Thursday, May 31, 2007

OPINION: Tiger's demise is symptom of "impending ecological disaster"

31 May, 2007 - 0000 hrs IST

This is a classic example of the [Indian] government missing the wood for the trees. The decline in tiger count is worrisome.

It is worrisome, not because the Big Cat is facing extinction but because the fall in the number of tigers is an indication of impending ecological disaster.

The tiger is at the top of the food chain and its population reflects the health of our forests. If the tiger is disappearing, it is mainly because the ecosystem it is part of is under threat.

The solution to the catastrophe is not to farm the tiger, as is being suggested in circles such as the ministry of environment and forests, but to address the threat to the animal's habitat. Tiger farms in China have reportedly bred over 4,000 tigers.

As in the case of other statistics that emanate from China, this one too should be taken with a pinch of salt. That apart, the approach of the Chinese to the tiger is essentially utili- tarian and aimed at addressing the needs of the local demand for tiger body parts used in traditional medicine and skins.

Tiger is merely an economic entity for the Chinese. Its existence is not understood from an ecological perspective that values the tiger as part of an ecosystem that includes trees, animals, water sources, and even humans.

Conservation activists have also pointed out that tiger farms are an expensive affair; one estimate puts $10,000 as the cost to breed a tiger in a farm.

Needless to say, the farm tiger is unlikely to be treated on par with the tiger of the forest.

Another approach is to sentimentalise the tiger; do we not owe it to our children the pleasure of watching the big beautiful cat? But a tiger is not just eye candy.

If taken out of the ecological context, it has no more significance than any other animal.

To understand the threat to the tiger one has to see it as the symptom of a larger ecological crisis which, if not addressed immediately, will threaten the existence of all species including humans

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Opinion/Editorial/ VIEW_Government_to_consider_special_farms_to_ breed_tigers/articleshow/2087662.cms

S. Africa: Cheetah release marks predators' return

By Guy Rogers Environment & Tourism Editor

TWO cheetahs were released in the Mountain Zebra National Park near Cradock yesterday, becoming the first free-ranging big predators in the area in more than a century.

The two 16-month-old females were acquired from Samara Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet three months ago and have been acclimatising in a boma since then. They were fed with carcasses through this period, but as wild- caught cats their hunting instincts would have remained as strong as ever, said Mountain Zebra section ranger Johan de Klerk.

Both animals are fitted with radio collars. De Klerk and his team will be monitoring them carefully to see how they progress in targeting the park's antelope.

The dream of expanding the park and restoring this balance started a decade ago with the sale of two paintings by famous British artist David Shepherd.

More than R1-million was raised and the funds were passed on to SANParks, which added them to further sponsorship from Vesta Medicines, Sasol, WildAid and the Barbara Delano Foundation.

SANParks matched the total and the net funds were used to buy nine farms, expanding the park to 28 412ha.

http://www.theherald.co.za/herald/news/n14_30052007.htm

Alaskan hunter mauled by leopard in Zimbabwe

A pair of Juneau men on a big game hunt in Zimbabwe ran into problems when one of the leopards they were tracking circled back on them, the Juneau Empire reports. The cat clawed their guide and then pounced on Bill Adair, the newspaper reports. Adair’s hunting companion, Dr. David Miller, shot the leopard, but the bullet passed through the animal and wounded Adair in the calf, the Empire says. Emmett Marlow, manager of Adair’s restaurant, Bullwinkle’s Pizza Parlor, told the Empire that Adair is recovering and probably will be flown to a Seattle hospital today. Adair sent back pictures, Marlow told the newspaper. “I didn’t know leopards got that big.” The incident happened about 10 days ago.

http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/newsreader/ story/8931891p-8832134c.html

Bobcat brings police to Calif. high school

BY RUTH JUSTIS - Staff Reporter - rjustis@ridgecrestca.com
Published: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 10:32 AM CDT

Burroughs High School had an unexpected visitor Tuesday morning — a female bobcat, which was removed from a tree near the school office by Officer Tina Kimmons of the Ridgecrest Animal Shelter, with the assistance of Dan Sutton, also an animal control officer, and Travis Gillette of the Ridgecrest Police Department.

The call for assistance came into the Animal Shelter at 9:35 a.m. and Kimmons had the animal contained in about an hour.

Vice Principal Bryan Auld was on campus Monday evening and watched a female bobcat, with two cubs, playing on the athletic field. Eventually, they disappeared, he said.

Early Tuesday morning, Principal Ernie Bell observed a bobcat on campus and followed it as it left.

“We think this might be the mother bobcat I observed last night, but we aren’t sure. She certainly was larger than the cubs I saw Monday evening,” Auld said.

Auld watched the mother tree the cubs and leave them for approximately 20 minutes Monday night, while she hunted and caught a rabbit.

“She may have left the cubs while she hunted again this morning,” Auld said. “If she did, we need to locate those cubs so they can be reunited with their mom. We have several outdoorsmen on staff, who will be watching for the cubs and making sure no animals are still on campus. If this was not the mom, we may have a larger bobcat population in the area than we thought.”

Campus supervisors arrive about 6 a.m. to walk the grounds and make sure there were no incidents overnight, and that no animals are on the grounds.

“We want to make sure our students are safe on campus,” Auld said.

Campus security made sure Burroughs students were detoured around the area where the cat was treed as they passed between classes Tuesday morning.

Kimmons was able to get a loop on the end of a pole around the cat’s neck and pull her out of the tree without any visible harm to either herself or the animal. She counts herself fortunate not to have encountered the business end of the cat’s claws.

The bobcat was placed in an animal carrier and taken to the Ridgecrest Animal Shelter, where she remains in isolation.

“We looked her over; she appears to be pretty healthy. We’ll let her calm down a bit, then give her food and water and probably release her back into the desert,” Kimmons said.

Kimmons said the Shelter has gotten several calls of bobcats on the fields at the school at night, but had not seen any herself.

“We’re not sure where they come from — it’s not too far to mountainous areas and open desert. They were probably looking for food or water.”

Animal Control officers captured a couple of cats recently, but both of them were sick. The sick ones are sent to medical rehabilitation before they are released, Kimmons said.

“If you see one, the best course of action is to leave it alone, unless it is posing a threat to children or animals. In that case, give us a call and we’ll try to take care of the problem.

Most wild animals tend to be shy unless they are cornered. Give them space and they’ll generally go on about their business,” Kimmons said.

To reach the Animal Shelter, call 499-5190.

http://www.ridgecrestca.com/articles/2007/ 05/30/news/news02.txt

Injured Ala. bobcat returned to the wild

Posted by pcloos May 30, 2007 1:47 PM

The injured bobcat rescued by Liza Eldred and treated at a west Mobile County veterinary clinic was released Monday night near the rural area of Baldwin County where it was found during the weekend, authorities said today.

Eldred found the bobcat about noon Saturday on U.S. 98 in Magnolia Springs and, thinking it was a domestic cat, took it to Duke Animal Clinic for treatment of an injured paw. The animal was treated for that injury, tape worms and several ticks were removed from its ears.

Veterinarian Andy Duke, the clinic's owner, said the bobcat did not appear to be suffering any pain from the injured paw when he released it about 10:30 p.m. Monday less than a mile from where Eldred had found it.

"It left the cage like calf coming out of a rodeo chute," Duke said.

http://blog.al.com/live/2007/05/injured_ bobcat_returned_to_the.html

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Israel: Leopard will 'retire' to animal reserve

By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH

Although the wild leopard that barged into the home of a sleeping Sde Boker family on Monday is slowly recovering, he is quite old, and suffers from a stiff spine and joints, as well as infertility, according to a veterinarian who treated him at the Hebrew University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Beit Dagan.

Dr. Zahi Aizenberg, head of the hospital's imaging unit, lead the team that treated the leopard, estimated be be around 15 years old.

"He weighs only 26.5 kilos, but a male of his size should weigh 40," said Aizenberg, who has treated several leopards, most of them from zoos.

Only about 10 of the leopard species native to Israel have been seen recently here, said Aizenberg, "but there could be some more."

The leopard found at Sde Boker on Monday, near exhaustion because his joint problem prevents him from hunting wild animals, forcing him to feed on pet dogs and cats, has already been released at the Hai Bar animal reserve near Kibbutz Yotvata.

Aizenberg doubts he would be able to survive in the wild. "He hunted the pets because he couldn't catch wild animals on the run," he said.

The leopard entered the children's room at the Du Mosch residence in the middle of the night through a patio door left open to cool the house, attacked the family cat, awakened the dog, and then walked into the master bedroom of Arthur Du Mosch, 49, an immigrant from Holland who works as a nature guide.

Instead of shooing the leopard away - as Aizenberg said he would recommend to anyone not a veterinarian - Du Mosch caught the animal with his hands and held him, finally holding him in a plastic garbage can until Nature Reserve wardens arrived to take him to the veterinary hospital.

Aizenberg said the staff did not want to give the leopard a name, as he should not be regarded as a pet. Before being taken to the nature reserve, he underwent general anesthesia and blood and urine tests, ultrasound and CT scans. The wild feline was given food and an infusion for his dehydration, as well as treatment against worms, which may have caused him to be emaciated.

A scan showed that he had bones in his stomach, so he had eaten recently, probably a meal of pets. There is no treatment for his spinal and joint problems, said the veterinarian. "He probably has a few years left."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1180450949922 &pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Nearly half of cheetah litters have cubs with different fathers

May 29, 2007

LONDON (Reuters) - For female cheetahs in the Serengeti, the call of the wild is just too hard to resist as new research shows nearly half of their litters are made up of cubs with different fathers.

