Sunday, August 31, 2008

4 more tiger reserves get the nod

4 more tiger reserves get the nod

Neha Sinha
Posted online: Friday, August 29, 2008 at 2332 hrs

New Delhi, August 28: In A fillip to tiger conservation, the National Tiger Conservation Authority has given in-principle approval for four more tiger reserves in different states in the country.

The relatively unknown Rapa Pani sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, Sahyadri sanctuary in Maharashtra, Pilibhit sanctuary in Uttar Pradesh and Suna Beda in Orissa will be notified as tiger reserves. “These states had given proposals for becoming tiger reserves. We have given them the in-principle approval to create four new reserves. We have asked the states to send in detailed proposals,” says Rajesh Gopal, Member Secretary, National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Pilibhit, which often gets a tiger spillover population from Dudhwa Tiger Reserve, is reeling under poaching pressures. The other three sanctuaries, according to the Forest Department records, have a scattered tiger population. Becoming a tiger reserve will mean that the protected reserve will get funds under Project Tiger and will also have a dedicated Tiger Protection Force, for which a one-time allocation of Rs 50 crore was made under this year’s Budget. This force is dedicated to patrolling and vigilance over and above the vigil in protected areas by the Forest Department.

There are currently 36 tiger reserves in the country. This new notification will make a total of 40 tiger reserves. Madhya Pradesh remains the state with maximum number of tiger reserves. With this addition, the state now has six tiger reserves.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Rare Chinese tiger gives birth in South Africa

Rare Chinese tiger gives birth in South Africa

Published: August 29, 2008 The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa: A group devoted to saving rare Chinese tigers is marking a milestone birth in the wild.

The mother was born in captivity in China. She was brought to South Africa in 2004 by Save China's Tigers to learn to survive in the wild. The group said Friday she gave birth to two cubs earlier this month without human help.

The mother showed "the usual tiger instincts," hiding the male and female cubs in the bush, the group's statement said.

Li Quan, who founded Save China's Tigers, had expected the birth around Aug. 18. She saw signs of the birth that day, but the cubs weren't spotted for another 10 days.

The cubs' father also had been born in captivity in China. He was brought to South Africa in 2004.

The Chinese tiger hasn't been found in the wild in 20 years.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New plans to protect native tigers and elephants in Sumatra

New plans to protect native tigers and elephants in Sumatra

By Paul Eccleston
Last Updated: 6:01pm BST 28/08/2008

New measures aimed at conserving dwindling numbers of native tigers and elephants on the island of Sumatra have been announced.

The Tesso Nilo National Park - a critical area of forest for the two endangered species - is to be more than doubled in size, the Indonesian government said.

The Park in Riau Province contained only 38,000 hectares of forest when it was created in 2004 but this will be increased to 86,000 hectares by the end of this year.

Riau Province has the highest deforestation rate of any province in Indonesia suffering an 11 per cent loss between 2005 to 2006. It has lost more than 4m hectares of forest in the past 25 years which represents almost two-thirds of the original forest.

The province is home to an estimated 210 Sumatran elephants - the remainder of an 84 per cent population decline in the past 25 years - and 192 Sumatran tigers after a 70 per cent loss over the same period.

It is estimated there are 60-80 elephants and 50 tigers within the new boundaries of the Park which is one of the last strongholds for both species.

With more than 4,000 plant species recorded so far, the forest of Tesso Nilo has the highest lowland forest plant biodiversity known to science with more than 4,000 plant species recorded so far and many more still to be chronicled.

WWF, the conservation organisation, has been supporting the Indonesian government's effort to extend and protect the park as the last block of lowland forest in central Sumatra large enough to support a viable elephant population.

Dr Mubariq Ahmad, WWF-Indonesia's chief executive, said: "This is an important milestone toward securing a future for the Sumatran elephant and tiger.

"To ensure that the commitment is effectively implemented, we must redouble our efforts on the ground to eliminate poaching and illegal settlements within this special forest.

"Tesso Nilo is still under serious threat from illegal activities, but if we can protect the forests there, it will give some of Sumatra's most endangered wildlife the breathing room they need to survive.

"And while we greatly appreciate this precedent for more protection from the Indonesian government, there are other areas on Sumatra that need safeguarding for the sake of its wildlife, its threatened indigenous peoples and to reduce the climate impacts of clearing."

WWF helped establish the Tesso Nilo Community Forum, run by all 22 villages in the buffer zone of the national park. The forum supports joint actions to protect the forest and gives the communities a voice in park management.

WWF also works with local communities that come into conflict for land with species such as elephants which stray out of the national park into local villages and raid crops.

An Elephant Flying Squad uses domesticated elephants and mahouts to keep wild elephants inside the park from raiding village crops. It also helps plant buffer crops that are not attractive to elephants.

Two of the world's largest pulp mills are based in Riau Province which has lost more natural forest to pulpwood concessions than any other Indonesian province.

The clearing of carbon-rich peatlands and peat forests in Riau has contributed to Indonesia having the third-highest rate of greenhouse gas emissions in the world, behind only the United States and China.

Snow Leopard in Mongolia Collared

I have some great news from Mongolia. The incredible team there, led by Dr. Tom McCarthy - SLT's Managing Director of Field Programs, have captured their first snow leopard at the Mongolia research site. Below you will find a press release regarding our long-term project in Mongolia's South Gobi region and our success so far with the GPS radio-collaring and trap camera components of this ecological study. Attached is a picture of Aztai (the snow leopard mentioned in the release) and two actual e-mail updates that were sent by Dr. McCarthy from the camp before the snow leopard was successfully captured. In addition to these updates, the Snow Leopard Trust is posting regular updates from this project on both its website and blog at If you would like to know more, or have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at 206-632-2421.

Thanks you for all of your help in making this and our other conservation efforts a reality!! We have a lot more work to do and couldn't do it without all of your support for our research, community-based conservaiton and education programs.


Jennifer Snell Rullman

Conservation Program Director

Snow Leopard Trust

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

More than 97% of Floridians do not kill for sport

Please be advised that proposed hunting and fishing rule changes for the 2009-10 Season are now available for public review on the FWC Website.  This review period will remain open until October 1, 2008.

Public review is also open on changes to the marine Special Activity License (SAL) rules. 

Those with comments should use the comment form online and submit their comments electronically.

If anyone has a question please feel free to contact me.

David Arnold

Rules Administrator

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Office of Policy and Stakeholder Coordination


Carole's Note:

Please let Florida's Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission know that Florida's wildlife belongs to the 97% of Floridians who do not kill for sport. 

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

Sign our petition to protect tigers from being farmed here:

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Roar of the tiger to get louder in Sariska

Roar of the tiger to get louder in Sariska ,

Rashpal Bhardwaj
Tuesday, August 26, 2008 04:43 IST

JAIPUR: Following the successful relocation of two tigers from Ranthambhore national park, one more tigress will be brought to the Sariska tiger reserve.

Sources in the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun, said the tigress will be shifted in November for which preparations are on. Two more tigers will be brought to Sariska next year, the sources added. WII has been the nodal agency in relocation of tigers to Sariska and scientists are keeping a tab on the tigers’ progress at the reserve.

The relocated pair — a tigress and her young male partner — have been released in the open after being kept in enclosures for a few days. However, the department won’t make more enclosures for the new guests. “The next relocations will require less efforts since the staff is trained now and the required infrastructure is also in place, an official said.

