Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Thousands protest against Indian tiger reserve

CHENNAI - More than 15,000 people in southern India protested against the extension of a new tiger reserve Tuesday, despite official assurances that they will not lose their homes to the sanctuary.

Representatives from all parties in Tamil Nadu state, including the state's ruling party, took part in what is the third such protest since November against the extension of the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary, police said.

The state government declared Mudumalai as a tiger reserve earlier this year as part of a federal government initiative, called "Project Tiger," to boost the country's dwindling numbers of big cats.

There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago. A government census report published this year says the tiger population has fallen to 1,411, down from 3,642 in 2002, largely due to dwindling habitat and poaching.

A special panel set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in 2006 that thousands of poor villagers inside India's tiger reserves would have to be relocated to protect the endangered animals from poachers and smugglers. Some experts have put the number at around 300,000.

Poachers and smugglers exploit the grinding poverty of forest villagers to keep them on their side. Authorities have tried educating the villagers, handing out monetary incentives and drafting them as informants.

Tuesday's demonstrators were not against the declaration of a 321 sq km (125 sq mile) core area but against the creation of a buffer zone, Rajeev Srivastava, a field director for Project Tiger said.

Around 350 families living in the core area have been given a 1 million rupee ($20,800) payout, but those in the buffer areas fear they will be evicted, Srivastava said.

"We have no intention to dislodge anyone from the buffer zone. In fact, people in this zone will be involved in the project as trackers and guides for eco-tourists to enhance their means of livelihood."

The Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary is part of the larger Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve on a mountain range that spans three Indian states.

There are 48 tigers in the Nilgiri Reserve across which the tigers are free to roam, Srivastava added.


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India: Lions maul female leopard near Gir sanctuary

Amreli (PTI): A female leopard was killed by a group of about four lions in a conflict that lasted for an hour near Gadhia village outside Gir Wildlife Sanctuary, forest officials said on Tuesday.

"We found the carcass of the female leopard, in Dalkhania range of Dhari outside Gir, with teeth marks of lions on its neck on Sunday. From investigations it seems that the animals might have had a fierce battle," Deputy Forest Conservator of Dhari range Maniswar Raja said.

"We also found pug marks of three to four lions at the spot and post-mortem reports also confirmed that the female leopard was killed by the lions," Raja added.

"We cannot state the exact reason for the fight between the animals. The fight could have been over the territorial issue or the female leopard may have crossed the path of the lions," Raja said.

He termed the incident as rare.

"Lions are dominant animals and leopards prefer to stay out of their way. So the killing of the female leopard is a very rare phenomenon," he further said.

"We have seen sometimes that when a leopard kills a prey, lions chase it away and eat the prey," Raja said.

In the last five years, just two other incidents of leopard killings by lions have been reported in the Gir forest area — one in Dasada range and one in Dhari range.


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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How dogs are helping save the cheeath - Namibia

How man’s best friend is saving endangered big cat
December 26, 2008

By protecting livestock, the Kangal dog helps the cheetah to survive as farmers have no reason to kill the big cat

Lewis Smith, Environment Reporter

A ferocious dog is helping to save a big cat from extinction by doing what comes naturally – chasing it.

Kangal Anatolian shepherd dogs are known for their willingness to defend their territory to the death and have been bred to stop cheetahs from taking livestock.

While depriving the cheetahs of occasional meals, the dogs have been doing them a good turn because, with the livestock left in peace, farmers have little reason to persecute the big cat.

Almost 300 Kangals have been given to farmers in Namibia since 1994 by the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) and the scheme has proved so successful that it has been extended to Kenya. Masai tribesmen in a village outside the Masai Mara in Kenya have taken delivery of their first Kangal, a male, and it is expected to reduce their livestock losses to predators dramatically.

In Namibia the dogs, which originate from Turkey and for 6,000 years have helped to protect villagers and their livestock from wolves, have been sent to live at 275 farms in the areas where livestock most frequently fall prey to cheetahs.

During the past 14 years the number of cheetahs killed by farmers is calculated to have fallen from 19 per farmer annually to 2.4. Livestock losses have been cut significantly at more than 80 per cent of the farms where the dogs have been adopted. Of the cats that are still killed by farmers the great majority are attributed to specific attacks on livestock instead, as was the case previously, of being tracked and slaughtered whenever they came close to a farm.

Laurie Marker, who founded the CCF and runs the Kangal project, said of the dogs: “They are man’s best friend and they are the cheetah’s best friend.”

Kangals are allowed to roam freely around the farms where they are sent and will mark out a wide territory. Whenever animals perceived as a threat come close, the Kangals raise the alarm by barking and, if that is not enough, by challenging the interlopers. Confrontations can be deadly but the dogs will risk their lives to protect the animals and their owners.

Cheetahs are easily chased off but other animals are harder to scare, especially leopards and troops of baboons. “We have amazing stories about the dogs from the farmers protecting and living against fights with troops of baboons and chasing off leopards – with one fighting a leopard to its death,” Dr Marker said.

“There have been lots of stories of them chasing away cheetahs, jackals and caracal. Several dogs carry scars from some of these fights and yet they keep on working. They are amazing, strong and tough.” Since 1991 the long-term decline in cheetah numbers in Namibia has been reversed and the estimated population has risen from 2,000 to more than 3,000.

Much of the improvement has been attributed to the Kangals, along with other projects such as teaching farmers how to avoid coming into conflict with the big cats.

Namibia was selected for the initial programme because it has the highest number of cheetahs among the 26 countries in Africa where the predator can be found. Dr Marker hopes that Kangals can be sent eventually to many more countries to protect the cat.


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License sales for S.D. cougar hunt down sharply

Lion hunters down 65 percent from 2007

By Mark Watson
Black Hills Pioneer

SPEARFISH - Only 1,430 hunters bought licenses for the upcoming mountain lion season.

That is only 35 percent of the licenses sold for the 2007 season and nearly half from the inaugural 2005 lion season.

That sharp decline is due largely to the fact that the new season, which starts Thursday, runs apart from other hunting season. In the past the Lion season has run concurrently woth other seasons.

In May, when the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks commissioners proposed the state forgo a 2007 season and instead move it to the beginning of the year, John Kanta, regional wildlife manager with the GF&P thought that the number of hunters would drop sharply.

“I have a guess and that would be 1,000 (hunters) …; but we don't have any way to tease that data out,” Kanta said at the May commission meeting.

Discussion at the GF&P has officials debating whether or not the lion quota will be filled.

“We have a lot of different opinions here at the game and fish,” Kanta said. “I know some people are quite certain we will fill it, and others are a bit skeptical.”

But he said people felt the same way in 2005 for the first season.

“I always point out that the first season we had, myself as an example, I said 'we wouldn't reach that harvest limit the first year. Low and behold 15 days later the season was closed,” he said. “My personal opinion is that we may struggle this year with the deep snow and we are not running this season concurrent with another season like the deer season. It is off on its own now, which is a considerable reduction in licenses. So we potentially could struggle to get the harvest limit this year.”

Another factor that will limit the hunting is more limited access.

Many of the roads that hunters used during the earlier seasons are closed to allow snowmobiling or for winter game range.

“That certainly will pose a challenge for some of these hunters,” Kanta said. “Now whether they are willing to go behind closed gates or blocked roads and travel on foot, that is to be determined. But certainly in the Northern Hills and over in the more remote part of the north central Hills access will be limited. We're not sure how that will affect the harvest at this point.”

The change in the start date is to help prevent kittens from being orphaned.

“We know through research we substantially decrease the chances of orphaning kittens starting in January,” Kanta said.

Hunters in the 2007 season killed the mothers of three litters, orphaning seven kittens.

Through tracking systems and biological information taken from the cats during the mandatory check-in at the Rapid City office, the GF&P knew which harvested lions had litters. Those kittens were located, captured and sent to South Dakota State University where they were later transferred to zoos.

The Black Hills Mountain Lion Foundation supports the change.

“We are in favor of this change for a couple reasons,” said Dr. Sharon Seneczko, president and founder of the local foundation. “One is that it takes it out of sync with the deer and elk season. So now there would be hunters out there hunting specifically for lion who hopefully will be more educated about what they are hunting. They are not incidentally shooting them if they see them, so the opportunity to orphan less would be there.

“The other is, we know from their research, that the peak birth of the kittens …#045; is in August. So if we push the season back, a greater number of kittens that could be orphaned would be older. Better to be left at 6 months rather than 3 months.”

The new season will run until March 31 or until the quota of 35 total lions or 15 female lions are killed.

In 2007, 19 cats were killed from Nov. 1-23. The distribution was split evenly between the Northern, Central and Southern Hills. One lion was killed in Harding County, a sub-adult male. Another lion, a female, was killed just outside the Black Hills boundary, which is Interstate 90.