And while the serial infidelities of the females does ensure a broader genetic mix to help the survival of the endangered species, it comes at a cost, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) said on Wednesday.

"Mating with more than one male poses a serious threat to females, increasing the risk of exposure to parasites and diseases," said Dada Gottelli, ZSL's lead scientist for the research.

"Females also have to travel over large distances to find new males, making them more vulnerable to predation, so infidelity is a heavy burden."

Cheetahs are a threatened species and are declining in number in the areas they inhabit.

The effective breeding population is estimated to be below 10,000 individuals and the species faces threats from human attacks and habitat loss.

"This research shows that more of the male cheetah population are contributing to the next generation than we had expected," said Sarah Durant, leader of the Serengeti Cheetah Project since 1991.

"This is good news for conservation as the genetic diversity of future generations of cheetah will be preserved by their duplicitous behavior."

http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?alias=for- cheetah-read-cheater&chanId=sa003&modsrc=reuters

S. African police find live cheetah in trunk of car

Kuruman, South Africa

29 May 2007 11:32

Three people were arrested near Kuruman when police found a female cheetah in the boot of their car, the Volksblad reported on Tuesday.

Police operating a roadblock targeting copper thieves made the discovery at 11pm on Sunday when they stopped a Toyota Cressida with a Botswana registration.

An unnamed investigating officer told the newspaper they opened the boot to find a moving bag inside.

"When we opened the bag, we were absolutely amazed to find an adult cheetah female," he said.

Although in good condition, the animal was said to be a bit wild and a local veterinarian had to be called in to help remove it from the car.

The three men were thought to have picked up the cheetah along the road.

Kimberley police spokesperson Captain Cherelle Ehlers said the three will appear in the Kuruman Magistrate's Court on Wednesday on charges relating to the illegal possession of an endangered species.

The cheetah was destined for a private game farm 140km from Kuruman. -- Sapa

http://www.mg.co.za/articlePage.aspx?articleid=309788&area=/ breaking_news/breaking_news__national/

India court issues rules to save threatened tigers

JAIPUR, India - An Indian court has banned hotels, flash photography, firearms and diesel vehicles from the last remaining tiger habitat in the Indian state of Rajasthan to protect dwindling numbers of the threatened cats.

The ruling on Ranthambore National Park by Rajasthan's High Court on Friday is part of a list of guidelines which also includes closing the park two days a week to tourists and constructing a periphery wall to stop encroachments.

"(Wildlife) are still running for a safe shelter for their survival and existence," said Justice Ashok Parihar.

The order comes days after a census indicated the number of endangered tigers is much lower than previously thought.

India is home to half the world's surviving tigers, but conservationists say it is losing the battle to save them.

There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago. A count conducted in 2001 and 2002 suggested that had fallen to around 3,700, after decades of poaching and habitat destruction.

But the latest census suggested there may only be a third as many tigers as previously thought in some states, which conservationists fear is indicative of the situation in the rest of the country.

The western state of Rajasthan once boasted two well-populated tiger reserves -- Ranthambore and Sariska.

But in early 2005, India was shocked by news that Sariska's entire tiger population has been wiped out as poachers slaughtered 13 big cats over four years.

Local authorities now say they are committed to protecting the state's last remaining tigers, which are in Ranthambore, an area 480 km (300 miles) southwest of New Delhi that attracts thousands of visitors every year.

There are around 35 adult tigers in the park, according to findings from the new census.

Commercial activity such as hotels, mining activities and villages must be removed from "eco-sensitive" areas and a six-foot (1.8 metres) high wall with check points must be built around the park, the court said.

"The fencing must be done on a priority basis so as to avoid encroachments in the park area and also secure the safety of the wildlife of the park," said Parihar.

Only vehicles operating on petrol and compressed natural gas will be permitted in the park and all cars carrying tourists must say at least 30 yards (27 metres) away from wild animals.

The chief warden and head of the park must also be held directly responsible for any poaching, the court said.

Story Date: 28/5/2007

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/42159/story.htm

India to destroy snow leopard, other hides to protect wildlife

DACHIGAM, India - Authorities in Indian Kashmir said on Monday they plan to compensate former fur dealers and collect around 850,000 garments made from the skins of rare animals in a campaign to protect the Himalayan region's wildlife.

Despite poaching being illegal, rare animals are still being killed. These include snow leopards, tigers, deers, jackals and jungle cats whose furs fetch lucrative prices on the international market.

But wildlife officials at Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary -- which is close to Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital -- say renewed efforts to stamp out the practice by compensating former fur dealers with cash in return for furs will curb the illegal trade.

"We are sure after destroying such a big number of animal skins and fur garments, we will be sending a strong message to poachers across the country and it will help in protection of wildlife in Kashmir," said Rashid Y. Naqash, Dachigam's warden.

Officials plan to collect the hides from around 224 former fur dealers and in return will give them a total of 940 million rupees ($23 million).

Almost 60,000 skins have been collected so far and officials expect to complete the operation by July.

Story Date: 29/5/2007

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm?newsid= 42195&newsdate=29-May-2007

India considers China move to lift tiger trade ban

NEW DELHI - India indicated on Monday it could back China's push to lift a blanket ban on trading tiger parts if certain conditions were met to protect wild tigers and a new study showed their numbers would not be affected.

China is expected to ask permission to relax the ban at the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species at The Hague in June. It wants the ban lifted for farmed tigers.

Numbers of the endangered animal have fallen sharply in recent decades due to poaching, fuelled by demand for Tiger skins and parts used in traditional Chinese medicines.

Beijing is seeking support from India, which has the world's largest population of wild tigers, to change the rules imposed in 1993 to protect the animals.

Environment Secretary Prodipto Ghosh said the government would commission a study to see if lifting the ban would be harmful and added that with safeguards there could be support for China's plan.

"Our position is that this regime should eliminate pressures for sourcing tiger body parts from the wild," Ghosh said.

Ghosh said China must take two steps to ensure the protection of wild tigers, and if these were met India might look favourably on the proposal.

First, he said China must have proper procedures for identifying and labelling of parts to guarantee that only farmed tigers are killed.

And second, the traditional medicine sector must inform consumers that drugs made from farmed and wild tigers are identical, dispelling the myth that the potency of drugs made from wild tigers is stronger.

"If they take these two steps, we believe that this will have a positive impact on conservation of tigers in the wild," Ghosh said.

China has about 30 tigers in the wild but has several tiger breeding centres or farms which collectively house about 5,000 tigers.

Conservationists say that if the tiger trade is made legal it would result in a massive surge in demand for parts and increased poaching in countries like India, which is facing a crisis in trying to save its own tiger populations.

Early results of a census of tigers in central India showed numbers were drastically lower than previously estimated.

Conservationists say pressure on the Chinese government to lift the ban is coming from powerful investors at breeding farms, who stand to make enormous profits if the trade becomes legal.

Story by Nita Bhalla
Story Date: 29/5/2007

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/42196/story.htm

India considers China move to lift tiger trade ban

NEW DELHI - India indicated on Monday it could back China's push to lift a blanket ban on trading tiger parts if certain conditions were met to protect wild tigers and a new study showed their numbers would not be affected.

China is expected to ask permission to relax the ban at the next meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species at The Hague in June. It wants the ban lifted for farmed tigers.

Numbers of the endangered animal have fallen sharply in recent decades due to poaching, fuelled by demand for Tiger skins and parts used in traditional Chinese medicines.

Beijing is seeking support from India, which has the world's largest population of wild tigers, to change the rules imposed in 1993 to protect the animals.

Environment Secretary Prodipto Ghosh said the government would commission a study to see if lifting the ban would be harmful and added that with safeguards there could be support for China's plan.

"Our position is that this regime should eliminate pressures for sourcing tiger body parts from the wild," Ghosh said.

Ghosh said China must take two steps to ensure the protection of wild tigers, and if these were met India might look favourably on the proposal.

First, he said China must have proper procedures for identifying and labelling of parts to guarantee that only farmed tigers are killed.

And second, the traditional medicine sector must inform consumers that drugs made from farmed and wild tigers are identical, dispelling the myth that the potency of drugs made from wild tigers is stronger.

"If they take these two steps, we believe that this will have a positive impact on conservation of tigers in the wild," Ghosh said.

China has about 30 tigers in the wild but has several tiger breeding centres or farms which collectively house about 5,000 tigers.

Conservationists say that if the tiger trade is made legal it would result in a massive surge in demand for parts and increased poaching in countries like India, which is facing a crisis in trying to save its own tiger populations.

Early results of a census of tigers in central India showed numbers were drastically lower than previously estimated.

Conservationists say pressure on the Chinese government to lift the ban is coming from powerful investors at breeding farms, who stand to make enormous profits if the trade becomes legal.

Story by Nita Bhalla
Story Date: 29/5/2007

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/42196/story.htm

U.S. to support conservation of tigers, other wildlife at CITES

The United States will continue to support strong conservation measures and international trade protections for tigers, elephants and whales at the upcoming 14th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in The Hague, Netherlands, June 3 to 15.

Meanwhile, the United States is proposing new restrictions on international trade in sawfish and pink and red coral, while asking the conference to lift trade restrictions on bobcat, a species that is abundant throughout its range, said Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Todd Willens, the head of the U.S. delegation.

The United States will also work closely with European nations to determine if two shark species - the spiny dogfish and the porbeagle - require CITES protection. The U.S. delegation also will hold consultations with range countries and other nations before deciding whether to support proposals to list several Central and South American timber species.

