Sunday, May 31, 2009

U.S. groups challenge lynx decision

By SUSAN GALLAGHER • Associated Press Writer - May 30, 2009

HELENA (AP) — A twentyfold federal increase in land designated as critical habitat for the Canada lynx falls short partly by leaving the cat, which is protected under the Endangered Species Act, at too much risk from climate change, four environmental groups contend in a lawsuit.

In February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated critical habitat across some 39,000 square miles in six states, up from 1,841 square miles in three.

The suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Missoula says that more habitat should have been designated in western Montana and eastern Idaho, and that the Fish and Wildlife Service erred in leaving Colorado's Rocky Mountains out of the designation entirely. The suit by the Sierra Club, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Native Ecosystems Council and the Center for Native Ecosystems seeks court-ordered reconsideration of the Fish and Wildlife decision, but does not specify how much additional land the groups want designated.

"For the lynx to survive in a changing climate, the Fish and Wildlife Service must provide appropriate habitat and create wildlife corridors that will allow for migration as temperatures rise," Bruce Hamilton of the Sierra Club said in a statement.

Lynx prey on snowshoe hares, depend on snowy areas and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, the suit says. Greater coverage of higher-elevation areas would be among the benefits of an expanded designation, the groups said.

Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Diane Katzenberger in Denver said Wednesday that "we stand by the critical habitat designation and we believe it is adequate to protect lynx."

Federal officials found that a state-managed lynx project in Colorado did not produce a self-sustaining population, so lands in that state did not meet criteria for habitat designation, Katzenberger said. The lawsuit said a breeding population exists.

Designation of the roughly 39,000 square miles was reached when the Fish and Wildlife Service revised a Bush administration decision influenced by Deputy Assistant Interior Secretary Julie MacDonald. She resigned in 2007 amid findings that she pushed federal scientists to alter conclusions drawn from some of their research.

The lands now designated are in Washington, Montana and Minnesota, states that already had some lands classified as critical habitat for lynx, and in Wyoming, Idaho and Maine, which are new to the list.

Critical-habitat designations may restrict how land is used, and the suit comes less than a month after one filed by Wyoming and Washington snowmobile groups challenging the lynx designation as a threat to snowmobiling. Shawn Sartorius, lead lynx biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena, said in early May that the agency does not see "a basis for those fears."


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Bobcat attacks N.H. hunter doing turkey calls

Published: Sunday, May 31, 2009

Man has too-close encounter with bobcat

By ANDREW WOLFE, Staff Writer

After 12 years of hunting turkeys, Rick Donati has gotten so good at imitating them that a bobcat mistook him for one.

He's got the scars to prove it.

Donati, 49, of Gardner, Mass., is believed to be one of very few people ever attacked by a presumably healthy bobcat.

Attacks by bobcats are extremely rare, and when they do happen, it's usually because the bobcat is rabid, wildlife experts say.

There have been no reports of bobcat attacks or rabid bobcats in New Hampshire, although biologists say the population is rising and spreading here and in Massachusetts.

A rabid bobcat attacked five people in Greenfield, Mass., in 2003, according to Massachusetts Fish and Game biologist Laura Hajduk. Fish and Game spokeswoman Catherine Williams said the department couldn't confirm whether there have ever been any other cases of bobcats jumping hunters. She noted that turkey hunters would be at higher risk, since they strive to mimic prey.

Donati had been out hunting since daybreak on May 9, first in Warwick, Mass., and then on Elliot Hill within the Birch Hill Wildlife Management Area, southwest of Winchendon, Mass.

"I was on the side of a hill. The sun was out; it was an absolutely gorgeous day. I was tucked in next to a stone wall that had some brush along it," Donati said, adding later, "I was in full 'camo' from head to toe. The only things showing were my eyeballs."

Donati could hear some tom turkeys in a field nearby, and he was using his push-button call box, which rubs two pieces of wood together, to make noises like a hen.

"I was playing the lonesome female," he said. "I was doing what you call purring and putting, which is what a hen does when she's content."

He'd been at it for about 45 minutes, and the toms had taken note. He could hear them coming closer.

"So I'm purring and I'm putting away, and all of a sudden, it was like I was hit by a giant sack of grain," Donati said.

One crucial difference: Sacks of grain don't have claws.

"It had snuck up on my left side," Donati said. "He couldn't see me from where he was. . . . He thought he was going to land on a turkey."

Donati didn't think much at all; he was too busy processing the experience. He felt fur against his head and claws on his left arm and in his right ear, and then, he said, "He leapt off of me with such force that he pushed me backwards."

Donati said his first thought was that he'd just been jumped by a coyote. He said he'd been stalked by coyote about five years ago, a relatively common experience for turkey hunters.

"He got to about 40 yards and I let him have it," Donati said.

When Donati sat up, however, he saw a fairly big bobcat – about 35 pounds, he estimates – looking back at him. It would be hard to say which of them was more surprised.

"He got about 10 feet and he stopped and turned and looked at me," Donati said. "It was a beautiful cat, absolutely gorgeous.

"If it had been the season, I would have shot him. I would have tried, anyway."

The seasons for bobcat and turkey hunting don't overlap in Massachusetts (there is no bobcat hunting in New Hampshire), however, so as it happened, Donati came out the worse for their encounter.

Bobcats are fairly common in central and western Massachusetts, but they're reclusive. Donati and his regular hunting buddy, David Peet, 48, of Keene, have been deer hunting for nearly 40 years, and they said they saw their first bobcat just the year before, while hunting in Surry. That one was only about 15 pounds, probably a female, Donati said.

"Normally, you never see them. They see you and off they go," Donati said, adding later, "I could probably go out there the rest of my life and try to call a bobcat and I'd never get another one to come in."

"You can go see a moose just about any day you want," Peet said. "You can go see a bear just about any day you want. You can't do that with a bobcat."

