having an adult female with a collar on it would have been very, very valuable in terms of learning about seasonal and daily movements of animals," Kreil said.

The lion was actually caught twice. The animal, which was trapped in a bobcat snare northwest of Grassy Butte, had the remnants of another trap around one front paw, Kreil said.

Officials with Game and Fish, Dakota Zoo and Theodore Roosevelt National Park on Sunday went to the site, tranquilized the cougar and brought it to Bismarck. Fecske said the animal's condition was stable Monday night, but the next day officials concluded the lion was not likely to survive because of its injuries. It was euthanized Tuesday afternoon.

"The snare was very tight and cut off circulation to (one) paw," zoo director Terry Lincoln said. "When the vet looked at it, it was determined that the paw would not come back around as far as (the cougar) being able to walk on it."

Lincoln said the mountain lion was housed in a quarantine area to guard against disease, and that zoo staff took a "very hands-off approach" with the animal.

"It was pretty calm, pretty quiet. It wasn't unduly stressed," Lincoln said.

It was the third documented mountain lion death this year linked to a bobcat snare.

In January, two young male mountain lions were found in bobcat traps in North Dakota's badlands, also in the Grassy Butte area. The first had to be killed because of its condition. The second was dead when it was found.

"We're going to be visiting with the two trapping associations in the state to discuss ... ways to potentially reduce incidental catches of lions," Kreil said.

http://www.bismarcktribune.com/articles/2007/ 02/22/news/state/129234.txt

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Three Siberian tiger cubs rescued in the Russian Far East

(Moscow, Russia – February 21, 2007) – Within the last three weeks, three tiger cubs have been delivered to the Tiger Inspection Rehab Center in the Russian Far East, a project funded by IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) to help rescue the Siberian tigers.

Last weekend two cubs were found by a logger and a truck driver on the roads of the Chuguyewski district in the Primorye region. The young tigers were so exhausted from hunger and frost that they did not flee from the men.

"{These tigers look like they are only about two months old which indicates they were likely abandoned by their mother tigress," said Igor Beliatski, of IFAW. "These tiger cubs did not yet have the skills to hunt and drink water, they would have soon died."

The cubs are now recovering under veterinarian and medical control in the village of Razdolnoye. The pair joined a third female tiger cub named "Lapka" which was rescued just a few weeks earlier.

Lapka, approximately 4 months old, was found with a trap on its paw two weeks ago in Khabarovskiy krai, in the Russian Far East. The loggers that found Lapka later delivered the tiger cub to the Wildlife Rescue Center near the Kutuzovka village of Khabarovskiy krai.

The tiger cub was weak and exhausted and her paw was severely injured. She had survived approximately two weeks with a trap on her paw, and stayed alive by eating snow.

Urgent veterinary help came from Russian Federal Inspection Tiger of the Ministry of Natural Resources, an IFAW grantee for the last 8 years. Sergey Zubtsov, Head of the local inspection department, sent 2 veterinaries from a local clinic to help the tiger cub. Urgent surgery was performed and 2 phalanges of its injured right forepaw were ablated to avoid blood poisoning. After the surgery, the tiger cub was transferred to the Razdolnoe rehab center in the Primorskiy region.

“In the recent months 5 tigers, all females, died because of conflicts with humans. Four were killed by poachers and one was killed in a collision with a bus on a regional land road. This is an alarming sign for the Amur tiger population which is being driven out of the forests and closer to human settlements because of habitat and prey loss, uncontrolled logging and expanding industrial activity in the region,” said Masha Vorontsova, IFAW Russia country director.

The Russia's tiger subspecies is the Siberian (or Amur) tiger Pantera tigris altaica. According to 2004-2005 winter tiger census, 431-529 Siberian tigers inhabit Khabarovskiy and Primorskiy districts of the Russian Far East. The Amur tiger is the subspecies which is used to hard snowy winters in the wild, it is listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

IFAW works regionally, within India, China, and Russia, on critical tiger issues. Currently, tigers are facing grave threats due to the trade in tiger parts, habitat loss, and human encroachment. Tiger farms are an added danger, with only 50 wild tigers remaining in China, and over 4,000 in breeding farms. Due to such factors, tigers occupy an estimated mere 7% of their historical range.