CITES is an international agreement signed by 171 nations that is designed to control and regulate global trade in certain wild animals and plants that are or may become threatened with extinction due to commercial trade.

"CITES has proven to be a powerful tool to prevent the extinction of species such as tigers, elephants and whales and we intend to work with other countries to support the continued protection and conservation of these species," Willens said.

The United States will publish its tentative negotiating positions for the conference in the Federal Register before the start of the conference. However, as often has been the case in the past, the United States has not yet taken final positions on many proposals on the agenda because of the desire to hold discussions with and work with range states and other parties during the conference.

"As the top importer of wildlife, plants, and their products, the United States has both a significant stake and a significant role in decisions made under CITES," Willens said. "In the past, we have played an important role in bringing countries to the table to develop proposals that protect species while promoting conservation in range countries. We intend to continue that tradition at the upcoming Conference of the Parties."

A CITES-regulated species may be included in one of three appendices to the Convention:

Appendix I includes species for which it is determined that any commercial trade is detrimental to the survival of the species. Therefore, no commercial trade is allowed in Appendix-I species. Non-commercial trade in such species is allowed if it does not jeopardize the species' survival in the wild. Permits are required for the exportation and importation of Appendix-I species.

Appendix II includes species for which it has been determined that commercial trade may be detrimental to the survival of the species if that trade is not strictly controlled. Trade in these species is regulated through the use of export permits.

Appendix III includes species listed by a range country that requires the assistance of other parties to ensure that exports of their native species are legal. Permits are used to control and monitor trade in native species. Any CITES Party may place a native species in Appendix III.

Any listing of a species in either Appendix I or II requires approval by two-thirds of the CITES party countries that vote on the proposal.

Major issues and resolutions to be discussed at the upcoming conference include:

Tigers: The United States has long been at the forefront of promoting the conservation of tigers. There are no listing proposals related to tigers on the agenda at the conference, but there will be a discussion of the problem of illegal trade in tigers and other Asian wild cats. The United States is concerned about reports that China may soon lift its domestic ban on trade in tigers and tiger parts. This would promote the spread of tiger farms, which the United States believes would provide a cover for trade in illegally poached tigers. At the upcoming conference, the United States will strongly encourage China to retain its domestic ban and will discuss ways of improving cooperative law enforcement efforts with India and other range countries.

Elephants: Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa are included in a proposal to establish annual quotas for export of raw ivory from elephants that have died of natural causes or have been culled as part of managing herds. The funds raised by these sales would be used to support elephant conservation. In addition, even if the proposal for all four countries is not approved, Botswana is asking for permission for annual sales of up to eight tons of ivory per year, plus sale of hides, leather goods, and live elephants for commercial purposes.

The United States has not supported annual export quotas in the past. However, it did support a one-time sale of ivory from Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa at the 12th Conference of the Parties 2002 when specific conditions were met. Those conditions, which included the establishment of an international monitoring system for elephant populations and controls in importing countries to prevent the re-export of ivory, have not yet been met and the sale has not taken place, although it may finally be approved at a meeting of the CITES Standing Committee which takes place just before the start of the Conference of the Parties.

The United States has not taken a formal position on the proposals but is concerned that the pending one-time sale be held and its impact on elephant populations determined before any other sales are approved. The United States also is concerned about the inclusion of Zimbabwe in the proposal because of reports of poaching and lack of protection for elephants in that country.

"We will be paying close attention in the meeting of the African elephant range states that will take place before the Conference of the Parties," Willens said. "We want to work closely with range states to come up with the right course of action for the elephants."

The United States also will emphasize the conservation of Asian elephants, which are threatened by poaching and illegal trade, Willens said.

"We will work to ensure that Asian elephants are considered during the discussion of a number of issues on the conference agenda, including poaching of elephants and trade in ivory, the need for enhanced law enforcement, and the importance of better compliance with CITES requirements for trade control and reporting of illegal activities," he said.

Whales: While there are no proposals related to delisting of whales on the agenda, the United States is committed to supporting the International Whaling Commission's current moratorium on commercial whaling, which is also supported by many other countries. Japan has proposed a new CITES review which it hopes will eventually lead to delisting of whales. The United States will also be paying close attention to a report from the International Whaling Commission on the results of its annual meeting, which takes place in Alaska just before the CITES Conference.

Sharks: Germany, on behalf of the European Union, has proposed to list the spiny dogfish and the porbeagle under Appendix II. Both species are harvested for food. The spiny dogfish is a primary source for the fish in "fish and chips." The United States is concerned that a CITES listing might have an undo impact on commercial fishing on the Atlantic coast, where populations of both fish are managed by the federal government and the states and currently are healthy. Populations in the north-eastern Atlantic do not have a management plan and have been significantly reduced by over-harvest.

"The United States has long been a strong advocate of shark conservation. However, we are concerned that a CITES listing for spiny dogfish and porbeagle would impose a paperwork burden for our fishermen while not guaranteeing that European nations would begin to properly manage populations off their shores, which is what is needed if range states are genuine about helping the species recover in the northeast Atlantic," Willens said. "We intend to hold discussions with the European Union countries on the issue during the conference."

Sawfish and pink and red corals: The United States is proposing to list sawfishes under Appendix I. These species have been over-harvested for both their rostra, or saw, and their fins. It is already illegal to land sawfishes on all U.S. coasts under the Endangered Species Act.

The United States also is proposing to list 26 species of pink and red corals under Appendix II. The United States is the leading importer of these corals, which are being over-harvested in many places. The listing will allow for better monitoring of commercial trade to ensure that it is sustainable and does not cause the species to become extinct.

Bobcat: The United States is proposing to remove the bobcat from Appendix II. The species is healthy throughout its range and is only listed because of the similarity of its appearance to other listed species such as lynx. The United States decided to propose the delisting after studies showed that the ready differentiation of bobcat skins in the international fur market was, in fact, possible because the majority of trade involves full skins, including the cats' distinctive markings.

Timber: A number of Latin American timber species are proposed for inclusion in Appendix II, including Spanish cedar, a furniture wood similar to mahogany, and Brazilian pernambuco, the primary wood used to make fine bows for stringed instruments. The United States will engage in discussions with range states in Central and South America before determining whether to support these proposals and if so, whether there should be exemptions from trade controls for limited numbers of bows and other finished products.

Source: U.S. Department of Interior

http://newsblaze.com/story/20070528171020tsop.nb/ newsblaze/TOPSTORY/Top-Stories.html

Ariz. couple watches as mountain lion kills deer

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- A Prescott couple got a rare firsthand look at the savage side of Mother Nature.

When Dale and Nancy Bryant heard the "frightening" noise of a screaming animal on Saturday, they looked out their window to see a mountain lion killing a deer.

They froze for several minutes to watch the gory scene from about 50 feet away. "You just can't figure that's happening in front of you," Nancy Bryant said.

The lion dragged the deer into the backyard as Dale Bryant shot off three photos from the back porch.

"He was not happy with me shining a light on him while he was trying to drag his deer away," he said. "He turned and gave me a dirty look."

The Arizona Game and Fish Department conducted an educational seminar about lions in March in the very northwest Prescott subdivision where the Bryants have lived for 26 years.

Dale Bryant said he and his wife are comfortable with the lions passing through their yard, as long as they don't hurt humans.

"Obviously, the lion knows this and is familiar with this area, and it's a place to wait for dinner," he said. "You've got to coexist as much as you can."

http://kvoa.com/Global/story.asp?S=6577976

Mich. woman relates experiences at Indian tiger reserve

By Jim Totten
DAILY PRESS & ARGUS

Sara Mascola has stared at a menacing 300-pound female Bengal tiger perched on a ledge above her, only 25 feet away, and lived to tell about it

"That was the most nervous I've been around tigers," said the 22-year-old Oceola Township woman, who recently returned from an internship at a tiger reserve in India.

In her encounter with the cub, Mascola was traveling in an open Jeep and told the driver to speed away. She said it wasn't so dangerous because when tigers see a vehicle with people, they don't see humans as food but only as part of the vehicle.

Mascola paid her own way to spend three months as an intern at Bandhavgarh National Park, a tiger reserve in India. Besides tigers, she also saw leopards and sloth bears. Mascola returned from her unpaid internship in April and is hoping to join the Peace Corps.

Her two tiger tips for people on foot are never bend over — it gives you a bigger-looking back and makes one look like prey — and never run away. She said tigers typically chase their prey, bounce on its back and bite the neck. Of course, Mascola admitted following such advice when facing a 600-pound full-grown tiger would be tough.

"I told people not to run away, but I knew I would right away," she said.

In her encounter with the angry cub, the scariest part was this cub, along with her 400-pound brother and their mother, killed and gnawed on a woman from the same small Indian village that Mascola lived in during her three-month internship.

The tiger and her cubs also would frequently roam into the village area at night, which is not unusual, considering they’re nocturnal animals.

Such tales would make even the calmest mother uneasy, but Sharon Mascola knows her daughter. She said the hardest part was not having regular communication with her daughter, whom she usually spoke with two or three times a week while she was attending Clemson University.

Sharon Mascola said her daughter could only communicate by e-mail, and she only had access when she went into the city. There was no e-mail at the lodge in the village next to the park.

"A couple of times, it would be two to three weeks when I wouldn’t hear from her," she said. "It was nerve-wracking, but I also calmed myself by saying, if there was bad news, someone would call me."

Besides the lack of communication, Sharon Mascola doesn’t worry too much about her daughter, whom she called very "self-motivated."

