Friday, June 29, 2007
THURSDAY, June 28 (HealthDay News) -- Painstaking genetic research shows that the cat first became domesticated soon after humans began farming and building the first civilizations, somewhere in the ancient Near East.
And, in typical feline fashion, the decision to take up residence was theirs.
"Cats weren't domesticated on purpose, they just kind of invited themselves in," said study lead author Carlos Driscoll, a doctoral fellow at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. He conducted the research while at the U.S. National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, in Frederick, Md.
By now, the world's Fluffys and Sylvesters have planted their paws firmly across the globe. But these millions of cats appear to share a common ancestor, according to researchers reporting in the June 29 issue of Science.
Driscoll's team used genetic material gathered from cats worldwide to distinguish wild breeds from domesticated cats and hybrids, and to help determine when and where domestication first occurred.
"Cat domestication became complete by about 3,600 years ago, although the process probably began much earlier," Driscoll said. "It probably began with the origins of agriculture, which was about 12,000 years ago."
As farmland in the Fertile Crescent (modern-day Iraq) kept humans rooted in one locale, the first cities grew.
"Cats are very adaptable, and they adapted themselves to this new environment," Driscoll said.
Still, outside of their talent for eating mice and rats, felines weren't of any obvious value to humankind -- not like pigs, goats and cattle, which people worked hard to domesticate.
Instead, cats likely won humans over with a charm offensive, Driscoll said.
"Cats are nice. They tame down well, and there was just no reason for people not to like them," he said. As cats started to hang around cities and homes, "they were tolerated and encouraged," he added. It appears to have been the perfect plan, since the house cat now outranks the dog as the world's most populous pet.
The NCI study drew on genetic material from 979 domestic cats found "in Scotland, down though Cape Town, and all the way to Mongolia and lots of places in between," Driscoll said. The researchers also sampled the DNA of the world's remaining pockets of truly wild cats: Felis silvestris silvestris in Europe; Felis s. lybica in Africa and the Near East; Felis s. ornata in Central Asia; Felis s. cafra from the Sahara desert, and Felis s. bieti from the Chinese desert.
Prior to this work, specialists in feline evolution had based much of their theories on the archaeological and paleontological record. But, Driscoll said, cats' bones and other remains can only tell scientists so much. "There's actually very little physiological difference between wild cats and domestic cats," he said. "It's very difficult to tell them apart from their bones."
The common house cat also varies little in behavioral terms from its wilder cousins, he said. "Just by knowing how [house] cats can survive in the wild, you can tell they're not very much changed from their wild ancestors," Driscoll said. "They hunt just as well as a wild cat, and they breed even more prolifically."
Based largely on the archaeological record, some experts had speculated that the domestication of the cat occurred in separate places at separate times, giving rise to distinct lineages around the world.
But the new gene study tells a different tale.
"All [domestic] cats are related to one another, and they all come from the same place, and that's the Near East" Driscoll said. Today's domestic cats probably all descend from the wild cat native to the area, Felis s. lybica.
Looking much farther back into the record, Driscoll and his colleagues also discovered that the various lineages of wild cat began branching off from a common ancestor, Felis silvestris, more than 100,000 years ago -- much earlier than was originally assumed.
The findings are more than an historical curiosity. "Of the 36 or 37 species of cat, all of them are threatened or endangered except for the domestic cat. There's a real conservation aspect of this work," Driscoll pointed out. That's because one big problem facing the world's wild cats is their tendency to breed with feral relatives of nearby domestic cats.
The new findings "give us more evidence for a genetic basis to differentiate wild cats from domestic cats and the hybrids of the two," explained Bill Swanson, director of animal research at the Cincinnati Zoo. "So, if you are working to conserve wild cats, it gives you a way to determine if that population is genetically pure or if there have been domestic cat genes incorporated into that population," he said.
Interbreeding is a particular problem for European varieties, such as the Scottish wildcat, a focus of Driscoll's work in the field.
That the gene work was carried out at the National Cancer Institute points to its importance for human health, as well.
"Cats are great models for human genetic disease," Driscoll explained. "Things like retinal atrophy, for example. The Laboratory of Genomic Diversity is interested in that. They're interested in making the cat a better 'model.' This is a kind of genetic background check on the cat."
Find out more about cat genome research at the NCI Laboratory of Genomic Diversity: http://home.ncifcrf.gov/ccr/lgd/ comparative_genome/catgenome/whythecat.asp
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 28, 2007 01:29 PM
Apache Junction police are warning residents to be aware of a wild bobcat that attacked two dogs Wednesday morning.
A man in the area between the 1100 and 1400 block of North Starr Road told Animal Control officials his two dogs had significant injuries to the throat, ears and chest.
Police are searching for the bobcat and said residents should report sighting to the Apache Junction Police Department at (480) 982-8260.
Police suggest residents not approach the bobcat and to closely monitor small animals and children.
KATHMANDU, Jan 27: The Young Communist League (YCL) Wednesday handed over to the Department of Forest and to the police two persons allegedly involved in the theft of idol and in the smuggling of leopard skin.
The League's Kathmandu Valley bureau chief, Sagar at a press meet Wednesday said Jit Bahadur Gurung, 22, of Rasuwa district was involved in stealing of idol and Keshav Gurung, 19, of Syangja district was involved in smuggling of leopard skin. They were handed over to the concerned authorities with the goods seized.
Keshav was arrested in Trishuli with three leopard skins and Jit Bahadur was arrested with about three hundred-year-old idol of Lord Buddha from Samakhusi Kathmandu.
Both were caught red-handed three days ago after being tipped of their activities, Sagar added. He said the two were just middlemen and that the YCL was trying to catch the real culprits.
The two told the reporters that they were just involved in the theft and smuggling on commission and they did not know the real worth of those goods. They also said that they would help in finding the real criminals.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Originally posted on June 27, 2007
A dead Florida panther was found today in Miami-Dade County on U.S. 41 a mile east of Krome Avenue, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials.
The panther was apparently killed by a vehicle. It is a 120-pound male estimated to be about 4 years old. It did not have a radio collar or transponder chip.
While the panther was reported at about 5 p.m. Tuesday, authorities did not find the panther until 11 a.m. today.
The panther was the 14th killed on Florida roads this year. A record number of Florida Panthers have been killed on roads in 2007.
From The Economist print edition
A TESTY flick of a black-tipped tail and the lion shows itself, resting in a sandy-brown thicket after the arduous business of mating. The female is ten yards to the right, staring statuesque through the scrub. The pair of Asiatic lions, in Gir National Park, in India's western state of Gujarat, will conjoin every 25 minutes for four days. With every ejaculation, the male will emit an increasingly weary roar. Being a lion is not easy—and not only because the species is so inefficient at reproducing.
Little known even in India, the 350-odd lions at Gir are the last survivors of a sub-species that once roamed from Greece to eastern India. The lions in Daniel's biblical den were of this Asiatic kind, smaller than African lions, with a lower-slung belly. The survivors in Gujarat—which live, incidentally, alongside 20,000 descendants of African slaves, whose ancestors were freighted to the region two centuries ago—are a rare conservation success. There were just two dozen animals by 1900, when the local maharajas and British officers started shooting them less and protecting them more. But in the past four months, eight Asiatic lions have been killed by poachers.
Unlike tigers and leopards, which are poached for their pelts and for their bones to make Chinese traditional medicines, lion carcasses used not to be prized on the black market. That seems to have changed. The animals poached at Gir were snared, using steel tiger traps, by experienced tiger killers, members of an 'untouchable' community devoted to the task. Their bones—practically indistinguishable from tiger bones—were removed. Indian wildlife officials believe they will be smuggled to China, as either counterfeit tiger bones or an acceptable substitute for them.
Gujarat's state government, which relishes its custody of the last of the breed that adorns India's national symbol, has lurched into action. The chief minister has pledged an additional 400m rupees ($9.8m) to Gir, which will pay for 300 extra guards. There has also been an investigation into the recent poaching; 40 people have been arrested.
Alas, this may not save the Asiatic lion, if the plight of India's tigers is any guide. Despite decades of intermittent government flurries of activity to save them, Indian tiger numbers have collapsed, to around 1,800 in the wild, about half the world's total. They are victims of China's feverish demand for tiger-penis wine and for tiger bones, of a corrupt and moribund Indian Forest Service and of the populist concerns of the current government for the tribes who live, and sometimes poach, in India's protected forests.
