Wednesday, April 29, 2009

India: Injured leopard caged near Girnar forest

25 Apr 2009, 2135 hrs IST, TNN

JUNAGADH: In a daring wildlife operation, foresters caged an injured leopard near Damodar Kund area in Girnar forest after tranquillising it on Friday.

According to forest officials, they rushed to Damodar Kund after receiving a message about a leopard sighting in the area. Officials located the animal lying in a nearby cave and decided to catch it while it was asleep.

"However, before we could make any advance, the leopard woke up to the noise made by villagers and began running. However, it fell after limping for a few steps and we realised the big cat was seriously ill," said assistant forest officer PS Babariya.

"We changed our plans as we didn't want to cause any injury to the leopard. We first called a veterinary doctor from Sakkarbag zoo in Junagadh before tranquillising the animal," said Babariya.

"The leopard was perched on a cliff, which the officials surrounded. Once the leopard was shot at with a tranquilliser gun, it sprang at one of the officials. However, before it could harm him, it became unconscious and fainted," he said.

The foresters carried the leopard on their back and shifted it to Sakkarbag zoo veterinary hospital, where during examination it was found that the big cat had developed a suppurating wound in his abdomen and was also suffering from jaundice.

source: sandesh

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Rajkot/Injured-leopard-caged-near-Girnar-forest/articleshow/4449080.cms

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Credit crunch increases pressure on Amur tigers and leopards

Credit crunch increases pressure on Amur tigers & leopards

29/04/2009 13:44:50

Amur tigers threatened by economic crisis
April 2009. Loggers in Russia's Far East increasingly are cutting down Korean cedar pine, raising concerns that the endangered Amur tiger could lose critical habitat and its prey could lose a major food source.

Under pressure from the ongoing economic crisis, loggers are turning to the more lucrative Korean cedar pine as commodity prices for other types of wood fall, which in turn has led to large-scale illegal logging operations in the Ussuriiskaya taiga in Primorye, according to WWF-Russia.

Dropping demand for oak and ash
"Chinese importers of the Far Eastern wood have sharply dropped prices and demand for oak and ash wood as an answer to the world crisis," said Denis Smirnov, head of the forest program at WWF-Russia's Amur branch. "These species were the most desired ones for poachers before, but the demand was reduced after export customs duties for these species of timber had been increased from Feb. 1."

"At the same time, Korean pine wood is still highly demanded both in domestic and international markets and is sold at rather high prices," Smirnov said.

50% reduction in Cedar forests
Russia's Far East Korean cedar pine forests were heavily logged during the second half of the 20th century, particularly in the late 1990s, which resulted in a 50 percent reduction and left only around 2.88 million hectares of the forests today.

Although P. koraiensis is not nationally protected in Russia, its logging is either prohibited or regulated in certain provinces of Russia and China. However, loggers typically exploit loopholes in regional regulations to launder illegally logged wood, often taking advantage of lax customs controls or by under-declaring the volume of legal exports.

Amur tiger and Amur leopard
"This rampant and mindless logging is shocking and disturbs the habitat and prey base of some of the rarest animals in the world including the Amur tiger and Amur leopard," said Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of the Species Programme for WWF-International.

In the Amur region, tiger conservation hinges on protecting the Korean cedar pine. Pine nuts from the tree represent an integral food source for the Amur tiger's prey, such as wild boars. Korean pine-broadleaved forests also provide habitats for the Far Eastern leopard, Asiatic and brown bears, sika deers and many other species. These pine nuts are also sold internationally, benefiting local communities as well.

Awareness of the recently increased demand for Korean cedar pine surfaced after WWF staff, with members of Russia's Internal Affairs Department, the Primorskii Province Forestry Department and Rosselkhoznadzor -- the Federal Service of Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Supervision - raided a wood exporter platform in January in the city of Dalnerechensk.

They found about 10-15,000 cubic meters of Korean cedar pine originating from illegal logging sites in Dalnerechenskii, Krasnoarmeiskii and Lesozavodskii districts in central and northern Primorye.

Two largest of logging sites, with total volume exceeding 3,000 cubic meters, were found close to the village of Malinovo in an area leased by one of the biggest logging companies in Primorye - JSC "Dalnerechenskles," which is part of the "Dallesprom" group.

Before enforcement of a new Russian Forest Code in 2007, Korean pine held a special status as a species protected from commercial use, which contributed to its conservation. Korean pine has now lost its protective status and increased demand for Korean pine timber along with the complete inaction of regulators and forest control services to address the need for a new special status for the Korean pine have made it an easy target for illegal logging.

The only way to stop the complete destruction of the Far Eastern Korean pine forests is to impose a moratorium on its harvesting, according to WWF. The conservation organization asks that provincial and federal authorities come up with a proposal to urgently add Korean pine into the list of species forbidden to harvest, and to inform importing countries accordingly.

http://www.wildlifeextra.com/go/news/amur-cats009.html#cr

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arizona: Worker in jaguar capture cited earlier

Misuse of hunting license resulted in fine, firing from research project

By Tim Steller
Arizona Daily Star Tucson, Arizona - Published: 04.26.2009

The biologist at the center of the controversy over the capture of a jaguar in Southern Arizona once was fired from a wildlife research job after being cited for hunting with another person's license.

A Montana game warden cited Emil McCain in 2001 after he killed a deer, then used another person's tag on it. McCain, then 23, paid a $200 fine and did not fight the citation.

McCain's supervisor on a mountain-lion research project in Yellowstone National Park subsequently fired McCain because of the violation.

"We were working in a national park, and my project was on the up-and-up," said Toni Ruth, the wildlife biologist who led the study. "I didn't want any question about how we were operating and who was working on the project."

McCain's citation and firing is significant now because his credibility is key to two investigations being carried out by the Arizona Attorney General's Office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The investigations center on the Feb. 18 capture of Macho B, the only wild jaguar known to be
living in the United States, and his death by euthanization March 2.

Jaguars are an endangered species in the United States, and only four have been confirmed in
Southern Arizona and New Mexico since 1996. Macho B was the only jaguar frequently photographed in recent years by cameras placed throughout Southern Arizona by McCain and others as part of the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project.

While he worked for that project in recent months, McCain also did some work for Arizona Game and Fish. He helped Game and Fish employees who were working on a study of mountain lions and bears near the Arizona-Mexico border.

McCain said in an e-mail, obtained by the Arizona Daily Star through a public records request, that Arizona Game and Fish would pay him for catching mountain lions as part of the study.

"i just got my contract from AZGFD," he wrote to Game and Fish biologist Thorry Smith Feb. 12. "they will pay me on a per lion basis. not sure how that will work, but i am sure i can catch lots of lions. it is just a matter of where."

Game and Fish spokesman Bob Miles said early this month that McCain was a "vendor of services" to Arizona Game and Fish, but he declined to be more specific. On Friday, Miles reiterated the department's position that it will not comment on anything related to the jaguar capture now in order to preserve the integrity of the ongoing investigations.

Question of intent

Some of the controversy surrounding Macho B's capture is over whether it was intentional or an inadvertent part of the mountain lion and bear study, as Arizona Game and Fish originally maintained.

In e-mails sent during the weeks before Macho B was captured, McCain, Game and Fish employees and others made preparations to capture a jaguar, whose footprints McCain said he saw in the area where snares were set for the mountain lion/bear study. In the e-mails, McCain and others prepared a radio collar for placement on a jaguar, settled on a sedative and a dosage and discussed other details. But he also said in an e-mail that the group's intent was not to capture a jaguar.

A then-co-worker at the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, Janay Brun, offered other evidence of intent. She told the Arizona Daily Star for an April 2 story that on Feb. 4 — two weeks before Macho B's capture — she had accompanied McCain and Smith, walking a daylong round in remote mountains between Nogales and Arivaca.

Brun was servicing motion-sensing cameras that the project had put out while McCain and Smith focused on the snares used in mountain lion and bear study, she said. During the hike, Brun placed the scat of a female jaguar, obtained from the Phoenix Zoo, at some camera sites — a practice the project had used in order to get jaguars to stop in front of the cameras.

McCain told her to put some scat at one of the snare sites, Brun said, and she did, though she later came to regret it. That was the site where Macho B was captured two weeks later, Brun said.

McCain said he knew nothing of Brun's having put scat at the snare site and did not tell her to do so. Smith, the only other person present, has not spoken publicly on the matter and has not responded to requests for comment from the Arizona Daily Star.

McCain did not respond to the Star's phone and e-mail requests Thursday for comment.
Not able to legally hunt

McCain's 2001 interaction with Montana's Fish, Wildlife & Parks department began when warden Randy Wuertz went to inspect McCain's falconry equipment, Wuertz said from Montana in a recent telephone interview. At that time, Wuertz said, McCain was interested in hunting during Montana's upcoming season, but Wuertz said he would be ineligible for an in-state license because he would not have lived in the state long enough — six months. All the out-of-state licenses had been awarded by that point, Wuertz said, so McCain would not be able to legally hunt.

"He didn't qualify (for an in-state license) 'til shortly after the general hunting season was over," Wuertz said. "He was disappointed."

After the hunting season ended, Wuertz said, "one of his co-workers dropped a dime on him, so to speak." The co-worker told Wuertz that McCain had asked a Montana resident to buy a hunting license and let McCain use it. Wuertz was told that McCain had shot a buck using that license.

"I confronted Emil at his place one evening after work. He at first denied it, but I put a little pressure on him and he confessed to it," Wuertz said.

Not long after, Wuertz said, he received a call from the woman who ran the study where McCain was working.

That woman, Toni Ruth, said this week that other employees, not McCain, told her about McCain's citation. Her opinion, she said, was, "This cannot fly and we cannot have this." So she fired him.