"She is somebody who is not afraid to do something," Sharon Mascola said. "She pushes herself, she challenges herself."

"She knows if you want to do something bad enough, there is a way."

Sharon Mascola, a single mother with three children in college, said her daughter’s paid her own way when she’s gone traveling or done special programs at college.

She said her daughter, who paid $3,000 in airfare and lodging for India, has worked in day care since she was 14 and saves her money.

The traveling bug bit Sara Mascola in high school. Ever since, she has always looked for ways to combine travel with her education. She traveled to Europe with friends after graduating from Howell High School in 2003 and spent a summer semester at sea, studying and working. She lived, worked and studied international relations on an old cruise ship that stopped at ports in Iceland, France and Russia.

"It’s a vice," Mascola said about her passion for traveling. She squeezed in a trip to Nepal after her recent trip to India.

Her idea for visiting the tiger reserve came during a two-week trip to India as part of a class on biodiversity, national parks and conservation in that country. She learned from the owner of the lodge that the park accepts foreign interns to work and applied.

"I was a little nervous, but I think I was more excited than anything else," Mascola said about traveling to India on her own.

"I love to travel," she said.

She was the only foreign woman working and living in the lodge and park area. She said the people treated her very well.

Mascola said the woman getting killed by the tiger highlighted the tension between conservationists and people trying to make a living in what she called one of India’s most impoverished areas. When the conservation initiative began in India in the 1970s, she said, the government had to move entire villages out of what became the park.

She said the core park area has limited fencing — to keep out cattle — which allows the wildlife to move freely. She said villagers are allowed to live and work in a buffer zone around the park, but they’re not supposed to go into the core area to collect firewood. The woman killed had ventured into the core park to collect firewood.

"It’s not the tiger’s fault; it’s her fault," Mascola said.

She said the woman’s family would have received compensation from the park if she had been killed in the buffer zone, but the family received no park money because the victim had ventured into the core park. However, she said international conservation groups donated money to the woman’s family.

Mascola said it’s crucial for conservation groups to have the support of local people. She said the only way for people to make money is working in the tourist industry connected to the park, which draws numerous foreigners.

The park requires visitors to hire a local guide and driver when visiting the area.

She said the educational experience and the chance to see tigers almost daily were well worth going without a hot shower.

"I actually enjoyed not having a shower," she said. Instead, she used a bucket of water to clean herself. "I had a great shower when I got home."

Contact Daily Press & Argus reporter Jim Totten at (517) 548-7088 or at jtotten@gannett.com.

http://www.dailypressandargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/ article?AID=/20070529/NEWS01/705290318/1002

Proposed landfill within land earmarked for Fla. panthers

Monday 21 May 2007

The location where a developer wants to build a regional garbage landfill in eastern Charlotte County is in the same area a federal agency has earmarked for re-establishing breeding pairs of the endangered Florida panther. But whether Omni Waste of Charlotte's proposal -- to build a 300-foot-tall landfill drawing some 240 trucks a day from at least eight counties -- will have adverse impacts on the panther remains undetermined. The site is adjacent to the 74,000-acre Babcock Ranch, which was acquired by the state for $340 million last year. The acquisition was touted for creating a wildlife corridor between the Babcock/Webb Wildlife Management Area to the west and the Fisheating Creek conservation area to the east.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in its latest panther recovery plan, which is currently undergoing a final review, calls for the panther's range to be expanded north of the Caloosahatchee River. The Babcock/Fisheating Creek region was identified in a 2006 study by the FWS as one four potential areas where breeding populations of panthers could be re-established.

The Charlotte County Commission will decide at a public hearing set for 2 p.m. Tuesday whether to grant conceptual approval for zoning and comprehensive plan changes to accommodate the proposal. But the county has opted not to consider the landfill a Development of Regional Impact, over the objections of the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council.

If the project were considered a DRI, it would get detailed reviews from a host of experts from local, state and federal environmental agencies, said Dan Trescott, a DRI specialist for the planning council. Such a detailed review of the landfill project is warranted because it would draw truck traffic from across county lines and pose regional environmental hazards, Trescott said.

But Charlotte County has interpreted a state law to indicate landfills are not to be considered DRIs, according to Mike Konefal, the county's community development director. And Omni has obtained a letter from a state Department of Community Affairs staffer confirming that landfills are not DRIs, said Ken Cargill, chief engineer for Omni.

Cargill said he has spoken with the Southwest Florida Conservancy, an environmental organization, about panther concerns. "We know they want to make a safe passageway from Babcock Ranch to the Fisheating Creek site," said Cargill. "We want to be supportive and cooperative, and we want to help." But the 400 to 500 truck trips per day generated by the landfill would pose a danger to panthers, according to a report by county staff.

A handful of male panthers are roaming the Babcock/Fisheating Creek region right now, according to Allen Webb, a project supervisor for the FWS based in the agency's Vero Beach office. "It's great habitat for a lot of different species," Webb said. "In fact, the last female Florida panther to live north of the Caloosahatchee River was living there." That female was killed in the 1970s.

Female panthers have since proven reluctant to swim across the Caloosahatchee River. The vast majority of Florida's 100 surviving panthers are located south of the river. The FWS wants to expand the habitat north because the population of 100 is considered too small to sustain itself, due to genetic problems, Webb said. The Babcock/Fisheating Creek area could support 10 panthers, according to the FWS.

The draft plan calls for transporting female panthers into the area in the future. Before any of the predators would be relocated, the agency would first draft local plans with public input to resolve safety concerns, Webb said. "There's a lot of upfront involvement so people don't feel they are going to be at risk," Webb said.

If Omni finds it must apply for a federal wetlands impact permit, that would trigger a consultation with the FWS about panther impacts, Webb said. But there's only a few, small wetlands on the project site, according to Cargill. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission also has not conducted a "formal review" of the Omni project, according to Gary Morse, FWC spokesman. However, at the request of a county staffer, one FWC staffer conducted an informal review, he said.

The staffer, Stephanie Rousso, found that 18 species of endangered or threatened animals potentially could be found on the Omni site. "The project site is located within a critical wildlife habitat linkage connecting managed lands such as Babcock Ranch and Fisheating Creek Ecosystem," Rousso said. If the Omni project falls within one of the federal agency's panther zones, the state FWC would examine the proposal, said Darrell Land, panther recovery team leader for the state FWC. But Land said he's received no notice indicating the project's location.

"That's part of what we're really struggling with right now," said Land. "We don't have a real nexus to get involved with this site." Both the state and federal agencies rely on cooperation and negotiation to get property owners to preserve panther habitat. The state can use its Rural Lands Stewardship Program, which calls for property owners to trade environmental assets for development rights, Land said. But enforcement is rare.

"With a critter like the Florida panther, it's difficult to say (that) by developing this 600 acres, they are going to go extinct," Land said. "So, they die the death of a thousand cuts."

http://www.sun-herald.com/Newsstory.cfm?pubdate= 051107&story=tp2ch7.htm&folder=NewsArchive2

Monday, May 28, 2007

Kenya: Cheetah on the fast track to extinction

A census of the cheetah population in Kenya in 2000 put the number somewhere between 500 and 1,000. But this population is declining fast, mainly due to human encroachment on their habitat, writes RUPI MANGAT

THE HILLS OF SALAMA ARE COVERED IN the cool white mist of a rainy morning. The road that cuts across the landscape is busy as usual, with huge trucks ferrying goods between the port of Mombasa and the interior. Over the years, Salama has grown from a tiny roadside village into an overcrowded hub. And in the midst of this, a most amazing discovery has been made — there are cheetahs around!

It’s not the best day for cheetah monitoring because of the rain, but in this case the cheetah in question has a radio collar fitted; once a week, the cheetah team drives through the vast lands of Salama, 120 kilometres southeast of Nairobi, to try and pick up the signals emitting from her radio collar even if they cannot spot her.

However, on this cold Friday, our first stop after picking up Lumumba Mutiso, the community officer with the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in Salama, is one of the large ranches that has recently been subdivided. The ranch, measuring almost 20,000 acres, is where the cheetah population of Salama has survived until now.

Lumumba drives a short distance from Salama shopping centre before taking the turning into the ranch. It’s a beautiful landscape of hills and valleys, now verdant with the rains. Cows, sheep and goats graze contentedly on the succulent green grass, which otherwise in this semi arid region is coarse and brown.

This visit is, however, a tense one for the cheetah team – Mr Lumumba; Mary Wykstra, CCF’s Kenya programme officer and Wallace Isaboke from the East African Wildlife Society (EAWS) , who are collaborating with CCF.

Two goats have been killed and one injured the previous night. The landowner, a portly businessman who bought many of the plots, is not amused. The culprit seems to be a cheetah, and at this point it is unclear whether it is the radio-collared cheetah. “Niko na bunduki ndani ya gari. Nitamuuwa leo,” he says angrily. (“I’ve got a gun here in the car with me; I’m going to kill that thieving animal today!”)

ONE OF THE CARCASSES HAS BEEN skinned and is hanging in the enclosure. There’s no compensation from the government, in the form of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), who are the custodians of the wildlife, or CCF for the livestock lost to wildlife. The landowner is within his rights to kill wildlife on his land that are proving to be pests.