Once Donati got over the initial shock of becoming bobcat bait, he fished out his cell phone and called Peet, who works third shift and was just getting ready for bed. The bobcat had opened deep scratches along Donati's arm and the side of his head.

"He goes, 'I just got attacked by an effing bobcat,' " Peet recalled. "I'm like, OK. I'm waiting for the punch line, and I could hear him breathing really heavy. . . . He said 'I'm bleeding all over the place.'

"After I realized he wasn't joking and there wasn't going to be a punch line, I wanted to find out how badly he was hurt, and I asked where exactly he was."

Donati had to put the phone down to try to figure out where the blood was coming from – his ear, mostly – and he told Peet he'd be able to make it home all right, Peet said.

"It bled right through my shirt," Donati said. "There was blood everywhere."

Donati sounded more agitated than injured, Peet said.

"He was pretty wound up that he couldn't try to go get the thing," Peet said.

Donati walked about a half an hour to his truck, drove out of the woods and headed home to slather himself with hydrogen peroxide and call his doctor.

"When it first happened, I was more mad that he kind of wrecked my whole turkey hunt," Donati said.

Later, he considered what might have happened had the bobcat's right paw landed a bit lower, alongside his neck.

"I was actually pretty lucky," he said. "It could have been serious."

Donati's doctor gave him antibiotics, and vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. After consulting with someone at the Centers for Disease Control, the doctor ordered a round of rabies shots, just in case.

"They considered it an unprovoked attack," Donati said, although he prefers to take it as a compliment to his turkey-mimic skills.

"I guess I've perfected my call," he said.

The rabies treatment starts with four immunoglobulin shots and one vaccination, and then continues for several more boosters. Donati has been careful not to miss any, and he has one more to go, he said.

"They say if you miss one appointment, you've got to start all over," he said.


Mass Wildlife bobcat page:

Bobcat population rising in New Hampshire:

Bobcats in New Hampshire:

Andrew Wolfe can be reached at 594-6410 or


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Cougar hunting not regulated in Ohio

Cougar hunting not regulated in Ohio

Bear, lion - in Brown County?

Staff writer
May 31, 2009

Residents of southeastern Brown County have been getting a first hand look at some pretty wild animals recently.

Sunday morning Angie Long was on U.S. 62 about a quarter mile south of the stoplight in Russellville when she had to slam on her brakes to avoid hitting a bear. She said it looked like it weighed between 150 and 200 pounds.

"I was in shock because it was in town," she said. "I saw a guy there working on his house and he had stopped to look at it so I rolled down my window and I said 'Was that a bear?"

The next morning, Memorial Day, the black bear or one of its relatives had moved north and was spotted on Hamer Road just off of Goose Run Road. Barbie Tungate spotted the bear running through her neighbor's back field.

"I thought it was somebody's rot (Rottweiler)," Tungate said. "I kept looking at it and then I knew it was definitely a bear."

She watched as the bear moved quickly through the exposed field and into a nearby wooded area. She later saw the tall grass in another neighbor's field moving as the bear came back before entering another wooded area. Tungate said the bear looked like it was about three feet tall on all fours and about four and a half to five feet long.

"I've heard about people seeing bears over the years but I'd never seen one until then," Tungate said. "I just don't want it to hurt my dog."

Later, around 3 p.m., the bear had moved north again where it was spotted on Kenny Lane near where New Hope White Oak Station Road intersects Stephan Road. Anthony Louders said he saw the bear in the driveway of a nearby house.

"It was the last thing I expected to see," Louder said. "At first I thought it was the biggest dog I've ever seen, then it kind of stood up on its back legs. It just kind of walked down through that yard like it belonged there."

Louder said he was about 250 to 300 feet away from the bear and he thought it was about five or six feet long. After it left he ran in the house to get his camera and stood out in the rain on a chair behind his privacy fence in the hope that the bear would return but it never did. Louder recently returned from Gatlinburg, Tenn., where he saw a mother black bear with two cubs. He said he never expected to see another bear so soon and so close to home.

Both Louder and Tungate said they spoke with neighbors who said they also saw the bear Tuesday morning, once near Tungate's house and once near the covered bridge over White Oak Creek off of New Hope White Oak Station Road.

There have also been reports of a mountain lion or cougar just north of Aberdeen.

Winter Dryden, who lives on Ebenezer Road off of state Route 763, saw the big cat as recently as May 16. Dryden said she had just returned from a church outing to the Cincinnati Zoo and was relaxing in her driveway when she saw something moving near the empty house across the street. As it slipped along the side of the house, Dryden said she thought it walked like a cat, then when it stopped about 200 feet from her when she saw the tail.

"I just froze for minute," Dryden said. "You never know how you'll react in a situation like that. Then I ran into the house screaming for Michael (her husband.)"

Other Ebenezer Road residents reported seeing the cougar in the same half mile area, and one resident took pictures of its tracks during the ice storm last winter.

Bill Reichling, of the Eastern Puma Research Network, said there area cougars living along the entire 981 mile long Ohio River Valley and have been for the last eight to 10,000 years. He said it is rare to see them because they are nocturnal and are fairly reclusive and secretive. Reichling said he has been studying the animals for 20 years, and while he has found countless scat piles and claw marks on trees, he has only seen three cougars.

"They're not a great danger," Reichling said. "They will eat anything that runs, but most stick to deer, turkeys, geese, and now that the beaver population has increased they'll eat an occasional beaver."

Reichling said the cougars do not attack domesticated animals or humans although 12 to 18 month old cougars may cause some problems. At that age they are turned away from their mother's care. These so-called transients or dispersals do not have an established territory and may not have perfected their hunting skills. They may therefore break from the norm and kill a domesticated animal, an easy meal.