For media-related inquiries, contact:
Igor Beliatski (IFAW, Russia)
Tel: +7 (495) 933 34 11
Email: ibeliatski@ifaw.org

Chris Cutter (IFAW, HQ)
Tel: +1 508-744-2066
Email: ccutter@ifaw.org

http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw/general/ default.aspx?oid=208454

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cougar euthanized after being caught in N.D. trap

Feb 22 2007 6:57AM
KXMCTV Minot

Another mountain lion has been trapped in North Dakota.

Game and Fish Department officials say the female lion was trapped in a snare in Theodore Roosevelt National Park on Saturday.

They set out to outfit the lion with a radio collar but the animal was injured by the trapping, through exposure, and from complications related to a tranquilizer it had been shot with, and had to be taken to Dakota Zoo in Bismarck in an attempt to bring it back to health.

But Game and Fish officials say it was determined the mountain lion would not be able to survive in the wild and was euthanized Tuesday.

They say it is unfortunate the animal did not survive, but the lion adds important information to the effort to understand mountain lions in the state.

http://www.kxmb.com/News/Local/97767.asp

Thailand backs new campaign to halt illegal wildlife trade

By Ron Corben
Bangkok
21 February 2007

Thailand is backing new efforts to stem illegal trade in wildlife in Southeast Asia. The campaign was given the go-ahead by Thai Prime Minister at a ceremony in Bangkok close to markets where trade in exotic wildlife has flourished. Ron Corben in Bangkok reports.

Regional animal conservation group, the WildAid Foundation, launched the "Sold Out" campaign against wildlife trafficking near Chatuchak weekend market, long a popular location for the illegal trade.

Thai government support was shown by the attendance of Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont. Thai police and the Department of National Parks and Wildlife are pledged to contribute more to the fight against wildlife trafficking.

Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the Thai office of the WildAid Foundation and a former senator, said Thai support has come despite fears of budget cuts.

"General Surayud as the prime minister opening our event here to fight against the wildlife trafficking is definitely an extremely encouraging sign that the government will now be more supportive and proactive," Kraisak says

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network was established in 2005, and Thai commitment to that has already produced results, says Steve Galster of the WildAid Foundation.

"We have seen an increase in confiscations of illegal wildlife through Thailand - as a result of Thailand taking the lead in this new ASEAN wildlife enforcement network," Galster says. "They have doubled their amount of confiscations over the past couple of years."

Galster says the next step is for law enforcement officials across the region to move against the people behind animal trafficking rackets.

China is a key destination for illegal animal life from Southeast Asia with huge demand for exotic animals driven by the country's growing prosperity. Vietnam is also a destination for wildlife sourced from Cambodia and Laos.

The U.S. Agency for International Development supports the campaign and Southeast Asian nations now work more closely with Interpol, the U.S. Justice Department and the United Nation's endangered species agency.

The U.S. government estimates the illegal trade is worth more than $10 billion a year, and constitutes the third-largest global black market after drugs and weapons.

http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-02-21-voa14.cfm

South Africa: Concern as 20th leopard is killed

Herald Correspondent

Cape Town – The death at the weekend of the 20th leopard in four years in the Baviaanskloof is putting the big cats‘ sustainability under “tremendous threat” in that area of the Eastern Cape.

The adult female leopard was struck by a car on the road near Zaaimanshoek in the Baviaanskloof.

The director of the conservationist Landmark Foundation, Bool Smuts, said it was most worrying that six leopards had been removed from the area, within a radius of about 25km, in the past 12 months – two rescued from traps and four dead.

“This is putting the species under tremendous threat in the region.

“Of the other animals that have been killed in the general area, most have been the result of gin traps, an indiscriminate, biologically unacceptable means of problem animal control. They, along with poison traps, need to be banned,” Smuts said.

Smuts said the Landmark Foundation would perform a full autopsy on the leopard, including a toxicology screen.

The remains will be sent for genetic analysis to Stellenbosch University, where the data will be fed into research being done by the Cape Leopard Trust from the Cederberg.

http://www.theherald.co.za/herald/news/n14_22022007.htm

Montana tribe refuses to allow cougar hunts on reservation

By Karen Peterson - Leader Staff
Posted: Thursday, Feb 22, 2007 - 10:11:28 am PST

ST. IGNATIUS — Some up-and-coming Bulldogs got a look at two mountain lions last week, courtesy of Tribal Fish and Game, in what was in eye-opening experience for many Mission elementary students.