The new season will also allow landowners outside the Black Hills to hunt year-round on their land.

“During the regular season, those licenses that a landowner might hold are good anywhere in the state …#045; after the season closes, after the harvest limit is met or March 31 comes. If that landowner hasn't harvested a lion that calendar year, that tag is good on their own land for the rest of the year,” Kanta said.

He cautioned hunters to be aware of the quota.

“It is their responsibility to keep themselves posted on where we're at for the season,” he said. “If a hunter harvests a lion after the season has been closed they will be looking at a citation. That's one important thing that they need to do.”

In 2007 three males were killed and 16 females were taken. The 16th, one over the 15 female lion quota, was shot at approximately the same time that the season-ending 15th female lion was being checked in with the GF&P, still making it a legal kill.

Lions traveling with another may not be shot.

Kanta said the department also increased the estimated number of lions in the Hills. The new estimate, at “250, plus or minus 30” is up slightly from prior numbers.

“We're not saying that the population has increased that much, but what we are saying is that we have better data to better estimate the population. This is a refined estimate,” he said. “We do still think that the population is slightly increasing.”

That increasing population has some sub adult males moving out of the Black Hills.

Kanta said a couple are on the Wyoming and Montana border and one is heading east of the Hills in the Cheyenne River drainage.


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Oldest cheetah fossil found, points to Asian roots?

Rebecca Carroll
for National Geographic News

December 29, 2008

The earliest known cheetahs roamed present-day China more than two million years ago, according to new research.

The study supports the theory that the big cats originated in the Old World, not North America.

The new idea is based on the discovery of a new species of prehistoric cheetah. A nearly complete fossil cranium of the new species, found in China's Gansu Province, is similar in size and shape to modern cheetah skulls, researchers found.

But some of its teeth are extremely primitive, said study co-author Ji H. Mazák of the Shanghai Science and Technology Museum.

This "mosaic of anatomical features" suggests the Chinese cheetah, called Acinonyx kurteni, represents an early stage in cheetah evolution, he said.

The varied traits also indicate skull and dental characteristics considered unique to cheetahs evolved gradually, according to the study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Throwing a potential wrench in the new discovery, other scientists say they had already identified the species under another name.

All American?

The Cheetah, the fastest land animal, is a highly threatened species with an estimated adult population of only 7,500, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The only known wild cheetah population outside of Africa is a critically endangered group of fewer than a hundred in Iran.

But cheetah fossils throughout Africa, Europe, Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and even North America have been found between 3.2 million and 2,000 years old.

The newly studied fossils were dated to the late Pliocene, between 2.15 and 2.55 million years ago.

Two prehistoric cheetah-like species of North America are believed by some scientists to be distant cousins of giant cheetahs of ancient Europe.

This possible relationship has led some researchers to speculate that the earliest cheetahs may have originated in North America and traveled across the Bering Strait from Alaska to Siberia.

Intercontinental Travel?

Mazák said the new finds challenges this theory, suggesting instead a Eurasian-African origin of the cheetah lineage.

For instance, the primitive dental features would have been more developed in the Chinese fossil if cheetahs had come from North America.

This leaves the question of whether cheetahs traveled across the Bering Strait the other way—from Siberia to Alaska—or if the American cheetah-like cat evolved separately, as some scientists argue.

By Any Other Name?

Deng Tao, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, was "astonished" reading the new study.

The newly identified skull is from a new species, he said.

Deng said his team had already described this species as Sivapanthera linxiaensis. Sivapanthera is the fossil genus of the ancient cheetah—today's cheetahs belong to the Acinonyx genus.

Mazák responded that his team and Deng's team had studied different species. He argued that Deng's fossils more closely resembled the genus Panthera—which includes the tiger, leopard, jaguar and lion—than Acinonyx.

Deng's fossils were also too big to belong to a cheetah species, Mazák added.

Deng also claimed that the skull in the new study was not an intact original, but rather a compilation from bones of various individuals and possibly even various species.

The difference between an intact skull and a compilation is apparent from comparisons of the photos of the skull in the current study and the skulls his team studied, Deng said.

Mazák denied this charge, saying his team had carefully examined their cranium and determined that all of its parts—including teeth—belonged to the same individual.


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Monday, December 29, 2008

Stray tiger kills a cow this time

Stray tiger kills a cow this time

Express News Service Posted: Dec 29, 2008 at 0023 hrs

Faizabad: The stray tiger, which has been eluding Forest department officials for over a month now, has killed a cow in Sultanpur’s Manjhegoan forest range on Saturday.
It had also attacked Rajkaran, the owner of the cow, however, managed to escape.

The stray tiger had moved into the dense forest cover of Faizabad on Saturday. Sultanpur District Forest Officer Ram Kumar said the tiger had attacked a few domesticated animals and blue bulls, but had no information of any attack on a human being.

Kumar added: “For the last three days, the tiger had been roaming in Manjhegoan and Sansaarpur forest reserves. On Sunday, it moved to Rampur Janak forest reserve area of Faizabad after crossing river Gomti.”

Faizabad District Forest Officer O P Singh, who is camping in Rampur Janak forest reserve with wildlife experts, said: “We have prohibited the entry of human beings in the forest. We are trying to catch the animal with the help of sharp shooters and tranquiliser guns.”

Rehabilitation of Communities Involved in Traditional Hunting outside Tiger Reserves

Rehabilitation of Communities Involved in Traditional Hunting outside Tiger Reserves

Year End Review
Ministry of Environment and Forests
Press Information Bureau
Government of India
Monday, December 29, 2008

National Tiger Conservation Authority is strengthening anti-poaching activities, including special strategy for monsoon patrolling, by providing funding support to Tiger Reserve States, as proposed by them, for deployment of anti-poaching squads involving ex-army personnel / home guards, apart from workforce comprising of local people, in addition to strengthening of communication / wireless facilities.

The revised Project Tiger guidelines have been issued to States for strengthening tiger conservation, which apart from ongoing activities, interalia, include funding support to States for enhanced village relocation/rehabilitation package for people living in core or critical tiger habitats (from Rs. 1 lakh/family to Rs. 10 lakhs/family), rehabilitation/resettlement of communities involved in traditional hunting, mainstreaming livelihood and wildlife concerns in forests outside tiger reserves and fostering corridor conservation through restorative strategy to arrest habitat fragmentation.

An area of 26749.097 has been notified by 14 Tiger States (out of 17) as core or critical tiger habitat under section 38V of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, as amended in 2006 (AP, Arunachal, Assam, Karnataka, Kerala, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Orissa and West Bengal). Three tiger States (Bihar, Chhattisgarh and UP) have taken a decision for notifying the core or critical tiger habitats (4264.282 The State of Madhya Pradesh has not identified/notified the core/critical tiger habitat in its newly constituted tiger reserve (Sanjay National Park and Sanjay Dubri Wildlife Sanctuary).

Memorandum of Understanding developed for better/concerted implementation of conservation inputs through tiger reserve States.

A scientific methodology for estimating tiger (including copredators, prey animals and assessment of habitat status) has been evolved and mainstreamed. The findings of this estimation/assessment are bench marks for future tiger conservation strategy.

Intervention made in CITES for suggesting benchmark for restricting captive breeding of tigers to a level supportive to wild tiger conservation.

As a part of “active management” initiative to strengthen wild tiger conservation, a male tiger and a tigress have been reintroduced in the Sariska Tiger Reserve (Rajasthan), based on a recovery strategy suggested by the Wildlife Institute of India. The tigers are being closely monitored by radio telemetry.

The policy initiatives announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget Speech of 29.2.2008, interalia, contains action points relating to tiger protection. A one time grant of Rs. 50.00 crores has been provided to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) for raising, arming and deploying a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF). The proposal, finalized on the basis of discussion with States, other enforcement agencies and MHA, has been discussed in the EFC meeting.

Big cat can breathe easy now

Big cat can breathe easy now

30 Dec 2008, 0333 hrs IST, Neha Shukla, TNN

The madness over catching the stray tiger has finally ended. With the team of UP forest department that was chasing the animal so far out of picture, the squad from Wildlife Institute of India (WII) is going about the whole operation very methodically.

To start with, the WWI team that joined the search operation on Sunday, has called off combing. The institute will work on the 3T plan Tracking, Tranquillising and Trapping. Tracking the tiger is the first step of the plan and it has been set in motion starting from Monday.

Orders regarding the same have already been conveyed to Faizabad forest division, to ensure that the spot officials are prepared for the exercise. The professionals do not want to disturb the tiger into moving away from the area, which has been the case so far. The big cat will be left in peace for some time to come, at its current hiding place in Subhaya jungle along Rampurjanak village.