"I didn't want any question about our project," she said.

Wuertz, who is now retired, said the violation McCain was cited for is not uncommon but is serious. Asked if it compares to a speeding ticket among driving violations, Wuertz said "It's more like reckless driving. It's a deliberate violation."

He added, "If you're going to be a wildlife professional, it's kind of a foolish thing to do."

Contact reporter Tim Steller at tsteller@azstarnet.com or 807-8427.

http://www.azstarnet.com/allheadlines/290326

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Oregon Fish & Wildlife afraid of Corvallis cougar

ODFW is afraid of this cougar

Posted by Kyle Odegard April 27, 2009

Some people have suggested that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife is using the young Corvallis cougar as propaganda, that the agency is spreading fear and hatred toward mountain lion-kind, all in an attempt to annihilate the big cats.

Don’t buy that argument. It’s pure bunk.

Here’s the real scoop: Yes, ODFW probably hates and is afraid of “Wilson,” the Corvallis cougar, but only because this furry dude has placed it in a no-win situation during a budget year when cash is shorter than I am.

As a state agency, ODFW has to follow the rules and laws of Oregon. The rules are pretty clear here — and clearly understood — regarding the cougar. If the animal is trapped, and the agency can’t find a zoo or AZA accredited facility to take the cougar, he’s got an appointment with the grim reaper.

(I’m betting there are plenty of people in ODFW secretly hoping some AZA facility can be found.)

Nancy Taylor, in an initial interview, asked me not to mention that the cougar would be killed. Or euthanized. Or die or however you want to put it.

You see, the cougar’s death equals bad publicity. Huge bad PR.

Just the possibility of this probably means Taylor has received stacks and stacks of hate mail. I feel for her. Really, I do. Because she’s just doing her job.

ODFW doesn’t have some sort of evil genius plan regarding the cougar. It’s only following the guidelines set out for it. ODFW is acting this way because it’s ODFW.

And if you don’t like the rules, you need to call your legislator.

http://www.gazettetimes.com/gtblogs/kyle_odegard/?p=211

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Siberian vets fight to save rare tiger hit by car

Siberian vets fight to save rare tiger hit by car

09:37 28/ 04/ 2009

VLADIVOSTOK, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - Vets are working to save the life of a Siberian tiger hit by a car in Russia's Far East, a regional conservationist group said on Tuesday.

The Amur tiger, one of only 500 left in the wild, was hit by a car on the Vladivostok-Khabarovsk highway on Monday evening, and admitted to a veterinary center for wild animals in Khabarovsk on Tuesday morning.

A spokesman for the Phoenix Fund told RIA Novosti: "If the caught tiger has a chance of survival, the Phoenix Fund is ready to provide the necessary financial support for the full rehabilitation of the animal."

He said the tiger had limped off after the accident, and was caught by staff at the local tiger inspection unit with a drag net. According to a preliminary examination, the tiger is about six years old, and does not show external signs of injury, but is weak and unresponsive.

The spokesman quoted Eduard Kruglov, director of the center where the tiger is being treated, as saying the animal may be suffering from a viral infection.

The incident is the second within a week involving a Siberian tiger.

Early last week, a female tiger was seriously wounded after she was hit by a car in the Primorye Territory. The tiger was subsequently put to sleep and the driver fined 500,000 rubles ($15,000).

Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources has requested that the Interior Ministry introduce speed limits on the road, which runs near a nature reserve in Primorye, where leopards and tigers are known to roam.

Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are the world's largest subspecies of tigers. They are on the World Conservation Union's critically endangered status list, and there are only about 500 of them left in the wild. Since 2006, poachers have killed around 10 in Russia's Far East.

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20090428/121340595.html

http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Monday, April 27, 2009

Forest Dept plans tiger safari park in Malabar Sanctuary

Forest Dept plans tiger safari park in Malabar Sanctuary

First Published : 26 Apr 2009 12:34:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 26 Apr 2009 08:42:39 AM IST

KOCHI: A major ploy for setting up a Nature Conservation Park and a Tiger Safari Park within a reserve forest is taking shape in the inner circles of the Forest Department.

The safari park, which is to be built inside the proposed Malabar Sanctuary in the Kozhikode Forest Division by flouting norms, has the support of Forest Minister Benoy Viswom.

Tiger safari is one of the 16 projects under an umbrella project - Nature Conservation Park.

The Rs 24-crore project is to come up in 115 hectares of land inside the proposed Malabar Sanctuary at Peruvannamuzhi range in Kozhikode division.

The state government has already submitted a proposal in this regard before the Zoo Authority of India.

Sources said there smelled a controversy behind mooting such a project at a time when notification for Malabar Sanctuary is in the final stage. Setting up a park inside the reserve forest is violation of the Forest Conservation Act.

Creating an entertainment park will automatically disturb the serene atmosphere of the reserve forest area and affects its natural bio-diversity, sources said. “The activities in the project are not a forestry activity.

Therefore, it’s a violation of the Forest Conservation Act. The attempt by the Forest Minister and some officials is to cut a piece of land on the border of the sanctuary and make a park there. Therefore, they can say the project is not within the sanctuary.

It’s against the rules,” sources said.

As expected, forest officials came up with an explanation that the nature conservation project lies on the border of the sanctuary only. “A proposal has been submitted to the Zoo Authority, for setting up a project with 16 initiatives.

The Tiger safari park, rehabilitation of wild animals and Otter park are the three animal-related activities in the project,’’ said K P Ouseph, Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife).

He said the project was on the edge of the Malabar Sanctuary and therefore it will not affect the biodiversity in the area.

The reason for choosing that particular area could be the absence of a nature conservation park in Northern Kerala, he said.

Sources said that there were plans for setting up a tiger breeding area for captive breeding inside the proposed Nature Conservation Park. “In these days, when there are many modern concepts of animal conservation, promoting captive breeding is unethical.

Therefore, it should not be allowed without discussions with the Tiger Conservation Authority of India,” wildlife enthusiasts pointed out.

http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=Forest+Dept+plans+tiger+safari+park+in+Malabar+Sanctuary&artid=7AE9Yds8%7CF0=&SectionID=1ZkF/jmWuSA=&MainSectionID=fyV9T2jIa4A=&SectionName=X7s7i%7CxOZ5Y=&SEO=

http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Siberian tiger hit by car in Russia's Far East

Siberian tiger hit by car in Russia's Far East

19:10 27/ 04/ 2009

MOSCOW, April 27 (RIA Novosti) - A Siberian tiger has been hit by a car on a road in the Far Eastern Khabarovsk Territory, Russian environmental regulator Rosprirodnadzor said on Monday.

"The predator is believed to have been hit by a car. Staff at the tiger inspection unit have captured it with nets to prevent attacks on humans and to enable medical treatment to be provided," the regulator said in a statement.

The tiger will be transferred to a special center for treatment.

Last Monday, a female tiger was seriously wounded after she was hit by a car in Russia's Far Eastern Primorye Territory. The tiger was subsequently put to sleep and the driver fined 500,000 rubles ($15,000).

Russia's Ministry of Natural Resources has requested the Interior Ministry introduce speed limits on the road, which runs near a nature reserve in Primorye, where leopards and tigers are known to roam.

Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, are the world's largest subspecies of tigers. They are on the World Conservation Union's critically endangered status list, and there are only about 500 of them left in the wild. Since 2006, poachers have killed around 10 in Russia's Far East.

http://en.rian.ru/russia/20090427/121333922.html

http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Royal Bengal Tiger found dead near Simlipal

Royal Bengal Tiger found dead near Simlipal

Express News Service First Published : 26 Apr 2009 02:36:00 AM

BHUBANESWAR: Detection of carcass of a Royal Bengal Tiger in Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuary has left the wildlife officials puzzled.

While poisoning is suspected to be the cause, exertion could be another reason. The tiger carcass was spotted at Balianalla, about 8 km from Kuldiha, which is contiguous to Simlipal National Park.

While tigers have not been sighted in Kuldiha for a long time, the wildlife officials came across pug marks of two large cats in recent times. This one, an adult female, is believed to be one of them.

Two killings by tigers were reported from the nearby villages recently which could be the reason why the tiger is suspected to have been poisoned. ‘There was no external injury mark on its body. The viscera has been sent for forensic test,’ Simlipal Tiger Reserve Field Director Nagraj Reddy said. Kuldiha is seen as a sink area for tigers of Simlipal. Whenever population of the carnivores goes beyond what the habitat can sustain, they cross over to this contiguous region.

Given the dwindling tiger population in India, sources said, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked the Wildlife Wing to preserve the carcass in deep freezing condition. This has landed the officials in a spot because finding such a facility is a tedious task. Project Tiger head Rajesh Gopal is likely to take a look at it himself after he arrives in May first week. For a long time, no tiger death was reported from this part of the State.

http://www.expressbuzz.com/edition/story.aspx?Title=Royal+Bengal+Tiger+found+dead+near+Simlipal&artid=pgSFVPFwMMQ=&SectionID=mvKkT3vj5ZA=&MainSectionID=fyV9T2jIa4A=&SectionName=nUFeEOBkuKw=&SEO=

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Tiger cub dies at Bandhavgarh Reserve

Tiger cub dies at Bandhavgarh Reserve

Monday, Apr 27, 2009

Umaria (MP): An injured tiger cub has breathed its last at Chakdhara area of the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve in eastern Madhya Pradesh, an official said on Sunday.

The six-month-old cub, that had sustained injuries to its shoulder, ribs and lungs after being hit by a vehicle on April 21, died on Saturday, Reserve Director Aseem Shrivastava told PTI.