Protecting the Asiatic lions will take more than money. A clear-out of Gujarat's indolent forestry officials is required. Hundreds of wells, dug in the Gir reserve by local tribes, need to be covered; 19 lions have drowned in these pits in the past five years. And a second lion colony is needed, in order to guard against a high risk of the Gir lions being wiped out by an epidemic. A suitable forest, in Madhya Pradesh, has been prepared for this; 1,500 families have been moved out of the area. But Gujarat's government, jealous of what it considers to be its lions, has refused to let any leave the state.
NEW DELHI, June 27 (Reuters) - An Oscar-nominated filmmaker will exhort Indians to conserve wildlife with a new film, but the message is contained in a racy thriller set in a famous tiger sanctuary instead of in a preachy documentary.
"The Forest" is director Ashvin Kumar's attempt to awaken the conscience of a country that once had an abundance of forest and wildlife, but which decades of neglect and poaching have nearly wiped out.
India's wildlife crisis, highlighted best by the dwindling tiger and lion population, has led to a huge outcry from conservationists and experts, forcing authorities to declare new measures to save the big cats.
Kumar said he avoided sounding like a crusader in his film because conservation could be more effectively conveyed through a feature film. So, he wove it into the story of a married couple holidaying in a forest, where a leopard maimed by poachers is on the prowl.
"Rather than preaching through wildlife documentaries and promotional films, I felt why not deliver a message through the medium of an entertaining feature film," Kumar told Reuters.
"I have been enjoying the jungles since I was a child and I find that maybe my children won't be able to. That's a big problem."
With about 3,700 of them, India is home to half the world's surviving tigers. But conservationists say it is losing the battle to save the animal considering there were about 40,000 of them in the country a century ago.
Poaching and habitat destruction are also the reason why many other species of flora and fauna in India are disappearing, they say.
Kumar, whose short film "Little Terrorist" about a Pakistani boy who strayed into India was nominated for an Oscar in 2005, says his new film aims to reach out to people unaware of the extent of poaching in India's forests.
"I picked up on poaching because it was something I could weave into a movie."
For inspiration, the filmmaker turned to the works of Jim Corbett, the British hunter-conservationist after whom a famous national park at the foothills of the Himalayas is named and where the film was largely shot.
"The Forest", which open in cinemas in September, has dialogue in Hindi and English and stars Bollywood actors Javed Jaffrey and Nandana Sen.
Anticipating trouble from animal rights activists in India, Kumar shot all the scenes involving a leopard in Thailand.
"It's really ironic that a film that tries to highlight this crisis could not be shot in its own country," he said.
COIMBATORE: The carcass of a panther has been recovered by forest officials from Matthipalayam, about 35 kms from here.
The district forest officials rushed to the spot on Tuesday and recovered the body of the eight-year old panther.
The carcass of a cow was also found near it, forest department sources said on Wednesday.
Suspecting that the cow's owner might have poisoned the panther, which frequented the area, the sources said that the viscera of both the animals had been sent to Chennai for laboratory analysis.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Curbing demand key to battling illegal trade of wildlife parts: Bo Derek
Published Tuesday June 5th, 2007
Actress and model Bo Derek provided some star power Tuesday at the Canadian launch of an awareness campaign to combat the illegal trade of wildlife parts, joining Toronto Mayor David Miller at city hall to encourage consumers to stop buying products that exploit endangered species.
The 50-year-old Californian, best known for her role in the 1979 movie "10," said the only way to save threatened species is by reducing international demand for their parts.
"I don't think this is a problem that we can solve only though enforcement, through laws and through politics," she said. "I honestly believe we must reduce demand, and that involves the individual."
She said that every year, thousands of endangered species are killed for their skins, ivory, fins and other body parts.
"So many tourists go overseas, they have no idea what they are buying are the cause of an animal's suffering and the extinction of an animal," Derek said.
But she said Canadians are still among those who travel to foreign countries and often buy products containing parts from endangered species, likely unaware the animals may have been poached.
"The blood of these animals is on our hands, more than even the poachers," Derek said. "If we didn't demand the products, there would be even less of a market to supply to."
"Most of us have connections with family and friends around the world," he said. "And I believe that by drawing attention to this issue of the trade in illegal animal products in
The Active Conservation Awareness Campaign launched Tuesday has already been operating in the
"I recently learned that
WildAid, the non-profit organization launching the campaign, has been running a number of public service announcements across
"I can't go to
The commercial campaign in
"It's all about staying aware and not being involved in the trade," Knights said. "We're finding the more we educate people, the more they change the choices they make."
NEW DELHI: The government has given in-principle approval for eight new tiger reserves but they could still be stuck for a while as the state governments are yet to give complete plans for the reserves to the Centre. To push for completion of these plans and conduct a Swot analysis of all tiger habitats before the monsoon sets in, the government has called a meeting of all the heads of the tiger reserves at Ranthambore on June 27 and 28.
The world heritage site, Kaziranga National Park in Assam and Mudumalai in Tamil Nadu will be the two most prominent forest areas to be added to the existing list of 28 tiger reserves in the country. Besides these two, Annamalai and Parambikulum contiguous tiger habitats in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Udanti Sitanadi in Chhattisgargh, Satkosia in Orissa, Achanakmar in Chhattisgarh, Dandeli Anssi in Karnataka and Sanjay National Park and Sanjay Dubai in Madhya Pradesh are the ones to get in-principle approval from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).
The two-day meeting to be attended by Union minister of state for environment, Namo Narain Meena, and other top officials from the Centre will discuss the condition of the existing and proposed tiger reserves and what steps should be taken in order to strengthen protection ahead of the monsoon, a season where poaching levels peak.
The meeting comes at a crucial juncture after the ministry had earlier in May botched up while sharing the results of the tiger estimation within the country. With the ministry earlier washing its hands off the dismal figures by calling them ‘unofficial’ figures of the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), independent wildlife research institutes had come out strongly demanding that the government own up responsibility. The state governments had come out saying the results were not reflective of the reality.
Even on June 20, the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore, the Council for Social Development, and Samrakshan, Delhi — four well known institutions carrying out wildlife research in India — along with NGO Kalpvriksh had written to the Prime Minister demanding that the government put the tiger estimation data and the figures out for public scrutiny and accept that there is a crisis at hand.
In what is bound to be seen as the first clear acceptance of the crisis and the figures emerging out of the new studies, NTCA member secretary Rajesh Gopal told TOI, "There is no issue about not owning up to the figures. The entire estimation process was conceived, designed, implemented, monitored and funded by NTCA. We guided the entire process and the partial results presented by WII were official estimates. The final picture will emerge when the complete results are shared with everyone in December. And they will be shared with the research community, civil society and the media in a transparent manner."
Two senior scientists had been engaged to carry out a pilot project in the Satpura ranges of Madhya Pradesh to test the new methodology before the Tiger Task Force was set up.
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
Last updated June 26, 2007 6:24 a.m. PT
CALCUTTA, India -- Poachers seeking to bag a Royal Bengal tiger in the Sunderbans reserve are encountering a unique new security measure to keep them away: hundreds of crocodiles that have been released in the mangrove forest.
Originally brought into the reserve in the late 1990s for breeding, the crocodiles are having the unintended beneficial effect of scaring away poachers from the forest - home to the largest wild population of Royal Bengal tigers.
"With tigers on land and the crocodile in water, the fear factor does work," divisional Forest Officer Rathin Banerjee said Tuesday.
During winter months, the crocs often come out of the cold water and lie in the jungle path of the poachers.
Nearly 400 crocodiles, bred in captivity over the years, have been released in the reserve, Banerjee said. A 2004 census said more than 270 tigers were roaming the reserve in West Bengal state, bordering Bangladesh.
"The use of crocodiles is one of the measures to save the wildlife there from poachers," said V.K. Yadav, a forest conservator.
Conservationist Ranjit Mitra said it was difficult to say how many tigers have been killed by poachers in the past five years, "but it will run into dozens."
Another conversationist called the idea of using crocs "novel."
"It is surely a novel idea, but this can be one of the measures to check poaching," said Animesh Basu of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, a local non-governmental organization.