The tiger will take two to three days to get used to its surroundings in Subhaya. All this while the trackers would be trailing it and the day they realise that the tiger will not move any further, they will tranquillise and trap it.

For trackers, the entire exercise is a child's play as it is very similar to showing a tiger to tourists in Dudhwa, being aware of the tiger's habits and habitat. The team could see quite a few trackers from Dudhwa and Katarniaghat joining the operation soon, said sources.

The exercise will give some respite to the harried feline as well, which has been on the run for its life being blindly chased by the forest department.

WII seems to have come in at the right time. The tiger has reached Subhaya, a 5,000 hectare jungle at the tri-section of Barabanki, Faizabad and Sultanpur. The jungle is rich in prey and has the river Gomti flowing along. The tiger can have a perfect stay here until it is taken back to Pilibhit.

Logging, Poaching Threatens Sumatra Tiger’s Future

Logging, Poaching Threatens Sumatra Tiger’s Future

December 30, 2008
News / National / Article
Fidelis E. Satriastanti

Deforestation and illegal poaching are threatening to wipe out the few remaining Sumatran tigers in the Kerinci Seblat National Park, an activist said on Monday.

Yoan Dinata, from Flora and Fauna International, a non-governmental organization that is monitoring Sumatran tigers in the national park, said that loss of habitat and the animal’s natural prey was a major threat to the species’ future.

Dinata said that an estimated that 85.6 square kilometers of forest was lost annually from 2002 to 2004 in the national park, severely reducing the animal’s natural environment.

Dinata said that deforestation had also forced the tigers to encroach on land owned by villagers and that poachers themselves had been attacked.

“[Deforestation] is also giving rise to more conflict between the tigers and humans because some parts of the national park are located near villages,” he said.

Diana added that the 1.4-million-hectare park was capable of supporting a far larger population than the estimated 136 remaining and that the animal’s future was therefore uncertain.

“The Sumatran tiger is facing extinction because the numbers are not proportional to the large area of the park,” Dinata said.

The national park straddles four major provinces — West Sumatra, Jambi, Bengkulu and South Sumatra — and borders nine districts, 43 subdistricts and 134 villages.

It is a home not only to the Sumatran tiger but also the rare Sumatran rhino, the Sumatran elephant and Rafflesia arnoldii, which can attain a diameter of one meter and can weigh 11 kilograms, making it the world’s largest flower.

FFI has been monitoring the species since 2004 by looking for droppings and tracks and by using camera traps, Dinata said.

However, he said that the absence of accurate data prior to 2004 made it difficult to estimate the species’ annual rate of decline.

“But every year around three to five tigers have been killed for the illegal market from the park,” he said.

The Sumatran tiger was classified as endangered in 1996 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

There are estimated to be between 400 to 500 of such tigers left on Sumatra island.

The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of all existing tiger subspecies. Male Sumatran tigers average 234 centimeters in length and weigh about 136 kilograms.

Tiger kills leopard for intruding into its territory

Tiger kills leopard for intruding into its territory

29 Dec 2008, 0341 hrs IST, TNN

LUCKNOW: The shrinking forest cover has brought even tigers and leopards face to face within protected areas. The law of the jungle maintains that if a Leopard trespasses onto a tiger's territory then it gets killed. That is what happened on Sunday when a leopard entered into the territory of the tiger and was killed by the latter, in North Kheri forest division.

The leopard was an adult and the pugmarks of the tiger around its body confirm that the leopard died while fighting with the tiger. According to KK Singh, divisional forest officer, North Kheri, the leopard could have been killed by the tiger when it trespassed on its territory.

The body of the leopard was found lying in Matehi village area of North Kheri on Sunday. The body was brought to Dhaurara range of the division for the post-mortem and further investigation. However, the tiger did not eat the leopard.

North kheri is almost adjacent to Nishangadha range of Katarniaghat division. Katarniaghat has a good population of leopards which keeps visiting North Kheri region.

The tussle between the tigers and leopards can also be explained in terms of the declining prey base. Both the big cats depend on wild boars and blue bulls for the diet but the forests are slowly getting devoid of these animals. The leopard was a victim of this battle for supremacy.

WII set to reunite tiger with its mom

WII set to reunite tiger with its mom

29 Dec 2008, 0338 hrs IST, Neha Shukla, TNN

LUCKNOW: There is hope anew that the young tiger might welcome the new year in the company of its mother in Pilibhit. The Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has joined the operation to rescue and take back the wandering feline to the wild after the failure of the forest department to do so.

The two member WII team consists of a veterinary expert and a biologist. The team will work in co-operation with the forest officials.

Meanwhile, the tiger is currently hiding in Faizabad district's Ramjanakpur village. It had killed a blue bull in the patch of jungle along the village on Sunday.

From the time of its moving out from Pilibhit area on November 11, the tiger has now entered the fifth forest division on Saturday after passing through Shahjahanpur, Sitapur, Barabanki and Lucknow. WII might succeed in restraining the tiger from moving any further. The forest officials in Faizabad have been ordered not to disturb the big cat in moving away from its current location.

The involvement of WII can make the department follow the national guidelines formed by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA). If tested on NTCA's guidelines, then the ongoing operation has already been a failure. Such operations require a set of well-defined preventive and control measures but the department did not follow any one of these.

The tiger could have been caught in Gauriaghat -- where it got trapped within an area of 400 metre of scrubland on December 13 -- had the department taken these measures seriously. The tiger had entered the patch around 12 in the noon and stayed till 5.00 in the morning. The department claims to have kept round-the-clock vigil over the area and yet the tiger managed to move to the next spot.

There is a need to deploy tracking squads comprising frontline staff and experienced local people and to plot day-to-day movement of the wayward animal. But, in this case the tiger has been ahead of the tracking team leaving the forest officials confused.

The wild goose chase can be given some direction if the department constitutes an advisory committee involving experienced trackers, field staff and NGOs. The committee can be of help in ascertaining the sex, age, physical deformities and behaviour of the carnivore. However, the major part of this operation was conducted secretly with wildlife organisations being isolated from the entire exercise.

Whenever tigers move out in human areas, the forest department is supposed to deploy workforce to prevent local people from trespassing in the area but this simple preventive measure was missing in this case. The measure could have prevented the death of a 14-year old boy in Bastauli village.

Tiger sleeps after lethal lunge

Tiger sleeps after lethal lunge

Issue Date: Monday , December 29 , 2008

Kultali/Calcutta, Dec. 28: A tranquilliser bullet in its body, a Sunderbans tiger pounced seven feet to land on a forest officer who had shot at it and the two plunged into a pond.

Swatting away Krishnapada Mondal, the 150kg animal hurried out of the water, darted into an adjacent hut and passed out.

The big cat had strayed into Kantamari village at Sankijahan, about 210km from Calcutta, early this morning.

Mondal, 58, a veteran of the Sunderbans, was thanking his survival instincts while recounting his two-minute tryst with the tiger. “I was trying to protect my neck and shoulder and move away from the animal all the while,” he said from his bed at SSKM Hospital.

He has been to “20 such assignments” before. “But never have I came so close to a tiger,” said the deputy ranger.

Clawed and slapped by the wounded giant, Mondal followed it to the residence of Sridhar Betal, where the tiger pa- ssed out because of the sedative. A team of 18 forest officials carried the animal away around 12.30pm.

Mondal got a call after the tiger injured Usharani Sardar, 12, who was on her way to a field with her sister-in-law to cut hay.

“The tiger was hiding behind a bush and it pounced on me and caught my thighs. I cried for help, but it held onto my thighs and clawed my hands,” she said at SSKM.

Her cousin Sudip, 25, dragged her out as the tiger loosened its jaws.

After sending Usha to the health centre, the villagers found the animal behind a banana grove. They surrounded the area with sticks and laid nylon nets so it could not es- cape. That is where the tiger stayed put until Mondal and his men arrived.

Hospital sources said both Mondal and Sardar had multiple injuries but their condition was stable.

Divisional forest officer Shubhendu Banerjee said the animal had apparently entered the village, after crossing a tributary of the Matla, in search of food. The tiger might be released after vets observe it for a day.

CM seeks report on straying tigers

CM seeks report on straying tigers

30 Dec 2008, 0402 hrs IST, TNN

KOLKATA: The state government is concerned about the frequent straying of tigers of the Sunderbans into the adjoining villages. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee sought a report on this trend from the forest department on Monday.

Chairing a meeting of the Sunderban Development Board, he has asked experts to probe the incidents of straying and also asked the director of the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve to submit a report on them immediately. Those attending the meeting said experts should also check whether the behavioural pattern of tigers in the Sunderbans was changing.
He also wanted to know if the food chain of the tigers has been depleted and if there are deer and boars in adequate numbers in the wild. The chief minister even asked the experts to find out if global warming had anything to do with the straying of tigers.