Meanwhile, WII scientists are keeping a close watch on the tigers’ movement and waiting for them to mate. “Although the two have acclimatised well to the new environment, threat of scuffles with other animals looms large. The main threat is from leopards who have overgrown in number in the area over the years in absence of tigers,” an official said.

More security guards would be deployed in the park once it is opened to the public in October, he added.

Dr. Jim Sanderson on Small Wild Cats & Their Importance


Often overlooked, small wild cats are important and in trouble:
An interview with small cat specialist Dr. Jim Sanderson

Rhett A. Butler,
August 5, 2008

While often over-shadowed by their larger and better-known relatives
like lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars, small cats are important
indicators of the health of an ecosystem, says a leading small cat
expert who uses camera traps extensively to document and monitor
mammals in the wild.

Dr Jim Sanderson, a scientist with the Small Cat Conservation
Alliance and Conservation International, is working to save some of
the world's rarest cats, including the Andean cat and Guigna of South
America and the bay, flat-headed, and marbled cats of Southeast Asia.
In the process Sanderson has captured on film some of the planet's
least seen animals, including some species that have never before
been photographed. He has also found that despite widespread
criticism, some corporate entities are effectively protecting remote
wilderness areas. He cites BHP Billiton's bauxite project in the
Bakhuys mountains of Suriname as an example.

"If run properly, these sites can be better protected than a national
park because in a national park the public is allowed. In these areas
no one is allowed except the workers and their behavior is tightly
controlled and monitored," he explained. "So it is pretty easy for me
to see a partnership between industry and the conservationists... In
addition, they have money to support research projects."

Sanderson has set up a large-scale camera-trapping project that will
monitor the impact of bauxite extraction in BHP Billiton's 240,000-
hectare concession. Although mining will be limited to a couple
thousand hectares in the concession, Sanderson will use an extensive
collection of images as a baseline to determine how wildlife is
affected by the mining activities. The camera trapping has already
provided Sanderson with insight on the behavior of resident animal
species, including predator-prey relationships, wildlife densities,
and mating and reproductive habits.

"We have pictures of jaguars carrying armadillos in their mouths, and
we have a picture of a puma wrestling a red brocket deer to the
ground. So, we get some indication of what these predators are
eating," he told "But we also get mating behavior. We
have repeated pictures of jaguars copulating right in front of the
camera traps. All of these mating-jaguar pictures are taken in May
and June, which turns out to be near the end of the long rainy
season. So we suspect that it's not true that these animals breed all
year long, but in fact they breed at a certain time of year in
response to rainfall, and have their young several months later
during the dry season."

Sanderson discussed his success with camera trapping (including his
preference for film over digital cameras), the efforts to save wild
cat species through the Small Cat Conservation Alliance, and small
cat behavior in an interview conducted with in
Paramaribo, the capital city of Suriname.

How you can help

When asked how people can help small cat conservation efforts,
Sanderson said that small cats are typically overlooked by zoos. By
simply asking to see small cats when you visit a zoo, it could help
redirect emphasis and possibly conservation funding towards saving
small cats in the wild.

"Most American Zoological Association (AZA) zoos do not exhibit small
cats because they do not believe the public wants to see them. They
instead exhibit the large and charismatic small cats," he said. "When
you visit a zoo ask to see something unusual — the small wild cats."

Donations help too: Wildlife Conservation Network


Mongabay: What is your background and what sort of work do you do on
small cats?

Jim Sanderson: I have a PhD in mathematics and was a practicing
mathematician for 20 years. I decided to reeducate myself and because
I became interested in small cat conservation. I went back to school,
got a degree in biology and then started my PhD in wildlife ecology
and conservation at the University of Florida. I actually never
received my PhD because my professor said I already had a PhD and had
already published enough papers. While I was there I co-authored two
books with my professor. One is in its second edition and we are
working on the third edition. Since they basically kicked me out of
the PhD program prematurely, I went to work with Conservation

I had been doing my PhD on the Guigna, which is a small forest cat in
the south of Chile that had never been studied before. All we had to
go on was one picture of one living individual. The total extent of
our knowledge of this cat was that picture and some stomach content
of museum specimens, the last of which had been collected in 1919.
Given these circumstances, people were very discouraging and funding
was almost non-existent, but nevertheless I took a crack at it.

In 1997 I was able to catch one and demonstrate we knew where they
were. A year later I went back and caught eight in thirteen days and
put radio collars on them. This was the first study ever of the

That same year, I went looking for the Andean cat, which is the most
endangered cat in the Americas. The Andean cat had been photographed
twice: once by a professional photographer and once by a tourist from
New Zealand who was traveling in the high Andes. So to start, I had a
picture of an Andean cat taken next to an orange pole. All I knew was
that it was from the north of Chile. Once again people told me I was
crazy, that I would never find this cat, that I would waste a lot of
time and money looking for it. But in fact after about six weeks I
got my first sighting of the cat and when I approached to see it more
closely, it came down to see me more closely. So at 4300 meters
(14,100 feet) I began my pursuit of a cat that was just as curious
about me as I was of it.

The photographs appeared in the National Geographic in February of
2000. Based on those photographs we were able to start a full
conservation program in all four range countries that was funded by
the Wildlife Conservation Network. I am now a partner, one of the
eight partners, of the Wildlife Conservation Network (
Our Andean cat project is still running there; it's a very successful

The Small Cat Conservation Alliance (SCCA) was founded in 1996 to
address the conservation needs of small wild cats worldwide

The SCCA's primary priority species are:
Andean cat
Bay cat
Flat-headed cat
Marbled cat
Clouded leopard
Fishing cat

Its secondary priorities are:
Rusty-spotted cat
African golden cat
Chinese mountain cat

I have been working in Borneo, China, and Sumatra. In China we went
after something called the Chinese mountain cat. Now this is the cat
that was described in 1892 by a Frenchman at the Paris museum. The
skins were purchased during an expedition to China around 1890 and
brought back to the Paris museum where they were identified by a
French mammologist as a species of cat unknown to science. It was the
last new cat to be described.

When we started, we didn't know where to look. We didn't know its
habitat and it had never been photographed in the wild. Over the
course of a four year period I went back and forth to China to try to
find where this cat lived. Eventually I came to one village where the
Tibetans were wearing hats made out of this cat so I knew it was up
in the Tibetan plateau somewhere. I gave numerous talks about my
search for this cat and one young Tibetan man said, 'I've seen this
cat. I remember when I was a child my father had skins of this cat. I
am certain that this cat lives around my village.' He said that it
lived on the eastern side of Tibet, on the escarpment next to
Szechwan. 'We have to go to my village.' So we got on a bus. It was
about an eleven-hour bus ride through the mountains of China. We
arrived at his village and people had the cat skins. Nearly every
house we knocked on showed the skin of the Chinese mountain cat. It
was the Holy Grail. So at this point we were able to put out our
camera traps, we knew where to look. The three of us, my Chinese
student, a Tibetan, and I rode on a motorcycle and then walked up
into the hills. We placed our camera traps and got the first pictures
ever of the Chinese mountain cat.

Carlos Driscoll later classified the cat as a sub-species of Felis
silvestris. Therefore it is no longer considered the last cat ever to
be described. That distinction now goes to the Bay cat. The second to
last is the Andean cat.