The Reserve Director said that a case has been registered under Preliminary Offence Report (POR) by the forest officials and investigations were on. According to initial reports, he said, that the cub had been hit by the jeep of one tour operator, Satyendra Tiwari, in Chakdhar area in the Reserve.

The jeep was ferrying the tourists when it hit the cub, Mr. Shrivastava said. — PTI

http://www.hindu.com/2009/04/27/stories/2009042756771800.htm

http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Gujarat opposes Centre's plan to relocate lions

Gujarat opposes Centre's plan to relocate lions

23 Apr 2009, 0342 hrs IST, TNN

NEW DELHI: Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh may be ruled by the BJP, but the Narendra Modi government on Wednesday raised serious objections in the Supreme Court to the Centre's ambitious proposal to relocate a few lions from the Gir forest to the MP jungles.

The plan, devised to save lions from a disaster that could wipe them all in one go since they are concentrated in one place, involved relocating five of them from Gir to a 300 sq km forest at Kunopalpur in Sheopur district of MP, amicus curiae Raj Panjwani informed a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices L S Panta and P Sathasivam.

He said residents of as many as 24 villages falling within the identified area were relocated in 2003, but the plan mooted by Wildlife Institute of India and approved by National Board for Wildlife was still hanging fire.

Appearing for Gujarat, senior advocate Mukul Rohtagi said the state's opposition to the plan is based on solid environmental grounds. He said even the wildlife experts feel that lions could not be relocated to experimental surroundings already habited by tigers. "You cannot mix cheese with chalk," he said.

He said the number of Asiatic lions was increasing whereas the number of tigers in the MP forests was steadily decreasing. "The number of poachers caught in Gir forest are all from MP," he said hinting at the lack of anti-poaching measures in MP.

Panjwani said Gir has more than 350 lions as against its holding capacity of around 270 and no harm would come if five lions were relocated to MP.

However, the Bench asked the Gujarat government to place the new objections it had raised before the National Board for Wildlife, which would take a fresh decision on the contentious issue.

The study for the relocation of some of the Asiatic lions to MP took into account the disaster at Seringeti forest in Africa where a disease, canine distemper, wiped out 80% of the lion population within a short span.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Health--Science/Earth/Flora--Fauna/Gujarat-opposes-Centres-plan-to-relocate-lions/articleshow/4437564.cms

http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Can tourism save the tiger?

Can tourism save the tiger?

As India's big cats face the growing threat of extinction, Kevin Rushby is both inspired and underwhelmed by its national parks' approaches to conservation

Kevin Rushby The Guardian, Saturday 25 April 2009

We had just regained the path on the far side of the stream when Prasad stopped. So far our tiger hunt has been unsuccessful. A group of Malabar pied hornbills clattered through a tall fruit-bearing tree above us. Further away there was another sound, an urgent and repetitive bark. Prasad used his stick to draw two circles in the dirt around some marks. Neem translated his whispers.

"Leopard tracks - they are about 15 minutes ahead of us. A mother and cub. The barking is the langur monkeys giving warnings."

We went forward. The jungle was tinderbox dry. It was almost impossible to move without snapping a twig under a pile of crackling leaves and there were four of us: myself, two park guides and Neem, naturalist and translator. Through the trees we caught occasional glimpses of the main ridge that makes up Satpura national park, a 1,400-square-kilometre patch of jungle in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. That morning, Neem had told me, I was the only tourist in all those acres of wild forest.

Where the path cleared a little, Prasad pointed out more tracks: "Indian wild dog - very rare animal." And nearby something else: a pile of whitened droppings. "Tiger."

I felt the adrenaline kick through me. In my imagination the thickets around us parted and a massive orange and black killer came hurtling out. An adult royal Bengal tiger can weigh up to 35 stone. It sprints at 50mph. How fast could I climb a tree? My assignment was to investigate whether tourism can benefit tiger conservation, but now I wondered if I was about to increase the tigers' food supply.

It was nonsense, of course. Any tiger that sensed our presence would be quietly moving in the opposite direction. One cannot, however, always be rational about such things.

Neem grinned, as if he guessed my thoughts. "It's old," he said, "A couple of weeks."

Further down the track, Prasad and his partner, Ashish, held a whispered conversation. The warning cries had stopped and so had the leopard tracks. They were trying to second-guess the cats' direction. We moved forward again, cutting through the forest past a pile of white bones, "An old kill - a gaur, or Indian bison."

Then suddenly Prasad crouched down, motioning us to do likewise. There was a whispered conversation and a single glistening drop of liquid on a dry grass blade was pointed out to me. "Indian wild dog. It must be very close."

Prasad slowly raised his head over the line of the undergrowth and I copied. Almost immediately I saw them: a pack of chestnut and white coloured hounds, more like a long-legged fox than a dog, loping directly towards us. In seconds they would be on top of us. I ducked down and got the camera ready.

The dogs, however, had sensed our presence and altered course. All I got was a brief glimpse through the trees to our left, a single adult that had paused briefly to watch us. Then, in a flick of chestnut tails, they were gone.

We stood up and relaxed. "Unbelievable," said Neem, "There were 18 of them - I've never seen so many. Very rare sighting."

I was shocked to find that 40 minutes had passed since encountering the leopard tracks. The concentration had been so intense. And what had we seen? No tigers. No more than a few seconds of a wild dog, but I was buzzing with the adrenaline.

"Breakfast?" Neem suggested. We moved on to some smooth flat-topped boulders, brushed aside a few porcupine poos and sat down. Neem took a lunch box out. "Cucumber sandwich anyone?"

The tiger, as everyone knows, is in deep trouble. From an estimated 40,000 animals in India a century ago, the number is now down to around 1,200. Four sub-species are now extinct. In January 2005 the Sariska national park was forced to admit that all of its supposed 35 tigers had been killed after a group of students from the Wildlife Institute of India searched the park and couldn't find any, an exposé that also uncovered how park officials had been falsely exaggerating tiger numbers for years. Some experts argued that numbers might have fallen below the minimum for a viable population, something that would mean certain extinction in the wild.

The psychological impact of this calamity on conservation work is hard to exaggerate. Project Tiger in India has been one of the world's most energetic and well-funded campaigns, a flagship programme whose failure would spread alarm and despondency.

Things looked up briefly in June 2005 with the arrest of Sansar Chand, the notorious poacher and wildlife product trader who had killed over 1,000 tigers, including the Sariska population. Plans for wildlife corridors between parks also raised hopes that losses could be replenished naturally from more successful areas. However, the panic was reignited this year by the admission that Panna Reserve, also in Madhya Pradesh, had lost all of its estimated 30 animals.

One gleam of hope is that some experts, including Julian Matthews of the charity, Tour Operators for Tigers, feel that the way forward is with eco-tourism in well-managed parks - something along the lines already tried in Africa. If handled correctly, increased visitor numbers, the logic goes, could encourage good practise and ward off poachers.

Now cut away to a week earlier. This time I am in Kanha National Tiger Reserve, again in Madhya Pradesh. Kanha provides visitors with the classic Indian wildlife experience, the one most tour companies offer and the one that usually guarantees a tiger sighting.

At 6am we are in a queue of about 50 jeeps at the park gates, awaiting entry to the "core" zone of the reserve. Most of the vehicles are filled with Indian families, kids excited and chattering, ladies in bright saris. We have passed through the broad "buffer zone" where villagers are allowed to live inside a protected forest. It's also the zone where privately run tourist lodges are springing up in profusion to cater for this explosion in domestic tourism. We pick up our local guide and the gate opens.

Our first objective, like everyone else, is to reach "The Centre". This is the Park HQ within the inner reserve, the area that excludes all humans except park rangers. At the centre you can get the numbered token that entitles you to an elephant ride, should a tiger be located. Once we have that token we can begin to tour Kanha: a delightful rolling landscape of cool forests interspersed with broad grassy meadows dotted with herds of deer.

There is no tracking, however. No one is allowed down from the open-topped jeep and no deviation from the dirt road is permitted. The net result is that the local guide contributes very little, his ground-level knowledge locked away in the front seat of the jeep. These men are usually from the tribal groups that formerly lived within the park and their jobs are the "local employment" that was part of the deal when the government shifted them out. Sitting in a car, without English skills, they are often under-used and bored.

In this situation the naturalist provided by the tourist lodge becomes the key to any understanding for the visitor. These are from a very different background: often college-educated and always English-speaking, they move easily in the luxury hotel environment. Many will become great naturalists, but their knowledge is bookish and vehicle-bound: some have never walked through a jungle in their lives.

At Kanha I was soon locked into my packaged tiger experience. The park elephants and mahouts had located a male tiger. We dashed to the centre and waited for our number to come up. Within an hour I was climbing up on the elephant with one other tourist and strolling through the bush.

The tiger was slumped in a pool of water, lazily watching the elephants come and go with their cargoes of tourists. He did not get up or move; he probably knew better, having got used to this morning ritual: elephants and mahouts kettle him for an hour while the visitors get their pictures. The longer he is kept, the better, as each tourist pays 600 rupees (around £9) for the thrill.

I came away rather unelated. It felt like a zoo.

I put this to Dr H S Pabla, chief wildlife officer for Madhya Pradesh. "But you could walk," he says. "The lodges don't tell anyone, but we have changed the rules and it is possible to walk through the parks - with a guide of course."

He goes on to tell me that Pench national park near Nagpur has a walking trail complete with four observation towers that no one has ever used. Not a single tourist in a 100-square-kilometre area specifically set aside for walking safaris.

"I want people to come and start walking there!" he insists.