Tribal Fish and Game warden Gordon Hunter used the death of two adult mountain lions as educational tools to give the students an up-close look at animals they probably will never see in the wild.

“About a year ago, hunters shot these two animals for their own self protection,” Hunter said. “We’ve had the mountain lions preserved since then.”

Students gathered around the Tribal Fish and Game truck to see the remains of the two mountain lions and ask questions.

“I try to use the mountain lions for educational purposes because some kids will probably never see them otherwise,” he said.

Hunter noted that killing a mountain lion on the reservation is illegal.

“You cannot hunt mountain lions on the reservation but these animals got too close to the hunters. There is an investigation into the incident,” he said.

Frank Gillin, chief of the Tribal Fish and Game, stated that there is a healthy population of cats but people might not see them because they “stay to themselves.”

“Occasionally, one gets into trouble and we deal with that but usually no one sees them,” Gillin said.

Gillin said the issue of hunting lions on the reservation still comes up, but the Tribal council decided to nix it.

“Every year it is proposed [to the Tribal council] to open hunting on mountain lions but culturally they decide not to do it,” Gillin said. “Biologists also present data to the council as a part of the discussion along with the cultural committee and spiritual committee and culturally they have decided not to hunt cats on the reservation.”

Tribal elder Steven Small Salmon attributed mountain lions as being a part of a cycle that keeps the animal populations in check.

“Mountain lions keep the deer population down. I’m an elder now and I can remember my elders saying the same thing. You hardly ever see mountain lions but where they are they control the deer population,” Small Salmon said. “And that keeps everything healthy.”

http://leaderadvertiser.com/articles/2007/02/22/news/news02.txt

Nebraska: Lynx killed by shotgun blast to head

The carcass of a 22-pound adult lynx was found about five miles east of Pierce in northeast Nebraska last week.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission officials say the lynx, a female, traveled from southwestern Colorado, entered Nebraska near Harrisburg in northwest Nebraska in September and traveled more than 320 miles across the state.

It was wearing a satellite radio collar as part of a wildlife study.

Sam Wilson is manager of the game and parks commission's furbearer program.

He says the cat was illegally killed by a shotgun blast to the head.

Lynxes are on the federal threatened species list.

Wilson says it's possible whoever shot the lynx mistook it for a bobcat.

He says a lynx is similar in size to a bobcat, but has bigger feet, longer legs and longer tufts of hair on its ears.

Anyone with information on the lynx’s death should contact the Nebraska Wildlife Crimestoppers at 1-800-742-7627.

A good tip could lead to a cash reward.

http://www.wowt.com/news/headlines/5980426.html

Mysterious wildcats still roam Maine

Historically, Maine had three wildcats roaming its vast forests. The smallest of the three is the elusive bobcat and it can still be spotted by the lucky hiker or hunter.

The bobcat is so unique and mysterious that it has two taxonomic classification names. It goes by Lynx rufus and Felis rufus. Most reference books prefer the first.

Regardless of what the wildlife biologists call the bobcat, we can be sure that it will forever live on the fringes of human society. The tenacity of this cat is the reason why it has survived near human development where other species have been driven or killed off.

It is powerful enough to kill a large animal, such as a deer, but it will also hunt birds, mice, insects, and even domestic cats that have strayed too far from their owner's home. The bobcat thinks nothing of eating carrion and will do what it has to do to survive.

Most bobcats are less than 36 inches from the tip of its snout to its stubby tail. It will stand 18 inches from the ground on its powerful stout legs. The track shows that the claws are retracted. Also the set of tracks will be perfect, meaning that they are formed in a straight line, which is common for hunting animals. Domestic dogs will exhibit an imperfect walk with many side meandering interruptions as it explores and plays.

The bobcat loves the dense woods and fringes of large swamps. It will often take up a 25 square mile range for hunting and mating. Female cats are slightly smaller than males and will produce one to two kittens in each litter.

The lynx prefers the vast remote woods and swamps of northern Maine. It hunts the snowshoe hare almost exclusively.

Wildlife biologists also are struggling with identifying and classifying the lynx, as indicated by its two classification names, Lynx canadensis and Felis lynx. The first is preferred by most.

The lynx is noticeably larger than the bobcat, standing 24 inches tall and slightly under four feet from tip of nose to its stubby tail. Its color is more uniform than the spotted coat of the bobcat but its ear tufts distinguish itself as well as its big round paws. The paws are like snowshoes and support the weight of the cat when it hunts for the snowshoe hare in the thick swamps.