Reichling said the best thing to do if a cougar is spotted is stand and face it, and pick up any children that are with you. Appear large by waving your arms or puffing out your jacket and back away slowly. If in the rare instance you are attacked, Reichling said you are more likely to be struck by lighting, do not break eye contact or turn your back. Throw objects at the cougar and shout loudly. He also said, if it bites hitting it and fighting back aggressively will discourage it and it should let go and run away.

Chris Gilkey, Adams County Wildlife Officer, said cougars and mountain lions are not regulated by the state of Ohio and can be killed by anyone with a hunting license. He also said they can be killed without a license if they pose a threat to human life or livestock.

Black bears, on the other hand, are protected by state law and anyone who injures or kills a bear can be punished.


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India: Three-legged leopard killed by vehicle

Female leopard hit to death along LoC in Poonch

Jammu, May 25 : A three-legged leopard was hit to death today by unknown vehicle in the forests along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district of Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said.

The body of a full grown female leopard was found on a road at Balakote in the Mendhar area of Poonch district, the sources said.

There was fresh bleeding from the mouth and nostril of the dotted animal, which had already lost one of its forelimbs, the sources said.

It is believed that the leopard had died after being hit by military vehicle because no other vehicular movement is allowed on that road.

Police party from Mendher, along with wildlife officials, rushed to the spot and shifted the body of big cat to the police station.

Forest fires along the LoC and subsequent mine explosions have disturbed the natural habitat of wild animals and birds, which have reportedly migrated to populated areas down the hills.

--- UNI


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Best way to save the Scottish wildcat

Published Date: 27 May 2009

WILD and wonderful

The Scottish wildcat is a powerful, beautiful creature, and since the extinction of the lynx, is our last remaining native feline. The wildcat embodies Scotland's untamable spirit, but experts estimate that there may be as few as 400 left in the wild. Here's how you can help save the Scottish wildcat from extinction.

SPREAD THE WORD: Plenty of people know little or nothing about wildcats – least of all how endangered they are.

Become "wildcat aware" by visiting the Highland Tiger website (, or support the Scottish Wildcat Association's campaigns via

BE A RESPONSIBLE (PET) CAT OWNER: If you live in a wildcat area (for example the Highlands, but virtually any part of Scotland north of the central belt), it's particularly important for you to have your pet neutered, so that it can't mate with wildcats and produce hybrids.

There are an estimated 3,500 hybrid wildcats in Scotland – cats aren't choosy when it comes to picking partners.

If you're in receipt of benefits, charities such as Cats Protection can provide vouchers towards the cost of neutering. It's also important to have pet cats vaccinated, to prevent them from transmitting fatal diseases.

REPORT WILDCAT SIGHTINGS: In order to protect the wildcat, we need to know how many there are, and where. But because these felines are so elusive, wildcat research is horribly difficult, and every report of a sighting of a wildcat, or a wildcat hybrid, is valuable. It's easy to confuse a wildcat with a big domestic moggy, but there are tell-tale signs, like the unbroken bands on a thick, blunt-ended tail, and the pattern of stripes on the coat. You can also download an ID chart from which is also where to report your sightings of wildcats and hybrids in the area of the Cairngorms.

To report sightings elsewhere in Scotland, e-mail sightings@scottish Make a note of where the cat was, the habitat it was in, and what it was doing. And if possible, take a photograph.

DRIVE CAREFULLY, AND REPORT WILDCATS KILLED ON THE ROADS: Sadly, wildcats have little road sense. They think they can stare down a car as they could a dog, with the obvious (and fatal) result.

However, roadkill cats do provide a means of studying them. So, if you find a dead wildcat on the road, the best thing to do is contact your local Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) office (see for locations).

Carcasses found in the Cairngorms National Park can be dropped off at the Highland Wildlife Park, near Kincraig (01540 651270) or the SNH office in Aviemore (01479 810477).

If you really couldn't bear the thought of picking up the cat, you could still take a photo, and report where it was found.

RAISE MONEY FOR WILDCATS: You can buy wildcat-related products, make a donation, or adopt a wildcat at the Highland Wildlife Park, to raise money for wildcat conservation and research, and to expand breeding facilities to support the wild population. To support or join the Scottish Wildcat Association visit

For more information go to

• Carina Norris is a science writer based in Fife.


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Poachers, not cyclone, main threat to Sunderban tigers

Poachers, not cyclone, main threat to Sunderban tigers

New Delhi, May 28 (PTI) It is not the cyclone Aila but the threat from poachers which is keeping the West Bengal forest officials on their toes while protecting the Royal Bengal tigers in the submerged Sunderbans area.

The government has taken assistance from the BSF whose personnel along with forest staff are patrolling the region to prevent poachers from taking advantage of the security gaps caused due to breakdown of communication and infrastructure.

"We have intensified vigilance in the region. At least 100 forest personnel are deployed in Sunderban besides around 40 in the deep forests," N C Bahuguna, Chief Conservator of Forests, West Bengal told PTI.

Basic amenities such as food and water are being provided to the cyclone-hit villagers to ensure that they do not turn towards wild animals for food, he said.

Mr. Bahuguna dismissed reports of tiger mortality due to the disaster. "Although much damage has been done since the cyclone arrived, there are fairly good chances that tigers would have survived given their ability to swim ashore," he said.

The official said there has not been a single report of any tiger death so far. Only one tiger that wandered in Jameswar village on Tuesday has been tranquillised and caught.

Mr. Bahuguna, however, said five deer have died so far.

"We will get more information from our staff in the forests once we are able to communicate with them," he said.

Mr. Bahuguna, who is also the director of Sunderbans tiger reserve, said there are around more than 150 tigers in the inaccessible hostile Sunderbans terrains and poachers have been quite active in the region for the past few years.

Last year a tigress was shot dead, while in March a case of poisoning was reported from Sunderbans.