The state Forest Department was assessing the effectiveness of the new measure.
"It is not like you count how many hens you had and how many have been taken away by the jackals at night," Yadav said. "Here the idea is to ensure that there is no unusual change in the demography," Yadav said referring to major species of animals in the Sunderbans.
India's border guards also have set up camps in the area to guard against the poachers.
"We are trying our best," Yadav said.
Preliminary results of a recent exhaustive study of tiger habitats found that the population in some Indian states may be nearly 65 percent smaller than experts had thought.
Conservationists said the early results indicated the most recent tiger census - which found about 3,500 tigers - was far too optimistic. The study was conducted in the past two years by the government-run Wildlife Institute of India.
By KATIE MENZER - The Dallas Morning News
LAGUNA ATASCOSA NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE – Sitting in her truck on a road surrounded by seemingly bloodthirsty thorn bushes in South Texas, Sue Booth-Binczik turned around in her seat and leaned out the window to talk to her research assistant. That's when it happened."Holy [expletive]! That's an ocelot!" shouted assistant Seth Patterson, leaping sidewise from the bed of the truck and onto the road where the animal had just crossed in a brown blur. Dr. Booth-Binczik, a research technician at the Dallas Zoo, was out of her seat in a flash and peering through the sharp bushes at the side of the road, but she was out of luck that day. The rare spotted cat was gone. "I missed it because I had turned around to talk to you," Dr. Booth-Binczik said in a good-natured huff. Few people in the United States will be lucky enough to see an ocelot in the wild today. The beautiful, smaller cousin of the leopard used to range in the thousands through Texas and parts of Arizona, Arkansas and Louisiana, but the species has all but disappeared thanks to hunting, habitat loss and inbreeding.
Dr. Booth-Binczik and other researchers at the Dallas Zoo have been working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and others to keep the country's last ocelots from dying out, but there's a lot to overcome if the agile, elusive creature is to survive. "It's a question of value for life and for nature," said Dr. Booth-Binczik, who often visits the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge to do research on the handful of ocelots here. "I think we have destroyed their habitat enough."
Fewer than 100 ocelots are left in the U.S. – all crowded into a couple of isolated pockets in the southernmost tip of Texas – and time isn't on the cats' side. Experts say a single blow – hurricane, fire or disease – could wipe the species from the country in a moment. But why save a cat most people have never heard of and even fewer have seen? Dr. Booth-Binczik argues it's a matter of survival. If alterations to the fragile spider web that is the Earth's ecosystem affect ocelots, then they're affecting other animals as well – including humans.
"We are not omniscient. We don't know which interactions between species keep ecosystems operating like they should," she said. "We don't know what will happen if the ocelot is gone." Ken Kaemmerer, curator of mammals at the Dallas Zoo, offers a less dramatic but no less compelling reason to save the tiger-striped feline. Ocelots are nice to look at. "We like cats," he said. "They're pretty."
The ocelot is a nocturnal, midsized feline that lives hidden in the dense thorn scrub of parts of North, South and Central America. Although a near twin of Texas' more abundant bobcat, the ocelot has a shorter tail and rounded ears. Its grace is as rare as its numbers. The striping and swirls on their coats are their fingerprints – unique to each animal – and their silky pelts were once highly prized by fur traders who helped hunt them to near extinction. Because the ocelot is now protected as an endangered species in the U.S. and Mexico, it is illegal to kill them today.
But even without guns, man continues to be the Texas ocelot's greatest threat. The native, inhospitable brush the cat needs for camouflage and protection is barely visible on either side of the Rio Grande today. In its place: cattle ranches, production plants and millions of acres of grapefruit trees, sugar cane, grain sorghum and cotton planted in the area's rich soil. "We've flown over South Texas and found that less than 1 percent has this very special habitat of thorn brush," said Michael Tewes, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation biology at Texas A&M University-Kingsville and an expert on ocelots.
The thorn scrub that remains is isolated in small, distant pockets not large enough to sustain large ocelot populations. Because the two known ocelot colonies in Texas are cut off from each other and the clusters in Mexico – the closest is 100 miles south of the border – the ocelots are inbreeding. Genetic diversity is suffering, Dr. Tewes said, and researchers know the cats will become more susceptible to disease and reduced fertility if the inbreeding goes unchecked. Jody Mays, wildlife biologist at the Laguna Atascosa refuge near Harlingen, said the cats in her area appear to be getting smaller.
And while individual ocelots used to have all pink or pink and black spotted noses, all ocelots on the refuge have the same coloring on their noses now. That's an indication that the ocelots are too closely sharing genes. "If I see a picture of one with an all-pink nose, I know it can't be one of ours," she said. "All our ocelot have pink and black noses." While bobcats, another of Texas' native cats, have learned to flourish in man's urban setting, the ocelot has proved itself unable to adapt to the changed environment.
Bobcats can be active in the day or night – depending upon their environment – and will venture into the open, brushless territory of ranches and neighborhoods to find food. The ocelot won't leave its dense brush habitat willingly. If forced out in the open and into daylight, it will inevitably meet its death. "The primary form of mortality for ocelots is being killed on roads," Dr. Tewes said. Even at the Laguna Atascosa refuge, where speed limits are posted at 30 mph and signs warn drivers of ocelot crossings, several of the cats have been struck by cars in recent years. The wildlife service and Texas Department of Transportation plan to dig ocelot underpasses beneath some roads to give the animals a safer commute, but the government is only in the initial phase of research.
Dr. Booth-Binczik's current research involves the not-so-glamorous task of counting, measuring and weighing rats, one of the ocelots' main sources of food. Her field pants appear polka dot with spots of blood from thorns, but she knows that the data she's accumulating in the harsh wilderness of the Laguna Atascosa refuge is essential to the wildlife department's survival plan for the ocelots. "With information on a place that supports ocelots, that gives us a good idea on what it takes to support ocelots," Dr. Booth-Binczik said.
If the scientists study what a successful ocelot breeding ground looks like – the number of mice per acre, the size of each ocelot's territory and so on – they can identify or redevelop other areas of brush land in Texas to support ocelot life. Eventually, the research will lead to the creation of new ocelot colonies that operate under federal protection, conservationists hope. During Dr. Booth-Binczik's periodic, weeklong visits to the Laguna refuge, she spends her nights quietly sitting in a pickup, counting the number of rabbits and other creatures she sees. Since the ocelot stalks its prey at night, it's important to know how much prey is available then.
In the early mornings – they begin at 5:30 a.m. – Dr. Booth-Binczik inspects the 100 live-catch mouse traps she's set throughout the prickly ocelot territory on the refuge. She and an assistant use an aromatic combination of peanut butter and horse feed as a lure, and they crawl deep through thorny underbrush to set their mouse traps. Dr. Booth-Binczik carries a roll of duct tape in the back of her truck to quickly pluck off the aggressive ticks and other critters that creep onto her arms and up her pant legs while she's in the brush.
"They say that if you throw a quarter and it bounces back, then that's ocelot territory," Dr. Booth-Binczik said. Each rodent she and her assistant catch is identified, measured and weighed. They also shave a small patch of hair on its underbelly with an electric moustache clipper and mark it with a Sharpie so they can identify the rat if it returns to the trap the next day. They wear thick gloves because the rodents aren't appreciative of the hands-on attention. "Their teeth can't usually get all the way through the glove ... unless they have big teeth," Dr. Booth-Binczik said.
Stuck by thorns, bitten by ticks and gnawed on by rodents. It's hard to believe they keep their senses of humor. But they do. "My assistant and I were joking that we should contact the shaver company and tell them, 'Your product is excellent for shaving rodents. I'm sure you want to highlight that in your next commercial,' " said Dr. Booth-Binczik, after about three hours of checking traps and shaving rats during a trip to the refuge this month. Starting up new colonies for the ocelot won't be easy for conservationists, despite the years of research that have gone into them.
Much of the land they need for ocelot territory is privately owned and used. Increasing genetic diversity will require moving ocelots from Mexico to the U.S., so diplomatic channels must be opened. And within the U.S., laws protecting endangered species do not make it easy to move ocelots around. While there's a lot to overcome, Mr. Kaemmerer is hopeful that the ocelot in Texas can be saved. "The American alligator was at one time endangered," he said, "and now they're as common as crud."