In Bolivia, Lillian Villalba, Constanza Napolitano, and I were able
to capture an Andean cat at an elevation of 5,400-5,500 meters and
put a radio collar on it. Now 5,400 meters (17,700 feet) is higher
than any point in the continental U.S. This is truly the snow leopard
of the Andes. Or maybe I should say the snow leopard is the Andean
cat of the Himalayas. But this is the most endangered cat in the
Americas and the reason is it doesn't show any fear of people. The
Chinese mountain cat is afraid of people. It has been hunted to make
accessories like hats, although this practice has now stopped because
of the announcement of the Dali Lama to Tibetans to stop killing
these cats, at least in the village where we were.

But with the Andean cat shows no fear of people and in the high
Andes, the people attribute supernatural powers to the cat. These
powers can be harnessed only if the cats are dead. So they kill the
cats, typically by dropping a rock on them. Or as some people have
described to us, they run up to the cat, throw their coats over it
and then kill it. I have many pictures of Andean cats in small
villages—far more than are in museums around the world, there is one
specimen in the US—of people with these dead, stuffed Andean cats in
their shops as good luck charms. Native Americans adorn them with
silver coins and wool and carry them around as sacred objects. These
charms are called titi and are not sold. They are considered sacred
and are passed down through the family. The Andeans are always
wanting more but these are very rare cats. So we have a conservation
dilemma in that we are trying to save a cat that shows no fear of
people but is coveted as a sacred object. This is a difficult problem
to handle, particularly when the park guards are Native American and
they stone the cat if they find it.

I'm now working on the flat-headed cat and the Bay cat from Southeast
Asia. Both are endangered.

Mongabay: Why did you decide to study small cats?

Jim Sanderson: I found back in the early 80s that all of the big cats
had really been studied, but all of the small cats, which are the
majority of cats, had never been studied. I could open up a book on
wild cats and it would say nothing is known. We know only that it
exists. We don't know what it eats. We don't know when it's active.
We're not sure of its distribution. So, the small cats were largely
unknown and no one was working on them. All the big cats — tigers,
lions, pumas, jaguars, leopards, cheetahs -- had lots of studies. But
the small cats, it was as if they were just left for me to do.

Mongabay: You have some pretty amazing experiences, as far as being
able to find and also catch some of the world's rarest small cats.
What's the secret to catching small cats?

Jim Sanderson: You have to have several things. You have to have a
passion what you are doing. Without passion you're not going to be
successful, because it is not easy. The second quality you have to
have is patience. It turns out I have a lot of patience for these
small cats, and I am willing to wait them out because I know that
I'll eventually find them. Whereas I don't have a lot of patience
when I deal with people, I have a lot more patience with animals. So
I would say passion and patience is what it takes. Persistence is
important too. You have to keep going when it looks like you're never
going to find anything; you have to keep looking, because it's then
that the animals are telling you something that you don't know. You
learn the most when you can't find them for a long time. When you
find them right away you don't learn as much.

Mongabay: So on that note, is there anything you can learn about the
greater ecology of an ecosystem from the presence or absence of these
small predators.

Jim Sanderson: These small predators occupy a wide variety of
habitat. There's no arboreal canine (dog) but there are arboreal cats—
cats that live mostly in trees. So as a result we have a lot more cat
species than we can have dog species. Cats show greater variation in
body weight — there's no dog as big as a tiger -- and they use space
more efficiently. Some having these small cats in an ecosystem can
tell you a lot.

For instance, one of the cats we were studying is the margay in
Brazil. We found it during the day looking around in the tops of
trees during the day. What was is doing? It couldn't catch birds
during the day, because birds you know can out-compete a cat in the
tops of the trees. But it turns out the cat was eating bats. It was
looking for bats that were roosting in the trees. So, that tells us a
lot about the environment. When they are active during the night,
they are out hunting rodents. When they are active during the day,
they're hunting something else. They tell us with their very presence
that there is a lot of prey out there. The health of the ecosystem
can be determined by top predators, because their presence tells us
that there is adequate prey for them.

Mongabay: Let's look at the human element in this picture. With the
caveat that threats to cats are highly variable depending on where
they are, what are some of the greatest dangers to small cats?

Jim Sanderson: Of course some of the cats share similar threats --
like habitat destruction, loss of prey, and hunting — but they also
face widely variable threats in some cases.

The Andean cat faces three principle threats. Number one, it shows no
fear of people. So, that's a problem when local people attribute
supernatural powers to the cat and kill it (number two). Number
three, the locals eat the same prey that the cat does, the small
mountain vizcacha that look like rabbits. So, how do we deal with
these threats? Well, the people have been hunting vizcachas for
thousands of years, so it's unlikely they are going to change their
behavior just because we tell them the cat needs to be conserved.
What about teaching these cats to be afraid of people? Well, I have
seen four in my life, and that's two more than anybody else that we
know about. Of the 45 people involved in this project across the full
cat range—Peru, Argentina, Chile, and Bolivia—only 6 have seen an
Andean cat alive and they have been working on this project for four
years. So, it's not like you see this thing everyday. But that's the
threat that we have with the Andean cat, we are dealing with some
very thorny issues here. People eat the same food and then they kill
the cat when they see it. They chase after the cat, throw there coat
over it and they just kill. So that would be a more or less direct
threat from humans.

On the other hand, a small cat called the flat-headed cat, faces the
exact opposite kind of threat. It's does compete with people for
food. It doesn't eat chickens. It is a lowland specialist that eats
only fish and frogs and is about the size of a small house cat. It
lives in the swampy wetlands of Malaysia, Sumatra, and Borneo. But
here the threat is palm oil plantations -- the unmitigated conversion
and total loss of habitat driven by oil palm plantations. Without
regard to any of the wildlife, all the trees are cut down and then
palm oil trees are planted. And it is unmitigated, that is, there is
nothing set aside to compensate for the loss of the land. Here the
cat just loses its habitat without anybody caring about what happens.
This is the biggest threat in South Asia is the replacement of
habitat by oil palm. You can drive for hours at a time—five hours—and
see nothing but oil palm.

Mongabay: Does anyone know the habitat requirements of the flat-
headed cat? If you were to preserve riparian zones within oil palm
plantations, would that be enough for it?

Jim Sanderson: Well that is a good question—we don't really know. But
generally there are three animals in oil palm plantations: there are
rats, palm civets, and leopard cats that eat the rats. That's about

They are not wealthy in terms of biodiversity. I don't think
preserving a riparian area in the oil palm would work and the reason
is that the pesticide use and what goes into those streams would just
clean out the fish and the frogs. But we don't really know because
nobody has ever studied the flat-headed cat.

We do know that the flat-headed cat is the most aquatic of the cats.
It puts its head under water and looks for fish. When is sees prey,
it goes right into the water. It typically fishes along the river

Let me give you an example of how rare it is. If you put a camera
trap out in the mountains of Sumatra you will record all five cats:
tiger, clouded leopard, marbled cat, golden cat, and leopard cats. If
you put your camera traps out in the lowlands, you are very unlikely
to get a flat-headed cat or a fishing cat. I know of only one fishing
cat camera trap picture in hundreds of thousands of camera trap
pictures taken in Sumatra and I only know of three flat-headed cat
pictures. These are extremely rare cats. The reason is the fishing
cat and the flat-headed cat are both fish specialists and tied to
water and the lowlands of Sumatra are being converted into oil palm
plantations. So these small cats are in big trouble. We say that the
big cats act as an umbrella species, that means that if we protect
the tigers habitat and we work on the tiger and conserve tigers that
they will serve as an umbrella species to protect the habitat that
they live in. But the tigers are able to live in fairly high-density
human situations. In India these parks are surrounded by people and
we still have tigers. But when it comes to small cats, we are looking
for them and we can't find them. Are they really under the wing of
the protected species or have they disappeared? We don't know.