Sunderbans affairs minister Kanti Ganguly, who was also present at the meeting, said the CM had wanted a proper plan for the tourists as they often enter the core area of the forest, which is just not desirable. "The CM said mushrooming of hotels in the Sunderbans needs to be stopped." Ganguly said Bhattacharjee had also wanted mechanised boats, which ferry tourists to the islands, redesigned as these lead to noise pollution, have no gears and often damage the jetties.

The CM wanted an eco-friendly tourism plan so that big cats are not disturbed by tourists. Even the Centre had directed the state earlier this year to restrict tourists to the Sunderbans non-core area and prohibit random development of hotels in the forests.

Ganguly felt the straying tigers were becoming more ferocious as the number of man-eaters had increased in the last couple of years. He was also alarmed by the number of tigers attacking men.

Some senior forest officials, however, said the number of tigers straying from the forest has not increased much. It's just that the incidents are highlighted more often. "The tigers that have strayed in the past decade were all tranquillized and sent back to the forest," an official said, adding the tigers usually stray in October and November, not so much for food but due to a reduced forest area from 9,600 sqkm to 4,200 sqkm.

Officials claimed that the food chain has not been disturbed as there are boars, deer, water monitors and even fish for the tigers to prey upon.

Forest officials said they have already put up a nylon fence stretching to nearly 64 km to prevent tigers from straying. At some places, the fencing has been damaged by heavy silt deposit and tigers can easily swim through creeks to reach villages. "Electrical fencing cannot be done in the Sunderbans due to the tide," said an official.

Tiger raids on study table

Tiger raids on study table

Issue Date: Tuesday , December 30 , 2008

Calcutta, Dec. 29: The chief minister today ordered a study to ascertain why Sunderban tigers were increasingly straying into villages.

Sunderbans affairs minister Kanti Ganguly said: “Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is con- cerned about the increasing tiger raids. We have been told to find out what exactly is for-cing the animals to stray into human territory.”

A 150kg tiger had leapt seven feet and landed on a forest officer yesterday after being shot a tranquilliser bullet. The two plunged into a pond, where the animal pawed the man before running into a hut and collapsing. Earlier in the morning, 12-year-old Usharani Sardar was virtually pulled out of the tiger’s jaws by her cousin at Kantamari village.

The caged animal was not released into the wild today because it was yet to overcome the effects of the sedative.

A Sunderbans Tiger Reserve official said tigers moved out of jungles when they were old and infirm and particularly when they were left with few deer and pigs inside’’.

Mrinal Chatterjee of the Indian Climbers and Nature Lovers said tigers had been straying into villages “frequently over the past 10 years because of the shrinking prey base”.

Fishermen and honey co-llectors who rush to rescue a mate often leave tigers injured. “They carry sharp weapons and sticks into the reserve and injure the tiger in their bid to rescue a victim. Unfit to hunt in the wild, the wounded tigers attack human settlements,” Chatterjee said.

Former Project Tiger field director Pranabesh Sanyal also blamed global warming for the trend. “The salinity of the Sunderbans, especially in the southernmost part of tiger habitat — the core area of the reserve — has risen by 15 per cent over the past decade. So there has been a northern migration of tigers, bringing them closer to human habitation.”

Sunday, December 28, 2008

New charity launched to save Scottish wildcat

New charity launched to save iconic wildcat from extinction
veteran naturalist and cat-watcher mike tomkies is named as patron

By Morag Lindsay

Published: 27/12/2008

A charity has been set up to conserve one of Scotland’s iconic and endangered species.

The Scottish Wildcat Association has been formed by a group of film-makers, writers, sculptors and photographers committed to keeping alive the surviving population. There are fewer than 400 left in the wild.

The patron of the SWA is a veteran naturalist who has done more than most to bring the plight of the wildcat to wider public attention.

Mike Tomkies spent over a decade studying them in their habitat in the Highlands before publishing two accounts of his extraordinary encounters in the 1970s.

The books, My Wilderness Wildcats and Liane, A Cat from the Wild, are now being reprinted in a single edition by Caithness-based Whittles Publishing. A share of the profits will go to the SWA.

Mr Tomkies says the wildcat appeals to the free spirit in everyone.

“They're shy, they're clever, they move silently and they would fight to the death for their freedom. They epitomise what it takes to be truly free, I think.

“Wildcat remains were found in Scotland in Pleistocene deposits over 2million years old.

“They co-existed with the mammoth, the lynx and the wolf. They are gone now, but the wildcat is clinging on and we must protect it.”

Others signed up to the SWA include bronze sculptor David Mayer, who has made a stunning Scottish wildcat piece as a limited edition, and wildlife photographers Laurie Campbell and Peter Cairns, whose work is on the SWA website and will soon be available for sale.

The impetus for the new charity was the release of the documentary film, Last of the Scottish Wildcats, in 2007. Made on a tiny budget by the award-winning British company, Coffee Films, it is only the second complete film on the species and includes new wild footage and in-depth investigation of the threats facing the wildcat. The film is available on DVD, with Coffee Films pledging 50% of the profits to the SWA.

Director and producer Steve Piper said public awareness was essential. “The greatest threat to the wildcat is very few people outside of the Highlands realise they’re even there — and only handfuls of them understand the threats to the wildcat or how to help. Fortunately, communication is exactly what creative artists spend their whole life doing.” For more information visit


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Britain: Use lynx to cull deer, says top ecologist

Use lynx to cull deer, says top ecologist

Britain's big cat may be reintroduced to help balance nature, 500 years after being hunted to extinction here

By Ian Johnston
Sunday, 28 December 2008

It may send a shiver down the spine of the faint-hearted, but one of the UK's leading conservationists is arguing that the European lynx should be reintroduced to Britain, to help control the expanding population of deer. More than 500 years since the animal was wiped out by humans, Professor David Macdonald, director of the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University, believes their return should be considered.

Professor Macdonald warned deer were threatening to reach "pestilential levels" in places. Tens of thousands of the UK's 1.5 million deer are culled every year; a further 50,000 are shot by poachers. The return of the lynx would provide a natural way of controlling deer numbers, he argues.

Speaking ahead of today's publication of his annual State of Britain's Mammals report, written with colleague Dawn Burnham, he said the lynx was the least controversial and most practical candidate for reintroduction into the UK. Beavers have recently been brought back to Scotland and wolves and bears are also potential candidates.

"There is enough food – there are all these roe deer that people are having to control and the lynx could help out. Will they damage anybody's living? Not really. A few sheep would get killed, but Alps experience is that it is manageable.... As far as I'm aware, there is no recorded case of lynx being any danger to people."

Humans and deer are on a collision course over competition for resources, he says. "Deer are provided with an enormous source of food by forestry plantations and farmland. Since this is the same food as we plan to be eating ourselves there is going to be a crunch.... Avoiding this looming impasse urgently requires ingenious research and intelligent policy."


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Environmentalists protest lynx plan

Four groups ask U.S. Forest Service to reconsider management plan for lynx in Colorado.

Posted Dec. 28, 2008, 3 a.m. EST

Four environmentalist groups — Colorado Wild, the Center for Native Ecosystems, Defenders of Wildlife and WildEarth Guardians — filed an appeal of a U.S. Forest Service management plan this week. The groups said the plan, developed for lynx in national forests in Colorado and southern Wyoming, gives preference to other uses of the forest over habitat for the cat, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Specifically, the final plan, released in November, dilutes guidelines for other forest uses such as logging, snow recreation, road improvements and gas/oil development, the groups said. “If the amendment’s weaker standards and guidelines are applied to areas in the Southern Rocky Mountains, lynx recovery may be delayed or even thwarted altogether,” said Rocky Smith of Colorado Wild, adding that the small lynx population in the southern Rockies is vulnerable to extinction.

Since 1999, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has worked to restore the cat’s population in Colorado, releasing more than 200 lynx from Canada and Alaska in the state. Up until two years ago, wildlife biologists reported seeing lynx kittens in the wild. The decline in litters may be attributed to a decline in the cat’s main prey, the snowshoe hare.

The Forest Service said the plan will manage vegetation to encourage growth in the snowshoe hare population. Exceptions for logging and other activities are included to reduce wildfire risks and to give forest managers more flexibility in dealing with the current bark beetle infestation affecting pine trees in Colorado.


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Okefenokee could house panthers


Published: Sunday, December 28, 2008 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 27, 2008 at 10:10 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE - A new federal report shows that the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in north Florida and southeast Georgia could be the ideal place to relocate a population of endangered panthers.