According to a census report conducted last year by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) the tiger population in the country is 1,411.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

MP to have special tiger protection force soon

MP to have special tiger protection force soon

Bhopal (IANS): The Madhya Pradesh government will soon set up a special force to protect the tiger reserves in the State, a Forest Department official said on Friday.

"The Special Tiger Protection Force will be set up in the State following the directives of the NTCA (National Tiger Conservation Authority)," the official quoted Minister of State for Forests Rajendra Shukla as saying. Mr. Shukla conducted a high-level meeting of state forest officials here on Thursday.

The dedicated force would be deployed in the Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench national parks of the State.

"Shukla has also directed to speed up the process of bringing one male tiger to Panna Tiger Reserve for breeding purposes. He also stressed upon the need for paying more attention to wildlife conservation," he said.

Each platoon of the special tiger protection force will be headed by a deputy superintendent of police-rank officer and will have one sub-inspector, six head constables and 30 constables.

The official said that Shukla also directed the state forest department to take stringent action against poachers.

Tiger found dead in Ramnagar forest division

Tiger found dead in Ramnagar forest division

29 May 2009, 1713 hrs IST, PTI

NEW DELHI: A 12-year-old tiger has been found dead in the Ramnagar forest division adjoining Corbett national park by Uttarakhand forest officials.

The tiger, whose body parts have been found intact, apparently died due to injuries inflicted by porcupine quills in its neck, according to an official in the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

He said as per preliminary report, it appears that the predator died due to suffocation caused by a few sharp quills pierced in its neck. The tiger carcases was found two days ago in the Maidavan area of Ramanagar division.

"The big cats have liking for the porcupine meat but have a problem with the quills which sometimes becomes the cause of death of the animal.

"No foul play seems there. But we have send the body for post-mortem as per rules to ascertain the actual cause of the death," the official added.

A few days ago, a case of tiger poisoning was reported from the forest division. The post-mortem report is awaited.

MPTF gets Rs 97.65 lakh for tiger conservation

MPTF gets Rs 97.65 lakh for tiger conservation

30 May 2009, 1610 hrs IST, PTI

BHOPAL: The Wildlife Conservation Trust, Mumbai, has allocated Rs 97.65 lakh fund to Madhya Pradesh Tiger Foundation (MPTF) for strengthening basic
infrastructure at Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench Tiger reserves.

Besides, Rs 20 lakh has been provided for gathering intelligence about poachers, imparting training and rewarding forest employees engaged in protecting the big cat population in the three tiger reserves, minister of state for forests Rajendra Shukla said in a statement.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Trust and MPTF in this regard, he said, adding Kanha, Bandhavgarh and Pench Tiger reserves will be allocated Rs 45.13 lakh, Rs 28.78 lakh and Rs 23.74 lakh respectively.

The fund will be used to buy patrolling vehicles, among others things, to tighten security vigil in the three reserves, he said.

Minnesotans stalking the big cats

Minnesotans stalking the big cats

Asia's wild tigers are in big trouble -- their numbers are dwindling faster than ever. Halfway around the world, two Minnesotans are separately trying to help turn that trend around.

Last update: May 29, 2009 - 11:35 PM

Ancient Chinese proverb: Once you're on a tiger's back, it's pretty hard to get off -- without being eaten, that is. Twin Cities-based conservationists Ron Tilson and Dave Smith would agree, but for a different reason. They can't stop tailing tigers because they're both passionate about saving one of the world's most endangered mammals.

"The only three things that can kill a tiger are loss of habitat, loss of prey and poaching," said Tilson, director of conservation at the Minnesota Zoo. Unfortunately, all three of those threats couldn't be more serious than they are now.

As few as 5,000 tigers are estimated to be left in the wild, from 100,000 a century ago. About 60 percent of the forests where tigers roam has been lost in the past decade, which in turn reduces the large prey that tigers depend on.

Throughout Asia, particularly in China, the age-old belief that potions and powders made of tiger parts increase virility in humans continues to encourage black-market poachers.

Why do not one, but two prominent tiger champions live in Minnesota? It's coincidental, but both had local mentors who inspired them to switch courses from broader concerns and focus on tigers. Like two male tigers stalking abutting territories, Tilson and Smith's efforts are separate, but complementary: Tilson wants to bring a tiger subspecies back into an area where it is extinct, while Smith wants to restore natural habitat where tigers are already living.

For Tilson, considered one of the world's top tiger experts, the top priority is working with the Chinese government to reintroduce the South China tiger, the most at-risk subspecies, into the wild by combining two large nature preserves and releasing captive tigers. He ended previous efforts to stabilize tigers in Indonesia, because its government proved less cooperative.

"China offers a bright new hope," he said. "It will be either the savior or the slayer of the tiger in Asia."

Smith, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota, has made many trips to Southeast Asian countries from Nepal to Cambodia, tracking wild tigers' behavior and territories with radio collars. Through CLAWS (Collaborative Lab for Asian Wildlife Studies) at the U of M, he advises advanced students from Asia, who return to their native lands as skilled wildlife-preservation advocates.

Smith's primary goal is to save habitat, without which the wide-ranging tiger has no hope of survival. He and his students also get farmers and rural villagers to feel invested in the tiger's future by appointing spotters who can help find and trap problem predators that kill livestock -- and sometimes people.

"Local people want to manage their own forests," he said. "That's good news for tigers."

Cat-itude shift

No culture mythologizes and respects the tiger more than China's, where folklore dictates that the tiger and the dragon are responsible for nature itself. Yet up to 5,000 South China tigers were shot or trapped in the 1950s, after Mao Zedong declared them "pests" and put bounties on their heads. Tilson's plan, which will soon be under review by an international group of big-cat specialists, involves establishing four small populations in sites north of Macao and west of Hong Kong, part of their natural range.