“There are an estimated 12,500 cheetahs in Africa today and 50 in Iran,” says Ms Wykstra. “In 1900, the population of cheetahs in Africa was 100,000, with cheetahs seen across Asia and Europe. Today, Iran is the only country outside Africa with a cheetah population. A count done in 2000 shows that Kenya has an estimated cheetah population of 500 to 1,000. Around Salama, there are an estimated 17 cheetahs.” The cheetah researcher, who has a degree in zoology and extensive experience studying animal behaviour and working in zoos designing animal enclosures, gives another, more depressing statistic – that of the countries where cheetahs have become extinct since 1940 – Jordan, Iraq, India (the country that gave the cat its name), Israel, Morocco, Syria, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Djibouti, Ghana, Nigeria, and Khazikstan as recently as 1989.

The cheetah is the fastest animal on earth and can achieve speeds of up to 114 kilometres per house when hunting. This cat is built for speed. Its streamlined body, lean muscular legs, a disproportionately massive chest to allow an increased intake of air and a tail that acts as a rudder to allow sharp turns at high speed make it an efficient hunter. But it is not strong. “Compared with the lion and the leopard, the cheetah is the weakest of the large cats and the poorest breeder,” continues Ms Wykstra. Even a big vulture can chase a cheetah from its kill.

THE CHEETAH CONSERVAtion Fund was started in 1991, with Dr Laurie Marker championing the cause of the cat in Namibia in Southern Africa. The goal of CCF is to ensure the survival of the cheetah in collaboration with stakeholders. “You cannot conserve without involving the people who have to live with the predators,” explains Wykstra. “Cheetah populations have been declining everywhere. What we are trying to do is to maintain what we have left. And one way forward is co-existence with the people who live with the predators.”

CCF made its entry into Kenya in December 2001. Working with the EAWLS and KWS, the team has travelled to the far reaches of the country to map the animals’ distribution. “What we are finding is that cheetah populations have declined, and even though they are not declining as rapidly as in the 1980s, their numbers are falling. There could be a number of reasons for that, like there not being a big market for the skins. But the number one factor is habitat loss,” says EAWLS’s Mr Isaboke. “We hope to finish the countrywide cheetah census by the end of the year,” he adds.

This is the first comprehensive cheetah national survey done in Kenya. The results of the survey will be presented to KWS and the government. “Cheetahs need large masses of land, and therefore the issue is looking at conserving large landscapes. In Namibia, the range of the cheetah is 1,200 square kilometres in commercial farmland. In Tanzania, the data shows 750 square kilometres.

HOWEVER, IN KENYA there has been no scientific monitoring to look at the exact home range size. The one confirmed size of a reasonably long studied cheetah is the Salama cheetah, which has a range of 200 square kilometres.”

“We have been monitoring this surprising female cheetah in Salama in Makueni district since 2005,” says Ms Wykstra. Surprising because Makueni is one of the most populated areas in Kenya, and the landscape is hilly and bushy, not typical flat-plains cheetah country.

“The Salama cheetah was caught in a trap after she killed a calf on a ranch,” says Ms Wykstra. By that time, she had been accused of killing about 100 goats and calves. She also had five half grown cubs with her. “The dilemma at that point was what to do with the cheetah and her cubs. One suggestion was to move her to a protected area where there aren’t many cheetahs. But we know from previous field work that that’s not a solution as cats keep to their old habits. It would have been a case of simply transferring the problem. “The next option was to fit her with a radio collar to find out to what degree she was the cause of the problem.”

Monitoring the Salama cheetah gave interesting insights into a cheetah’s life outside a national park. “What we found was that she was not the problem cheetah, because by monitoring her we could see that at the times the kills were made, she was in another area,” says Ms Wykstra. “So it was a good thing that she was not moved or killed. When we checked her out, she had three broken teeth, which would hamper her in killing livestock, anyway.”

Two of Salama’s five cubs were also fitted with collars. Five weeks after the male was fitted with a collar, the researchers lost his signal. Two weeks later, its carcass was found in a poacher’s snare. Its sibling died a similar death a few days later.

In the case of the Salama cheetah, the monitoring had already proved that she was not the culprit behind the earlier killings. Now, after the new killing, we picked up her signal far from the ranch – near a booster station on a hill where a new settler was tilling his recently acquired small plot. It was fenced all around.

The two ranches, Aimi ma Kalungu and Malili Ranch, cover more than 40,000 acres. Before the subdivision, there was little trouble as the ranches were mostly for cattle and cheetahs do not have the muscle to kill cows. “But now they are walking across the same terrain and finding sheep and goats like here.”

MR LUMUMBA, THE Community officer, interviews the herders and the watchman to find out what happened. The workers say they saw two cats in the boma (homestead). One was dragging the goat out of the enclosure. The fence around the enclosure has several gaps, allowing predators to squeeze through.

“Typically, cheetahs do not hunt at night. They are diurnal cats,” says Mr Lumumba. “Besides, they eat quickly at the site of the kill, unless it’s a female and her cubs are nearby. A cheetah does not have the strength to drag prey far. Cheetahs around the livestock ranches kill the weaker livestock or young ones.” The trio analyses the answers and what emerges is that it could have been a leopard.

“The communities have to be involved. One area is through livestock management and research. There’s very little chance that a cheetah will go for a healthy goat or cow because it cannot bring down a sizeable animal. Having more livestock to compensate for loss to predators is not a solution either. What’s needed is a healthy number that will not overgraze the land. Again, it helps if the enclosures are well maintained and the herders are alert,” says Mr Lumumba.

Another issue is farming. “With these two ranches, people have settled on virgin territory that was once scrubland. The soil is not suitable for farming, and it will always be a challenge for the people to get a decent crop here,” says Ms Wykstra.

“I was like this man before,” says Mr Lumumba. “I was angry when l kept losing my livestock to wildlife. I wanted to kill the cheetahs. When Mary first came to the area, I was even angrier than the rancher we spoke to today. But as time went on, and with her coming often, I started to understand the work that was going on and the problems. I am a shareholder of the ranch too and have a large plot here.

“So now l attend barazas to talk about our work. I even work with the local women’s groups. Many of them come and tell me about their husbands who kill wild animals to sell to the truck drivers and their concerns if they are arrested.”

THE NEXT BIGGEST THREAT for the cheetahs comes from the highway.

“The Salama cheetah then had her next litter of four. Two of them were killed crossing the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. In two years, we counted seven cheetahs killed by trucks and cars. At night, the cats freeze in the headlights of the vehicles, but usually it’s too late for the speeding vehicles to stop.”

The image that one has of T the svelte cat is of it in full sprint after its prey on the open plains. But research now shows otherwise. CCF is evaluating areas in Kenya for cheetah populations, traditional sites and unique populations.

“In Maasai Mara, there’s been a marked decline in cheetah numbers,” says Mr Isaboke. “A 1980 survey shows a population of 61 in the Mara triangle. The KWS census in 2002 shows a population of 38. The decline can be attributed to many factors – competition from the larger cats, disease, increased vehicular traffic and human encroachment. It’s the same case in the Kajiado area and the Kitengela/Athi plains, which are being subdivided into smaller plots on what was once an open migratory route for the animals of the Nairobi National Park during the dry season.”

MAGADI, ON THE OTHER hand, has not been monitored as it has traditionally not been thought of as being a cheetah habitat. It’s more famous for its salt pans and harsh, bush terrain. “We know nothing about the Magadi cheetahs. We’ve also found sizeable populations in north Kenya around Mandera and Wajir, areas of dry bush land,” says Mr Isaboke.

Traditionally, the north is typified by pastoral people moving with their livestock in search of pasture and water. But with more water points being established in the arid areas, the pastoral people are becoming more settled, which has a further impact on the local wildlife.

“Most cheetah research has been done inside the protected area in national parks and reserves where they are seen in open grass plains, giving the impression that they are cats of the flat country,” says Ms Wykstra. “But outside the protected area, cheetahs have adapted to different habitats. The Salama cheetahs show that they are adept at living in hilly bush land and their prey, like the reedbuck, are also bush animals. Cheetahs in protected areas tend to hunt for gazelles but outside they go for smaller prey like rabbits, hyrax, vervet monkeys and reedbuck.

“We’re seeing more cheetah populations outside protected areas, as much as 90 per cent,” she continues. “The reason for that could be competition inside the parks from the bigger cats like the lion and leopard.”

“Maintaining open spaces is the key to cheetah conservation,” says Ms Wykstra. “It doesn’t mean open spaces without people but co-existence. There’s a need for community-based projects tying in with tourism, perhaps a wildlife conservancy like in other parts of Kenya. It is evident that cheetahs cannot survive in national parks because of competition from other big cats. Environmental education too plays an important part.

Research helps us to make sensible decisions. Monitoring, as in the case of the Salama cheetah, proved her innocence. But monitoring is expensive. “It costs more than $1,000 per year to monitor the Salama cheetah. Her collar costs $250, the GPS (global positioning system) costs $150. The most expensive parts of the equipment are the receiver and the antenna, which cost $1,000. That’s besides the salaries of the researchers, the fuel, and the time.”

Hopefully, the countrywide cheetah survey presented to the KWS by the end of the year will help in formulating better policies and strategies for the conservation of the cheetah. Otherwise, we may be seeing the last of the cat. It has happened in other countries.

----------------

For more information on cheetahs in Kenya, log onto the website www.cheetah.org or e-mail Mary Wykstra at cheetah@africaonline.co.ke

http://www.nationmedia.com/eastafrican/current/Magazine/Magazine280507.htm

India: Leopard dies after rescue 'goes wrong'

27 May, 2007 - 0213 hrs IST - TIMES NEWS NETWORK

NAGPUR: A full-grown female leopard that had fallen into a farm well in a village between Khapri-Thana, around 22 kilometres from the city, died on on Saturday after a rescue operation by the forest department allegedly went awry and a tranquilliser dart struck the animal in the 'vulnerable' spinal chord. Officials have, however, attributed the death to 'fracture of the animal's vertebral column.'