Mongabay: What can people do at home to help protect their small cats
or wild cats?

Jim Sanderson: A more environmentally-friendly palm oil industry
would be a great start. That would go a long way towards helping the
cats of Southeast Asia which is, by the way, is a hot spot for
conservation activity right now. Working in South America is a
paradise compared to working in Southeast Asia.

Increasing your awareness of these small cats is also important.

Mongabay: What about your organization —

Jim Sanderson: The site is a good way to learn what we're working on.
A lot of focus has always been on the most endangered ones. My
priorities are covered by the red list --these are always the rarest
and least known ones: the Andean cat; the flat-headed cat; the bay
cat which is endemic to Borneo; and the Guigna. My priority has
always been the rarest ones and the ones that have largely been

Most American Zoological Association (AZA) zoos do not exhibit small
cats because they do not believe the public wants to see them. They
instead exhibit the large and charismatic small cats.

When you visit a zoo ask to see something unusual — the small wld
cats. Conservation efforts for small cats do not cost nearly as much
money as do big cat efforts. We learned to achieve a lot for a
little. Any contribution helps. See the WCN website to help out the
small cats with a tax free donation.

Mongabay: What about the Tibetan Cat?

Jim Sanderson: Very little was known about the Chinese Mountain. The
habitat was not surveyed and we didn't have any pictures of it in the
wild. So when we set out to learn more about them, it was really hard
to find information. After a long time we finally got on the trail.
We finally were able to get pictures of it.

What was the threat to the Chinese Mountain Cat? People where making
accoutrements from the cat skins. They would kill the cat and make a
hat out of it or sell it to the Chinese Muslim traders. They're the
ones that have the shops that sell all the animal skins.

So that was the threat -- direct killing. There is no other threat;
the habitat is so huge that in the Tibetan plateau that habitat loss
is not a threat. It is mostly used for grazing. But you have semi-
nomadic herders who can't read or write and don't have a whole lot to
do during the day when their livestock grazing. When they see that
cats they catch them and skin them out.

One person eliminated that threat across all Tibet — the Dali Lama.
When he said, "I am tired of my people killing animals and wearing
animal skins" people across all Tibet listened and stopped killing
the cats and everything else as far as we can tell. I wish I had that
kind of pull.

This was just part of a longer statement that involved other issues,
but of course this is a very political issue. So of course when the
Tibetans started burning the skins the Chinese cracked down on them
for political actions -- following the word of the Dali Lama. Even
though it was a positive thing for conservation, it was a very
politically charged time because people were listening to the Dali

Mongabay: Is domestication or keeping wild cats as pets much of a
problem anywhere?

Jim Sanderson: It is not a common thing that you see these cats as
pets — they don't make good pets. People put out food for Guignas
sometimes, so the cats will come to get food but they don't come
indoors of course. They shy away from people. But generally speaking
I don't see that this is a big problem. In response to wildlife laws
and state laws people are trying to cross wild cats with domestic
cats to create crosses so they will have a more exotic house cats but
usually they escape, of course.

Mongabay: What are some other small cats that are at risk?

Jim Sanderson: I am on the IUCN cat specialist group as a voting
member. I see myself as representing the small cats and offsetting
many of the other members who are large cat specialists and are well-
represented on our group. Of course we are all colleagues and we all
help each other, but when there are small cat questions, they look to

On the opposite end from the forest cats is the sand cat, a desert
specialist. It is a little cat which lives in the northern Sahara
desert and in the Middle East. It feeds on rodents and lives in
burrows excavated by other animals because cats are not excavators.
This is another cat that lacks real analysis. We don't know what is
happening to it. It is slipping through the cracks. I think there is
one study on it now in Saudi Arabia.

The black-footed cat is found in South Africa. It is so small it
called the anthill tiger. It is a cat half the size of your house cat
but it stands on the top of ant hills and screams.

The marbled cat is another cat from Southeast Asia and south Asia. We
believe is an arboreal specialist because of its big tail. It is much
rarer than a clouded leopard, which we know a little bit about thanks
to the work of Andy Hearn and Jo Ross in Danum Valley [An interview
with Andrew and Jo in Borneo].

I have good people working on all of these now. Those are the people
that are really doing the real work. I am just their assistant now.

Mongabay: It sounds like you have had some positive experiences
working with industry in conservation efforts. Can you talk about the
role that industry can play in protecting important wildlife areas.

Jim Sanderson: Yes, definitely. Right now I'm working at BHP
Billiton's bauxite mine site in the Bakhuys mountains. They are going
to remove the tops of mountains to get to the bauxite, which is used
in the production of aluminum, but it is a long-range project: twenty-
five years at a single site of a couple of thousand hectares. Their
concession covers around 240,000 hectares and they control access to
the whole area. No one goes in or out the gate and into this huge
area without their permission. Workers are prohibited from hunting or
harming wildlife in any way. This means the animals there are very
well protected.

It was a similar case at Collahuasi mine in Chile. This is one of the
largest open-pit copper mines in the world but the wildlife was again
protected because the workers' behavior at the site was very tightly
controlled. They were either living at the hotel or bused back and
forth from the mine site and there was a gate to get in. So you
couldn't access the site unless they wanted you to get in and they
restricted access to the public. So these mines that I've seen can be
particularly good stewards.

I always tell people that if run properly, these sites can be better
protected than a national park because in a national park the public
is allowed. In these areas no one is allowed except the workers and
their behavior is tightly controlled and monitored. So it is pretty
easy for me to see a partnership between industry and the
conservationists. I think it's great. In addition, they have money to
support research projects. So if people are interested in studying
the wildlife or monitoring the wildlife, oftentimes they are more
than happy to provide funding for that because they like to see
people out walking around on their land where they are doing work and
writing about it.

Mongabay: Do the results of research impact whether a company
develops an area of not?

Jim Sanderson: Absolutely. In the case of Suriname, when researchers
found a small fish that was endemic to a small stream, the mining
company said, "Well, we will leave the bauxite in the ground. We are
not interested in mining there." A finding like this gives
conservationists the upper hand.

Mongabay: What about when the miners leave? These are long-term
projects but someday these companies are going to pull out when
they've extracted all the minerals. So then is there kind of a risk
that these roads will then serve as conduits for development, like
logging or things of that nature. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Jim Sanderson: That can happen, but we have plenty of time to act in
between since these are long-term projects. First of all the
companies have to repair the damage that they do. When they remove
the top soil and the plants and trees, they have people there who
document everything so they area can be restored as well as possible.
The plants are put in greenhouses while mining is being conducted.