If all goes well at the policy level then Gir National Park, Sasan in Junagadh district will have two Forensic Science Laboratories (FSL) including one at Gir Sanctuary and one mobile FSL.
This is aimed at curbing lion poaching in the sanctuary. Gujarat is considering setting up these facilities.
Government sources say that three parties are involved in the discussions which include the Ministry for Home and Ministry for Forests and Environment and the top officials of the country’s most advanced FSL facility in Gandhinagar.
Sources added that a policy-level decision is likely to be taken before the election.
Sources in the Gujarat Ministry for Home and Gandhinagar FSL confirmed that the state is seriously considering setting up these facilities at the National Park.
A high-level official of FSL, Gandhinagar, while talking to Business Standard, said on terms of anonymity, “The state government is serious about setting up these facilities in Gir National Park. The government move is aimed at curbing the lion poaching.”
On the need for FSL facilities in Gir National Park he said, “If such facilities are available in the sanctuary itself it will be easier for the forest department to investigate poaching. The criminals can be nabbed within a shorter period if such facilities are there. The mobile FSL will be a part of the main FSL and it will be a big help in carrying out the initial investigation on the crime spot itself. In case a carcass is found in the sanctuary the mobile lab will help finding out if the animal was poached or it was a natural death,” he said. However, he said that no formal proposal has been made till now.
Government department sources say the final decision will be taken before the elections as it may help the government to project itself in different light. The move is also seen as a damage control process by many.
A major controversy was created recently after many incidents of poaching were unearthed in the Gir National Park. The state had confessed during the state assembly proceedings that 28 lions died during the last two years.
Carcasses of over 16 lions were found between February 24 to March 31, eight of them are feared to be poached. A number of arrests were made including three beat guards and a retired forest ranger. A gang of tribal poachers was arrested after investigation.
Recently, the Gujarat government has also decided to form a 10-member committee comprising of police and forest department officials. It will call a monthly monitoring committee and will monitor the conservation activities in the Gir National Park.
SALUDA COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A bobcat in Saluda County was tested and confirmed to have rabies.
The animal is now dead, but the bobcat bit a man before he died. The man is being treated to keep him from getting the fatal disease.
Rabies is a disease that causes inflammation of the brain. If people get rabies, it's usually fatal unless they immediately get a vaccination.
Infected bats, raccoons, foxes, skunks, dogs or cats provide the greatest risk to humans. Squirrels, rodents and rabbits are seldom infected.
The first step after being bitten by a rabid animal is to quickly wash the wound with soap and water to reduce the number of viral particles. Then the patient will need a rabies vaccine over a 28-day period.
Early symptoms of rabies in humans consist of fever, headache, and general malaise. As the disease progresses, neurological symptoms appear.
A new initiative in the Indian state of Gujarat will soon see forest staff in the country's only reserve of Asiatic lions get insurance cover. At present there is no cover available to thousands of forest personnel who work in wildlife parks in the state. Forest personnel who die on duty or who are injured have little access to financial help - which has lowered morale and affected recruitment. But the death of 19 lions last year has led to the launch of the initiative. It is the brainchild of the Gujarat government and a non-governmental organisation, Wildlife Trust of India. It comes into being after years of discussions between the state government and the trust, which has long argued that such a scheme would "motivate and boost the morale" of forest personnel. Similar schemes for wildlife staff operate in other parts of India. "The scheme was started in 2001 and is the only one of its kind that has paid 40 death claims to families of forest guards killed fighting poachers and in accidents involving wild animals while protecting forests," the trust's website says. The insurance plan was approved by the Gujarat government earlier this month. It will be financed entirely by the trust, in return for employees each paying 70 rupees (around $2) premium. The policy will cover the insured person against accident or death when on duty for 100,000 rupees (around $2,000). The Gujarat government is now in the process of collating information about the number of staff working in Gir - the country's only Asiatic lion reserve - and other wildlife parks, officials say. Another rare animal, the wild ass, is located in the Rann of Kutch in the eastern part of the state. The trust's Rakesh Kumar Singh said a large number of posts in the forest department are vacant at the moment. "Most forest staff do not want to go and work in parks, as they do not want to endanger their lives," he said.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Wildlife groups are calling on local, state and federal authorities ‘to end the bloodbath’
By Jeremy Cox
Originally published — 4:56 p.m., June 25, 2007
Updated — 8:50 p.m., June 25, 2007
At the end of a cramped hallway inside the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s office in Naples hangs an emblem of the Florida panther’s sorry plight.
The marker board with the words "Panther Pulse" at the top displays a pair of critical lists: the known panther deaths and births so far this year. At the end of the workday Friday, the tally stood at 18 fatalities and 29 new kittens.
By Monday morning, the death toll had reached 20. Two panthers died late Friday or early Saturday on Southwest Florida roads, the 12th and 13th to perish this year after run-ins with vehicle grills.
The first fatality broke a tie for most vehicle-related panther deaths in a single year, and the second elevated the record to a new high. Four of this year’s road kills have come in June.
State biologists who track the endangered animal see the sad statistic as an indication that the panther has succeeded beyond its means in Southwest Florida.
"It could be evidence they’ve shot up beyond carrying capacity, and they’re coming down to a more stable level," said Mark Lotz, a wildlife biologist with the state wildlife commission.
Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies reported a dead male panther Saturday morning lying on State Road 29, about two miles south of Immokalee. State wildlife biologist Darrell Land, who responded to the scene, estimated the cat to be 2-3 years old.
Later that day, a staffer at Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest called in another dead panther, this one a 20-month-old female flattened along County Road 832 in Hendry County. The body was found about a half-mile west of the fire tower.
The two locations are about 10 miles apart. It was the first time that panthers have been killed in unrelated accidents on the same day, according to state records dating back to 1972.
The 13 panther collisions surpass the previous record of 11, set last year. The average number of annual road-related deaths in the 1990s was two.
The surge in vehicular deaths has attracted the attention of two wildlife groups. Last week, the National Wildlife Federation and the Florida Wildlife Federation urged local, state and federal authorities to take certain steps to end the bloodbath.
"At this pace, the best case scenario is that these panther death will just barely be offset by panther births," the nonprofits said in the two-page letter, which was written when the road kill total stood at 11.
"In less than a week, it’s an antiquated letter," said Nancy Payton, a Florida Wildlife Federation representative who was one of the letter’s authors.
The groups’ recommendations to authorities include:
• Developing a regional wildlife crossing plan for Lee, Collier and Hendry counties with the help of state transportation officials and wildlife biologists.
• Extending fencing along State Road 29 in Jerome where two panthers have gotten trapped and run over; the most recent incident was June 11.
• Adopting the westernmost alignment for the County Road 951 extension in southeastern Lee County, sparing panther-sensitive lands to the east.
• Denying a bid to install an interchange on the Alligator Alley portion of Interstate 75 that would serve a proposed town called Big Cypress.
Collier County commissioners are set to consider signing an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at their July 24 meeting laying the groundwork for the creation of a network of wildlife crossings. Drafts suggest building underpasses and preserving wilds next to 22 roadway segments along S.R. 29 and Immokalee and Oil Well roads.
Such efforts come with a hefty price. A pair of new wildlife underpasses on S.R. 29, a few miles north of Alligator Alley, cost nearly $4 million each.
Dodging traffic has become the norm for panthers over the past decade. A successful breeding program boosted their population nearly threefold while a then-frothy real estate market thrust bulldozers inland, into panther territory.
Federal scientists estimate that at least 480 panthers — in two populations of 240 — must be established before the species can be moved from the ranks of the endangered to threatened. Their single population now hovers around 100.
If there is a silver lining in this year’s road-kill data, Land said, it’s that many of the cats were young males that are more easily replaced in the population than their female counterparts.
But, he added: "It is a shame to see their potential go to waste when we’re trying to make a bigger population."
Both of this weekend’s carcasses were taken Monday from Naples to Gainesville, where a state veterinarian will perform necropsies (an autopsy for animals) on the cats. Twenty panthers have died this year from all causes, including 13 vehicle strikes, four from unknown causes and two in fights with other panthers.
A 15-year-old female panther that had been living at a Tampa zoo was put to sleep because of old age.
The bloody years
Here is a look at the number of panther deaths on Florida roadways over the past five years. The average during the 1990s was two a year.