On Saturday, around 8.30 am, the leopard was spotted by a farm worker in the well. The scared worker immediately informed the forest department and a rescue team headed by A L Sonkusre, RFO, and Gopal Thosar, district wildlife warden, rushed to the spot around 10 am.

According to Thosar, the female leopard, around 12 years old, must have strayed into the farm in search of a kill. Several monkeys frequent the well and the leopard may have fallen inside after an attempt to kill a monkey went wrong. The 15-foot deep well didn't have much water.

Naresh Zurmure, deputy conservator of forests (DCF), Nagpur, quoted the post-mortem saying the leopard died after its backbone fractured after felling in the rocky well. "We did our best to save the animal but we couldn't do it," he remarked. "It was alive when we lifted it from the well. The leopard died while being taken to Butibori for treatment," he added.

The animal was quite healthy and was roaring when the rescue operation was going on. Even after the first tranquilliser dart was shot, the leopard 'walked around the edge of the water inside the well,' said an eye-witness.

However, the leopard collapsed after the being hit by the second dart, informed Zurmure. An eyewitness said district collector Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, who was present at the scene, too exclaimed that the second dart had hit the animal in the 'wrong area.' "An unskilled van majoor fired the tranquilliser dart. The entire operation was carried out without the mandatory presence of a veterinarian," the eyewitness added.

NGOs and prominent persons blamed the forest officials for the mess and demanded action for their failure to save the wild cat which is already facing steep decline in its population.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Cities/Nagpur/ Leopard_dies_after_rescue_goes_wrong/ articleshow/2076997.cms

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Two Fla. panther litters born in Big Cypress preserve

Kitten pictures and more recent panther news are available in the May 2007 "Panther Update" from the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge:

http://www.floridapanther.org/Panther-Update-03-07.pdf

Urban sprawl causes imbalance of nature

5/26/2007 10:52:00 PM

Nature is harsh. Animals kill other animals every day to survive.

We know that in an academic sense, but Dale and Nancy Bryant of Prescott got a ringside seat a week ago when a mountain lion killed a deer in their back yard.

The 26-year residents of the Ho-Kay-Gan subdivision have seen plenty of wildlife over the years but never a show like that.

As Prescott and Prescott Valley have expanded into once pristine riparian areas, the original residents haven't left. They still need a place to live and they still need to eat.

In recent years, residents on the fringes of local communities increasingly are encountering mountain lions and bears along with the deer, javelinas and coyotes.

A year ago, Game and Fish officials had to kill a lion in the Granite Mountain area that had acted aggressively toward humans in the area. In 2004, a bear that had been rifling trash killed a dog in the Walker area. Officials tried unsuccessfully to trap it.

Arizona Game and Fish officials conducted a seminar for Ho-Kay-Gan residents in March after a number of lion sightings heightened fears there.

This past week, they conducted a similar meeting in Prescott Valley where residents have reported seeing a lion within a quarter-mile of the intersection of the Iron King and Peavine trails between Prescott and Prescott Valley.

So far the lions that people recently have sighted have stuck to their traditional bill of fare, and Game and Fish officials are reluctant to intervene until the animals behave aggressively toward people.

In the meantime, people who live in those formerly primitive areas need to be careful about themselves, their pets and leaving any edibles outside. Living where you can enjoy nature has a price.

http://prescottdailycourier.com/main.asp? SectionID=36&SubSectionID=73&ArticleID=44324

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Bobcat sighting spooks Orlando-area pet owners

Wildlife officials urge Windermere-area residents to keep tabs on their animals.

Rich Mckay - Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted May 26, 2007

Windermere, there's a razor-clawed bobcat on the prowl, and your pets are on the menu.

Your Russian blues, Welsh corgis, bichon frises and other jewel-collared critters could be game. Poofy-haired or not.

The wildcat has been spotted skulking along a fence line between some woods and the manicured backyards at The Willows of Lake Rhea just north of Windermere in Orange County.

For about a week, neighbors say, they have seen the animal behind their fence.

Neighbors have been calling Orange County Animal Control and rangers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

But the answer they get is to do nothing, unless the animal appears to be rabid or is killing pets.

"We tell people that if we remove one [bobcat], it's not really solving the problem -- there'll just be another one," said Joy Hill, a spokeswoman for the wildlife commission.

"People have to understand that bobcats have been here longer than humans," she said. "They typically don't cause a real problem, so we tell people just don't approach them and don't try to feed them."

Most bobcats will not approach humans, said Mark Hostetler, a wildlife ecologist and professor at the University of Florida.

"They're creatures of opportunity," he said.

That doesn't mean anyone should get cuddly with the tufted-eared wildcat.

The spotted carnivores with sharp fangs, retractable claws and an appetite for mammals under 12 pounds are native Floridians, although many longtime residents have never seen one.

They're reclusive beasts with an uncanny ability to blend in as they hunt their favorite snacks -- rats, rabbits and mice.

But that's not to say that bobcats don't ever cause problems.

In 2002, a hiker in Rock Springs Run State Reserve near Apopka was one of three people attacked by one [rabid] bobcat in back-to-back incidents before it was shot dead, still clinging to a ranger's arm.

That same year, at least 10 housecats in west Orange County were slaughtered, and a bobcat was blamed.

Hostetler said that pet-eating is rare, though.

"I'd be concerned if it started exhibiting unusual behavior, such as losing its fear of humans," he said.

And that's exactly what Willows resident Ingrid Peri fears.

She's among the people who have seen the bobcat trotting along or just sitting by the treeline, watching her yard and her three dogs.

"It was like it was hunting us, and then it crouched down," Peri said. "It didn't look scared at all."

Peri and her daughter Susan, 22, said they've seen other bobcats -- also called lynxes -- in the woods.

As of yet, there are no reports of slain cats or dogs.

Hill's advice: "Keep an eye on your pets."

Rich McKay can be reached at 407-420-5470 or rmckay@orlandosentinel.com.

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/orange/orl- bobcat2607may26,0,7835755.story?coll=orl-news- headlines-orange

India: Boy killed in leopard attack

26 May, 2007 l 1509 hrs ISTlPTI

VADODARA: A 12-year-old boy was killed in a leopard attack near Mahudha area of the city, forest department officials said.

Arjun Kumar was sleeping outside the hut along with his family members when the animal attacked him on Friday, officials said.

The boy's body was later recovered. The pugmarks of the leopard have also been found. Cages have been kept by the forest department in the area to catch the leopard.

According to officials "this is first time, such an attack by a leopard is reported in the area, which mostly has sugarcane fields."

Meanwhile, a caracass of a female leopard was recovered from Sadakpor village in Chikhli taluka of south Gujarat on Friday.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Boy_killed_ in_leopard_attack/articleshow/2076030.cms

Bobcat the likely attacker in Minn. mauling

5/25/2007 7:28:27 PM
Associated Press

BAGLEY, Minn. -- A Department of Natural Resources officer said there's a good chance that a bobcat was behind the attack on a sleeping camper in Itasca State Park.

Jon Kenning said he was attacked while sleeping in a tent early Thursday. Kenning, a Creighton University professor who was leading students on a biology field course, suffered facial cuts.

DNR conservation officer Greg Spaulding looked at photos of Kenning's injuries and said a bobcat is the likely culprit. He said it's possible that snoring or a head moving in the tent would have caused a bobcat to think it saw a prey animal.

"If indeed it was a bobcat, it would have been as surprised as the camper when it realized that its prey was a human," said DNR spokesman Mark LaBarbera. "Bobcats generally avoid all human contact."

http://www.postbulletin.com/newsmanager/templates/ localnews_story.asp?a=295527&z=2

Friday, May 25, 2007

Two tiger cubs found dead in Indian well, third survives

Sunny Sebastian

JAIPUR: Two tiger cubs were found dead in a bawri ( steep well) near Ganeshpuri in the Khandar range of the Ranthambhore National Park in Sawai Madhopur district of Rajasthan. A third cub, dehydrated and injured along with them in the 20-25 feet deep well, was rescued on Wednesday and reunited with its mother on Thursday.

Interestingly the cubs, said to be three months old, were not listed in the tiger census held in the Project Tiger sanctuary earlier this month. Information on the cubs was first given to the Khandar range authorities by the villagers. Ranger Vijaypal Singh who reached the spot took out the cubs with the help of the local people. Veterinary experts after examination pronounced two of them dead while the third one was provided with medical aid. By Wednesday afternoon the carcasses of the cubs were burnt as stipulated by the conservation laws.

The post mortem revealed empty stomachs indicating that the cubs had fallen into the well at least two days ago . The rescued cub was put on drips and treated with anti-biotics and vitamins.

R.S. Shekhawat, Deputy Director of Ranthambhore Park, talking on phone confessed that the cubs and their mother were not listed in the recent census in which pug mark/ plaster cast method and the technique of counting at the water holes were applied. "We had counted six tigresses with litters during the census operations and this is the seventh one," Mr. Shekhawat said while refusing to give out the total number of cubs in the Park at present. Though the census figures are yet to be announced officially, sources said that the area presently had at least three tigresses with three cubs each and another two felines with two cubs each.

http://www.hindu.com/2007/05/25/stories/2007052514660100.htm

India: Tiger population is a 'national crisis'

Published: 25/05/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)

Agencies

New Delhi: Terming the dwindling tiger population in the country "alarming and a national crisis", experts yesterday demanded a separate wildlife protection cadre on the lines of the Rapid Action Force.