The magic formula Pabla and others are seeking is a way to integrate tourism so it energises the conservation, rather than just turn tigers into fairground attractions. My experience at Satpura was the result of work by Hashem Tyabji, a former wildlife warden, who has set up a new lodge, Forsyth, to encourage walking safaris. His use of local guides on walking tours puts the power, and some money, back in their hands. "We plan to start teaching them English," he says, "Communication between tourists and locals is one of the critical issues."

It is at Pench that I finally do get my "genuine" tiger sighting, but it is one that raises other questions in my mind about tourists and big cats.

Pench is one of India's up-and-coming parks: its tigers featured in the BBC documentary series Spy in the Jungle. Close to the big city of Nagpur, it is nevertheless wilder and less-visited - at least if you avoid public holidays and weekends. The local guides are keener here, more ready to offer information. We had barely entered the core zone at 6am when our guide stopped to look at some tiger tracks.

"There is a tigress with cubs who often hunts over this side."

We turned off on a side road and drove slowly along until we heard lemur warning calls. A few seconds later, Dhanya our naturalist hissed an excited warning: a tigress was strolling down towards the road through the forest. This time I felt all the excitement that I had expected. The tigress was wearing a radio collar - one of the individuals that had been filmed as a cub in the BBC series.

The tigress sauntered across the track and was about to re-enter the forest when she stopped. Something had alerted her. She went down on the ground, her hips working to get into a spring position. It was then we saw why. A string of spotted deer, cherval, were strolling through the trees, directly towards the tigress.

When they were just 20 feet from the tiger's jaws, they turned, still oblivious to the danger, and jumped down on the road. One after the other, they trotted across. Last to go was the fawn. The tigress waited. Her tactic would be to attack from behind, leaping on the fawn and biting its neck.

My camera was ready. It was going to be the wildlife moment of a lifetime - for me, if not the fawn. Then the jeep appeared. It was a big party of tourists, heading towards us. Our driver waved at them to stop. Instead they speeded up. I could hear them thinking . . . Are we missing something? Our driver was waving madly. They increased speed. We are definitely missing something!

The deer sprang away in alarm. The tigress relaxed, stood up and sauntered off. Success rates in hunts are never very high for tigers and they don't appear to waste energy on frustration. Unlike us. Our driver lambasted theirs.

I caught a last glimpse of the tigress as she disappeared. From behind the demands of two cubs and the dry season were clear: her body was gaunt and bony. For her, at least, tourism had not helped on this occasion.

Despite this experience, I came away from Pench, Kanha and Satpura cautiously optimistic for the tiger. With large areas of jungle still intact in Madhya Pradesh, and plans for wildlife corridors between parks advancing, there is hope that a new eco-tourist approach will have sufficient animals to work with.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/apr/25/wildlife-ethical-holidays-tiger-preservation?page=all

http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Oregon: Death remains likely fate for Corvallis cougar

By KVAL.com Staff

CORVALLIS, Ore. -- If captured, a cougar seen in Corvallis will be examined by a state veterinarian and evaluated for placement in a wildlife sanctuary or other facility, a state wildlife spokeswoman said.

But the wildlife sanctuary that offered Thursday to take the cat doesn't meet the state's standards for accreditation, she said.

Euthanizing cougars

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, problem cougars are euthanized by private landowners, state or federal wildlife officials, or local police.

If a cougar is killed by a private landowner or in any of these situations, it must be reported and checked in at an ODFW office so we can collect data about the animal.

2002 - 3

2003 - 7

2004 - 6

2005 - 6

2006 – 2

2007 – 4

2008 - 4

Wildlife biologists are still tracking the cougar seen in Corvallis last weekend. The cougar is suspected of mauling a house cat.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife had said, if captured, the cougar would be euthanized.

"Based on the actions of the cougar, it is considered a safety threat," said Michelle Dennehy with ODFW. "Based on our policy and what we know of the cougar at this time, it will likely be euthanized if captured."

Brooks Fahy with Eugene-based Predator Defense argues the state is moving too swiftly in condemning the cougar to die, and Wildcat Haven in Sherwood, Ore., offered Thursday to take the cougar.

Dennehy said, if captured, the cougar could be taken by a sanctuary, but not by Wildcat Haven.

"Our focus now is on trapping the cougar," she told KVAL News. "If trapped, it will be evaluated by our state veterinarian. If at that time we learn new information about this cougar that indicates it is a candidate for placement, our policy is to work with Association of Zoos and Aquariums accredited facilities because these provide the highest standard of care. They have vets, space, and facilities to deal with a cougar from the wild whose needs are different that a captive born animal. Wild Cat Haven is not AZA-accredited."

Dennehy said not the actions of the cougar haved place it in the "problem" category for ODFW.

"Just seeing a cougar is not considered a public safety risk," she said. "The cougar in question is a problem cougar—it was repeatedly seen during the day in city limits and it attacked a pet."

http://www.kval.com/news/local/43648147.html

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

India: Can tourism save the tiger?

As India's big cats face the growing threat of extinction, Kevin Rushby is both inspired and underwhelmed by its national parks' approaches to conservation

Kevin Rushby
The Guardian, Saturday 25 April 2009

Still burning bright? ... tiger numbers in India have dwindled to just 1,200. Photograph: Thorsten Milse/Getty Images/Robert Harding World Imagery

We had just regained the path on the far side of the stream when Prasad stopped. So far our tiger hunt has been unsuccessful. A group of Malabar pied hornbills clattered through a tall fruit-bearing tree above us. Further away there was another sound, an urgent and repetitive bark. Prasad used his stick to draw two circles in the dirt around some marks. Neem translated his whispers.

"Leopard tracks - they are about 15 minutes ahead of us. A mother and cub. The barking is the langur monkeys giving warnings."

We went forward. The jungle was tinderbox dry. It was almost impossible to move without snapping a twig under a pile of crackling leaves and there were four of us: myself, two park guides and Neem, naturalist and translator. Through the trees we caught occasional glimpses of the main ridge that makes up Satpura national park, a 1,400-square-kilometre patch of jungle in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. That morning, Neem had told me, I was the only tourist in all those acres of wild forest.

Where the path cleared a little, Prasad pointed out more tracks: "Indian wild dog - very rare animal." And nearby something else: a pile of whitened droppings. "Tiger."

I felt the adrenaline kick through me. In my imagination the thickets around us parted and a massive orange and black killer came hurtling out. An adult royal Bengal tiger can weigh up to 35 stone. It sprints at 50mph. How fast could I climb a tree? My assignment was to investigate whether tourism can benefit tiger conservation, but now I wondered if I was about to increase the tigers' food supply.

It was nonsense, of course. Any tiger that sensed our presence would be quietly moving in the opposite direction. One cannot, however, always be rational about such things.

Neem grinned, as if he guessed my thoughts. "It's old," he said, "A couple of weeks."

Further down the track, Prasad and his partner, Ashish, held a whispered conversation. The warning cries had stopped and so had the leopard tracks. They were trying to second-guess the cats' direction. We moved forward again, cutting through the forest past a pile of white bones, "An old kill - a gaur, or Indian bison."

Then suddenly Prasad crouched down, motioning us to do likewise. There was a whispered conversation and a single glistening drop of liquid on a dry grass blade was pointed out to me. "Indian wild dog. It must be very close."

Prasad slowly raised his head over the line of the undergrowth and I copied. Almost immediately I saw them: a pack of chestnut and white coloured hounds, more like a long-legged fox than a dog, loping directly towards us. In seconds they would be on top of us. I ducked down and got the camera ready.

The dogs, however, had sensed our presence and altered course. All I got was a brief glimpse through the trees to our left, a single adult that had paused briefly to watch us. Then, in a flick of chestnut tails, they were gone.

We stood up and relaxed. "Unbelievable," said Neem, "There were 18 of them - I've never seen so many. Very rare sighting."

I was shocked to find that 40 minutes had passed since encountering the leopard tracks. The concentration had been so intense. And what had we seen? No tigers. No more than a few seconds of a wild dog, but I was buzzing with the adrenaline.

"Breakfast?" Neem suggested. We moved on to some smooth flat-topped boulders, brushed aside a few porcupine poos and sat down. Neem took a lunch box out. "Cucumber sandwich anyone?"

The tiger, as everyone knows, is in deep trouble. From an estimated 40,000 animals in India a century ago, the number is now down to around 1,200. Four sub-species are now extinct. In January 2005 the Sariska national park was forced to admit that all of its supposed 35 tigers had been killed after a group of students from the Wildlife Institute of India searched the park and couldn't find any, an exposé that also uncovered how park officials had been falsely exaggerating tiger numbers for years. Some experts argued that numbers might have fallen below the minimum for a viable population, something that would mean certain extinction in the wild.

The psychological impact of this calamity on conservation work is hard to exaggerate. Project Tiger in India has been one of the world's most energetic and well-funded campaigns, a flagship programme whose failure would spread alarm and despondency.

Things looked up briefly in June 2005 with the arrest of Sansar Chand, the notorious poacher and wildlife product trader who had killed over 1,000 tigers, including the Sariska population. Plans for wildlife corridors between parks also raised hopes that losses could be replenished naturally from more successful areas. However, the panic was reignited this year by the admission that Panna Reserve, also in Madhya Pradesh, had lost all of its estimated 30 animals.

One gleam of hope is that some experts, including Julian Matthews of the charity, Tour Operators for Tigers, feel that the way forward is with eco-tourism in well-managed parks - something along the lines already tried in Africa. If handled correctly, increased visitor numbers, the logic goes, could encourage good practise and ward off poachers.

Now cut away to a week earlier. This time I am in Kanha National Tiger Reserve, again in Madhya Pradesh. Kanha provides visitors with the classic Indian wildlife experience, the one most tour companies offer and the one that usually guarantees a tiger sighting.