The report is part of an update to a plan to increase the Florida panther population, which now lives in a few counties west of the Everglades. The report's recommendations include creating a panther corridor from South Florida into South Georgia.

There are about 100 panthers in southwest Florida, up from the 30 that were known in the 1990s.

Wildlife officials want to give the cats more room to roam. The report recommends creating three separate groupings of 240 panthers to make sure they survive.


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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Wild tiger flies back to nature

Wild tiger flies back to nature

Hotli Simanjuntak , The Jakarta Post , Banda Aceh Mon, 12/22/2008 11:04 AM Headlines

After being in quarantine for more than a month in the backyard of the Aceh Natural Resources Conservation Center (BKSDA), a wild Sumatran tiger captured in Jantho was finally released back to its habitat on Sunday.

The female tiger, believed to be 18 months old, was caught in a trap by the BKSDA following reports that it was terrorizing people living at the foot of the Bukit Barisan mountain range, some 40 kilometers southeast of Banda Aceh.

A helicopter was used to help release the tiger into Pucok Krueng Merah forest, Pidie Jaya, Aceh, the habitat of the renowned and rare Sumatran tiger.

The effort was jointly funded by a number of NGOs including Flora Fauna International, Leuser Ecosystem Foundation, Ekolestari Foundation, Vessweic and BKSDA Aceh with the help of the Iskandar Muda military air base.

"We allocated thousands of dollars for the release," Mike Griffiths of the Leuser Ecosystem Foundation said.

Griffiths said a number of wild animals, including tigers, had been driven out of their natural habitat because of illegal logging, including in the Pidie area, where the tiger is believed to have come from.

Illegal logging has increased since peace returned to Aceh after decades of war and insurgency, he said.

"During the conflict, no people dared go into the forest. Now, people return to forests, cut down trees and do farming," he said.

BKSDA Aceh has recorded a total of 10 incidents of tigers frightening people living near forests in seven regencies in the past two years.

BKSDA Aceh has trapped a number of wild tigers creating problems in villages near the forests. The agency is currently holding one wild tiger in quarantine.

Last June, the agency released five Sumatran tigers into the wild in Lampung because of the depletion of forests in Aceh.

Official estimates in 1992 put the population of Sumatran tigers at five national conservation forests in Sumatra at 400, of which 110 were in Leuser in Aceh. The number is believed to be much lower now.

Centre frowns at reward for killing tiger

Centre frowns at reward for killing tiger

Express News Service
Posted: Dec 25, 2008 at 0355 hrs IST

Lucknow: The Centre has taken strong exception to the Uttar Pradesh government’s announcement of a cash reward for killing a stray tiger.

The state forest department had declared the tiger a maneater after the remains of a 14-year-old boy were found in a jungle near Sarai Bilahari in Barabanki on Tuesday. Subsequently, orders were issued to kill the beast as the department was under pressure from the state government to catch the animal.

On Wednesday, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) asked the UP government not to kill the tiger and directed a Wildlife Institute of India (WII) team to visit the spot and catch the animal.

NTCA Member Secretary Rajesh Gopal said: “It is unfortunate that the UP administration has announced a reward for killing the tiger. There are specific guidelines under the NTCA that differentiate between a ‘man-killer’ and ‘maneater’. A tiger can only be called a maneater if it regularly kills humans.”

He added: “Though there is no rule against the declaration of monetary reward for killing a declared maneater, the killing has to be handled by the Forest department. It is unfortunate that the reward was announced for ‘anyone’, who kills it.”

Tiger conservationist and member of the National Board for Wildlife Belinda Wright said: “Only a chief wildlife warden can declare a tiger a maneater. The declaration of the reward by the district administration for killing the tiger is against the law.”

Barabanki District Magistrate K Ravindra Nayak, who had declared the cash reward of Rs 5,000 for killing the tiger, said: “My words were misunderstood. I had declared the reward to those, who would assist in the combing operations like carrying torches during night operations.”

Forest department sources said this is the first time in living memory, when the department declared a big cat a maneater after it had killed merely one person.

In March, the North Kheri Forest Division had requested the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) to declare a leopard a maneater after it had killed five persons over three months. But the animal was not declared a maneater.

PCCF (Wildlife) BK Patnaik, however, denied that the tiger was declared a maneater under political pressure. “The decision was taken to ensure the safety of villagers,” he said.

The department, however, appeared to soften its stand after the protest from the NTCA. Patnaik said, “Shooting the tiger is our last option and we are making all possible efforts to capture it. The law states that the animal can be killed if it can’t be tranquilised.”

Tiger, tiger, not bright enough

Tiger, tiger, not bright enough

24 Dec 2008, 0520 hrs IST, TNN

PUNE: For 14 months, he travelled through eight states of India and canned 70 hours of footage before documentary filmmaker Krishnendu Bose was satisfied that he had enough material to make a convincing statement about how efforts at protecting the tiger have failed, especially those taken by the government.

The result, a 63-minute film titled Tiger: The Death Chronicles,' is also an indicator of the way we look at our forests, our conservation and our development. "The fact is we haven't been very successful in saving the tiger to the extent that it compels us to rethink our perspectives, our engagement with governance and clearly our accountability to ourselves," Bose states.

This is for the first time that a film joins diverse voices, from tiger scientists and conservationists to ordinary citizens, to attempt a brutal and an honest assessment of the present and the future of the Indian tiger and its habitat. According to the latest government estimate, the tiger population in India is in the range of 1,300 to 1,500 a considerable drop from 3,642 tigers in 2001.

Given this data, Bose's film gains considerable importance for the fact that it shows how natives have teamed up with forest department officials at the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttaranchal and BRT Sanctuary in Andhra Pradesh and helped tigers survive. The International Union for Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) recently rated the Corbett National Park as one of the best-managed tiger reserves in the country.

Both these reserves, as Bose points out, have something in common. The local residents depend on the forest for their sustenance, and in the process of providing for themselves, they conserve the forests helping in the protection of the tiger. In BRT, tribals worship the tiger. Bose shows special concern for Central India which has witnessed a dramatic fall of 65 per cent in the tiger population as forests are being used for mining and other commercial purposes.

Encroachment on their habitat has led to a drastic fall in their numbers and have also forced the tigers to come in conflict with humans. Bose has also documented how the Supreme Court's ban on the use of forest produce by traditional users has led to commercial exploitation and the destruction of the forest cover.

Elaborating on what went into the making of this film, Bose says after 20 years of filming wildlife, he was tempted to focus on the mechanics of conservation. "It is difficult to make these kinds of films because bureaucracy has a way of leading you down blind alleys. The attempt is to discover the truth and lay it bare. Also, as a filmmaker, it is important to maintain an objective distance and not let personal bias seep into the narrative," he adds.

Significantly, the film does not stop at merely showcasing the problem and letting the involved parties have their say. It goes a step further to provide a way out. "One way is to look at how indigenous dwellers of the forest can be made participants in saving the tiger and secondly, we have to start asking questions to make the government answerable. This is now possible through the Right To Information Act," he suggests.

Meanwhile, even though Bose's film does not focus on the trade' issue too much, the fact that cannot be ignored is that there are now plans to legalise the sale of tiger parts from tiger farms in East Asia. Lobbyists for legalising tiger trade argue that flooding the market with farmed animals will reduce the price of tiger and therefore the profits from poaching. The reason is that poaching in India costs only $40 to $60 a tiger, while maintaining one in captivity in East Asia costs $2,000-$4,000. The cost difference says it all. "We all need to wake up to the reality. And fight to save the tiger," Bose concludes.

Ellusive tiger’s pugmarks found near Faizabad

Ellusive tiger’s pugmarks found near Faizabad

Express News Service
Posted: Dec 28, 2008 at 0338 hrs IST

Lucknow: As the stray tiger moved into the dense forest cover of Faizabad on Saturday, a team of wildlife experts from Wildlife Institute of India (WII), Dehradun has joined the state Forest department to help it in trapping the big cat.
Experts say the behaviour of the animal reflected through its attacks on the people reveal that the killings were not accidental. “Its manner of killing was deliberate. It even tried to drag a victim inside the forests despite the presence of several people in Pilibhit. Such incidents reveal that the tiger could be a maneater,” said PK Mallik, Director, WII.

Experts now advocate a change in the strategy to catch the big cat and reduce the number of people in the rescue operations. After getting information from the trackers regarding the presence of the tiger, a smaller team should be sent to the area to catch it. “We will reduce our team strength and undertake the operations quietly,” said RS Mishra, conservator of forest, Faizabad.