Tilson describes China's relationship with the tiger in a yin and yang sense: "The tiger is hugely symbolic there, yet it is the only country in the Asian range outside of North Korea that doesn't have any wild ones left," he said. "The poaching is a big problem. They now see themselves as an emerging economic and industrial power, and they need to correct this, like they did with the panda. If someone is caught with a panda paw, he's executed the next day."

The government's eagerness to support such a plan is a dramatic turnaround, Tilson said. Several years ago, he joined a Chinese wildlife official he had befriended in trying to assess whether any wild tigers were left.

"When I concluded that no, there weren't, I was shunned for a few years," he said. "It used to be me pushing them; now it's the other way around."

Tilson inherited his affection for tigers from Ulysses Seal, an endocrinologist and Minnesota Zoo board member who used early computer modeling to manage tiger populations and advanced research on artificial insemination of female tigers. Tilson has followed in Seal's footsteps and far beyond, helping to arrange and record successful births among captive tigers in zoos worldwide in what is known as the International Studbook, a register of every zoo tiger's family line back to the original wild "founder" parents. Careful management helps to stem the inbreeding that threatens the health of small tiger populations.

"Everyone in the field knows that tigers are in deep trouble, and things are much worse now than they were 10 or even five years ago," Tilson said.

Community foresting

It was a fearsome man-eater that led to Smith's involvement with tigers. When his mentor, Mel Sundquist, reported that his Nepalese research partner had been taken out of a tree by a tiger (he survived, but was injured), Smith was tapped to fill in, and never looked back. He's been collaring and tracking tigers with radio telemetry since 1977, with more than 50 tigers, mostly female, collared to date. (They've also used a series of camera "traps" to record snapshots of wild tigers, but the often-fuzzy images can't give too much information on range, size or sex.)

The dangerous part of collaring a big cat is getting close enough to tranquilize it. First, they are lured in by young water buffalo or cows. If it's not possible to aim the dart from the safety of a tree or elephant's back, they are caught with a foot snare, made of aluminum cable and rubber tubing.

"That makes things exciting, because the tiger is conscious and not too happy," Smith said. "You've got to get within 8 or 9 meters, hold very still, and then another person off to the side suddenly distracts it so you can get the dart in."

These days, the radio collars are satellite GPS. From his office on the U's St. Paul campus, Smith can go to a website and find out where Female Tiger No. 9 has been in the previous five days. Lots of back and forth over the same short distance may mean she has a den of cubs; staying in one place for a day or more probably means a kill and feast.

Having done most of his recent work in Thailand, Bangladesh and Nepal, Smith thinks that Nepal may be doing the best tiger conservation job of any Asian country so far, thanks to some grass-roots thinking.

"In 2009, we are finally realizing on a worldwide scale that too much consumption can't work forever," he said. "These villagers understood eco-service concepts back in 1996, before we were even talking about them. Now they've got more than 8 million people in 16,000 groups managing habitat, and tigers are a part of that. This idea of communities working together is reviving old traditions."

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Orissa wants CRPF batallion to guard Similipal Tiger Reserve

Orissa wants CRPF batallion to guard Similipal Tiger Reserve

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New Delhi (PTI): With majority of forest guards refusing to join duty at the Similipal Tiger Reserve in the wake of an attack by Naxalites, Orissa has sought deployment of a CRPF battalion for the protection of the park which is home to around 32 striped cats besides other felines.

The State is facing acute infrastructural problem in the tiger reserve in Mayurbhanj district following the attack on offices of State forest department and vital police communication installation there on March 23.

"Most of the staff posted in the core area inside the tiger reserve have left their headquarters, causing deep concern about protection of forest and wildlife," State Chief Secretary A K Tripathy said in a letter to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

He further said since the Special Task Protection Force (STPF), as envisaged by the Home Minister, was yet to be constituted, a CRPF battalion should be immediately considered to keep poachers at bay.

"In case it takes time to create the STPF, a CRPF battalion can be deployed as an interim measure given that additional force is required in view of the recent attacks and prevailing tense situation," Mr. Tripathy said.

Though there are no reports of poaching of tigers, there are fears that the criminals might connive with the Naxalites for anti-wildlife activities.

Flooded Sunderbans may force tigers to stray into villages

Flooded Sunderbans may force tigers to stray into villages

28 May 2009, 0050 hrs IST, Prithvijit Mitra & Monotosh Chakraborty, TNN

KOLKATA: As the cyclone-fuelled tides kept large parts of the mangrove forest inundated amid rising fears about the fate of tigers and prey animals, the forest department launched an emergency assessment survey in the Sunderbans on Wednesday.

Forest guard teams and members of the local forest protection committees (FPS) fanned out in search of animal carcasses. The east range and sanctuary range of the Sunderban Tiger Reserve are the worst affected. Hundreds of prey animals, including a dozen tigers, are feared to have been washed away.

‘‘I would be surprised if tigers manage to escape this. Going by the all-round damage, the casualty figure could be high,’’ said S S Bist, wild life expert and managing director of Forest Development Corporation.

The only way tigers could have withstood the ‘Aila’ onslaught is by escaping to higher, drier parts of the forest. But experts said there weren’t enough dry parts of them to shelter the entire tiger population. ‘‘Actually, there are very few high areas. During a calamity like this one, it’s unlikely that all animals would find refuge.

Tigers are tougher but they are bound to get swept away if water gushes into the forest like it did. Chances of recovering the carcasses are low since they would be lost by the time the forest guards go deep into the forest,’’ added Bist.

Apart from the possibility of being swept away, tigers now face the challenge of surviving on a reduced prey-base with increased chances of their straying out in the neighbouring villages. ‘‘A primary survey of the forests in the east and west ranges shows that water is still very high and there is no trace of prey animals. This is the area which has a heavy concentration of big cats. They will now have to starve and might stray,’’ the beat officer added.
Bist agreed. ‘‘This is a strong possibility now. It will be easier for tigers now to swim into the villages which have merged with the rivers.’’