At 6am we are in a queue of about 50 jeeps at the park gates, awaiting entry to the "core" zone of the reserve. Most of the vehicles are filled with Indian families, kids excited and chattering, ladies in bright saris. We have passed through the broad "buffer zone" where villagers are allowed to live inside a protected forest. It's also the zone where privately run tourist lodges are springing up in profusion to cater for this explosion in domestic tourism. We pick up our local guide and the gate opens.

Our first objective, like everyone else, is to reach "The Centre". This is the Park HQ within the inner reserve, the area that excludes all humans except park rangers. At the centre you can get the numbered token that entitles you to an elephant ride, should a tiger be located. Once we have that token we can begin to tour Kanha: a delightful rolling landscape of cool forests interspersed with broad grassy meadows dotted with herds of deer.

There is no tracking, however. No one is allowed down from the open-topped jeep and no deviation from the dirt road is permitted. The net result is that the local guide contributes very little, his ground-level knowledge locked away in the front seat of the jeep. These men are usually from the tribal groups that formerly lived within the park and their jobs are the "local employment" that was part of the deal when the government shifted them out. Sitting in a car, without English skills, they are often under-used and bored.

In this situation the naturalist provided by the tourist lodge becomes the key to any understanding for the visitor. These are from a very different background: often college-educated and always English-speaking, they move easily in the luxury hotel environment. Many will become great naturalists, but their knowledge is bookish and vehicle-bound: some have never walked through a jungle in their lives.

At Kanha I was soon locked into my packaged tiger experience. The park elephants and mahouts had located a male tiger. We dashed to the centre and waited for our number to come up. Within an hour I was climbing up on the elephant with one other tourist and strolling through the bush.

The tiger was slumped in a pool of water, lazily watching the elephants come and go with their cargoes of tourists. He did not get up or move; he probably knew better, having got used to this morning ritual: elephants and mahouts kettle him for an hour while the visitors get their pictures. The longer he is kept, the better, as each tourist pays 600 rupees (around £9) for the thrill.

I came away rather unelated. It felt like a zoo.

I put this to Dr H S Pabla, chief wildlife officer for Madhya Pradesh. "But you could walk," he says. "The lodges don't tell anyone, but we have changed the rules and it is possible to walk through the parks - with a guide of course."

He goes on to tell me that Pench national park near Nagpur has a walking trail complete with four observation towers that no one has ever used. Not a single tourist in a 100-square-kilometre area specifically set aside for walking safaris.

"I want people to come and start walking there!" he insists.

The magic formula Pabla and others are seeking is a way to integrate tourism so it energises the conservation, rather than just turn tigers into fairground attractions. My experience at Satpura was the result of work by Hashem Tyabji, a former wildlife warden, who has set up a new lodge, Forsyth, to encourage walking safaris. His use of local guides on walking tours puts the power, and some money, back in their hands. "We plan to start teaching them English," he says, "Communication between tourists and locals is one of the critical issues."

It is at Pench that I finally do get my "genuine" tiger sighting, but it is one that raises other questions in my mind about tourists and big cats.

Pench is one of India's up-and-coming parks: its tigers featured in the BBC documentary series Spy in the Jungle. Close to the big city of Nagpur, it is nevertheless wilder and less-visited - at least if you avoid public holidays and weekends. The local guides are keener here, more ready to offer information. We had barely entered the core zone at 6am when our guide stopped to look at some tiger tracks.

"There is a tigress with cubs who often hunts over this side."

We turned off on a side road and drove slowly along until we heard lemur warning calls. A few seconds later, Dhanya our naturalist hissed an excited warning: a tigress was strolling down towards the road through the forest. This time I felt all the excitement that I had expected. The tigress was wearing a radio collar - one of the individuals that had been filmed as a cub in the BBC series.

The tigress sauntered across the track and was about to re-enter the forest when she stopped. Something had alerted her. She went down on the ground, her hips working to get into a spring position. It was then we saw why. A string of spotted deer, cherval, were strolling through the trees, directly towards the tigress.

When they were just 20 feet from the tiger's jaws, they turned, still oblivious to the danger, and jumped down on the road. One after the other, they trotted across. Last to go was the fawn. The tigress waited. Her tactic would be to attack from behind, leaping on the fawn and biting its neck.

My camera was ready. It was going to be the wildlife moment of a lifetime - for me, if not the fawn. Then the jeep appeared. It was a big party of tourists, heading towards us. Our driver waved at them to stop. Instead they speeded up. I could hear them thinking . . . Are we missing something? Our driver was waving madly. They increased speed. We are definitely missing something!

The deer sprang away in alarm. The tigress relaxed, stood up and sauntered off. Success rates in hunts are never very high for tigers and they don't appear to waste energy on frustration. Unlike us. Our driver lambasted theirs.

I caught a last glimpse of the tigress as she disappeared. From behind the demands of two cubs and the dry season were clear: her body was gaunt and bony. For her, at least, tourism had not helped on this occasion.

Despite this experience, I came away from Pench, Kanha and Satpura cautiously optimistic for the tiger. With large areas of jungle still intact in Madhya Pradesh, and plans for wildlife corridors between parks advancing, there is hope that a new eco-tourist approach will have sufficient animals to work with.

Three more green safaris
Bengal tigers in Nepal

Nepal's lowlands are home to the Bengal tiger as well as leopards, deer, Asian one-horned rhino, langur monkeys and the rare Gangetic dolphin. Tribes Travel offers a wildlife-watching itinerary that takes in Bardia national park in the west, Chitwan national park and Koshi Tappu wildlife reserve in the east. The trip includes elephant-back safaris on which it may be possible to track a Bengal tiger. Accommodation includes the Nepali-owned Gaida Wildlife Camp, located on the boundary of Chitwan. Each of its 32 bungalows are fitted with solar-powered showers, with greywater collected for use in the gardens and lighting is by candles and lamps.

* A 14-night trip costs £2,035pp, excluding international flights. 01728 685 971, tribes.co.uk.

Coast and community in Tanzania

Kisampa is a private conservation area adjoining the coastal Saadani national park in eastern Tanzania. It is not a "big five" safari, but its open grasslands, forests and rivers are home to primates and many bird species. Guests stay in bungalows or tents constructed by local craftspeople from renewable materials, with composting toilets. The camp has a strong community focus, with people from five villages involved in its operation and raises money for local community improvements such as the area's first secondary school.

* From £110 per person per night; 00255 754 927694, sanctuary-tz.com.

Cheetahs in Namibia

The world's largest surviving cheetah population lives in Namibia and you can help conserve the species during a stay at Elandsvreugde (Eland's Joy), a working farm and the headquarters of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. A typical day might involve gathering data for a wildlife survey, feeding captive cheetahs and helping educate local farmers and children about the importance of conserving them, which is often seen as a problem animal. The farm is also home to kudus, hartebeest, warthogs, jackals, leopards and brown hyenas. Volunteers stay in two-person rondavels.

* Earthwatch (01865 318838, earthwatch.org/exped/marker.html, cheetah.org) has a 15-day visit for around £2,765pp.
Carolyn Fry

* Taken from The Guardian Guide to Green Travel, edited by Liane Katz, available from Guardian Books for the pre-publication price of only £12 (rrp £16.99); after publication on 10 May it will be £13.99. Order via guardianbooks.co.uk or call 0845 606 4323 quoting the code Green09.

Way to go
Getting there
On The Go Tours (020-7371 1113, onthegotours.com) offer seven-day, tailor-made itineraries to Kanha, Pench and Satpura from £1,699pp, including international and domestic flights, B&B accommodation, some meals, game drives, transfers, and park fees. Eightday group tours start at £699 inc flights. In Satpura Forsyth Lodge (forsythlodge.com) offers walking safaris.

Further information
Madhya Pradesh parks: mponline.gov.in.
Conservation and tourism: toftigers.org.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/apr/25/wildlife-ethical-holidays-tiger-preservation

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Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Friday, April 24, 2009

Amur tigers threatened by economic crisis

Amur tigers threatened by economic crisis

24 Apr 2009

Primorye, Russia – Loggers in Russia’s Far East increasingly are cutting down Korean cedar pine, raising concerns that the endangered Amur tiger could lose critical habitat and its prey could lose a major food source.

Under pressure from the ongoing economic crisis, loggers are turning to the more lucrative Korean cedar pine (Pinus korajensis) as commodity prices for other types of wood fall, which in turn has led to large-scale illegal logging operations in the Ussuriiskaya taiga in Primorye, according to WWF-Russia.

“Chinese importers of the Far Eastern wood have sharply dropped prices and demand for oak and ash wood as an answer to the world crisis,” said Denis Smirnov, head of the forest program at WWF-Russia’s Amur branch. “These species were the most desired ones for poachers before, but the demand was reduced after export customs duties for these species of timber had been increased from Feb. 1.”

“At the same time, Korean pine wood is still highly demanded both in domestic and international markets and is sold at rather high prices,” Smirnov said.

Russia’s Far East Korean cedar pine forests were heavily logged during the second half of the 20th century, particularly in the late 1990s, which resulted in a 50 percent reduction and left only around 2.88 million hectares of the forests today.

Although P. koraiensis is not nationally protected in Russia, its logging is either prohibited or regulated in certain provinces of Russia and China. However, loggers typically exploit loopholes in regional regulations to launder illegally logged wood, often taking advantage of lax customs controls or by under-declaring the volume of legal exports.

“This rampant and mindless logging is shocking and disturbs the habitat and prey base of some of the rarest animals in the world including the Amur tiger and Amur leopard,” said Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of the Species Programme for WWF-International.