In the Bakhuys, BHP Billiton is already looking for another company
to handle the restoration even though they haven't started
operations. They will be able to restore some of the sites where they
did the exploration. In the 20-40 year interim before they leave the
site we hope education can kick in and start to change the perception
wildlife is only food for the pot or to sell, particularly to foreign
workers. We've got time to look into the future and say, "We had
better start teaching wildlife classes in schools to educate people."

Hopefully the standard of living in the country will increase during
that time as well. As standards of living rise, the need to hunt
declines. In developed countries most people who hunt do so
recreationally. In poor countries people need to hunt for food or to
sell meat to the market. They don't have licenses, they do have
hunting seasons but nobody obeys them. In the US you can go to the
store and buy beef cheaper than you can go out and hunt a deer,
although this wasn't the case in the early 1900s when the total deer
population was estimated to be less than 100,000 animals. That is
about the time we started getting conservation rules put into place
during Theodore Roosevelt's presidency. So we went through a period
in the US where we nearly eliminated all of our wildlife and it seems
like other countries are learning the lesson that we learned.

Mongabay: Getting back a little bit to the mining, how does damage
from bauxite mining compare to damage from gold mining? It seems that
mercury is a big problem with small-scale gold mining here in

Jim Sanderson: It doesn't have to be that these mines are so
dangerous. It is just the attitude of the company whether they are
going to be responsible for the damage that they do. All mining
causes damage. In bauxite mining they have to remove the forest and
the soil to get to the bauxite deposits so it is incredibly damaging.

It depends on how the company operates; whether they want to be good
stewards of the environment or whether they don't care. Now often
times the rules of the country are so loose that the companies are
able to be whatever they want. It is only a company that shows
responsibility that says, "We are going to work in accordance with
rules that are stressed by the World Bank and not the countries
themselves because their rules are too weak."

Mongabay: Let's look at your current work in the Bakhuys. Are you
establishing a baseline to see how mining affects the wildlife and
the forest?

Jim Sanderson: I am working at the Bakhuys mountains, which are west
of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve. This is an area that as far
as we can tell has not seen people for at least 50 years. No one
lives near it and no one lives in it. There are two small tourist
operations near by, but that is it. BHP Billiton has been exploring
for bauxite deposits there for about four years and in order to do
that exploration they put in some dirt roads. The whole area is about
520,000 acres. The bauxite deposits are relatively localized on the
tops of mountains. They are interested the highest grade ore deposits
and these are few and far between. These deposits are only several
thousand acres each and there are less than eight. They are also
interested in exploring other parts but they haven't done that yet.
They will probably do that in the future.

What I wanted to do was establish a baseline of what was there as
part of the environmental impact statement. Three years ago I started
working on the environmental assessment of the area; focusing on the
large mammals. I decided to use camera traps as part of the effort to
establish a baseline of what lives in the forest.

The camera traps revealed the richness of the area. The pictures
started circulating around the company and they asked me if I would
continue with the monitoring project to see what kind of an impact
the mining was having. They wanted to see if we could turn the
monitoring into a way to mitigate the impact of mountain top removal
on the large mammals. So we kept on camera trapping and established a
disturbance gradient to measure how mining activities would affect

We have been doing this now for three years and still have another
two years before mining is expected to begin. So we will have five
years of baseline data before the mine ever gets really going. The
trapping has revealed a lot about the animals and we know that if we
keep running the camera traps we will eventually get pictures of all
the species. Establishing the gradient before the mining starts
allows us to understand the background and what factors — like
rainfall and temperature — affect the background. It turns out that
after three years we can pretty much say that there is no difference
between any of the sites. It's true that only one or two sites show
the very rare animals, but more common animals such as jaguar or
pumas show up at every site — we don't have a single site that
doesn't have jaguars or pumas. Once mining does we will be able to
measure the impact on wildlife.

Mongabay: Expanding on camera trapping in general, because you have
an amazing amount of data, but if you could explain what you can
learn from camera trapping as far as activity times and predator-prey

Jim Sanderson: One of more obvious that we get from camera trapping
is activity patterns. We can look at the time the picture was taking
and plot the number of pictures that were taken each hour. If a
species is taken more than one time in an hour we only count that as
one picture for that for that species for each camera trap. In other
words, if an animal sits in front of the camera trap for ten minutes
we don't want to count ten pictures, we just want to count one
picture. So we get at most one picture per hour per species per
camera, and we make a plot of this.

If an animal is active just during the day then we will only get
pictures during the day and we won't get any at night. This makes it
possible to establish an activity pattern for each animal. For
instance from 800 pictures of tapir we know that tapir are mostly
active at night.

This is one of the obvious pieces of information that we can get from
camera trapping. When mining starts we will be able to see if the
animal's activity pattern change.

Another piece of information that we can get is the distribution of
animals. If you work with camera traps long enough you should be able
to say 'this camera has a lot more picture than this camera and there
must be a reason for it'. As it turns out we don't see much of a
difference across any of our sites.

Another valuable piece of information is density, the number of
individuals in the area. To determine this we need to have two
opposing camera traps at each site and when the animal walks between
the cameras, the camera takes a picture of both sides of the animal.
For animals that are laterally asymmetric, like the jaguar which has
different patterns on each side of its body, we can distinguish
between individuals and can determine how many jaguar are using our
study area. With the proper assumptions, we can calculate how many
individuals are in a particular area and determine the number of
females and the number of male. It turns out that these jaguars are
occurring at multiple sites, so they are roaming around — both the
males and females.

When you put all this together, there are a couple pieces of
information that can be used to monitor the impact of mining.

Mongabay: You've also captured some interesting behavior on camera.

Jim Sanderson: Thank you for reminding me. Of course, the camera
captures also their behavior: we have pictures of jaguars carrying
armadillos in their mouths, and we have a picture of a puma wrestling
a red brocket deer to the ground. So, we get some indication of what
these predators are eating. But we also get mating behavior. We have
repeated pictures of jaguars copulating right in front of the camera
traps. All of these mating-jaguar pictures are taken in May and June,
which turns out to be near the end of the long rainy season. So we
suspect that it's not true that these animals breed all year long,
but in fact they breed at a certain time of year in response to
rainfall, and have their young several months later during the dry
season. They leave their parents in about a year, because we see the
young in the camera traps following the mother around, and in about a
year we see the young on their own in the camera traps. So, we are
getting a little bit of a family history among the jaguars. But
definitely they are not breeding all year long as near as we can

Mongabay: Do you have any thoughts on digital versus film, what do
you prefer for camera trapping?

Jim Sanderson: One of the things first that I would like to stress is
that anybody, probably even a chimpanzee, can put a camera on a tree.
That's not what I do; that's not my job. My job is to put the animal
in front of the camera. So, that's a different task than putting a
camera on a tree, and it involves many considerations.

As for using digital cameras versus film cameras: I prefer film
cameras. Now most people want instant gratification, so they want to
walk out to the camera, turn it on, and see what they have. I prefer
film cameras because they are faster.

The latency time is the time between the sensor recognizing something
has walked in front of it and the camera takes a picture. For a film
camera the latency time is about half a second, certainly, at most,
less than a second; whereas in digital cameras it's about two-and-a-
half seconds. So with digital cameras, if you're not careful you can
get a lot of pictures of "headless jaguars" or just the rear of
animals, because of the delay after they walk in front of the camera
sensor. The digital camera has to wake-up, turn on, and then it snaps
the picture. With the film camera's latency time of less than a
second, you get a picture right off the bat, as soon as the sensor
picks it up, and it always appears that the animal is right in front
of the camera. But of course the instant gratification is not there —
you have to wait to develop the film. There are pros and cons.