2007 (through Monday) -13*
2004 - 9
2003 - 10
* A record high
KOLKATA: A full-grown leopardess that had been causing panic among residents in the Matidhan tea estate of West Bengal’s Darjeeling district for the past few weeks was captured by wild life officials on Monday morning. It was snared into a cage containing bait.
Speaking to The Hindu over telephone Sumita Ghatak, Divisional Forest Officer [Wild-Life I], Darjeeling, preferred to describe the operation as a “rescue” exercise. She said the animal was later released into the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary.
Instances of leopards straying into tea gardens in North Bengal are not infrequent, Ms. Ghatak said. They enter the plantations from forests for lifting cattle and littering.
“We received calls from six tea gardens over the past six months of leopards having entered the plantations in the Kurseong and Siliguri Social Forestry sub-divisions”, she added.
Leopardesses prefer to deliver in the shelter of tea bushes that provide ample cover.
They are also drawn to the tea gardens which are considered safe from predators, Ms. Ghatak said.
The drains crisscrossing the plantations are much sought after by the leopards as well.
There have also been reports of the odd cub straying from the rest of the litter.
The wild life authorities, on such occasions, are informed and the cub is rescued, she added.
According to Wang Wei, an official attached with the Department of Wildlife Conservation of the State Forestry Administration, dead tiger parts should not be allowed to go waste.
"It will be a waste if the resources of dead tigers are not used for traditional medicine," the China Daily quoted Wang Wei, as saying.
The announcement comes after Chinese proposals to raise captive tigers for trade were rejected at last week's meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.
Reacting to this latest development in China, tiger expert Monirul Khan has warned that this would encourage poachers and the belief in traditional Chinese medicine, which has no scientific basis.
Khan of Jahangirnagar University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is working to minimise tiger-human conflict in the Sunderbans, and he has been advocating the "use of pet dogs" as an effective medium for reducing tiger attacks.
In a report compiled for the Save the Tiger Fund and published this week, he estimates tiger numbers in the Bangladeshi part of the Sunderbans at around 200, more or less the same as it has been for 20 years.
With the Indian Sunderbans home to some 100 to 150 tigers, the forest represents one of the largest unfragmented populations in the world.
"The terrain is very rough, so the tigers have natural protection," Khan says
Monday, June 25, 2007
Although hunters and trappers took a combined total of 258 bobcats last year, their numbers continue to increase, and this year the Pennsylvania Game Commission will award 1,010 permits for the 2007-08 hunting and trapping seasons.
Beginning Friday, June 29, the PGC will begin accepting applications for bobcat permits from holders of resident furtaker, junior combination or senior lifetime combination licenses, along with a non-refundable $5 fee. Mail-in applications are included in the 2007-08 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which are provided when hunting and furtaking licenses are purchased and are now on sale.
Mail-in applications must be postmarked no later than Aug. 15, and also Friday the PGC will begin accepting applications for bobcat permits through “The Outdoor Shop” on the agency’s Web site at www.pgc.state.pa.us, and must be received by midnight Sept. 4. Applicants may charge their hunting/furtaking licenses, as well as a bobcat application, to their VISA, MasterCard, American Express or Discover credit cards, and bobcat permits will be awarded Friday, Sept. 14, at a public drawing at PGC headquarters, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg.
Last year, 720 bobcat permits were issued, and of the 258 taken, 132 were males, 122 were females and four were not identified by those submitting report cards. During the 2004-05 seasons, 221 bobcats were taken; 2004-05, 196; during 2003-04, 140; during 2002-03, 135; during 2001-02, 146; and during 2000-01, 58.
Initially bobcats only could be taken in parts of northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania, and the area changed slightly with the adoption of Wildlife Management Units in 2003. In 2004, the bobcat area was increased by about 30 percent with the addition of two WMUs, and in 2005 and 2006, bobcats could be taken in WMUs 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D in southwestern, northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania.
For the 2007-08 seasons, WMU 2A in the southwest corner of the state has been added to the units open for bobcat hunting and trapping.
Thu Jun 21, 2:41 PM ET
DALLAS (Reuters) - Fear of predators is not instinctive but is a learned behavior that only develops when prey species share space with animals that eat them, according to a new study released this week.
The study's conclusion: remove the lions, and the zebras will lose their fear of them. But add wolves to a new territory and the resident elk or moose will soon learn they spell trouble.
Conducted by Dr. Joel Berger of the Wildlife Conservation Society, or WCS, the study compared the behavior of four prey species in three different settings: locations where predators still prowled; areas where top predators no longer exist; and places where carnivores had been reintroduced.
Such research is regarded as important to understanding the dynamics of reintroducing predators to ecosystems where they had been exterminated by humans.
"If you take away wolves, you take away fear. That is a critical piece of knowledge as biologists and public agencies increase efforts to re-introduce large carnivores to places where they have been exterminated," WCS said in a statement.
"When the predator-prey relationship comes back into balance, impacts ripple through the system. For example, when wolves returned to the Yellowstone region, they caused a cascade of events including a change in elk distribution, more wariness in moose, and a change in coyote densities," it said.
Wolves were re-established a decade ago in Yellowstone National Park in the western United States.
Berger tested reactions of animals living without their historic predators by playing recordings of wolves and tigers.
"As expected, in the absence of predators, the elk, moose, bison and caribou did not show the kind of vigilance, clustering behavior and flight observed in the same species living with wolves, bears or tigers," the WCS said in a statement.
"For example, elk in the mountains of Siberia -- who subsist alongside tigers, wolves and bears -- responded five times faster to the recordings than did elk in Rocky Mountain National Park (Colorado) where major predators have been absent for some 90 years," it said.
The study adds to previous work such as that on the evolution of flightlessness in birds on islands without predators. Such birds were often exterminated after the arrival of humans in part because they had no fear of predators.
The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Conservation Biology.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
COLLIER COUNTY: The body of a Florida panther was found Saturday along a rural Collier County highway, making 2007 the deadliest year on record for panthers killed on roadways.
The 12th panther death this year occurred on State Route 29, two miles south of Panther Pass, a pedestrian bridge south of Immokalee, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
After receiving a call from the Collier County Sheriff's Office, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission Panther Team leader, Darrell Land, said he picked up the male panther.
The animal, estimated to be 2 to 3 years old, had a kinked tail and no transponder chip.
"The panther will be taken to Gainesville for a necropsy," Land said.
Road strikes are the number one known cause of Florida panther deaths.
The population of the rare mammal is believed to be around 80, making the big cat one of the most endangered species.
The field director of the Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan, Som Shekhar, has been removed from his post following the death of a panther in the sanctuary. He is awaiting a new posting.
'We have placed Som Shekhar in the 'awaiting posting order' category for the laxity he has shown,' Forest Minister L.N. Dave told IANS.
A panther was found dead June 16 in Bhairunghati area of the reserve. While the forest department claims the animal died fighting other wild cats, doctors say gunshots killed the panther.
The Alwar district collector has been asked to conduct an enquiry into the panther's death, Dave said. According to the 2004 wildlife census, there are over 550 panthers in the state.
The panther's death comes at a time when the Rajasthan government is busy making a plan to rehabilitate tigers in the reserve.
The fight between the brave farmer and the leopard lasted for five minutes. Dharam Singh finally chased way the animal but fell unconscious and was removed to the district hospital by a subedar passing by. Dharam Singh is now recovering from injuries on his face, arms and over 20 stitches on his head. The forest officials have told The Statesman that they were "keeping a track of the leopard's movements in the region, just to be on the safe side".
Friday, June 22, 2007
* Biologists enjoy rare panther encounter!
* Why FP107 kittens died?
* Two females killed on the road in May
* What humans are doing
* What you can do this month
By Sylvia Moreno
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007; Page A12
ROMA, Tex. -- Since 1767, some 150 acres of wooded riverfront along the Rio Grande has belonged to the family of Cecilia Ramirez Benavides, land granted to her ancestors by Spanish settlers who colonized Mexico, or New Spain, as it was then known.
Generations later, much of the Ramirez tract, with its mile of riverbank, remains undisturbed, overrun by huge mesquite and ebony trees, thick clusters of prickly pear cactus and chaparral. It is inhabited by the endangered ocelot -- only 100 are believed to remain in the United States -- the bright-orange Altamira oriole with its distinctive whistle and huge, pouchlike woven nests, and the green jay, with its bright-blue nape.