In the Amur region, tiger conservation hinges on protecting the Korean cedar pine. Pine nuts from the tree represent an integral food source for the Amur tiger’s prey, such as wild boars. Korean pine-broadleaved forests also provide habitats for the Far Eastern leopard, Asiatic and brown bears, sika deers and many other species. These pine nuts are also sold internationally, benefiting local communities as well.

Awareness of the recently increased demand for Korean cedar pine surfaced after WWF staff, with members of Russia’s Internal Affairs Department, the Primorskii Province Forestry Department and Rosselkhoznadzor -- the Federal Service of Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Supervision – raided a wood exporter platform in January in the city of Dalnerechensk.

They found about 10 to 15,000 cubic meters of Korean cedar pine originating from illegal logging sites in Dalnerechenskii, Krasnoarmeiskii and Lesozavodskii districts in central and northern Primorye.

Two largest of logging sites, with total volume exceeding 3,000 cubic meters, were found close to the village of Malinovo in an area leased by one of the biggest logging companies in Primorye – JSC “Dalnerechenskles,” which is part of the “Dallesprom” group.

Before enforcement of a new Russian Forest Code in 2007, Korean pine held a special status as a species protected from commercial use, which contributed to its conservation. Korean pine has now lost its protective status and increased demand for Korean pine timber along with the complete inaction of regulators and forest control services to address the need for a new special status for the Korean pine have made it an easy target for illegal logging.

The only way to stop the complete destruction of the Far Eastern Korean pine forests is to impose a moratorium on its harvesting, according to WWF. The conservation organization asks that provincial and federal authorities come up with a proposal to urgently add Korean pine into the list of species forbidden to harvest, and to inform importing countries accordingly.

The Amur tiger, which can weigh up to 300 kg and measure around three metres from its nose to the tip of its tail, has come back from the brink of extinction to its highest population for at least 100 years. Only about 40 were alive in 1950 but nowadays there are around 450, one of the strongest tiger populations in the world.

Related Link - Amur Tiger Information:

http://www.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/endangered_species_list/tigers/amur_tiger/

http://www.panda.org/wwf_news/?162901/Amur-tigers-threatened-by-economic-crisis

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

The thing about the tiger

The thing about the tiger

Be it in Kanha, the Sunderbans or Corbett, too many tigers are still dying unnatural deaths. But why is saving the tiger so important? And how can you contribute?

Jay Mazoomdaar

Posted: Thu, Apr 23 2009. 11:50 PM IST

Before you snigger at yet another tiger story, let me assure you that I understand your point. Yes, it is our national animal and yes, it is quite a sight even in the zoo. But in a country that is wracked by poverty, unemployment and terrorism, does the tiger deserve prime ministerial intervention?

No wonder you just don't get this thing about the tiger.

The more compassionate among us might spare a thought for it were we not repelled by rabid environmentalists who seem to value all living beings except humans. But for most, the tiger does not make the cut. It does not even make a legal pet. Is there, then, a valid case for saving the tiger?

Years ago, I was with some children at the Dhikala Complex in Corbett National Park. When I asked why they were there, they told me they had come "to see a tiger". Why tiger? "It's so big and powerful…even elephants are scared of it…"

At this point, a proud father prompted his seven-year-old to say "We must save the tiger" and a few other children echoed the same thought. But when I asked them why they should do so, even the parents looked foxed.

Suddenly, a tiny girl threw up her hand and said in a sing-song voice: "…because it is the king of beasts". With a few children protesting "nooo, that's the lion", the parents broke into indulgent laughter.

But I had my answer. This whole thing about the tiger is not about the tiger.

Though it is indeed the king of the Indian forests, having won the territorial battle with the Asiatic lion long ago, let us not meddle with traditional titles. What children understand as king of beasts is, in fact, the ecological equivalent of the apex predator or the animal at the top of a food pyramid. In that sense, both lions and tigers are kings.

Common sense tells us that to keep the top block in place, every block down the pyramid must be in place. So a healthy tiger population typically indicates that everything is fine with the rest of the forest. The same is true of the lion, but it can serve as an indicator only for Sasan Gir National Park, Gujarat. The tiger roams much of India's best forests. So this thing about the tiger is really about the entire forest.

In talking to children, few can match Mumbai-based environmentalist Bittu Sahgal, who runs the Kids For Tigers campaign. Some of his ploys are dramatic. One of his routines is to call two children on stage (usually a boy with cropped hair and a girl with a thick mop). He asks them to bend over, then pours a glass of water on their heads. Then he takes out two white handkerchiefs to wipe their hair dry. He demonstrates how the handkerchief used by the boy gets less wet than the one used by the girl. It's Sahgal's way of telling children how forest cover is essential for our water security.

Our forests are the source of 300 rivers and perennial streams; without forests, these water bodies would dry up.

There are many other reasons to value our remaining 64 million hectares of forests. A few years ago, the Centre put a conservative annual estimate of Rs40,000 crore as the value of assets exploited from forests— from biggies such as timber, medicinal plants and salt, to lesser derivatives such as tendu leaves, or firewood. This figure does not include minerals (around 75% of our mines are inside forests), encroached plantations or illegal wildlife trade. A more realistic estimate, based on independent studies, of the annual value of our forest produce would be around Rs75,000 crore.

The thing about the tiger is about protecting this treasure trove, ensuring our water security, and enjoying an annual dividend of around Rs75,000 crore. Anyone who has fathomed this has a very selfish reason to bother about the big cat.

The thing about the tiger is about us.

When I uncovered the local extinction of tigers at the Sariska National Park, Rajasthan, in January 2005, the government's initial response was that of denial. But later, the Prime Minister's office, the Supreme Court and the Central Bureau of Investigation got involved. There was a new Central legislation (the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act, 2006) and two new Central agencies (the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau). The budget for tiger conservation was increased fourfold to Rs600 crore in the 11th Plan.

Why then are tigers still dying frequent unnatural deaths? Why the disturbing headlines from Tadoba, Kanha, Pilibhit, Sunderbans or Corbett in the past few months? We can blame the lacunae in the system. But on the ground, the biggest threats are habitat loss, conflict with people and poaching.

The tiger is a territorial animal. There are gender concessions as the larger territory of a male overlaps with several smaller territories of females. But no two adult males or females usually share space.

If they are lucky to survive their first two years, tiger cubs leave their mothers and go looking for their own territories. However, these sub-adults (known as floaters) don't easily find space unclaimed by adult tigers.

At this stage, a floater may kill or chase away a resident tiger or get killed or chased away. If alive, the displaced weakling or the young floater moves towards the forest periphery and may circle the forest till it gets lucky and finds a slot. Otherwise, it may find a patch that connects its native forest to an adjoining forest where it may try to shift. If there is no peripheral forest (known as buffer) or connecting patches (known as corridors) to temporarily accommodate these displaced weaklings or young floaters, the animals run into people. Such encounters usually trigger conflict and the animals are eventually killed or sent to zoos.

In natural circumstances, dispersal and deaths maintain the balance in a tiger population. But external disturbance such as mining or highways or habitation inside a forest reduces the size of the prime habitat (known as core area) and pushes too many tigers towards the buffer. These dispersed tigers are doomed if we allow agriculture, hotel resorts and other human activities right at the edge of the forest, if we cram the animals for space and pushes them into conflict. Over time, this combination of a disturbed core, a non-existent buffer and no connectivity between forests makes a tiger population locally unsustainable. Then, the remaining few are taken out by poachers, as in Sariska.

Poaching tigers is a highly specialized job that only a handful of traditional hunting communities are capable of. Without them, no poaching mafia can run the trade. But while the syndicates make Rs20-50 lakh per tiger, these hunters do the high-risk job for merely a few thousand rupees.

I know several tiger poachers who struggle to support a family of 8-12. When not hunting, they earn less than Rs50 a day if they get work as daily wagers. Their amazing jungle sense is a rare gift but it has little use in our legal economy.

The emphasis of our anti-poaching strategies has been on guards and guns. But guarding thousands of hectares of forests is physically impossible and financially draining. Targeted empowerment of the hunting communities is more feasible and effective. For foolproof protection, we need a carrot-and-stick policy that combines incentives for reforms with strict enforcement.

Most communities living around tiger forests are hostile to the tiger because the protection regime restricts their livelihood options and they also end up as victims of conflict. Such hostility not only leads to frequent retaliatory killings but also allows poaching mafias to make easy inroads. Our conservation policies need to be inclusive and offer these people enough incentives to support the tiger.

We cannot altogether deny the need for forest land to meet the demands of economic growth. But we must learn to distinguish between forests, between what is still pristine and what is already degraded. India's conservation efforts will remain ad hoc till the government formulates a national policy for land use, decides what percentage of land we can afford to leave aside as inviolate forest, identifies and prioritizes the best forests within that ceiling, and protects the designated areas uncompromisingly.

Forget the government for a while. What can you do to save the tiger? Of course, you do not buy products made from wildlife. Yes, some of you send your children to rally for the tiger. But you can do a lot more:

• As an individual or a small organization or business, you can directly support effective conservation projects. Not only money, your specialized skills could help and you could devote a few weeks a year on the field.

• You can visit a hostel near Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan, and teach the children of a traditional hunting community, the Mogiyas. A project here (www.tigerwatch.net) also trains Mogiya women in handicrafts, markets the products and employs Mogiya men as forest guides or anti-poaching informers.

• Another project, run by the Corbett Foundation (www.corbettfoundation.org) in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund-India, provides on-the-spot compensation (in addition to the government compensation that usually takes months) for any loss due to man-animal conflict around the Corbett National Park.