Digital cameras suffer a little bit less from moisture damage. Power
requirements are higher for digital cameras than they are for film
cameras but the digital cameras can hold a lot more pictures than
film cameras, because a film roll is thirty-six pictures. In our test
site we can go through thirty-six pictures in a week; we have to
check film cameras more often than digital cameras. They cost about
the same as a high quality camera but that comparison is deceiving.
The question that most troubles me is when someone says 'well, I
compared these cameras and one is cheaper than the other'. People
should know that with camera traps you get what you paid for. If the
objective is to save money than don't buy a camera trap at all,
because they are very expensive. If the objective is to get lots of
pictures then I suggest that people buy a good camera. The metric is
the not the number of pictures but the number of useable pictures. If
you want the cheapest camera, then that's a different metric.

Dr. Jim Sanderson is involved with the Wildlife Conservation Network,
the Small Cat Conservation Alliance, IUCN Cat Specialist Group, the
Small Wild Cat Endowment Fund, and the Feline Conservation

Special thanks to Tiffany Roufs for her help transcribing the

For the cats,

Carole Baskin, CEO of Big Cat Rescue
an Educational Sanctuary home
to more than 100 big cats
12802 Easy Street Tampa, FL 33625
813.493.4564 fax 885.4457

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sariska tiger couple at home, getting closer

Sariska tiger couple at home, getting closer

Mon, Aug 18 01:15 AM

There is a sigh of relief with satellite maps showing the relocated tiger and a tigress have adjusted to the new habitat in Sariska.India is the first country among 14 tiger nations to relocate the big cat from one natural habitat to another.

A tiger and a tigress were relocated from Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, also in Rajasthan, through an Indian Air Force helicopters to Sariska Tiger Reserve in the last week of June. Before releasing them into the wild, each animal was fitted with a radio collars worth $1,500 for ground level and satellite tracking to monitor their movement in the habitat.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NCTA) and the Rajasthan government received first satellite images of the animals on July 15, which showed that the animals were trying to adjust to the new habitat. However, subsequent images obtained through Canada-based Argos satellite, which specialises in data collection of wild animals, clearly showed that the tiger and tigress were moving freely in their core critical areas.

"The pattern of the data available through the satellite maps has helped us to understand the two animals were moving close to each other and would soon interact. This is a healthy indicator," said Rajesh Gopal, member secretary of NCTA. The satellite maps accessed by Hindustan Times till August 9 show that the male tiger is moving freely in the northern part of the tiger reserve close to Pandupole Temple, Slopka Chowki and Tehla Gate and off late has been moving towards eastern part of the part, where the tigress has been relocated.

Similarly, the tigress is also moving northwards from her zone in central eastern part of the park. Considering that the relocation had entire global wildlife fraternity watching first such experiment on tigers, the government decided to employ the globally acceptable Lotek radio collaring system based on global positioning system and VHF (radio frequency) tracking system.

"We can monitor the animals both through satellite and radio frequency," Gopal said. Under the system, minimum two and maximum of six locations can be monitored at a given time.

Following the success, the NCTA has decided to employ radio collaring in four other tiger reserves - Sunderbans, Pench, Kahna and Ranthamore. All these reserves had been in news in the recent years for being under constant threat of poachers.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Govt offers money to villagers to vacate tiger reserves

Govt offers money to villagers to vacate tiger reserves
16 Aug, 2008, 1954 hrs IST, AGENCIES

NEW DELHI : Govt on Saturday offered money to villagers to vacate wildlife reserves in a bid to save the country's tigers from extinction, officials said.

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said it was releasing 520 mn rupees (1.3 mn dollars) out of a total of six bn rupees to be disbursed over the next five years.

Each family that volunteers to move out from tiger habitats and state sanctuaries is due to get one mn rupees under the scheme. It was not known immediately how many families would receive funds.

The largest sum of 190 mn rupees has been set aside to clear out two villages from inside Sariska park near New Delhi where the entire population of 19 tigers was found missing in 2006, presumed slaughtered by poachers.

The move is aimed at "ensuring inviolate areas for the big cats as well as for other wildlife," a NTCA spokesman said.

"This will help decrease man-animals conflict and create inviolate zones for tigers," the spokesman added.

The federal agency swung into action just months after authorities said last year that India's rare Royal Bengal Tiger population had plunged to 1,411, far lower than the 3,700 estimated to be alive five years earlier.

Rajesh Gopal, who heads Project Tiger, a national conservation programme, has blamed "poaching, loss of quality habitat and prey" as key reasons for the decline.

Conservationists have long complained that many Indian forestry posts lie vacant and that the small number of staff employed are no match for poachers.

India and China have been under fire from international experts for failing to halt tiger poaching, with conservationists blaming collusion between poachers, government officials and buyers.

Tigers are hunted for their pelts, claws and bones, which are prized in traditional Chinese medicine.

More than 40,000 tigers are believed to have roamed the Indian wild before the subcontinent's independence from British colonial rule.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

BANGLADESH: Drop in tiger population signals environmental degradation

BANGLADESH: Drop in tiger population signals environmental degradation

12 Aug 2008 10:22:33 GMT
Source: IRIN

DHAKA, 12 August 2008 (IRIN) - A further drop in the number of Royal Bengal tigers in the Sundarbans is a stark reminder of the importance of the world's largest mangrove forest, which was badly damaged in last year's devastating cyclone.

More than 4,000 people were killed and 1.5 million homes damaged or destroyed when Cyclone Sidr slammed into Bangladesh's southwestern coastal belt on 15 November 2007.

The forest - a natural habitat for the endangered animal - acted as a first line of defence against the cyclone's powerful 220km per hour winds and tidal surge.

Had the Sundarbans not taken the brunt of storm, the loss of life and property would have been significantly higher, according to specialists.

Cyclone impact

According to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 40 percent of the 140,000-hectare area was damaged by the cyclone, which struck at the heart of the East Sundarbans, the biologically richest part of the Bangladeshi world heritage property - stripping off foliage from more than 30 percent of the trees and felling even more.

Media reports at the time suggested that over three million trees were affected in the area, home to scores of animals, including the endangered Royal Bengal tiger.

Local specialists warned that the Sundarbans, already severely encroached upon by man, and affected by rising sea levels, could take up to 30 years to regenerate.

Tiger population dropping

The Sundarbans are the only mangrove forests where the tigers are found, according to the World Wildlife Foundation [see:]

India and Bangladesh conducted a tiger census in January 2004, with support from the UN Development Programme, and concluded there were 440 tigers in the area.

Bangladesh's tiger population has plummeted because of a shrinking habitat and dwindling food supplies. Last year's cyclone put even more pressure on the animals and natural resources.

"I don't think there are more than 250 tigers in the Sundarbans now," said Muhammad Mahfuzullah, executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Development [see:], a leading environmental NGO.

Environmentalists describe the tiger's plight as a wake-up call to save the Sundarbans, which they agree saved tens of thousands of lives last November.

"The fate of the Sundarbans is inextricably linked to the fate of its wildlife. The problem is that those whose lives it saves act as its worst enemy. If the tigers die, [the] Sundarbans will die. If the Sundarbans die, Bangladesh will die too," said Atiur Rahman, chairman of Unnayan Shamannay [see:], a development organisation.