The tracks of the lynx are noticeably larger than those of the bobcat and they may even be mistaken for the tracks of the mountain lion. The mountain lion will sometimes drag its tail between the tracks in the snow but the stubby tail of the lynx prevents that.

By the way, the easiest way to tell the difference between a canine track and a feline track, (besides the retracted claws of the cat) is that the feline track is as long as it is wide. The canine track is longer than the width. In other words, the cat track has a rounded appearance.

The largest wildcat by far is the cougar, or mountain lion. Though long expatriated, this feline ghost of the forest is making occasional appearances throughout Maine.

Still, Maine wildlife biologists discount the feasibility of a lion population and only state that the lion is probably an unauthorized release by various individuals. Oh, sure. How many of your friends do you know of that are raising mountain lion cubs in their homes just to release them into the wilds?

There were a couple of mountain lion sightings in southern Maine in the past few years. All were very close to each other and within the 30 mile territory range. The closest sighting was in Arundel (where there were two sightings) and the other one was in Waterboro.

A few years ago, a mountain lion crossed the road in front of a driver near Bethel. Misidentification is not likely. That driver was, coincidentally, a wildlife biologist.

Besides, it's pretty hard to mistake a mountain lion with another four-legged critter. First, the cat is between six and eight feet long from nose to tip of tail. No other animal in Maine has a long tail similar to the mountain lion. The tracks are three inches wide and sometimes show where the tail has touched the ground.

There's no argument that sightings are rare but that's understandable. All wildcats of Maine prefer the solitude of the dense woods and swamps.

These are mysterious animals with little known about their daily habits. Those who have seen any one or all three of these felines are luckier than most of us.

Keep a sharp eye when walking in the woods and you too may be one of the privileged few to spot one of Maine's wild cats.

R.J. Mere is a noted local naturalist and outdoors writer. He can be reached by mail (9 York St., Kennebunk ME 04043), phone (985-4420) or by email (rjmere@gwi.net)

http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/yorkstar/ 02222007/sports-sp-merecolumn0222.html

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tigers come into conflict with Indian villagers

Big cats come into conflict with people- report of Archi Rastogi, Udham Singh Nagar

Fear stalks people in Chanda Bhudaria village in Uttarakhand's Udham Singh Nagar district. A tigress attacked Jagannath Singh, when he went to defecate on the dusk of January 15, 2007. Jagannath, who is 65 and infirm, was using the field next to his home, adjacent to the village road. Ten days before this, Naro Devi of neighbouring Chhoti Bakulia village was killed when she had gone to collect firewood in the forest; Geeta Devi of Dumgarha-also in Udham Singh Nagar-had also gone to the forest for firewood when she was grievously injured.

The same tigress is said to be responsible for all the incidents. Uttarakhand's forest department has offered compensation and is monitoring the tigress's activity.

Meanwhile, conflicts between big cats and humans have also been reported from other parts of the country.

"The government has advised us not to visit the forest and we have complied. But what do we do when the tigress comes right to our homes?" asks Mamta Devi of Dumgarha. "Earlier, we would collect leaves from the forest and mix it with the feed that we bought. But now we are scared to venture into the forest. So, expenses for each cow have risen from about Rs 20 a day to about Rs 40-50 because we have to buy the entire lot," she adds. Fuelwood costs have also risen.

Tigers were sighted earlier too but there have been many more sightings since the monsoon. "There is hardly anyone in my village who has not seen a tiger", says Umesh Singh of Chanda Budaria village.

Harish Guleria, coordinator of the Terai Arc Landscape Project for wwf-India, who has been asked to looked into the problem has an explanation. "Traditional buffers between the forest and agricultural land have reduced in the Terai, so there is increased conflict," he says.

Compensation for the dead is Rs 1 lakh; that for the injured is Rs 25,000. "If a handicapped person is injured, the compensation is Rs 50,000 (like in the case of Jagannath). But government processes take time", rues TR Biju Lal, range officer in-charge of Surai range, where the incidents have taken place.