Already, the modern world has intruded on this privately owned mini-nature preserve. Cecilia Benavides and her husband, Noel Benavides Sr., have given the Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Guard permanent access to their land to apprehend illegal immigrants and drug smugglers.
But the Department of Homeland Security's latest entreaty is where the couple have decided they must draw the line. Their tranquil piece of riverfront -- owned by the Ramirez clan long before northern Mexico became Texas -- lies directly in the path of the federal government's plan to build 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"They're going to destroy an ecosystem that took centuries and that's never going to come back," said Noel Benavides, an alderman in this small border city.
"But it's the law, we're told, and it's homeland security."
Whether Congress enacts comprehensive immigration reform legislation, one thing is sure. Part of the legacy of the contentious immigration debate on Capitol Hill will be the construction of a fence outlined in the Secure Fence Act, touted by Republicans last year as the first step toward a tougher policy on illegal immigration. The bill was signed into law by President Bush in October.
The law calls for the construction of double-sided primary fence (two sides of fencing with a roadway in between to accommodate Border Patrol vehicles) and of a "virtual" fence, created by radar and camera-equipped towers and other technology. The virtual fence will begin operating this month in parts of Arizona's mountainous desert. Seventy miles of primary fencing is being built in other parts of Arizona, California and New Mexico, and Texas is next on the construction schedule.
Congress has appropriated $1.5 billion in the fiscal 2006 and 2007 budgets for fencing, vehicle barriers and border lighting, and the White House is requesting $1 billion more in fiscal 2008, said Border Patrol spokesman Xavier Rios.
For many, the Rio Grande may only conjure up television images of illegal immigrants swimming or tubing the river from Mexico to Texas. But in South Texas, the river is the source for municipal water systems and farm irrigation districts and of recreation. It is a natural boundary between two regions whose history, families and commerce are intricately connected.
"Are we going to build another Berlin Wall, against Mexico? This will change the whole scenario of life down here," said Mike Allen, the recently retired head of the McAllen Economic Development Corp., which focuses on promoting trade and other exchanges with Mexico. "A fence is the most expensive brick in the mortar of border security and it won't work. If someone can swim this river, they can climb a fence."
Eagle Pass Mayor Chad Foster, who said he crosses the bridge daily to Piedras Negras, the Mexican city across the Rio Grande, said the lawmakers "that voted for this fence have never seen the reality of the border" and seen "the relationship that we have with our neighbors."
Early this year, border officials had two meetings with Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to get his assurances their advice and local considerations would be taken into account before the agency determined where it would build a fence and where it would erect electronic surveillance towers. But in late spring, a DHS memorandum that was leaked to South Texas officials said U.S. Customs and Border Protection was committed to building 370 miles of primary fence by the end of 2008. Texas will get 153 miles of fence; Arizona, 129 miles; California, 76 miles; and New Mexico, 12. A map of the proposed fencing was attached to the memo.
The documents sparked an outcry from border officials from El Paso down to Brownsville, as well as from farmers who plant vegetables, cotton and grain in the rich alluvium along the banks of the Rio Grande. Border businessmen who depend on Mexicans for a majority of their retail sales and private landowners, such as the Benavideses, were outraged, too.
The environmental groups that oversee a corrider of 182,000 acres of wildlife refuge along or near the river -- a top birding destination whose devotees infuse the deep South Texas economy with an estimated $150 million yearly -- said the region is now under threat.
For two decades, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has spent $80 million buying property along the Rio Grande, replanting the land with native vegetation to attract animals and birds and to create the wildlife corrider. That effort, environmentalists say, is now directly threatened.
"Fencing in general creates problems for wildlife," said Nancy Brown, a spokeswoman for the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo. "This wildlife corrider is a string of pearls [that has] 20 federally listed threatened and endangered species. This adds one more layer of difficulty."
In recent weeks, local Border Patrol officials have been meeting with landowners whose property might be affected by a fence, handing out pamphlets that show a picture of the World Trade Center burning after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with the phrase "Never Forget" and a message urging border residents to support the government's plan to build fences "to bring effective control to our nation's borders."
Border Patrol spokesman Rios said the agency is still assessing exactly where a structure would be built along the Rio Grande. "No final decisions have been made," he said, adding that the Border Patrol will take into account "environmental, cultural and historical aspects" of property that might be affected by fence construction, as well as issues regarding farmers' and municipalities' water rights to the river.
Richard Drawe is not only concerned about his water rights and access to the land he farms on the banks of the Rio Grande. He's also worried about the prospect of the federal government appropriating his land for a fence under eminent domain.
Drawe's family has been farming the area since 1917, and today he grows grain sorghum, cotton and vegetables on 1,400 acres. The fence, as proposed, would cut Drawe's farmland in half.
"All the land south of the fence would be unusable. We would be cut off from our land, plain and simple," said Drawe, who supports the addition of Border Patrol agents and the high-tech surveillance towers. "For somebody that's outside South Texas, it sounds like a great idea to have a fence. You have to have controlled borders, I know that. But there's other ways to do it."
Staff writer Matthew C. Wright in Austin contributed to this report.
JAIPUR: Panthers [leopards] seem to be the latest target of poachers at Sariska. A case of panther-death after being hit by bullets has left authorities red faced.
The panther was found dead at Bhaironghat area on June 16, the field director of Sariska, Somsekhar, told TOI.
"In a bid to save a smaller panther from a bigger one, a forest guard was attacked. He managed to save himself and reported the matter to higher authorities. On reaching the spot, forest officials found the young panther dead. But post-mortem revealed that the panther had died of gunshot injuries," he said.
PUNE: Kalpavriksh, along with a few other environmental groups, has urged the Prime Minister to take leadership in redressing the tiger crisis and facilitate a resolution on it at the next meeting of the National Development Council.
A memorandum in this regard was submitted on Wednesday. It has been signed by Ashish Kothari and Erica Taraporwala (both from Kalpavriksh), M.D. Madhusudan (Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysore), and Ghazala Shahabuddin (Council for Social Development, Delhi).
While asking Manmohan Singh to officially accept that there is a crisis, the memorandum said this would help mobilise and motivate all rungs of the government as well as common citizens to take necessary action.
It also suggested that the tiger conservation scenario could be vastly improved if the Union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) and state forest departments were to become more participatory and inclusive. "Over the last few years, the MoEF has become exclusionary, discouraging civil society participation in its processes. For the sake of tiger and other critical wildlife, this needs to be urgently reversed."
The group said rampant poaching has emerged as one of the biggest threats. "To combat this, the wildlife crime bureau must immediately become a strong and operational entity, staffed with trained personnel at all levels, including anti-poaching units at the ground level."
Bilaspur (Chhattisgarh) : Two poachers were nabbed in Chhattisgarh when they were allegedly striking a deal with a decoy customer for a leopard skin.
The Crime Branch of Bilaspur police seized the five-feet-long leopard skin, an air pistol, a sword and the car in which the men were travelling in the district on Sunday.
The accused, Ravi Pandey and Kuldeep Kumar, were booked under various sections of The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, and section 25 of the Arms Act.
A Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) official, who had been in touch with the traders for more than four months to clinch the deal, tipped police about them.
Both men are natives of Baikunthpur town in Koriya district of Chhattisgarh, an official said Thursday.
Wildlife undercover agents in the state have been monitoring the illegal activities of the men regularly and collecting information in order to form an effective plan to catch them.
"The decoy customer had promised to pay them extra money for the skin. This tempted them to sell," said WTI's Joydeep Bose.
"They asked me to follow them to their car, where the skin was kept. When they were showing the skin, neatly wrapped in a paper, the police team that was following us quickly surrounded the car. In the commotion, the accused pulled out an air pistol to scare them away, but police finally managed to catch them," said an official, who went as decoy customer.
Leopards in India are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, which prohibits killing and trade in their body parts.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
A 27-year-old man of Duze area was savagely attacked by a roaming leopard at Siphofaneni yesterday.
Fanukwenta Gamedze was attacked by the vicious carnivore all over the body around sunset before it fled . He sustained wounds all over his body and very deep ones around his neck. Gamedze was taken to Siphofaneni Clinic where he was treated and later discharged.