Poor conservation efforts

But conservation efforts in this unique eco-system – which serves as a natural barrier to future cyclones - are inadequate.

"Poachers, timber merchants and shrimp farmers have built up an unholy nexus of corruption with the rangers, forest officers and politically influential people," said Rishit Chandra Munda, a member of the indigenous Munda people, who live on the fringes of the forest.

"People should be made aware of the need for keeping the tigers and the forest alive. The international community and NGOs can play a leading role in this effort. But we don't see them coming forward to do this," Munda added.

But according to Rahman, a first step is changing people's attitudes towards the animals, with poverty a major barrier.

"The death of a goat or a chicken is a major loss for a poor farmer or fisherman. So, he wouldn't pardon the tiger for doing that. Moreover, tigers are considered predators. It will take many years before people begin to think they and the wildlife are on the same boat of existence."

According to the WWF, estimates suggest there are around 2,000 Royal Bengal tigers in the wild today, including 1,411 in India, 200 in Bangladesh, 150 in Nepal, and 100 in Bhutan, as well as a number in Myanmar and China.

Tiger safari in Ranthambore

Tiger safari in Ranthambore

Wed, Aug 13 12:50 AM

Tourists visiting Rajasthan's Ranthambore Tiger Reserve will not be allowed to enter the sanctuary anymore. Instead, they would be able to see the big cats in a safari to be developed near the reserve.

In the first such move in the country, the Rajasthan government has asked the environment ministry to allow development of a tiger safari near the reserve in a bid to protect the tiger population better. Tiger experts from the Wildlife Institute of India had told the state forest department that free movement of tourists within the 127 sq km sanctuary was adversely impacting habitat of tigers in the reserve.

The solution - build a huge safari over 70-80 hectares, where tourists would be assured tiger sightings in the wild. "The tigers would be kept in enclosures big enough for their free movement," a forest official said.

The proposal, already discussed by the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife, has been forwarded to the National Tiger Conservation Authority for its comments. "Once.

(their) comments are received final approval would be given," a ministry official said. The safari is set to be developed at Sawai Mansingh Wildlife Sanctuary, about 16km from Ranthambore.

The reserve's tigers would be left to roam freely in huge enclosures, making it easier for tourists to sight them. There will be three entry points - two for visitors and the third exclusively for forest department officials.

Visitors will ride in jeeps or other authorised vehicles, an official said. The tiger population in Ranthambore has increased to 32 from 26 in 2005, as per the recent census.

There also a dozen cubs. "A few older tigers from the population would be relocated to the sanctuary," an official said.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Tigers migrating from Rajaji's western section

Tigers migrating from Rajaji's western section

Tue, Aug 12 03:00 AM

The western section of Rajaji National park has seen a decline in its tiger population over the last three years. According to officials, the number of tigers in this section has come down to as low as one or two from six or seven.

Playing down the possibility of poaching, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Shrikant Chandola says that this could be because of tigers having migrated from this section of the forest because of the human colonies close by. He added that the park has more than a dozen tigers, mostly concentrated in the eastern section of the national park.

Talking to media persons on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Rajaji National Park, Chandola also gave an account of the elephant population in the forest. He disclosed that in the last four years, four elephants have died on account of coming in contact with electric fences put by farmers to save their farms from the animals. "Steps are being taken to prevent this man-animal conflict. A major step in this direction is the decentralization of the compensation disbursement process to the farmers," he said.

On the positive side, there have been no elephant deaths due to collisions with the trains since 2002.

"This has been possible on account of joint efforts of the forest department and the Indian railways. Joint patrolling along the tracks that run through the park has been very helpful in checking accidents. There have been occasions when railway drivers have reduced their speed or even stopped trains on coming to know of elephants in the vicinity of the tracks," Chandola disclosed.

During the period between 1987 and 2002, a total of 21 elephants had lost their lives after colliding with the trains on this stretch.

Another good news on the elephant front is that the sex ratio amongst elephants in the Park is very good. It stands at 2.5 females for every male tusker. Authorities point out that in the south, this ratio is as bad as 100 females for every tusker. This has been on account of large scale poaching of tuskers for ivory by forest brigands.

Chandola also disclosed that the final notification on the creation of Rajaji National Park is expected to come very soon.

The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dr R B S Rawat said that as a part of the silver jubilee celebrations of the park, special emphasis will be laid on the ecological development of the area with the help of the people living on the fringes. He said that special efforts will be made to generate awareness on wildlife conservation amongst the school children living in these fringe villages.

Concern over safety of tigers in reserve

Concern over safety of tigers in reserve

N. Rahul

Excavation of underground tunnel of Srisailam project poses danger to big cats

HYDERABAD: Serious concerns have been raised about the safety of tigers in the Nagarjunasagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve after they were virtually flushed out of their natural habitat and spotted at least eight times in recent months.

The big cat’s safety in the reserve, the largest of its kind in the country with an area of 3,568 sq. km, is being compromised by the ongoing excavation of an underground irrigation tunnel of Srisailam project which will pass through the sanctuary’s core area. A 135-metre-long Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) has already created a 400-metre-long cave. Two TBMs are supposed to dig a 44-km-long tunnel, the world’s longest, from both ends in the next four years.

True to the forest authorities’ fears that the underground vibrations caused by the machines would disturb wildlife, tigers have strayed on to the adjoining Hyderabad-Srisailam highway and other roads.

A big cat was also seen on the road during day time which was a rare phenomenon. A forest official said their objection against the passage of the tunnel through the core area of the tigers’ natural habitat was brushed aside. Moreover, the seismic vibrations caused by TBMs would harm endangered animals like tiger, panther, sloth bear, mouse deer, chinkara and python.

Another official said a road was being laid without permission in the core area to the tunnel located on the foreshore of Srisailam reservoir. Debris from the tunnel, including huge boulders, was also being dumped into the reservoir.

The scenic beauty of the area was being destroyed at the slopes near the tunnel. Meanwhile, the tiger population in the State has dwindled from 200 in 1990 to 50-60 currently.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Assam tigers set to be homeless soon

Assam tigers set to be homeless soon

Kishalay Bhattacharjee
Saturday, August 09, 2008, (Laukhuwa, Assam)

Even though the PM has himself asked all the chief ministers to respond to the challenges of tiger conservation, NDTV has learnt that the Assam government has moved to de-notify two sanctuaries marked as tiger reserves mainly because of the huge pressure of the population inside the reserve forests.

Paddy has replaced large areas of what used to be forestland in Laukhuwa in Assam, and as NDTV went further in the area, more and more human habitation became visible.

The range office resembled a massive cowshed.

This area is supposed to be a tiger reserve, but more than 10,000 people live on the fringes and inside the sanctuary, it's also within the state forest ministers constituency, displacing these people would mean that his vote bank would be affected considerably.

The villagers are very candid about encroaching the protected area.

"It's survival of the fittest. People encroach in protected areas or poach wild animals when they are pushed to do that, Abdul Rehman, villager.

"Displacing such a huge population will have adverse affects," Rehman added.

"Politics may not be in support of wildlife conservation, since wildlife cannot cast votes," said Bibhab Talukdar, Member State Wildlife Board and co-chair IUCN.