Fears for rare tigers after SAsia cyclone

Fears for rare tigers after SAsia cyclone


DHAKA (AFP) — Conservationists in Bangladesh and India on Wednesday launched a search in the world's largest mangrove forest for endangered Bengal tigers following a cyclone that killed at least 180 people.

The storm caused havoc in the Sundarbans mangrove forest, and drove a tidal wave of saltwater inland.

Abani Bhusan Thakur, chief Bangladesh official for the Sundarbans, told AFP the forest had taken the brunt of Cyclone Aila, which hit Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal on Monday.

He said forest workers would now search the 10,000-square-kilometre (4,000-square-mile) belt, where a recent UN survey estimated 650 Bengal Tigers live.

"The entire mangrove forest was flooded by a huge tidal surge. There are some freshwater ponds which the tigers drink from, but now everything is salty," Thakur said.

"We are worried about the fate of the tigers. We need to get fresh drinking water to the area for them."

In India one of the rare tigers swam into a village looking for dry ground, Subrata Mukherjee, the director of the Sunderbans Tiger Reserve, said.

He said it had been tranquilised and put in cage, and would be soon be set free.

"We fear that other Bengal tigers may have been swept away by the giant waves," he added.

At least one tiger died in November 2007 during Cyclone Sidr which killed more than 3,500 people.

The Sundarbans forest, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, lies on the delta of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers, straddling the border between India and Bangladesh.

The IUCN Red List estimates there are less than 2,500 Bengal tigers left in the world.

Tiger situation grim, NTCA sends ‘reminder’ for govt help

Tiger situation grim, NTCA sends ‘reminder’ for govt help

Vivek Deshpande Posted online: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Nagpur : Concerned over the deteriorating situation in the Chandrapur forests, where a number of tigers are reported to have disappeared, the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has written to Mahararashtra Chief Secretary Johny Joseph citing a letter by B Majumdar, former Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Wildlife seeking his intervention in the ‘grim situation’.

Majumdar, who quit the post recently to join the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal as its executive member, had written a letter to M B Lal, Additional Director General of Forests, Ministry of Environment and Forests, on May 5, admitting to the possibility of inter-state poachers’ gangs being active in Chandrapur forests.

Majumdar also said that the state wildlife machinery won’t be able to tackle the crisis alone and had said National Wildlife Crime Bureau should help in the matter. “Maharashtra Forest Department will be pleased to extend whatever cooperation the Bureau may require,” Majumdar had said.

Citing information provided by Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), Majumdar had also sent a report about forests being relieved of 20 tigers between November 2008 and April 2009. WPSI specialises in wildlife crime detection and has done undercover operations in Tibet to expose international trade in tiger parts.

Taking cognisance of the issue, the NTCA, which was marked a copy of the letter, wrote to the Chief Secretary on May 18, seeking his intervention in the matter. “The advisory sent by the NTCA regarding post-mortem protocol hasn’t been followed by the field officials nor this ministry/NTCA has been apprised of the incidents,” NTCA Member-Secretary Rajesh Gopal has said in the letter.

The Indian Express had first reported on the growing man-animal conflict in Chandrapur forests, particularly around the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) in 2006. Since then, over 55 people have been killed in the area. But the last fatal attack had occurred on January 21. Experts believe that this is due to disappearance of tigers in the region.

The ex-PCCF’s letter only confirms the worst fears of the conservationists. As reported earlier, two male tigers are confirmed dead in the conflict zone, five tigers and three cubs have been missing, three cubs have died and four cubs had been removed from the conflict areas in rescue operations.

Majumdar also said that the state wildlife machinery won’t be able to tackle the crisis alone and had said National Wildlife Crime Bureau should help in the matter.

Tiger, deers rescued in Sunderbans

Tiger, deers rescued in Sunderbans

Express News Service Posted online: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

kolkata : In an operation launched Tuesday, the Forest Department rescued one tiger and a few deer, which strayed into the villages bordering the Sunderban Tiger Reserve in South 24 Parganas after cyclone Aila hit the area on Monday.

“A female tiger strayed into a hut in Jamespur village following the cyclone. But after the water receded, we tranquilised it at 1 pm today. We have put the animal in a translocation cage and will be releasing it in the core area soon,” said Subrata Mukherjee, Field Director, Sunderban Tiger Reserve.

Forest officials will also relocate two deer which had strayed into Satyanarayanpur on Bali island and efforts are on to find 20 crocodiles which escaped from Bhagatpur where they were put for artificial insemination.

While attempts are being made to provide humanitarian relief in about 26 villages close to the reserve by the Border Security Force personnel, the government has begun repair work of the block offices of the department simultaneously.

According to Forest Minister Ananta Roy, the forest range office of Bakhali has been washed away, while other forest offices in Patharpratima, Namkhana, Kultuli and Basanti blocks have been badly damaged by the cyclone.

Wildlife officials said that four block offices of the Tiger Reserve Project have also been washed away, compelling employees to take shelter elsewhere. The BSF is trying to rescue them, they added.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Cyclone Aila swallows Sunderbans tigers

Cyclone Aila swallows Sunderbans tigers

27 May 2009, 0305 hrs IST, Prithvijit Mitra & Monotosh Chakraborty, TNN

KOLKATA: It's not just residents of Kolkata who bore the brunt of Cyclone Aila. Forest wardens fear that as the cyclone tore through the Sunderbans flooding the mangrove forests, it may have killed more than a dozen of the highly endangered Bengal tigers.

As the human toll from Monday's cyclone rose to 64, beat officers and range officials in the Sunderbans feared hundreds of herbivores and at least a dozen tigers might have been swept away by the giant waves that lashed the forests. While a tiger had sneaked into the Jamespur village wading through the flood waters and was tranquillised early on Tuesday morning, 20 crocodiles and two spotted deer were found dead.