"The tigress might have killed intentionally or accidentally. If the killings were intentional, the animal must be eliminated," says YV Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun. Lal also says that the animal will be declared a man-eater if it attacks more people. It will be then captured or killed, he says. But Guleria does not see any cause for immediate concern. "Six tigers in 150,000 hectares isn't much. The first two incidents took place in the forest, the third, close to it. The tigress might have come close to the village boundary in pursuit of prey. There would be reason to worry if the trend continues, not for now," he says. The animal was more aggressive because it was with cubs, other experts believe.

Human-big cat conflicts have also been reported in other parts of the country, recently. On January 5, villagers in the vicinity of the Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra's Chandrapur district killed a tiger. Their real purpose, according to reports, however, was to kill a wild boar for meat. In Dudhwa Tiger Reserve in Uttar Pradesh, over 25 kg of meat is reported to have been found on January 8. It is suspected to be that of a tiger: the exact cause of the death is not known.

Human-leopard conflict has also been reported. On January 17, a leopard was killed when it reportedly strayed into a construction site in Nasik, Maharashtra. In Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir, a leopard was killed on the same day after it injured two persons. Another leopard has spread terror in the state's Anantnag district after killing four persons.

In Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur district, a leopard injured three persons on January 7. Four dead leopards were found in Gujarat's Panchmahal district: poisoning is suspected.

Experts do not believe that there is a sudden spurt in the number of such incidents; it's just that there's more media coverage, they say. Eminent wildlife expert and director, Wildlife Conservation Society's India Programme, K Ullas Karanth, also points to another fact: "Tigers normally do not move out when there is reasonable prey. Conflict with leopard, in contrast, is a perennial, because these animals live across human dominated landscapes."

Jhala believes that in some areas of the country, the administration is prepared to handle big cats. Karanth elaborates: "The approach of the administration is ad-hoc during a crisis. More often than not, lower level officials have to handle cats without training," he says. Rajesh Gopal, member secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority, however, contends: "Facilities might not be of a high level everywhere, but forest departments largely have capacities to manage conflicts".

Uttarakhand's forest administration has distributed firecrackers to people in five villages in the 20 sq km area near the forest to scare away the animals. The people are somewhat at peace, but not completely. "Go back before the sun sets," Mamta Devi advises this Down To Earth team as night falls.

http://www.centralchronicle.com/20070222/2202304.htm

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New Regulations Don't Stop "Canned" Lion Hunting in South Africa

New Regulations Don’t Stop “Canned” Lion Hunting in South Africa

 

 

February 20, 2007

 

 

WASHINGTON –The Humane Society of the United States/Humane Society International expressed concerns about new regulations announced today by the South African government that will continue to allow "canned hunting" of captive-bred lions. The regulations prohibit the killing of captive bred and raised large carnivores within 24 months of being released into an "extensive wildlife system," according to the government. At the end of the two years of being fed, watered and tended to medically, however, fee-paying customers will be allowed to shoot the animals where they live in these enclosed areas.

 

The groups also revealed that "trophy hunters" from the United States are the biggest importers of these animals.

 

"Despite what the South African government claims, the new regulations by no means outlaw this egregious practice. They simply redefine what is meant by "canned hunting," said Teresa Telecky, Ph.D., program director for wildlife trade for HSI. "Raising lions in captivity to provide trophy hunters with easy targets makes a mockery of hunting ethics. It's shocking that Americans are primarily fueling the market, considering the strong opposition to these unethical and misnamed 'hunts'."

 

The HSUS/HSI examined a database of annual international trade reports submitted by nations around the world to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.

 

Facts on International Trade in Lion Hunting Trophies

 

Lions are captive bred and raised in South Africa to be killed and stuffed as trophies for wealthy foreigners.

Trophies come from both wild and captive lions.

Most of the nearly 1,200 lion trophies exported from South Africa from 1994 to 2005 went to the United States.

In 2005, 64 percent, or 206, of the 322 lion trophies exported were captive-bred. Fifty-eight percent, or 120, of those went to the United States.

In addition to the United States, Spain and Germany also import a large number of lion trophies.

Many organizations, including HSI/HSUS, submitted comments objecting to the draft regulations last year. These can be viewed by clicking here.

 

Timeline of the number of lion trophies exported from South Africa

 

1982 - 15

1992 - 164

2002 - 231

2003 - 235

2005 - 325

2006 - 322

Canned hunts also take place in the United States and operate similarly to those in South Africa.