Laukhowa and Burachapori are contiguous sanctuaries to Kaziranga National Park, and were notified as tiger reserve in 2006. But the state government wants the two populated sanctuaries to be left out from the notification.

"Of late I have heard from some sources that there is some objections to the declaring of the Kazi tiger reserve, just because areas like Laokhowa, Burachapori has been included within the limit of the tiger reserve," Bibhab Talukdar further said.

Though Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had signed NDTV's 'Save the Tiger Campaign' earlier this year, his Cabinet colleague and Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain definitely seems opposed to the idea of tiger conservation.

As it happens:

Tigress to be shifted to Sariska

Play to bring awareness to save tiger

Ranthambore tigers airlifted to Sariska

Tiger killed after falling in trap

Tiger population rising in Ranthambore

Chennai hosts exhibition to save tiger

Centre formulates plan to save tigers

MLAs in Andhra join NDTV's tiger campaign

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Saving Royal Bengal

Saving Royal Bengal


It’s time schoolchildren did their bit for the conservation of the Royal Bengal Tiger. With such an aim in mind, Kids for Tigers — an organisation working for the protection of wildlife — held a workshop on environment at Raj Bhavan on August 6. Seventy-five school students and several environmentalists participated in the event.

Students were given presentations on wildlife conservation strategies and the effects of green house gas emissions. An interactive question-answer session pepped up the discussions that covered a variety of topics from snow leopards to urban waste management.

Environmentalist Bittu Sahgal said: “The Royal Bengal Tiger Bachao campaign should include broader environment-related issues. It is our duty to make the GeNext more conscious of the hazards facing our environment.”

Environmentalist Subhash Dutta claimed that by using solar energy and economising water usage the common man can reduce power consumption drastically. With Roger Whittaker’s Born Free playing in the background, students discussed anti-plastic drives, nature walks, tiger conservation and pollution control.

Some students suggested that homework should be sent to the teachers via email, as an attempt to save paper. But teachers negated the proposal on the grounds of increased power consumption and cost factor.

Battling to save the tiger

Battling to save the tiger

More land, water needed to save the endangered wild tiger - though technology and aid from overseas is also helping out, writes Achara Ashayagachat in Huay Kha Kaeng, Uthai Thani

Huay Kha Kaeng wildlife sanctuary is one of the few remaining locations for wild tigers and it is attracting international efforts to study close-up the endangered animals' life cycle and determine how rapidly its population is dwindling.

Experts working for Tiger Forever, sponsored by New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Panthera (Partners in Wild Cat Conservation), met last week in Uthai Thani to share knowledge about tiger conservation.

In Thailand, the WCS team has worked closely with local government and non-government partners as well as communities in staving off tiger extinction.

They have studied the tigers' behaviour and looked into how local people's ability to protect tigers could be enhanced and how policies could be tailored to the cause.

Most key scientific data vital to the conservation efforts is in the hands of Khao Nang Ram Wildlife Research Station which, like WCS Thailand, has ties with Kasetsart University and the Forestry Department.

Experts who attended the week-long Tiger Forever workshop all agreed that much more could be done to ensure that the tiger population grows.

As the workshop drew to a close, another high-profile meeting on a topic important to tigers' survival opened its doors at the Huay Kha Kaeng Wildlife Sanctuary.

The meeting, co-organised by the Smithsonian Institute, dealt with the animals which tigers eat. The Smithsonian Institute has had roles in breeding programmes responsible for a steady recovery of the depleted population of the near-extinct Eld's deer, which tigers eat.

Seventy-seven Eld's deer have been released back into the jungle in Thailand, thanks to the programme.

The release was to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's birthday on Aug 12.

The Huay Kha Kaeng sanctuary is home to some of the last remaining wild tigers. Declared a World Heritage site in 1991, it has been a major wildlife study area but extensive poaching has decimated a number of species of rare animals, including tigers and the animals they prey on.

Thailand's pioneers in tiger conservation, Anak Pattanavibool and Saksit Simcharoen, have monitored the tiger situation in terms of their habitats and population following the relocation of villagers out of the fertile forest in the wildlife sanctuary.

According to a WCS Thailand survey in the Thungyai eastern area of the sanctuary, there are only 90 muntjac, 25 sambar deer, 15 wild pigs and 19 gaurs left.

An instrument known as a range finder is used to stocktake the animals which tigers feed on, while estimates of the tiger population are now largely based on a camera-trapping method which is a non-invasive photographic sampling aided by analysis of the density of the tiger population.

This wildlife population scan is used throughout the 18,000 sq km Western Forest Complex which contains 17 protected areas including Huay Kha Kaeng and Thungyai Naresuan.

Researchers and their field teams from both the station and the WCS have also trekked the forests, collected animal droppings and collared tigers with a radio-tracking device.

With the camera-trapping method, the WCS-Khao Nang Ram researchers have discovered 34 tigers, 10 of them male and two cubs, during their mission this year. They found eight more tigers during a similar mission last year.

Mr Saksit said two tigers are now wearing radio-tracking collars. His team hoped to slip collars on two more tigers later this year. The device helped researchers understand more about their habits.

They found that tigers, particular males, roam huge areas, sometimes covering 300 sq km.

"How will we increase the tiger population given the limited [forest] area we have?" he said.

Mr Saksit, who is chief of Khao Nang Ram conservation station, said the tigers' habitat could be improved by providing more water sources.

For hoofed wildlife, certain grassy areas may be burned to allow young plants to emerge.

Mr Anak said the future for tigers and deers was bleak with poaching and logging still rampant.

In the first half of this year, more than a dozen poachers were arrested.

With 200 staff and a 10 million baht budget, the sanctuary is struggling to patrol the vast 200km long jungle border adjacent to 30 villages.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

CITES sets up Group for checks on tiger farming on Indian proposal

CITES sets up Group for checks on tiger farming on Indian proposal

New Delhi, Jul 29 : India has been successful in persuading the Standing Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species(CITES) to form a working group for monitoring efforts to restrict captive tiger farming.

''We consider it as our major success as there was no adequate monitoring of whether the tigers were being bred for trade in their parts or just to help in their conservation,'' head of the Indian delegation to CITES M B lal told UNI after return from 57th meeting held in Geneval.

A decision taken had been taken at the Conference of Parties at its meeting held last year at the Hague to restrict the captive population of tigers to a level supportive only of conservation of wild tigers.

China is the main country which has tiger breeding farms for commercial purposes, which India has been strictly opposing. There is a big market for medicines which use tiger parts.

India argues that tiger farming would lead to greater poaching of wild animals as once farm-bred tiger parts were in market, it would be difficult to distinguish them from those of wild ones.

Now the working group formed at the suggestion of India and Nepal would greatly help in determining whether any progress has been made in restricting the captive tiger population only up to a level supportive of wild population of the big cat, he said.

The document introduced by India and Nepal said the Standing Committtee is requested to ''ask all tiger range states, and any other parties breeding tigers on a commercial scale, to report to the 57th Standing Committee on the progress they have made in implementation of the decision 14.69 .'' It is estimated that China has 5000 captive tigers in its farms.

Though China has banned the trade in tiger parts, has the world’s largest illegal market for them.

India wants that the phasing-out process should include individual animal registration, development of a time-bound strategic plan to stop commercial breeding and disposal of stockpiles of tiger parts.