However, it was not clear where the leopard had actually come from because there are no game parks around the area where Gamedze was attacked. It was further established that it did not belong to any local one.
Gamedze’s unforgettable day at the hands of one of the most dangerous of the feline family started when a group of boys were herding cattle in the veld and suddenly heard a strange groaning sound behind a thicket of bushes.
Upon coming closer to investigate, it became clear to them that the sound was strangely unfamiliar. It was said that the now frightened boys were too afraid to get inside the thicket themselves to explore the source of these sounds, hence they took to their heels to report the matter at home.
It was further gathered that at home they found their three elder brothers, to whom they related the incident. Out of curiosity, the elder brothers wasted no time, but immediately took up arms, formed a small expedition and left for the veld. When they reached the veld, it was reported, they combed the thickets where the sounds had allegedly been heard, in a bid to find the animal causing the strange sounds. Little did they know that their little hunting expedition would end in a very sad way. This was because upon reaching the veld, the three young men tried to search the particular thicket where the sounds had come from and were a little surprised when the carnivore outsmarted them.
It was reported that the leopard spotted them first, as it leapt from nowhere and sprang onto Gamedze who tried to flee, but instead fell onto the ground face down. The leopard reportedly took advantage of Gamedze’s position, seized him and dug its teeth into his neck. Upon sighting the leopard, the other men were not courageous enough to rescue their friend, but instead took to their heels, leaving him behind to be devoured by the wild cat. A pack of dogs, which Gamedze and his counterparts had taken along, came to the rescue of the already bleeding Gamedze. It was said that the leopard and dogs engaged in a very fierce fight, with the canines biting its back.
When the going got tough, the leopard reportedly surrendered and vanished. It was said to have outran the dogs and disappeared into a nearby forest.
Gamedze, upon seeing that the leopard had fled, rushed to the nearest road with the aim of hitching a ride to the hospital. He was assisted by a good ‘Samaritan’ who called Siphofaneni police, who promptly arrived at the scene and took the wounded Gamedze to Siphofaneni Clinic.
In an interview, Gamedze said he felt very lucky to be alive as he was miraculously saved by the dogs. “I had a very narrow escape, if the dogs hadn’t been around, the leopard would have definitely overpowered me.”
He added that the nightmarish drama would always linger vividly in his memory.
Police Public Relations Officer Superintendent Vusie Masuku confirmed the incident, further warning members of the public to avoid walking at night because leopards usually roamed around at that time.
He also warned people not to provoke the animal if they see it, but to immediately call the police who would in turn contact Big Game Parks to assist in capturing it. Masuku further warned members of the public not to try and get near the animal as it was extremely dangerous, especially when provoked.
JAIPUR — A tiger cub, injured last month and returned to its mother after forest officials nursed it back to health, has been found dead in Rajasthan's Ranthambore National Park.
“The dead body of the cub was found around 10am on Monday while forest guards were on their routine tracking exercise in Khandar range of the park," said Sudarshan Sharma, a forest official. He said the cub was the same that along with two others had fallen into a dry 20 ft step well in the park on May 23.
The death of a panther in the Sariska tiger reserve has again raised concerns over the safety of wild animals in the sanctuary that has already lost all of its tigers due to poaching.
A panther was found dead June 16 in Bhairunghati area of the reserve. While the forest department claims the animal died fighting other wild cats, doctors say gunshots killed the panther.
The veterinarians who conducted the post mortem have refused to speak about it. But informed sources told IANS that the experts saw gunshot marks on the carcass and a hole in the panther's liver.
The report comes at a time when the Rajasthan government is working on a plan to rehabilitate tigers in Sariska after facing criticism for the disappearance of tigers from the reserve.
A 2004 wildlife census shows there are over 550 panthers in Rajasthan. Sawai Madhopur district, which houses the Ranthambore National Park, has the maximum number at 83.
By Melonie Magruder / Special to The Malibu Times
A mountain lion was spotted in the hills next to faculty condominiums on Pepperdine University campus last week, feasting on a freshly killed deer.
"A resident contacted us when he saw the mountain lion," Monica Loeffler, spokeswoman for the property management office at Pepperdine, said. "It was right near the Drescher condos below Via de la Casa and above the play structure on Mariposa."
The Pepperdine Public Safety office immediately contacted animal control authorities and the Sheriff's Department to remove the remains of the killed deer and patrol the site.
This follows the closure of several trails in the northern end of Arroyo Verde Park in Ventura after three mountain lion sightings were reported June 8 through June 10. That portion of the park was reopened on Monday.
Seemingly too close for comfort, mountain lions present a rare threat to humans, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. "For the number of sightings of mountain lions in the state, there are few safety concerns," department spokesman Harry Morse said. "Mountain lions are shy and nocturnal and they avoid people. But you can see them when they are hunting early in the morning or late at night."
"If a mountain lion kills a deer near a campground or trailhead or some other place where people go, we recommend that they block off the area and remove the remains, since lions will return to finish off the meal," Morse said. "They mark the area to keep other predators away, they might partially bury the kill and then they'll come back later. If the carcass is removed, they usually just go hunt elsewhere."
A mountain lion's hunting area can cover up to 100 square miles.
But what if a mountain predator's hunting area abuts human habitation?
"Mountain lions go where the deer are found," Morse said. "If you have a pretty green lawn and garden with nice vegetables and fresh water available, you are going to attract deer. And that will attract mountain lions."
In fact, a small family of deer is regularly seen grazing on the wide expanse of green lawn below Pepperdine at Pacific Coast Highway.
Morse continued, "If you live in the mountains and have a garden, we recommend putting up deer fencing and, with these near-drought conditions, don't leave water standing outside."
The Department of Fish and Game also recommends basic common-sense guidelines to living in mountain lion country, such as trimming bushes to reduce hiding places for the predators, installing motion sensitive lighting around the house and keeping small pets inside at night (see sidebar for other recommendations).
Whereas mountain lions rarely attack humans, there have been a couple of high-profile cases in California in recent years. A cyclist was killed by a mountain lion and partially buried in Orange County in 2004 and a woman was attacked nearby later the same day by the same animal. She survived the attack.
In January of this year, a mountain lion attacked a couple who were hiking north of Eureka, severely injuring the husband, and was finally driven away by his log-wielding wife.
But such attacks are statistically rare. Professor Lee Kats, associate provost of research and professor of biology at Pepperdine, said he has been on campus for about 15 years and deer-and, therefore, mountain lions-have always been a presence.
"Frankly, data shows that there is a much greater threat of driving on PCH than from mountain lions," he said. "We might have an innate fear of predators, but fatalities from lion attacks are very low. I think one of the wonderful things about living here in the Santa Monica Mountains is the great biodiversity. Our community benefits from it."
Like Morse, Kats recommends contacting park rangers, the Sheriff's Department or the campus department of public safety if a mountain lion is spotted feeding on a kill, or if a kill is discovered while hiking. "Authorities will remove the carcass and the lion will go hunt somewhere else," he said.
Morse said mountain lions are found all over California, particularly wherever deer are common. "Don't go hiking alone," Morse advised, "And if you come across a mountain lion, don't run away or it will key his pursuit instincts. Just face him, make yourself as big as possible, yell, throw rocks and wave your arms."
There have been instances of mountain lion sightings near state park campgrounds in Northern California, requiring portions of the camp areas to be closed for a while, but no wholesale park closures.
"Actually, one of the bigger problems has been reports of mountain lion sightings that turn out to be a simple bob cat, which weighs about 90 pounds less than a mountain lion," Morse said. "One report of a sighting had news helicopters up in the air when we found that it was only a house cat."
Mountain lion sightings can be reported to the Sheriff's Department at: 818.878.1808 or, if on campus, to Pepperdine Public Safety offices at: 310.506.4441
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
For the first time ever, scientists recently captured clear footage of a wild Indo-Chinese tiger in a nature reserve in China's southeastern Yunnan Province. The researchers used infrared cameras as part of wildlife monitoring and protection project supported jointly by the Xishuangbanna National Nature Conservation Protected Areas Management in Shangyong, Beijing Normal University Institute of Ecology, and the International Species Protection Project.