Covering a distance of nearly 15 km, the tiger has moved from Barabanki to Devait forest cover in Faizabad. The jungle spreads to nearly 1,000 hectares and, experts claim, is the ideal place for the animal to hide. If left undisturbed, the animal can settle in the area and can easily get localised.

“Whenever,there is any news about the presence of the tiger, people flock the area, forcing the tiger to move forward. We have to allow the animal to get localised in the area for at least three days. Once it happens, it will be easier to trap and tranquilise it,” said Mallik.

Tiger continues hide-and-seek with foresters

Tiger continues hide-and-seek with foresters

28 Dec 2008, 0251 hrs IST, Neha Shukla, TNN

LUCKNOW: The young tiger is coming of age. It could be down but not out. The beast in slowly and steadily picking up the art of living in human habitations. The feline eats, rests and runs leaving a trail of pugmarks behind. By the time the foresters reach the site tracking its pugmarks, it has already moved ahead.

The big cat had 15 kgs of bull blue on Saturday in Sansarpur village of Bara Banki. This could have been a pleasant stomach-full diet for the tiger after Tuesday when shooting orders had set everyone baying for its blood. The latest is that it could be heading to Shukulpur jungle in the division. Next on its itinerary could be Rudauli. It seems to have set its eyes on Faizabad as the next destination.

Eversince the orders to kill it came, the tiger has been successful in keeping itself safe. It has not been sighted and those chasing it are comforting themselves with only its pugmarks and kills.

But, stray tigers losing a trail of their homeland in future might not prove lucky.

A separate wildlife rescue team is highly desirable for the state which is seeing a steady rise in incidence where carnivores are venturing out of their wild territories. Yet another incident was reported from Azamgarhpurwa village of Katarniaghat. A leopard came out of forest and attacked a girl on Friday.

The idea to set up a rescue team was floated when a leopard was charred to death in Dhaurara range of North Kheri forest division in May this year.

The team should be equipped with specialised training and technology to safely trap wild animals straying out. It is also needed to ensure the safety of humans in the areas where carnivores venture out.

The department never had a specialised rescue team to handle such incidents. Ex-officials of the department are of the opinion that it was never needed that urgently.

However, the department might have given a re-think to the hurriedly issued shooting orders. It was within three hours of recovering the body of a boy on Tuesday that the department declared the tiger a man-eater and orders to kill it followed.

But, after drawing a flak from all quarters, the official stand on elusive tiger might have softened. Though shooting orders stand valid even today, there are voices confirming that effort has been re-focussed on trapping it alive. Though this time the order might have come merely through words of mouth. And, this does not lessen the need to keep the fingers crossed.

Stray tiger still in Barabanki

Stray tiger still in Barabanki

27 Dec 2008, 0215 hrs IST, TNN

LUCKNOW: The stray tiger spent yet another day in Barabanki. Eversince the big cat entered the division on December 8, it has its longest stay in Bara Banki, changing ranges to its comfort. The feline has occasionally shifted to Gosainganj and Mohanlalganj.

Its current location is at Kaiserganj area in Harak range of the division. The combing operation on Friday ended without trace of the big cat. Officials only have its pugmarks to believe that the big cat is still present in the vicinity.

The tiger began its trail in Bara Banki from Hathapurwa hamlet on December 8. It moved over to Vahlidpur and Saili Kiratpur villages on December 12. After brief stay in Gauriaghat village of Gosainganj and Bastauli of Mohanlalganj, the big cat moved back to Bara Banki on December 20. His presence was reported from the Chaksar forest.

Proximity to the Gomati and patches of forest all through the division are providing a perfect habitat to the wandering big cat. And, the latest pattern of movement show that it is heading east.

The tiger has also claimed its first human kill, in his month-long journey, in Bara Banki. However, the stay of the tiger in Bara Banki has not forebode good for its life. The shooting orders and cash award of Rs 5,000 have made safety of the big cat a challenge for the Bara Banki staff.

The staff is camping in the division and keeping a watch on the movement of the tiger. The department has also sought the help of local police to control villagers who are after the tiger’s life given the announcement of the award.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Groups ask for lynx help - Colorado

Conservationists: More protection for cats is needed

by Ann Butler
Herald Staff Writer
Article Last Updated; Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Conservation groups have asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide more protection for lynx in the Southern Rocky Mountains.

On Monday, Durango-based Colorado Wild, the Center for Native Ecosystems, Defenders of Wildlife and WildEarth Guard-ians filed an appeal with the chief of the Forest Service asking that an amendment to the service's land-management plans in seven national forests in Colorado be repealed and a stronger one issued. The appeal covers seven national forests in Colorado, including the San Juan and Rio Grande national forests. The final version of the amendment was released in November.

"Though improvements have been made since the draft amendment, the Forest Service still needs to do more to ensure the recovery of lynx in the Southern Rockies," Paige Bonaker, staff biologist at Native Ecosystems, said in a news release.

The groups say that under the Endangered Species Act and its own rules, the Forest Service is required to protect threatened and endangered species such as the lynx from agency actions that would harm them. They claim that the current land-management plan gives preference to other uses by weakening standards and guidelines for timber production, snow compaction for recreation, road upgrades and gas and oil development. All of those changes may reduce the ability of lynx to flourish and reproduce.

"If the amendment's weaker standards and guidelines are applied to areas in the Southern Rocky Mountains, lynx recovery may be delayed or even thwarted altogether," said Rocky Smith, forest watch program director at Colorado Wild. "The Southern Rockies lynx population remains small and is still vulnerable to extinction, even with conservative management. Under the amendment, many activities potentially harmful to lynx would be allowed, which would put the population at increased risk and make its recovery even more difficult to achieve."

Colorado Wild and the Center for Native Ecosystems are particularly concerned that the Forest Service amendment did not take into consideration key lynx needs, such as important habitat linkages and ensuring a minimum amount of territory suitable for lynx to den.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did not designate critical habitat for lynx in the Southern Rockies because it felt it was unclear whether a self-sustaining lynx population will become established in the region. Opponents to the current amendment said that without stronger management by the Forest Service, it will be even more difficult for the lynx to become self-sustaining.

The amendment also fails to include in its definition of "occupied habitat" several areas in which lynx use has been documented, including the mountains of northern New Mexico and eastern Utah. Conservation groups are asking the Forest Service to amend additional land-management plans for national forests in those states as well to protect lynx habitat. U.S. Fish and Wildlife said last week that the listing status of lynx to include New Mexico may be warranted.

The U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Region office was unavailable for comment Monday.


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Conservancy targets land to protect lynx - New Brunswick

Published Wednesday December 24th, 2008

The Nature Conservancy of Canada is planning to preserve more than three million acres of land stretching across northern New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine in order to save a dwindling population of lynx.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada wants to set up a protected zone in Restigouche for the rare animal. Conservancy planner Margo Morrison said Dec. 17 a plan to safeguard habitat for the endangered cat, which is included on New Brunswick's species-at-risk list, likely will be in place by the spring.

"This area came out as a really high priority for a number of different reasons," Morrison said. "It's a very important connection between Quebec, New Brunswick and Maine so it allows large mammals such as the Canada Lynx to move."

The project is mammoth.

The Restigouche River watershed, identified as the animal's prime habitat, spans 3.3 million acres from the Gaspe region of Quebec, through Campbellton to Saint-Quentin and the Maine boarder.

The preservation strategy is a departure for the nature conservancy, since it currently owns none of the land in the target area. The non-profit organization will identify key areas to be purchased while working with residents to maintain the area.

"This is an area that we have traditionally not worked in, so we want to be able to get it right and include everyone we need to," Morrison said.

"We are a science-based organization, so we have to have very detailed plans in place to identify all of the species, ecosystems and threats that we need to."

The Restigouche River Watershed Management Council, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society as well as Quebec and conservancy groups in the United States are involved in the preservation plan.

Morrison said the area was identified in March in an eco-regional plan that picked sites needing protection from 33 million hectares of land in the Maritimes, part of southern Quebec and four New England states.

The Restigouche watershed also includes important populations of Atlantic salmon.

The success of the program will be reviewed every five years, Morrison said. The conservancy would like to have the entire acreage safeguarded within the next 50 years.

"It looks like settlement may have caused some change in habitat conditions that had a negative impact on lynx," said Dwayne Sabine, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

"Certainly if you have a situation where there is unsuitable habitat such as urban areas and farm lands you don't have lynx."

Sabine said there has been a significant decline in the lynx population in New Brunswick over the years.

The large cats, known for their dense, silvery-brown coats and distinctive tufted ears, once roamed throughout the province. The population now is estimated at about 200 animals.

Pascal Giasson, manager of the province's species-at-risk program, said changes to an outdated Species at Risk Act, which had second reading Wednesday in the legislature, will create a formal process to protect lands to aid in the survival of endangered species.