"The government was planning to set up a wildlife crime control bureau but nothing has happened so far. The partial tiger report published by the Wildlife Institute of India should wake authorities from their slumber," said Tito Joseph, a senior project officer at the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

Renowned tiger expert Raghu Chundawat said India needs a dedicated wildlife cadre as early as possible.

"An autonomous body under a senior Indian Police Service official is the need of the time. A wildlife protection cadre on the line of Rapid Action Force should be formed immediately," Chundawat said.

In its partial tiger report, the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has recorded that there are only 490 tigers in the 16 reserves of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. The 2002 census had recorded 1,233 tigers in these states.

Rubbished

Although the ministry of environment and forest has termed the report unofficial, experts rubbished the government's stand.

"The government has sanctioned Rs130 million (Dh11.8 million) for the census and the WII is a part of the ministry. Now how can they term it unofficial? It's a glimpse of their casual attitude towards a grave problem," said Chundawat.

He said the institute used camera and pugmark photography methods for the report.

"There were a few glitches in the report but it's trustworthy and almost accurate," Chundawat added.

The WII report reveals the number of tigers in Madhya Pradesh has gone down to 276 from 710 in 2002, a decline of 61 per cent. Similarly, in Maharashtra there were only 102 tigers compared to 238 in 2002.

Rajasthan is home to 32 tigers now compared to 58 five years back and Chhattisgarh only has 26 tigers compared to 227 during the last census.

Ashok Kumar, vice chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India also expressed his disappointment over the alarming situation and said the government needs to be quick in addressing the issue.

"Otherwise we will read about tigers in our history books," he said.

Archaic

Kumar said conservation methods used by the government are archaic and patrolling needs to be strengthened. "Apart from vehicle patrolling, they need to go for foot patrolling and the intelligence gathering mechanism needs to be strengthened to stop poaching," he said.

"To stop poisoning of tigers and human-animal conflict, the government should give some compensation to villagers whose cattle were preyed upon by tigers. Thus they can avoid poisoning of tigers by village people," Kumar said.

"Nearly 25 per cent of forest guard vacancies need to be filled immediately," he added.

Elaborating further, Chundawat said the ministry of environment and forest should be converted into two separate ministries.

"The ministry is now only working as a environmental clearance certificate providing agency. The focus is not on wildlife but on providing no objection certificates to industries."

Carcasses of two cubs found in park

Forest guards found the carcasses of two tiger cubs in a well in a park in northwestern India, an official said yesterday.

Another cub was rescued alive on Wednesday from a 3-metre-deep well in Ranthambore National Park, a popular tourist destination for sighting tigers, said Fateh Singh Rathod, the official who heads the park.

All the cubs are nearly three months old and were probably abandoned by their mother, Rathod said.

Authorities are investigating whether the two cubs died of hunger or were killed in some other way, Rathod said.

Poaching and a vanishing habitat have savaged India's tiger population, which was believed to number in the tens of thousands a century ago.

Conservationists say early results of a new survey indicate that the last tiger census in 2001-02 - which found about 3,500 tigers - was far too optimistic.

The park, which contains a fortress built 700 years ago, was one of the first focuses of India's 33-year-old campaign to save the Bengal tiger from extinction in the wild.

The Ranthambore National Park has an area of 155 square kilometres.

http://www.gulfnews.com/world/India/10127571.html

India: Census in 2004, confusion over tiger count

Issue Date: Friday, May 25, 2007

OUR CORRESPONDENT

Ranchi, May 24: The sight of the big cat is a rare one at the Palamau Tiger Reserve but if asked about the exact count, the number may vary from seven to 37.

The state forest department is clueless about what could be the exact number of the big cats right now. When asked, chief conservator of forests (wildlife) U.R. Biswas said the number of the big cats ranges between 34 and 38. But his estimate of the tiger population was based on the census conducted in 2004. There was no census of the tiger in the Palamau Tiger Reserve since 2005. Ironically, tiger trackers put the figure at not more than seven.

He said the census conducted by Wildlife Institute of India, which released the tiger population in 16 of 28 reserves yesterday, will release it for the Palamau Tiger Reserve by December.

The chief conservator said the method they adopted to assess the tiger population was by tracing pug marks. However, the reliability of the method was always questioned, though it had been followed since 1935, he added.

The Wildlife Institute of India has conducted the census using scientific technique of collecting direct evidences through camera trap and statistical analysis.

The institute had rated Palamau Tiger Reserve as “very good” despite issues involving separatists, poor law and order situation and declining tiger numbers. Interestingly, the actual number of tigers in the Palamau Tiger Reserve had always been a matter of dispute.

Since the first census in 1934, population of tigers showed a steady decline till 1972 when their number dwindled to 17. However, after the declaration of the sanctuary in 1973, the number showed a rise, reaching a figure of 55. The 1991 census figure shows the tiger population as 54. The 2004 animal census puts the number at 38.

Significantly, the report of Comptroller & Auditor General, tabled in the House this year, had also raised objections to the method of census adopted by the reserve.

The test check showed that annual tiger estimation was conducted in Palamau Tiger Reserve by untrained staff on the basis of pug marks, which was not a scientific method of census, the report noted.

"It was against the guidelines issued by the ministry of environment and forests from time to time for tiger estimation," it pointed out.

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1070525/asp/ jamshedpur/story_7826652.asp#

Cougar Hunting Roundup 2007

Mountain lion numbers are up around most of the West. In fact, Idaho managers are calling one part of their state “cat heaven.” Here’s where to start your prowl. (January 2007)

By Richard Alden Bean


Tracking big, solitary cats is much easier with snow on the ground.
Photo by Cathy and Gordon Ilg.


Of all North American big-game animals, the cougar is perhaps the most mysterious, glamorous, and hardest to hunt. Critics of cougar hunting abound. California has outlawed it. But in the rest of the West, mountain lion hunting is alive and well, especially in the Rocky Mountain states.


We took a look at the overall situation and gathered information from various state wildlife agencies to help hunters line up a cougar hunt in 2007.


NEW MEXICO
“The population is doing well and growing,” said Rick Winslow, of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. “We have a lot more lions than we thought.” The season started in October and continues through March 30 on public land. There is no season on private land, so hunters can hunt year ‘round. In a few locations, the limit is two cougar because of their impact on bighorn sheep. Check with the department before choosing your spot.


UTAH
In Utah, however, managers said mountain lion numbers are down -- but that’s a good thing.


“We lowered cougar populations during the drought years to reduce the impact on our stressed deer herds,” said Kevin Brunell, Utah Mammals Program coordinator. “There are still quite a number of cats. We set up our hunting three ways. We have units that are limited-entry, and we have limits that start out being limited-entry, then change, based on the number of lions taken.”


The state keeps track of kills through a call-in line and Web site. Harvest numbers are updated daily. Once a unit’s optimum quota is reached, the unit closes.


WYOMING
“We don’t even try to estimate our lion population,” said Dave Moody, Wyoming’s Trophy Game coordinator. “The approach we are taking now is to monitor the status of lions through the kill. I think we will see a slight increase in the harvest. It’s now around 200 cougar annually.”


The season runs from September to March, but the snowy months -- November through January -- are the best for hunting lions.


The state also operates a quota system by hunt units. Wyoming also has a hotline and Web site where hunters can check if a unit is still open. Contrast the unit-by-unit approach used by Utah and Wyoming with that of Nevada and Arizona, which are wide open for cougar hunting.


NEVADA
“Cougars are abundant,” said Russ Mason, game bureau chief for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. “Our data shows mountain lions in Nevada as stable to slightly increasing.”


Getting a cougar tag in Nevada is an over-the-counter deal, he said. Anybody who wants one can get one.


“Our regulations are as liberal as anywhere in the West. We have places here that unless you have good dogs and a snowmobile, you are going to be chasing them forever. There’s abundant opportunity.”


ARIZONA
“We have a year-round season,” said Mark Zornes, Arizona Game and Fish Department biologist.


Arizona doesn’t have quotas by game management units, but does have areas where the state has identified harvest objectives, where lion predation is affecting bighorn sheep or deer. Most hunters here either own dogs or hire a houndsman as a guide. But a growing number of hunters are also using predator calls to lure cats within shooting distance.


Cougar Hunting Roundup 2007


A lot of the harvest is driven by how much snow falls. Arizona is fairly unique, in that places get good snows above the Mogollon Rim, which cuts the state from the southeast to the northwest. “Above the rim you get snow, but below the rim, you get little or none,” said Zornes. “Those small detached mountain ranges in the southeastern part of the state are very good lion country.”


IDAHO
“No doubt that Idaho has lots of mountain lions,” said Ed Mitchell, public information officer for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “I can’t give you exact numbers; they are uncountable in real terms.”


They live in our mountains, in the southern deserts, and particularly in the chain of mountains that runs east-west along the Idaho, Nevada and Utah border, Mitchell said.


“That’s cat heaven down there. There is a season, but it is a very long one. They are hunted and trapped in Idaho, mostly with dogs. We allow a limited number of non-resident houndsmen to hunt in Idaho. The only way you’re ever going to see a cat reliably is with hounds.”


COLORADO
In Colorado, the state has implemented a harvest-limit system.


“Our objective is usually smaller than the number of permits, because we know that not all hunters will be successful,” said biologist Jerry Atker of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.


The annual total of 557 is divided into various game management units. The season runs from mid-November through March 31. Slightly fewer permits are expected to be available.