 

Canned hunting operations, also referred to as "shooting preserves" or "game ranches," are private trophy hunting facilities that offer customers the opportunity to kill exotic and native animals trapped within enclosures.

Animals killed in canned hunts may come from private breeders, animal dealers, or even zoos. These animals are frequently hand-raised and bottle fed, so have lost their natural fear of people. In many facilities, the animals expect to be fed at regular times by familiar people, and the shooters will be waiting for them.

Many hunters are opposed to canned hunts.

A copy of the report from The HSUS/HSI is available by clicking here.

 

-30-

 

As the international arm of The Humane Society of the United States, the largest animal protection organization in the country with nearly 10 million members and constituents, Humane cSociety International addresses issues such as inhumane practices and conditions affecting companion and farm animals, illegal trade in wildlife, threats to endangered species, slaughter of marine mammals, and the use of animals in research and testing. On the web at www.hsihsus.org.

 

http://www.hsus.org/press_and_publications/press_releases/ canned_lion_hunts_south_africa.html

 

For the cats,

 

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue

an Educational Sanctuary home

to more than 100 big cats

12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL  33625

813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

http://www.BigCatRescue.org MakeADifference@BigCatRescue.org

Sign our petition here:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/344896451?ltl=1140270431

Subscribe to our Podcast View RSS XML

 

This message contains information from Big Cat Rescue that may be confidential or privileged. The information contained herein is intended only for the eyes of the individual or entity named above.  You are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution, disclosure, and/or copying of the information contained in this communication is strictly prohibited. The recipient should check this e-mail and any attachments for the presence of viruses. Big Cat Rescue accepts no liability for any damage or loss caused by any virus transmitted by this e-mail.

 

Feds have failed to protect panther habitat, say Defenders of Wildlife

Conservation Group Calls on Federal Agencies to Protect Critical Florida Panther Habitat

Agencies Ignored Federal Statutes and Failed to Take the Necessary Actions to Protect the Environment, Group Charges


ST PETERSBURG, Florida - February 20 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and Army Corps of Engineers have failed to properly protect the imperiled Florida panther, one of the world's most endangered mammals, by allowing the development of 5,000 acres of essential panther habitat in Collier County, Florida, according to a notice letter filed today by Defenders of Wildlife.

"This project is destroying primary and secondary panther habitat without restoring any additional lands," said Laurie Macdonald, director of Defenders of Wildlife Florida. "With several other large-scale development projects planned in the near future, the Fish and Wildlife Service must take action to prevent the panther from being pushed to the brink of extinction."

"This project is destroying primary and secondary panther habitat without restoring any additional lands," said Laurie Macdonald, director of Defenders of Wildlife Florida. "With several other large-scale development projects planned in the near future, the Fish and Wildlife Service must take action to prevent the panther from being pushed to the brink of extinction."

"We are hopeful that our efforts will result in greater protections for the last remaining panther habitat and restore additional necessary lands beyond what FWS is presently requiring," said Macdonald.

Habitat loss, fragmentation, degradation and increased human disturbance resulting from development are among the primary threats to the panther and many other imperiled species in South Florida. Additionally, rapid building and road development have resulted in a steady increase in the number of panthers killed by vehicle strikes.

Defenders of Wildlife has notified the agencies that it is prepared to bring legal action challenging the decision to allow the construction of a new town and university in a rural section of Collier County that scientists have identified as important to panthers. The site is also situated adjacent to an essential panther corridor, and no fewer than 19 panthers currently have their home ranges near the development site.

"Southern Florida's recent development boom has caused immeasurable damage to the Florida panther's remaining habitat and FWS and the Army Corps have once again neglected to use their authority to avoid or adequately mitigate the damage," said Elizabeth Fleming, Florida representative with Defenders of Wildlife. "These agencies are setting a dangerous precedent that disregards panther recovery needs and could lead to the extinction of the panther as well as other imperiled native Florida wildlife."

Defenders contends that FWS has issued a "biological opinion" that fails to properly evaluate the impact this development will have on the panthers and did not require appropriate mitigation to offset this impact. The Corps' decision to issue a Clean Water Act permit for the project was based on FWS's flawed biological opinion, and the Corps has failed to adequately assess the environmental impacts of the development as required by federal law.

"The method used to determine how these developments will impact the species that live there is not based on the best available science and needs to be reevaluated," said Fleming.

http://www.commondreams.org/news2007/0220-10.htm