He said the province can help the conservancy since a large part of the Restigouche watershed is Crown land.

"We have worked with the conservancy in the past - with the piping plover, for example," he said.

Morrison said the program will again need donations from the public to be successful.

"Land prices are quite high in the area, and it will be a challenge, but this is something that our plan will identify as some of the strategies we will be using to protect the land," she said.

"This project will allow the lynx to move into different parts of land suitable to them if food is scarce. Just maintaining that corridor allows them to go to wherever the food source is."


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Florida panther encounters on the rise

Reported by: Dan Shaffer
Last Update: 12/23 12:45 pm

Florida panther (USFWS) TAMPA, FL -- A report released this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows sightings of Florida's endangered panthers are still rare, but close encounters with the big cats are becoming more common.

The latest report, which you can read by clicking here, tracked panther activity between July of 2007 through June of 2008, and describes four kinds of panther interactions with humans: sightings, encounters, incidents, and depredations.

The most common "conflict" is depredation, where a panther kills or tries to kill domestic livestock or pets. Biologists confirmed ten incidents of depredation in which eleven animals were killed including five goats, five sheep, and one fallow deer. A goat, a llama and a dog were injured by panthers. Two years ago, only five depredation incidents were reported. The year before that, there were none reported.

The report also found the number of people encountering panthers in the wild has increased steadily over the past several years. Two panthers were seen in trees and two others were spotted on boardwalks either in or near the Everglades National Park.

In all those cases, the panthers quickly ran away. But one incident was reported where a researcher, working in an area closed to the public, was followed for several minutes by a panther while hiking on a trail in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are only 80 to 100 adult Florida panthers remaining in the wild. The notoriously elusive cats are confined to wilderness areas around the Everglades in Lee, Collier, Hendry, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.


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Changed mountain lion season starts Jan. 1 - South Dakota


The 2007 South Dakota mountain lion hunting season closed last November 23, and the subsequent season is skipping 2008 and will start January 1.

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department says the 2009 season is scheduled to run until March 31 but will end earlier if either a 35 lion or 15 female lion limit is reached sooner.

In 2007, 12 of the first 13 lions killed were females.

Another major change allows landowners to shoot lions on their own land outside the Black Hills Fire Protection District year around with the 2009 mountain lion license.

The department says hunters need to check the status of the season before each day of hunting. Updated totals will be posted on the GF&P Web site.,78205


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Cougars with ample prey leave humans alone


Earlier this week a cougar, or mountain lion, bit a woman trying to break up a fight between the cat and her dog. The bites weren’t serious, and it appears the dog will be okay too. It could have been much worse.

Despite the facts of the incident, the glaring headlines reported the woman had been attacked by the cougar. Unfortunately, this is how incidents like this get out of hand. Now before you start thinking I’m an animal lover out to save the poor ol’ mountain lion, hear me out first. In all my years on open range as a cowboy and range management officer with Storey County, I have only seen one mountain lion in the wild. And it jumped out in front of me on a road behind Virginia City one hot afternoon many years ago. I was horse back at the time, and was glad my horse wasn’t paying attention or it could have been a rough ride while it lasted. The point is, it is a rare thing to see one, let alone be attacked by one.

Now I’ve heard stories around the camp fire about lions that will stalk a cowboy just waiting for the opportunity to jump him. And I can certainly attest to the fact that I lost a calf at the ranch to a lion one winter, and we had a report once of a lion chasing a car one day on the Geiger Grade. (Don’t ask. I have no idea..) But there has only been one documented case of a lion deliberately attacking a man in Nevada. And that was down on the Nevada test site in 1991. The man wasn’t seriously injured.

But movies and tall tales have given the lion a bad rap. And the recent headlines haven’t helped the situation either.

Don’t misunderstand me. If I was outside and a lion attacked one of my dogs, I’d be in a panic. And I’d probably jump in the fray and end up getting bit just like the lady in the Highlands did. But it’s important to remember that the cat wasn’t lying in wait to attack the woman. He or she was after the dog, which under the circumstances was nothing more than prey.

Understanding animal behavior is the key to understanding that incidents like this do happen. If a lion or bear or any other predator has enough of its natural prey to hunt, it leave other critters alone.

Unfortunately though, when there is not enough for a lion to eat, it will certainly look for prey of opportunity, just like a coyote will. (Coyotes will eat just about anything.) So don’t blame the lion for doing what he has to do to stay alive. Keep a close eye on your pets especially during these lean times of winter. Be alert at night if you have to take your pet outside.

The best protection is to deny a lion an opportunity for an easy meal. And that is your responsibility.

By the way, if you ever hear a sound like a baby crying somewhere in the wild? It’s probably a lion.

Be seein’ you.


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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

48 tigers poached in 6 years

48 tigers poached in 6 years

22 Dec 2008, 2300 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: The tiger is out of a crisis but figures show the wild cat is not completely secure in the country's forests. In the past six years, 48 tigers have been poached, show government records.

If one is to include the tigers that died due to natural reasons as well as the ones still not determined, the total number goes up to 137.

But compare this with the previous track record and it becomes evident the threat has relatively dwindled. Between 1999 and 2002, the four years saw 100 tigers killed by poachers.

The number of tigers killed between 2005 and 2008, currently assessed at 28, is liable to go up a bit as the government records claim that the postmortem reports of some have not come in to conclude for sure if the animals were poached or died of natural causes.

The numbers are a clear warning that the states need to act upon the missives from the Centre. While the creation of the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau has shored up central level vigilance, with forests and wildlife being on the concurrent list, the on-ground patrolling, management and regulation is the work of the state forest departments.

In what is still an unfinished agenda, sources point out, the creation of the core zones (the key breeding areas) and the buffer (where human presence is considered acceptable, if not ideal) has been central to better management of the tiger reserves.

Earlier, the government had come clean with the overall tiger numbers and carried out an extensive survey to admit that that the figures had been inflated and a more honest scientific projection proved tiger population in the range of 1,657 to 1,165.

Monday, December 22, 2008

110 tigers lost in last six years: Data

110 tigers lost in last six years: Data

22 Dec 2008, 1134 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: India's forests have lost at least 110 royal striped cats, including 17 tigress, in the past six years due to several reasons including poaching and natural deaths, according to a government data.

The figures made available under the RTI Act reflects that the royal predators have been unsafe not only in non-protected area but also inside reserves, given that this year alone 14 cases of tiger mortality including four tigress and two cubs have been reported till November.

Of six cases of poachings, three tigers were killed in the last month itself with one each outside Kanha and Khatiya buffer range in Madhya Pradesh, and another in Dudhwa tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh, according to the data.

Similarly, as many as 30 endangered big cats died in 2007, highest in the past five years, with 16 perishing in reserves while 14 in non-protected areas.

Five big cats died in world famous Corbett Tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh while Bandipur park in Madhya Pradesh lost two tigress whose death reasons could not be assessed due to completely putrefied status of the body.

During the same period, 14 cases of tiger mortality was reported from outside reserves of which five of the big cats were killed in poaching and three due to poisoning.

A man-eater tiger which had strayed in Chandrapur in Maharashtra Nagpur region had to be shot dead by the forest department late last year.

"These are official figures and the actual figures may be higher," Delinda Wright, prominent wildlife expert, noted.

The situation was grim in 2006 too when eight tigress and two male striped cats died inside the reserves in various tiger range states.

Officials refute tiger missing claims

Officials refute tiger missing claims

23 Dec 2008, 0037 hrs IST, Anindo Dey, TNN

JAIPUR: Brushing aside claims about 11 tigers missing from the Ranthambore sanctuary, forest officials said that it was a baseless allegation made by certain private individuals for personal gains. It is part of a design to get core area of the forest opened.

Sources in the state forest department said that a certain section has been attempting to open up restaurants and guest houses in core areas of the Ranthambore. "Claims of tigers missing from the sanctuary are designed to misguide tourists thereby sparking an outcry to have core areas opened up for a better view of the tiger. This section is interested in opening shops in Ranthambore and so the allegations.

However, officials of the department refused to comment on it and just contended that claims of 11 tigers missing from the forest are mainly of those that have died an accidental deaths over a certain period of time.

"In May 2007, three cubs had fallen into a well accidentally. While two died of impact, the third one died during treatment and an enquiry is on. One tiger has migrated to the Kailadevi sanctuary in search of greener pastures but we are regularly tracking it.

"Another tiger whose body was found at Gura had died in a territorial fight and post-mortem reports have confirmed it. However, the two cubs that she had are still alive and we have pictures to justify our claims," said the chief wild Life warden Rajasthan RN Mehrotra.