• You can choose from other innovative models of change such as setting up biogas plants or subsidizing LPG to cut dependence on firewood. But check if the projects are sound before investing time or money. Typically, any project that does not start showing results by the mid-term is suspect. It always makes sense to visit the project site, even if as a tiger tourist, once a year.

• While holidaying in the wild, you could opt for hotels that follow the ethics of wildlife tourism and generate local employment. Travel Operators For Tigers (www.toftigers.org), for example, is one such international movement that promises a light carbon footprint.

• If you have the power to decide for a big business house, why not trigger a turnaround? Why not buy strategic tracts of private land between adjoining forests, settle the rights of landless people residing or depending on those tracts, and hand over the land to the government to serve as undisturbed forest buffers or corridors?

• You can also just keep it small and simple by saying no to plastic, switching off appliances that are not in use, opting for a carpool to school or work, planting trees in your backyard—every little act that helps your future helps the tiger too.

If nothing else, talk about the big cat once in a while. And tell those who do not get this thing about the tiger.

Jay Mazoomdaar is an independent journalist. He won the International Press Institute award for exposing the extinction of tigers at Sariska Tiger Reserve in The Indian Express.

http://www.livemint.com/2009/04/23210955/The-thing-about-the-tiger.html?h=B

http://www.bigcatrescue.org

Two wild Tigers get 'Lifetime Achievement Award'

Two wild Tigers get 'Lifetime Achievement Award'

Published on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 21:20
Updated on Fri, Apr 24, 2009 at 21:23

Travel Operators for Tigers (TOFT) Lifetime Achievement Awards will be made on Friday night to Ranthambhore's famous tigress Machali and Bandavgarh's celerity male Tiger, known as B2 (or Sundar) in recognition of their star pulling power in Ranthambhore and Bandavgarh Tiger Reserves.

The two tigers - though not personally accepting the awards - with be given the prize at the launch of the TOFT Wildlife Tourism Awards, being held at the British High Commissioner's Residence in Delhi.

"They are multi-million dollar earners but it isn't a business award they are being given but an environmental one" says TOFT founder, Julian Matthews.

"Machali herself earns as much as a top cricketer or Bollywood actress, and it's critical to recognise these extraordinary economic benefits that come from saving her species in the wild. She literally provides livelihoods for thousands of people from forest guards to wildlife guides, drivers to hoteliers!"

TOFT has calculated that the extraordinary pulling power of Machali has earned nearly US$100 million (48000 crores) for the Indian Economy since she became a dominant resident female in the Tourism zone of Ranthambhore in 1998 as well as bringing up 11 cubs, two of whom are now in Sariska NP. Like all good stars she even has a Facebook page, has been seen by over 150000 visitors and millions on TV across the globe.

B2 in Bandavgarh is also an extraordinary tiger. He has sired over 35 tigers, 90% of which lived to adulthood, an extraordinary high ratio itself thanks to the protection he has been able to afford his many lovers! The sizable majority of tigers living in Bandhavgarh today are his sons and daughters. As Head of the family business, B2 has been estimated to have earned US$30m over his 7 year reign in the Tala Tourism range.

There is an old maxim - if it pays it stays - and these two tigers justify the extraordinary efforts and costs that going into preserving her, her kin and her forest habitat.

Julian Matthews continues: "The award is being made to two tigers tonight but of course it is also very much in recognition of the hard work and dedication of all the Park staff - forest guards, wildlife and forest officers and administrators over many years. So to all of these people let us all say a big thank you."

Accepting the Award on behalf of Machali is Ranthambhore's Field Director, Shafaat Hussain, and his colleague Mr Shekawhat, DFO.

TOFT India Director, Abhishek Behl, added: "These awards mark the launch of a new Annual Award we are running to highlight the work of all those involved who are using the wildlife tourism industry, its entrepreneurship, manpower and visitors most effectively to support conservation and restore wildlife habitat. It will reward best practice and sustainability across the lodge community, enhance cooperation and partnership with parks, motivate guides and guards and highlight the best community tourism initiatives wherever they are found. This is an exciting time for wildlife tourism, it has an extraordinary potential to be a major force for good in helping protect the tiger and we know these TOFT Wildlife Tourism Awards will become a key event in the Wildlife Tourism and Conservation calendar."


http://ibnlive.in.com/news/two-wild-tigers-get-lifetime-achievement-award/91054-13.html

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Oregon: Push to save young cougar grows

By KYLE ODEGARDFor the Democrat-Herald

But can the mountain lion be saved?

CORVALLIS - A groundswell of support is forming to save the life of the young cougar that has been roaming northwest Corvallis. Thursday, a wildlife sanctuary offered to take the mountain lion, if it can be trapped by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

"We would be happy to provide it a lifetime home," said Cheryl Tuller, executive director of WildCat Haven of Sherwood in Washington County.

The cougar has been spotted at least seven times in two weeks, and ODFW biologists have said it poses a potential danger to humans because it doesn't appear to be afraid of people. Wild cougars usually avoid all contact with humans.

The mountain lion, which is estimated to weigh 50 pounds, was photographed twice at the edge of back yards. Last Friday, it attacked a house cat about 300 yards from Wilson School. The pet survived, however, and is expected to recover.

ODFW officials have said that if the cougar is trapped, it will be examined by a veterinarian to try to determine its history. But then the mountain lion likely would be killed.

The agency has a policy against relocating problem animals, partly because they'll likely cause problems elsewhere, but also for disease control and to avert conflicts that relocating the cougar could cause with existing wildlife at the new locale.

But WildCat Haven is offering to relocate the animal not to a different patch of woods, but to its own shelter. The non-profit has 45 big cats such as lynx, bobcats and 11 cougars — all born in captivity. (See www.wild cathaven.org/).

Tuller said there's a convincing argument to be made, based on behavior, that the cougar once was someone's pet.

Brooks Fahy, the executive director of Predator Defense, a Eugene-based wildlife advocacy group, said the animal probably is wild but is exhibiting foolish behavior as part of a growing phase.

"They're like teenagers. They're curious. This is not an extraordinary event," said Fahy, who has worked as a veterinary technician specializing in wildlife rehabilitation.

"Everybody just back off; be cautious," Fahy said. "Nobody has been threatened. The fact you are seeing an animal is no reason to go out and kill it." He said setting up a trap which will likely result in the animal's death was "overkill."

"This is a situation that has been so blown out of proportion that it's mind-boggling," he added.
Brian Wolfer, an ODFW wildlife biologist, said there could be opportunities to place the cougar with an Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited organization.

"I don't think, at this point, that we're willing to paint ourselves into a corner and say there are no other alternatives," Wolfer said. He added that if a wild animal is placed in captivity, problems can arise with health because the animal wants to be free.

"It's not an easy, ‘I'm going to put this thing in a cage and it's going to like it there,'" Wolfer said.

WildCat Haven is accredited by the American Sanctuary Association. Wolfer said he didn't know enough about that group, but he said ODFW was very comfortable working with Association of Zoos and Aquariums facilities.

Even some residents of neighborhoods the cougar has prowled through want to save the animal.
McKenna Drayse, a Lane Community College student who lived in Corvallis for four years, has created a Facebook page to save the cougar. She said she's hoping it can be placed in a zoo or refuge.

"There should be more people standing up and saying, ‘We shouldn't kill everything we don't want around us,'" she said. "I'm worried about the future. This is going to keep happening, and is this going to be the resort that we come to?"

Kyle Odegard can be contacted at kyle.odegard@lee.net or 758-9523.

http://www.democratherald.com/articles/2009/04/24/news/local/3loc08_cougar042409.txt

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Researchers study jaguar, other wildlife in Mexico

BY TIM CROSBY, SIUC University Communications
Friday, April 24, 2009 6:15 AM CDT

CARBONDALE -- The Sierra Madre Occidental in Sonora, Mexico, can be a desolate place, defined by craggy rock formations and thorny scrub brush so dense in areas that it can seem almost impenetrable.

A pair of researchers from Southern Illinois University Carbondale – a research scientist and graduate student -- are rolling back the curtain on this challenging landscape as they seek to characterize its wildlife population and study one reclusive species of big cat in particular.

The Mexican state of Sonora lies directly south of the Arizona border. Despite its inhospitable conditions, the area is home to a surprising variety of wildlife. Foxes, skunks, a type of white-tailed deer known as Coues deer and collared peccaries, a type of wild swine, are just a few examples of the diverse wildlife, along with pumas, also known as cougars or mountain lions.

Modern day cowboys, or "vaqueros," are some of the few human inhabitants in the approximately 500-square-kilometer area around the Sierra Madre foothills where the researchers are concentrating their work. Vaqueros live in Spartan conditions, with little running water or electricity and no refrigeration. They know the area and its ways, including the best means of picking a trail through the hellish thorn scrub that can blind the horses and pack mules they use for transportation.

Even among these local experts, however, few have witnessed the quarry the SIUC researchers seek: the jaguar, at the northern-most reach of its range.

But Clay Nielsen, an associate scientist with SIUC's Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory, has an observation method not available to the local ranch hands. Nielsen, along with graduate student Steven Borrego, uses a grid of 70 motion-activated cameras to capture the reticent carnivore on its nightly rounds.

It's all part of an effort aimed at finding ways to manage and preserve wildlife -- including large carnivores like the jaguar and puma -- while also protecting human interests in the area, such as livestock ranching. The researchers' role is assessing the overall wildlife ecosystem; finding out how animals interact with their environment and each other. They are using the thousands of images captured by their mobile cameras to make a series of observations that they will then use to form an analysis.

"Everything that walks by our cameras, we get a picture of," Nielsen said.

But jaguars…in a desert-like environment?

"Jaguars actually used to live in the southwest United States as well," Nielsen explained recently. But humans ran them out, killing many of them in the process. The jaguars in Sonora represent the northernmost breeding population in their distributional range, which extends to southern South America.