The full extent of the damage will be known only after an assessment by forest teams. As per the last census, the Sunderbans had 265 tigers.

Pintu Mirdha of Jamespur got the shock of his life when he spotted a male tiger crouching in his waterlogged cowshed. Mirdha managed to shut the cowshed door and informed the forest department. But forest guards had to wait for the water to recede to get close to the animal. Neighbours were asked to evacuate as the animal paced up and down the locked cowshed. At around 1pm, when the water level went down during low tide, the male tiger was tranquillised.

"It swam into the village that was left flooded after the cyclone. Since most villagers weren't present at the submerged huts, no one noticed the animal," said Subrat Mukherjee, field director, Sunderban Tiger Reserve.

"A storm like this has never hit the Sunderbans in the last three decades. Going by the extent of damage to the villages, the state of the forest could be terrible. Forests remained under eight feet of water till late Tuesday afternoon. Immediately after Aila hit, it had gone up to 20 feet," said Mrinal Chattopadhyay of the Institute of Climbers and Nature Lovers.

"Even if tigers manage to swim to higher grounds, deer and wild boars must have been swept away," he said. Wardens fear that even if tigers survived the giant waves, the lack of prey will certainly kill them.

But some forest officials were cautious. "We shall study the damage once the water level goes down," said Subhendu Bandopadhyay, divisional forest officer, South 24-Parganas. Beat wardens, however, said no assessment would be possible until the waters recede and that could take weeks. By that time many of the carcasses would have disintegrated to nothing.

Border fence threatens ocelots, jaguarundis at Nature Conservancy preserve

Now & Then: Don't Fence Me Out
Proposed border fence threatens southmost preserve

By Jennifer Winger

Located on the southern tip of Texas, The Nature Conservancy's Lennox Foundation Southmost Preserve traces a slow curve of the Rio Grande for more than two miles and encompasses 1,034 acres of semiarid thorn-scrub habitat — including one of only two remaining stands of native sabal palm trees in the country. Once known as the Wild Horse Desert, south Texas may support more wildlife per acre than any other habitat in North America. And although the Rio Grande Valley itself has lost more than 95 percent of its wildlife habitat, Southmost Preserve is a shining exception: Its lands and waters provide habitat for endangered species such as jaguarundis and ocelots, as well as indigo snakes, Texas tortoises and migratory birds.

But recently, this valuable habitat has been threatened by an 18-foot-tall concrete and steel fence proposed by the Department of Homeland Security. Most of the proposed 670-mile-long border fence, with segments from California to West Texas, has already been constructed, but the section slated to cut through the Conservancy's land is on hold, pending the outcome of a legal battle. The government offered to compensate the Conservancy $114,000 for building the fence through Southmost Preserve, but the Conservancy declined. The offer would have compensated only for the footprint of the fence itself—about eight acres that would run in a 6,000-foot strip across the preserve. Now the Department of Homeland Security has taken the case to federal court.

If the fence is built, nearly 700 acres — 75 percent of the preserve — would be trapped in a no-man's-land between the fence and the Rio Grande, including all preserve facilities and the home of the preserve manager. The proposed fence would effectively cut off access to the native plant nursery, which is critical to reforestation efforts throughout south Texas. Additionally, the fence would sever a critical corridor for wildlife, as it could block animals from accessing protected areas to the north and freshwater resources to the south.

"Many people are surprised to learn that the border fence isn't actually on the border," says Laura Huffman, the Conservancy's state director for Texas. "It often ventures deep into private property, and in the case of Southmost, cuts us off from most of our land."

The Conservancy purchased Southmost Preserve—then a for-profit nursery of row crops and citrus orchards — in 1999 for $2.6 million. For the past decade, the Conservancy has been monitoring wildlife populations and working to restore natural vegetation on the preserve by controlling invasive species and tending the native plant nursery. Without this environmental stewardship, habitat for wildlife would quickly degrade.

But there may still be time to find an alternative that both protects the U.S. border and preserves the natural resources along the river that Texas and Mexico share. The U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Interior has expressed concerns about the environmental impact of the fence, and the Conservancy remains optimistic that the Department of Homeland Security will agree to discuss alternatives.

"The new administration could decide to increase surveillance technology and patrols without building a physical barrier," says Sonia Najera, the Conservancy's south Texas program manager. "Until the fence is constructed, there is hope for our work on the preserve and for the wildlife that depend on it."


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Young Florida panther killed on road

Male Florida panther killed on Immokalee Road

Originally published 12:41 p.m., Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Updated 12:41 p.m., Tuesday, May 26, 2009

NAPLES — A young male Florida Panther was found dead Monday on Immokalee Road, according Fish and Wildlife Commission. The panther, which was approximately one and a half years old, died from an apparent vehicle collision, the commission said in a report released Tuesday.

The panther, found near the intersection of Immokalee Road and Camp Keais Road, is the ninth to be found dead on the Florida roadways by FWC this year, and the fifth in Collier County.

A necropsy will be conducted Tuesday, the agency said. After the conclusion of the necropsy, the hide and skeleton will be transported to the Florida Museum of Natural History for archival purposes.

The panther did not have a cowlick or kinked tail, and no transponder was found on the animal.


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Leopard roams Pakistani Prime Minister's garden

Date: 26-May-09
Author: Augustine Anthony

ISLAMABAD - Pakistani hunters are trying to catch a wild leopard roaming the grounds of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani's official residence, an official said on Monday.

The animal, first spotted on a closed-circuit television camera, slipped into the garden of the well-guarded Islamabad compound late last week, perhaps in search of prey such as wild boar that also roam the area.

"It's a big animal," said the prime minister's spokesman, Imran Gardezi, adding that Gilani had not left the residence and was carrying on with his duties as usual.

Wildlife officials armed with tranquillizer darts have been trying to catch the leopard. They almost had it cornered on Sunday, but it leapt over a six-foot (1.8 metre) wall topped with barbed wire into another part of the compound, Gardezi said.