He added that two tigers have been translocated to Sariska while the an adult tigress has changed her territory from Sultanpur to other areas like Halonda, Bhairupura, Laxmipura, etc. However, Yuvraj, another tiger, was hunted down and an FIR (no: 818/10) had been lodged in this regard in December 2007 and four persons were arrested.

"In fact it is well-known how everyone celebrated when about two years back 13 cubs were born at Ranthambore. Out of these eight were males and it is these tigers that have grown up and are roaming about the forest in search of their territory," he said adding that this is a perfectly normal phenomena.

"We cannot keep tigers tied down to one like cattle herd and have to allow them movement," he said.

Mehrotra also said that the tigers at Ranthambore are being regularly tracked with the help of officials of the Wild Life Institute of India. "Besides we have also installed 42 trap cameras and installed five radio collars for monitoring their movements. We keep changing the position of the trap cameras regularly and so can say that the tigers are safe," Mehrotra said.

Malaysia 'to double tiger stock'

Malaysia 'to double tiger stock'

Malaysia has launched a national plan to double the country's wild tiger population by 2020, activists say.

Conservation groups and the government have set an ambitious target of expanding the tiger population from 500 to around 1,000 over 12 years.

Numbers have fallen sharply in recent decades because of illegal hunting.

Conservationists say new security measures will prevent poaching and that jungle corridors will be restored so tigers can roam over larger areas.

The National Tiger Action Plan is the government's first concerted effort to reverse the decline in tiger numbers, instead of merely slowing it.

Although Malayan tigers have been protected by wildlife laws since the early 1970s, their numbers have been hit by demand for their meat and for body parts which are sometimes used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Authorities estimate the wild tiger population has fallen from 3,000 to 500 in the past 50 years, largely due to illegal hunting and the human encroachment and destruction of the tigers' natural jungle habitat.

Malaysia's tropical forests are home to a wide range of threatened animals, including orang-utans, Borneo sun bears, Sumatran rhinoceroses and pygmy elephants.

Lynx one step closer to endangered species protection

By Gwyneth Doland 12/19/08 12:02 PM

The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Thursday that it has begun the process of offering endangered species protection to the Canada lynx, a big furry cat that is protected in other states. As NMI has noted, the animal was reintroduced to Colorado 1999, and since then, approximately 60 of the cats have wandered into northern New Mexico. At least 14 have been killed.

The service was required to make a determination on the lynx as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of several environmental groups, including WildEarth Guardians.

"This is stage one, when they say ‘This has sufficient merits for us to consider it and we'll take 12 months to mull it over further.' If they issue a positive finding in 12 months then they will change the listing status for the lynx in New Mexico," says Rob Edward, carnivore recovery director for WildEarth Guardians.

Why did WildEarth Guardians have to sue the federal agency to protect the lynx? "Well, the short answer is that we've been working for the last eight years under the Bush administration, which had no interest in doing much of anything for endangered species."

The longer answer, Edward says, is that "The Fish and Wildlife Service is functioning under political pressure or simple budget pressure and they have to push back on things that they don't have the budget or political cover for." Like protecting the big furry lynx.

While Edward is hopeful that conditions for endangered species will improve in an Obama administration, he is less than pleased about Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar, Obama's nominee for Department of the Interior.

"We're going to have to take a wait-and-see approach at this point. … [Obama] could have done much better than [Salazar]," Edward says. WildEarth Guardians and other groups had pushed for the nomination of Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, a progressive member of the House Natural Resources Committee and the chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forest and Public Lands.

"We certainly hope that Secretary Salazar will be much more of a friend to endangered species… than his voting record and actions would indicate," Edward says.


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N. Calif.: Animal control seeks drugged mountain lion

By Reporter Staff
Article Launched: 12/21/2008 01:04:56 AM PST

Fairfield Police and animal control officers were searching for a mountain lion early Saturday after a resident spotted it in a tree.

At about 12:30 a.m. a resident on the 2400 block of Merion Court reported their dog had chased the mountain lion up a tree in their backyard, police said. On scene, officers surrounded the tree and called out Yolo County Animal Control who tried to tranquilize the animal.

After three tranquilizer darts, the lion fell from the tree and ran eastbound on St. Andrews Drive toward an open space area. The Fairfield Police, along with officers from the Solano County Sheriff's Department, Solano County Humane Animal Services, CHP Air Unit and Yolo County Animal Services conducted an intensive search of the surrounding residences and open space area but could not locate the animal.


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Showdown over lynx looms in Summit County, Colo.

Lynx make home in Summit County

Showdown over Vail Pass recreation is looming, as federal agencies duel

By Bob Berwyn
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

Special to the Daily

SUMMIT COUNTY — Several rare lynx that have set up home ranges between Copper Mountain and Vail Pass could trigger a showdown between government agencies.

The cats, listed as a threatened animal on the Endangered Species List, have been living in the area for more than a year, according to wildlife biologists. If they stay in the area, it would be the first time the cats have established territories in this part of the White River National Forest.

But their presence sets up a potential conflict, as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviews plans for recreation at the Vail Pass winter-play area, administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

“Two or three lynx were hanging out around Copper last winter, and this winter again,” said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Kurt Broderdorp. “But the amount of recreation going on in that part of the forest is clear off the chart.”

The Colorado Division of Wildlife transplanted more than 200 cats from Canada and Alaska to the San Juan mountains during the past decade.

Many of them have stayed in the southwestern part of the state, but smaller satellite populations have sprouted around Independence Pass, near Aspen, and in a few other areas. Biologists have long said that the spread of the wide-ranging cats to prime habitat between Summit County and Vail was inevitable.

Crucial corridor
Vail Pass has been identified as a crucial wildlife corridor and as prime habitat ever since Vail Resorts was in the early stages of planning what was then called the Category III expansion, now known as Blue Sky Basin.

A 2007 study by the U.S. Forest Service concluded that intense recreational use at Vail Pass is already crowding the cats out of the area. The agency launched the study because commercial snowmobile outfitters want to increase permitted use of the area. They believe the area can sustain more use on the existing trail system without negative impacts to wildlife.

But the results of the study by Forest Service biologist Liz Roberts suggest that the capacity of the area to provide for both recreation and wildlife habitat already has been exceeded.

Based on the Forest Service research, the Fish and Wildlife Service was supposed to issue a formal biological opinion on the Vail Pass management plan. The review has been in the pipeline for months but now will be delayed again.

Instead of looking specifically at Vail Pass, the consultation between the two agencies will cover the entire White River National Forest travel-management plan, Broderdorp said. His agency will submit comments on the travel plan before the Jan. 6 deadline.

“We have to make sure any action by a federal agency does not jeopardize the species,” Broderdorp said in a previous interview.

If it does, the agencies would be spurred to develop “reasonable and prudent” management alternatives for the area. But Broderdorp and Roberts both said it’s unlikely that human activity at Vail Pass could threaten existence of the species across the lower 48 states, the trigger required for the jeopardy call.

When the Forest Service study was conducted, no lynx lived in the area permanently.

The nearest resident population was in the Collegiate Range, agency biologists said. As the Colorado lynx population expands, the cats likely will start using more habitat niches like Vail Pass, researchers predicted.

Spruce-fir forest is already the most important type of habitat for lynx. With lodgepoles in the surrounding area dying from the pine-beetle infestation, areas like Vail Pass could become even more critical for lynx, according to the study.

Recreation resource
But not everyone who uses Vail Pass is sure that cats will thrive in the area. A commercial snowmobile operator said he’s never seen a lynx at the pass in 25 years of riding the area.

“We just don’t have the habitat here. There’s no rabbits,” commercial snowmobile operator Steve Pittel said in an interview last year, referring to snowshoe hares, the primary food source for lynx. “If they can prove to me lynx are here, I’ll give the cats a little leeway.”

Pittel is seeking a new permit to run more commercial trips in the area, so he would be affected if the Forest Service changes the way it runs Vail Pass.

“I think the area can accommodate more people on the same trail system,” Pittel said. “Vail Pass is a great recreational resource. It’s perfect terrain and easily accessible, right alongside the interstate. I think it would be foolish for them to try and limit the number of people that go out there.”

Forest Service officials said there is no intent to shut down Vail Pass. The study was driven by the recognition that it is an important recreation area. But based on existing impacts to lynx, increasing use in the area is a not good idea if the area is to be protected for lynx movements.

In the bigger picture, the Vail Pass area does still contain numerous pockets of good habitat for foraging and security and even some for denning. These areas are near the fringes of the recreation area.

The challenge is the high density of trails and play areas at the center of the area.

The goal is to preserve lynx movement through the area during the day.

The fact that lynx are living in the area speaks to the quality of the habitat, Broderdorp explained.

“Recreation,” he said, “does have its limits.”

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, orat


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