While slightly smaller than the more elongated puma, jaguars are fast, low to the ground and powerful predators. In this area, a male might average 130 pounds or so, and it hunts by itself, stalking and ambushing prey.

Sometimes, the prey may include cattle or calves, which leads to friction between the big cat and local ranch owners. Although Mexican law protects the jaguars, it is difficult to enforce such restrictions in such a wide, sparsely traveled area.

"This is why we want to help fine-tune management techniques that will address these issues," Nielsen said.

Primero Conservation Outfitters, a U.S. company that charters deer hunting parties and ecotourists into the area, helped organize the research project. Money from those activities goes toward jaguar conservation on the study area, which is owned by a consortium of ranchers. The consortium is known as "Programma de conservacion del Jaguar en La Sierra Alta de Sonora." These ranchers are looking for better ways to manage the sometimes competing interests of humans and wildlife. The study will help provide that, Nielsen said.

The researchers began the project in January of last year, with Borrego spending a large amount of time in the area from August to December of 2008. He will again venture south this June and stay through December.

The project is scheduled for completion in mid to late 2010, Nielsen said.

Borrego's life is similar to his vaquero hosts during his weeks in the field. He brings as many supplies -- food, water, etc. -- with him as possible when first arriving. His days then consist of rising about 4:30 a.m. and basically riding the range on horseback with the Mexican cowpokes.

Instead of wrangling cattle, though, he wrangles cameras.

"It's rough conditions when compared to an apartment in Carbondale," Borrego joked. "It's usually an adobe house with maybe some running water. Any electricity is solar, or they hook up to a truck battery. It's five hours to the nearest ice machine, so I try to take some of that when I go and it will last a few days in a cooler. Sometimes we go for weeks like that."

The researchers set the motion-activated cameras up along suspected game trails. When an animal walks by, it pops a photo. Borrego leaves cameras in place for about three weeks, switching out the memory cards and downloading photos all the while, before re-positioning them at other locations.

On a good long day of riding, he can visit about nine camera sites.

"It's slow going," he said. "There are no paved roads, only gravel and rock-strewn paths."

When he positions a camera, Borrego makes a survey of the area surrounding it, noting variables such as ground cover, types of plants, distance to water or human dwellings and other factors.
When the photos start coming in the researchers consider how the different species may relate to each other in the ecosystem.

They ultimately place all the data in a database that will help them model and analyze the entire system.

All the hardship is well worth it, Borrego said.

"I want to contribute to the conservation of these animals," he said. "Carnivores seem to often live close to humans, so the question is how do we co-exist?

The Cougar Network, Disney Wildlife Conservation Fund, Shared Earth Foundation, SIUC and Panthera are funding the project.

http://www.southernillinoisan.com/articles/2009/04/24/breaking_news/doc49f0cf84bbe3e594214620.txt

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New Mexico: Cougar killed after entering courtyards

Updated: Thursday, 23 Apr 2009, 4:23 PM MDT
Published : Thursday, 23 Apr 2009, 3:35 PM MDT

Web Producer: Todd Dukart

ELDORADO AT SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) - Game wardens have killed a cougar who entered the courtyards of two Santa Fe-area homes.

The 100-pound female cougar was captured and euthanized after she was found Monday at the homes in the Eldorado subdivision.

Game warden Desi Ortiz said the cougar showed no fear when he arrived at the first home. The animal stared back at him as he positioned himself with a tranquilizer gun.

Ortiz said he hit the mountain lion in the hind leg with a tranquilizer dart. She jumped over the wall to the courtyard and went missing.

A short time later, Ortiz was called to another home where a cougar was seen staggering into the courtyard.

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officials said the original plan was to move the animal to the Jemez Mountains, but she was euthanized after officials determined she was too dangerous to people.

Dan Williams with Game and Fish said in a news release the cougar appeared to have lost its fear of humans.

Tips to avoid encounters with mountain lions and other large predators, according to Game and Fish:
* Do not feed wildlife. Use native plants, not non-natives, so as to not attract deer, which are the primary prey of lions. Remember, predators follow prey. * Do not let your pets roam around outside. Bring them in at night. If you keep pets outside, provide a kennel with a secure top. Do not feed pets outside where the food can attract lions or other smaller animals which lions prey upon. Store and dispose of all garbage securely. * Closely supervise children. Make sure they are home before dusk and not outside before dawn. Make lots of noise if you come or go during times when mountain lions are most active — dusk to dawn. Teach your children about lions and what they should do if they encounter one. * Landscape or remove vegetation to eliminate hiding cover for lions, especially around areas where children play. Make it difficult for a lion to approach unseen. * Install outdoor lighting, especially in areas where you walk, so you can see a lion if one were present. * Close off open spaces below porches or decks. * Place all livestock in enclosed sheds or barns at night. Close the doors to all outbuildings so that an inquisitive lion is prevented from going inside to look around. * Also, if you encounter a mountain lion:
Stop or back away slowly if you can do so safely.
* Stay calm when you come upon a lion talk calmly yet firmly to it and move slowly. * Immediately pick up all children off the ground and tell them to stay calm. * Do not run from a lion as fleeing behavior may trigger the instinct of the lion to attack. * Face the lion — do not turn your back — remain in an upright position and look as large as possible (raise your arms, open up your coat, if your wearing one). * Carry a walking stick and use it to defend yourself by keeping it between you and the lion. If the lion approaches closer or behaves aggressively, arm yourself with the stick, throw rocks or sticks at the lion, and speak louder and more firmly to the lion. Convince the lion you are dominant and a danger to it. * Fight back if a lion attacks you. Use any possible object within reach as a weapon, such as rocks, sticks, jackets, a backpack or your bare hands. Lions have been driven away by prey that fights back. Stay standing and if you fall down try to get back up on your feet. * Call police if you feel you are in danger.

http://www.krqe.com/dpp/news/environment/environment_ap_eldorado_at_santa_fe_cougar_200904231534

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Russia's Amur tigers threatened by economic crisis

24 Apr 2009

Primorye, Russia – Loggers in Russia's Far East increasingly are cutting down Korean cedar pine, raising concerns that the endangered Amur tiger could lose critical habitat and its prey could lose a major food source.

Under pressure from the ongoing economic crisis, loggers are turning to the more lucrative Korean cedar pine (Pinus korajensis) as commodity prices for other types of wood fall, which in turn has led to large-scale illegal logging operations in the Ussuriiskaya taiga in Primorye, according to WWF-Russia.

"Chinese importers of the Far Eastern wood have sharply dropped prices and demand for oak and ash wood as an answer to the world crisis," said Denis Smirnov, head of the forest program at WWF-Russia's Amur branch. "These species were the most desired ones for poachers before, but the demand was reduced after export customs duties for these species of timber had been increased from Feb. 1."

"At the same time, Korean pine wood is still highly demanded both in domestic and international markets and is sold at rather high prices," Smirnov said.

Russia's Far East Korean cedar pine forests were heavily logged during the second half of the 20th century, particularly in the late 1990s, which resulted in a 50 percent reduction and left only around 2.88 million hectares of the forests today.

Although P. koraiensis is not nationally protected in Russia, its logging is either prohibited or regulated in certain provinces of Russia and China. However, loggers typically exploit loopholes in regional regulations to launder illegally logged wood, often taking advantage of lax customs controls or by under-declaring the volume of legal exports.

"This rampant and mindless logging is shocking and disturbs the habitat and prey base of some of the rarest animals in the world including the Amur tiger and Amur leopard," said Dr. Susan Lieberman, Director of the Species Programme for WWF-International.

In the Amur region, tiger conservation hinges on protecting the Korean cedar pine. Pine nuts from the tree represent an integral food source for the Amur tiger's prey, such as wild boars. Korean pine-broadleaved forests also provide habitats for the Far Eastern leopard, Asiatic and brown bears, sika deers and many other species. These pine nuts are also sold internationally, benefiting local communities as well.

Awareness of the recently increased demand for Korean cedar pine surfaced after WWF staff, with members of Russia's Internal Affairs Department, the Primorskii Province Forestry Department and Rosselkhoznadzor -- the Federal Service of Veterinary and Phyto-Sanitary Supervision – raided a wood exporter platform in January in the city of Dalnerechensk.

They found about 10 to 15,000 cubic meters of Korean cedar pine originating from illegal logging sites in Dalnerechenskii, Krasnoarmeiskii and Lesozavodskii districts in central and northern Primorye.

Two largest of logging sites, with total volume exceeding 3,000 cubic meters, were found close to the village of Malinovo in an area leased by one of the biggest logging companies in Primorye – JSC "Dalnerechenskles," which is part of the "Dallesprom" group.

Before enforcement of a new Russian Forest Code in 2007, Korean pine held a special status as a species protected from commercial use, which contributed to its conservation. Korean pine has now lost its protective status and increased demand for Korean pine timber along with the complete inaction of regulators and forest control services to address the need for a new special status for the Korean pine have made it an easy target for illegal logging.

The only way to stop the complete destruction of the Far Eastern Korean pine forests is to impose a moratorium on its harvesting, according to WWF. The conservation organization asks that provincial and federal authorities come up with a proposal to urgently add Korean pine into the list of species forbidden to harvest, and to inform importing countries accordingly.

The Amur tiger, which can weigh up to 300 kg and measure around three metres from its nose to the tip of its tail, has come back from the brink of extinction to its highest population for at least 100 years. Only about 40 were alive in 1950 but nowadays there are around 450, one of the strongest tiger populations in the world.

http://www.panda.org/wwf_news/?162901/Amur-tigers-threatened-by-economic-crisis

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