According to field studies and research from the late 1990s, the population of Indo-Chinese tigers (Panthera tigris corbetti ) in Yunnan is extremely low, and the tiger has disappeared from some areas of the province altogether. Until now, no definitive evidence had surfaced for nearly ten years to prove that the tiger still existed in the wild in southwestern China, although field researchers had recorded footprints and other clues indicating the large cat's presence in the region.
Wang Bin, managing researcher at the Xishuangbanna National Nature Reserve in Shangyong, and Beijing Normal University doctoral student Feng Limin have led the Shangyong Biodiversity Protection Effectiveness Monitoring Project since 2005. They discovered Indo-Chinese tiger footprints in the Shangyong protected area and set up infrared cameras using field survey methodologies to try to record and monitor potential activity of the cat and other wild animals.
The recent live footage of the tiger confirms the existence of an adult female, and experts believe this is powerful evidence that the Indo-Chinese tiger still exists in the wild within the boundaries of Yunnan Province. It also indicates the success of work at the national, provincial, and community levels to protect Xishuangbanna's natural areas from poachers, primarily through anti-poaching patrols and positive public participation from communities living on the periphery of the protected area.
Experts with the International Species Protection Project note that the discovery of the Indo-Chinese tiger in the wild may indicate that the tiger's population is stabilizing and becoming healthier—proving that the protective status of Xishuangbanna is working and that local ecosystems are still functioning. However, tiger and other wild animal populations in Asia continue to decline in the face of threats like illegal hunting and habitat destruction from logging, industrial farming, and tree plantations. Protecting the tiger's habitat and saving it from extinction in the wild will require not just Chinese efforts, but transnational cooperation with the neighboring countries of Burma and Laos.
China's wild tiger situation is still very precarious. Currently, four subspecies in the country—the Northeast China tiger, the South China tiger, the Indo-Chinese tiger, and the Bengal tiger—have wild populations below 50 individuals. While the protection of their natural habitat is key to the survival of these animals, time is pressing and the danger of extinction remains a strong possibility. It is critical that we seize this moment to continue anti-poaching, conserve habitats, and increase investment so that China can protect its wild tiger populations from complete extinction.
Li Zhang is Ph.D. & Associate Professor with Institute of Ecology, Beijing Normal University.
By Audrey Bright
WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. — A 62-year-old Florida man depended on his instincts when a bobcat attacked him, and it paid off — he survived, the bobcat didn't.
Dale Rippy, a resident of Wesley Chapel, Florida, was pulling trashcans back to his house May 30 when he saw what he thought was a large cat. After realizing the animal was actually a bobcat, he set the trashcans down and prepared for an attack.
Having grown up on a farm, Rippy said he knew the bobcat would attack when it didn't run away after seeing him.
"When it growled, I knew it was going to jump and bite me," he said.
The animal then jumped on him and began to scratch and bite. Rippy said he knew if he could get a good hold on the animal, he would be able to choke it, even if that meant letting the bobcat take a couple of bites.
"I started choking it when got a good hold," he said. "I choked it 'til he died. I got scratched up pretty good."
Rippy never had to go to the hospital, but was examined at a doctor's office due to puncture wounds on his stomach and scratches.
After the attack, his neighbor called the police, who then called animal control. After the animal was inspected, it was found to be infected with rabies.
Rippy said now, he and his neighbor that helped him after the attack have to have rabies shots.
"It attacked me because it was sick," he said.
Rippy said he has lived in his home 25 miles north of Tampa for 13 years and, although he has seen a panther and other animals in the wooded area behind his house, that was the first time he had ever seen a bobcat.
He also said those around him were very surprised about the attack and how he saved himself by killing the animal.
"The bobcat was big enough that it could have really hurt somebody, especially since it had rabies," he said.
The 16-member committee in conjunction with the forest department is to work for protection of the Pakke Tiger Reserve, about 250 km from the Chinese border.
The committee, locally called as "Ghora Aabhe", recently passed a resolution listing penalties for wildlife violations of 17 different wild species ranging from Rs.200 to Rs.30,000.
"Following this initiative, about 32 illegal locally made guns were seized from poachers. Many of the poachers have now promised to work for protection of the reserve," said Tana Tapi, divisional forest officer, who helped the villagers to form the committee.
A conservation organisation, the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), which is supporting the "Gaon Burahs" - village heads - with honorariums to carry out conservation actions, said villagers have been keeping a strict vigil in the reserve, which has led to the recovery of arms.
The 862-sq km Pakke Reserve in East Kameng district is home to many rare and endangered wildlife species, such as tiger, leopard, wild dog, Himalayan black bear and elephant.
Although wildlife trade is not prevalent here as in other parts of the country, hunting for food has been a major threat to wildlife.
"The reduction in hunting, particularly of prey species of the tiger, will help tiger conservation in the long run," said P.C. Bhattacharjee, professor at Gauhati University.
The committee would work to strengthen intelligence networks, enforcement activities and create awareness for conservation among the people. Repeated seizures would also act as a deterrent for likely offenders, Tapi said.
"The Gaon Burah's role is crucial since they can persuade people for sustainable use of natural resources," said Bhattacharjee.
"This initiative can be a role model elsewhere in the country where problems of hunting for food and trade are widespread. Fringe villages adjoining huge unmanned wildlife sanctuaries can play a stellar role in conservation," said Rahul Kaul, director conservation of WTI, who is supervising the project in Pakke.
"The Pakke Reserve, which is contiguous with the Nameri Tiger Reserve of Assam, is an important habitat for the big cats. This move by the villagers is an important step forward particularly in the light of the present tiger crisis in the country," he said.
IN a major breakthrough for the conservationist Landmark Foundation, the organisation rescued a large male leopard in Grootrivier- poort in the Baviaans Mountains.
The fifth leopard in the greater Baviaanskloof region to be rescued from certain death in the past three years, the catch is particularly significant because it is the first to be caught, tagged and released at the site where it had been captured.
Foundation director Bool Smuts said the 46kg male, caught in a live trap causing minimal injury to the animal, was healthy but had part of its paw missing following a previous encounter with a gin trap.
"One of the foundation's aims is to convince farmers to make use of alternative solutions to the problem of stock losses. Although there are many reasons for stock losses, the blame is often shifted onto leopards. If we are given the opportunity to tag leopards with GPS systems and then release them back into their territory, we have a better chance of tracking their whereabouts. This way we can prove whether a specific leopard is responsible for stock losses and . . . relocate it or put it down in cases where it has no teeth and eat sheep as easy targets."
Smuts said the release of the animal into its own territory was a sign that the foundation's campaign to rid the region of gin and poison traps were slowly bearing fruit and favour.
"When recent losses were reported on the Grootrivierpoort farm, the foundation helped to have live traps set on the farm. Within three weeks we caught the leopard in the live trap without significant injuries. For the first time an agreement was reached with the farmer to release it again on his property, which is important in the determining of leopard numbers – since leopards are territorial, a specific male's presence would mean it was highly unlikely that another roamed nearby."
Smuts said the foundation had experienced increasing support from the farming sector in the past six months as its campaign had gained momentum. The project has . . . rescued five leopards from . . . death, of which three have been . . . relocated to the Addo area.
"We wish to continue tagging and releasing the animals on the farms in which they are caught, however if that is not possible, we will continue to support local relocations as dictated by conservation officials. We will also continue our vocal campaign to have gin and poison traps outlawed," said Smuts.
Founded in 2004, the Landmark Foundation runs several conservation initiatives including the leopard project.
An adult male mountain lion was killed in the Arcata area on Saturday morning following a week of sightings and pet deaths.
Arcata Police Department Capt. Tom Chapman said the department received on Saturday its fourth reported mountain lion sighting within a week. The mountain lion was spotted in the backyard of a residential area.
A couple of cats and a goat were reportedly killed by mountain lions during previous sightings and/or attacks recently.
An APD officer shot and wounded the approximately 150-pound mountain lion in the 200 block of Shirley Boulevard, Chapman said. The animal ran away and the California Department of Fish and Game responded with dogs, who chased the mountain lion up a tree within 100 yards of the location of the reported sighting, he said. A hunter with DFG then killed the mountain lion, Chapman said.
"It was unfortunate that the mountain lion had to be killed, but our fear was for the residents in the neighborhood and the potential for a small child being attacked," he said.