Atker notes that Colorado has no restrictions on out-of-state houndsmen. “They do have to make sure their dogs have all their shots. A number of houndsmen from Minnesota and Wisconsin like to bring their dogs to Colorado to hunt cougar. We also have a lot of good houndsmen and guides in Colorado whom out-of-state hunters can book.”


Colorado is trying to encourage hunters to check the state’s Web site for information on how to tell the sex of a treed lion. Starting in the fall 2006 portion of the season, there was a requirement for hunters to take an on-line hunter education class on this, Atker said. In the future, this test is expected to be mandatory.


MONTANA
In 1998, Montana hunters took 776 lions, said research biologist Rich DeSimone of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “We just didn’t know what our population really was, and we continued to increase quotas until the numbers declined,” he said.


Managers tried to reduce lion numbers, but didn’t seem to be seeing results. So they kept increasing the quota year after year. At the same time, they had a huge deer die-off.


“We discovered we had overshot our intended mark,” said DeSimone. Every year since 1998, they’ve been reducing the quota. Now, there are about 330 permits available.


DeSimone noted that the state recently passed a bunch of new regulations. “We have a supply-and- demand problem and we are changing.”


In northwest Montana, where the majority of permits are distributed, the number of non-resident permits was reduced to 10 percent of the total. In Southwest Montana, they put non-resident hunting on a permit-only basis.


Cougar Hunting Roundup 2007


FOR YOUR INFORMATION
The following contact information will be helpful in getting a handle on cougar hunting.
• As noted, Arizona’s cougar season runs all year. A license is $25.50 for residents, $113.50 for non-residents. Visit www.gf.state.AZ.us, or call (602) 947-3000.
• In New Mexico, the season is Oct. 1 through March 31. Residents pay $43.00, while out-of-state hunters are charged $290.00. Check the Web site www.wildlife.state.NM.us, or call (505) 476-8000.
• Nevada has plenty of over-the-counter cougar tags available. Residents pay $32.00 for a license, and $29.00 for a lion tag. Non-residents pay $142.00. Visit www.NDOW.org, or call the Nevada Department of Wildlife at (775) 688-1500.
• For a lion permit, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources charges residents $29.00 and out-of-state hunters, $154.00. The season is Nov. 22 through June 3.
• Colorado charges non-resident hunters $251.00, while residents pay $41.00. Check wildlife.State.CO.us, or call (303) 297-1192.
• Idaho hunters lay out $12.75 for a license and $11.50 for a cougar tag. Non-residents pay $141.50 for a license, $151.75 for a tag. Check out FishAndGame.Idaho.gov, or call (208) 334-3700.
• For available over-the-counter tags Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks charges residents $19.00 and non-residents $320.00. There is a split season for cougar: Fall 2006 was Oct. 22 through Nov. 26. The winter season runs from Dec. 1 through April 1. Check fwp.MT.gov, or call (406) 444-2535.
• Wyoming charges residents $25.00 and non-residents, $301.00. Check gf.state.WY.us, or call (307) 777-4600 for new regulations.

http://www.rmgameandfish.com/hunting/ big-game-hunting/RM_0107_02/

Mountain lion killed by Colo. wildlife officials

written by: Dan Boniface , Web Producer
created: 5/24/2007 4:20:04 PM
Last updated: 5/24/2007 4:23:19 PM

BOULDER – A mountain lion, which had been deemed a "nuisance cat" by wildlife officials was shot and killed on Thursday.

Division of Wildlife officials say for the past three days, the mountain lion had been reportedly in the Pinebrook Hills subdivision within the city limits.

"We had a problem up there," said Jennifer Churchill, a spokeswoman for the Division of Wildlife.

Churchill says the mountain lion had been aggressively taking pets from people's yards and had clearly become far too comfortable around people.

In one instance, a woman went to let her dog out and realized the lion was not only in her yard, but was at her back porch, according to Churchill. The woman saw the mountain lion and did not let her dog out.

Churchill says the male cat weighed an estimated 100 pounds. His body will be sent to Fort Collins for a necropsy.

http://www.9news.com/news/article.aspx?storyid=70744

Olympic bid inspires leopard conservation in Russia

MOSCOW (REUTERS) -- Russia has launched a scheme to rebuild the population of endangered Persian leopards in its Caucasus mountains in time for the Winter Olympics it wants to host in the region in 2014.

Environmental group WWF, with backing from two Russian firms, is to put baby leopards bred in captivity into special pens in a national park before releasing them into the wild.

Animal conservationists began construction work on the pens on Wednesday at the start of a six-year pilot scheme to reintroduce the graceful feline species, which has been hunted to the edge of extinction in Russia.

Persian leopards can be found in the wild in Russia's Caucasus region but the country does not have a viable, self-contained population. They only survive because they migrate into neighbouring Georgia and mate with animals there.

"The stakes are high, but we are glad that our idea of reintroducing the leopard in the Russian Caucasus has received support for the first time, not only moral support, but financial support as well, from Russian business," said Igor Chestin, the chief of WWF in Russia.

The project also involves new anti-poaching schemes and funds to monitor the leopards, with funding from mobile phone operator Beeline and the Roza Khutor ski resort, which is controlled by oligarch Vladimir Potanin's Interros group.

Russia's bid to host the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi has made it keen to demonstrate its environmental credentials after environmental groups initially said it would cause damage to the region's fragile ecology.

The high hopes for the Persian leopard contrast with growing pessimism about the survival of Amur leopards in Russia's far east. One of only seven females left in the wild was shot by hunters last month and less than 35 survive, well below the numbers required for their long-term survival.

http://www.knx1070.com/pages/498722.php? contentType=4&contentId=537173

India: Eight-yr-old boy killed in leopard attack

Express News Service

Vadodara, May 24: AN eight-year-old boy was fatally attacked by a leopard at Tharchoda village in Dahod’s Garbada taluka on May 22 when he was asleep outside his hut along with his elder brother and sister, according to forest officials.

In seven months three people have been mauled to death in leopard attacks mainly in Dahod, Godhra-Panchmahals forest divisions. In a similar incident last October, a leopard killed an eight-year-old girl in Panchmahal’s Lunavada.

The incident occurred in Nadelao forest area where leopards are mostly found. Though pugmarks of the leopard that attacked the child have been found, forest officials have not estimated its sex and age. Post mortem of the child is still awaited, said forest official.

RK Sugoor, Deputy Conservator of Forest (DCF), Baria forest division, Dahod district said the deceased, Sukhabhai Malabhai Kharad, along with his 25-year-old brother and sister was sleeping outside their hut.

“There were no other hutments in that area and the land where incident occurred was regularised by the forest officials for farming. Reportedly Kharad’s elder brother was staying in that area to till their land for farming,’’ said Sugoor.

He said that when siblings could not find him on May 22 morning, they thought he had gone to their parents’ house in Tharchoda village. But later, mauled body of the boy was found.

“Identification of the dead was done after his body parts were found,’’ said Sugoor. While the incident occurred on May 21 night, forest officials were informed on May 22 afternoon.

“Also, it took sometime for Kharad’s death confirmation,’’ he said.

In March 21, Puna Dharwa (65) was mauled to death after being reportedly attacked by two leopards, in Lukhadia village, Dhanpur taluka of Dahod district.

The two leopards were caught later by forest officials, and are now being kept at Sayaji Zoo in Vadodara. Also, leopards attacked two children ther same day, in another village in Dahod.

http://cities.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=237913

Thursday, May 24, 2007

India tiger numbers far lower than thought - Experts

NEW DELHI - Early results from a tiger census in India indicate the population of the endangered big cats is drastically lower than previously assumed, wildlife experts and conservationists said on Wednesday.

Experts from the government-run Wildlife Institute of India (WII) presented initial results of a new count of tigers in 16 of India's 28 tiger reserves and their surrounding areas.

The WII, which has been monitoring tiger populations across India for the past two years, did not give a new estimated national total for tigers but said habitat destruction and human encroachment were leading to declining numbers.

"In general, the situation is not good," Y.V. Jhala from the WII said after a presentation of population estimates from around 16 of India's 28 tiger reserves and their surrounding areas.

"The tiger reserves are doing much better than what we expected but the outside areas have lost most of the tigers," he said, adding that 60 percent of India's population of tigers was believed to be outside the reserves.

India has half the world's surviving tigers, but conservationists say the country is losing the battle to save the big cats. There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago, but decades of poaching had cut their number to about 3,700, according to a count conducted in 2001 and 2002.

Conservationists said they believed the new census results suggested there was a decline of 65 percent in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, which has one of the largest populations of tigers in India.

"The indications are that all over India, it will be the same," said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

"We appear to have only two healthy reserves from the 16 presented today -- it's a serious wake-up call and I hope it will shock and jolt state governments into taking action to save our tigers."

Earlier tiger counts had been done solely by spotting their pugmarks (tracks) but conservationists said that method was faulty, mainly due to varying soil and weather conditions.

The new method involves actual tiger sightings using camera traps, as well as pugmarks and faeces.

Jhala said while there was good protection for tigers inside reserves and national parks, the outer areas needed to be equally well-protected as tigers often move into buffer areas.

"The tiger reserves and national parks are too small to have a population which can survive on its own for the long term," he said.

WII experts said effective tiger conservation would only become a reality if reserves are connected to one another so tigers have a larger population and area to breed and hunt.

"The human population, where we add one Australia every year to the country, and demand for natural resources going higher by the day, (mean) a large carnivore living in your neighbourhood is not possible," said Jhala.

The WII said full national figures would be released at the end of the year.

Story by Nita Bhalla
Story Date: 24/5/2007

http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/ newsid/42107/story.htm