Islamabad was built in the 1960s up against the forested foothills of the Himalayas and animals including wild boar, foxes, monkeys and porcupines are often seen in the city's green spaces.

But the leopard might not be allowed to roam free for much longer. "If it can't be caught alive today perhaps orders will be given to shoot it," Gardezi said.

(Editing by Robert Birsel and Miral Fahmy)


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Kenya street sculpture campaign to raise lion awareness

Kenya: Colourful lions for Nairobi's streets to fight extinction

By The East African (Kenya) - 05.25.2009

Nairobi (Kenya) - Lions are about to be let loose in Nairobi. Fifty of them are to stalk the streets of the city centre and the major suburbs — prowling the highways and byways, lurking outside shops and lying in wait in the malls. But these lions are unlikely to be dangerous, unless of course a child falls off one when playing on its back.

All of them are to be made of resin and each will be brightly painted by artists — colourful street sculpture aimed at raising awareness of the fate awaiting the king of the beasts.

And that fate is extinction. Twenty years ago there were 200,00 lions in Africa. Now there are only from 25,000 to 30,000 on the entire continent, of which only an estimated 2,100 are in Kenya.

Their decline has many causes, prominent among them being their slaughter by herdsmen anxious to protect their cattle. And it was cattle that gave the charity Born Free the idea of placing full size painted sculptures of lions throughout Nairobi.

They will follow, appropriately enough, in the hoofprints of the full size resin cows that grazed the streets of London, Manchester and Zurich in a popular campaign of the 1990s. And the elephants that trumpeted their way through Norwich in the UK, drawing pubic attention to their falling numbers. And the sheep that flocked the squares of Liverpool.

Yes, painted animals are the new pin badges that support a favourite cause — and now Nairobi is taking its place on the world stage alongside these other major cities.

Lions charity Born Free was started by actress Virginia McKenna, who played Joy Adamson in the film about Elsa the lioness, raised with her husband George as part of their family at Meru National Park. The part of George was taken by actor Bill Travers, who will help to launch the campaign to be called, rather wittily, Pride of Kenya, in Nairobi on June 17. And Virginia McKenna will come to Kenya on November 4 to help auction off the lions to raise more money for her charity.

Sites for the lions have not yet been finalised but the City Council is said to be "very responsive," as enthusiastic about this idea as it was about the plan by artist Maryann Muthoni to paint the city's litter bins. Places where Born Free hopes to place their lions — each one securely bolted down onto a concrete plinth — include the Aga Khan Walk, Mama Ngina Street, Freedom Corner, and shopping malls including the Sarit Centre.

Each lion will be in the same standing pose; the fun will be in making each one different — and that is down to the individual skill of the artists the sponsors choose.

The original model for the lions is only three inches high. It was made by Briton Chris Wilkinson whose company Wild in Art specialises in organising events to promote wildlife and in using animals in education and conservation projects. Wilkinson, 63, has worked with the World Wildlife Fund as well as Born Free and his next project will be similar to Pride of Kenya, but aimed at saving polar bears. A television designer, he has worked with Robbie Coltrane on Cracker about a criminal psychiatrist, and with the late Jeremy Brett in the acclaimed series of Sherlock Holmes stories.

After making the model lion he gave it to Kenyan artist Gakunju Kaigwa, who has scaled it up to lifesize, using a polystyrene block finished with plaster. Kaigwa, 51 — perhaps best known for his sculpture of a diving woman in the Westlands mall — then made several moulds from the lion and, as you read this, is casting the 50 full-size lions in resin. They should be ready next week.

The artists will have only one restriction in decorating or painting their lion… no company logo, name or slogans will be allowed, no matter how big the sponsor. Whether such a restriction will deter potential supporters remains to be seen but it will be interesting to note how they get around it — company colours, perhaps? The deep red of KQ or the acid green of Safaricom? Born Free is hoping each lion will find a sponsor at Ksh200,000 each.

Alice Owen, the Kenya manager of Born Free commented: "Lions are at the top of the Big Five and if we continue to lose our lions at the rate of five per cent per year, we are not only losing our heritage but also dealing a body blow to our tourist industry, which employs 19 per cent of Kenyans."

But Kaigwa put it differently: "I was shocked when I found out there were only 2,100 lions left in Kenya. It's crucial people are made aware of that. It's our problem. We have to own it. Lions don't belong to tourists, they belong to us. It's up to all of us to do something to save them."


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Goa has its first tigress, with cub

Goa has its first tigress, with cub

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Panaji (IANS): Even as the Royal Bengal tiger appears to have virtually disappeared from renowned reserve forests like Sariska and Ranthambore in Rajasthan, pug marks of a tigress and a cub have been spotted for the first time in Goa's Mhadei wildlife sanctuary.

Officials of the Forest Department, which is grappling with a tige-poaching probe, spotted the fresh pug marks May 12 in the decade-old sanctuary, about 60 km from here. The marks were only a short distance from the area where a tiger was allegedly killed by poachers last month.

Chief Conservator of Forests (CCF) Shashi Kumar told IANS that the sighting proved that the wildlife sanctuary had proved to be an ideal habitat for tigers.

"The sighting occurred near the Anjunem dam. From the footprints, it appears that a tigress was walking her cub along the edge of the reservoir. It is an amazing development. It is a great sign considering the fact that tigers have disappeared from some of the top reserve forests in the country," said Mr. Kumar.

"They may have visited the sanctuary from the adjoining forests in Maharashtra or Karnataka, which has contiguous forest cover. We have never had direct evidence about the existence of a tiger in our forests," he added.

Commenting on the status of the investigation into tiger poaching, Mr. Kumar said that forest officials were having a tough time collecting hard evidence despite the fact that local residents acknowledged the incident.

"The statements given by the people arrested change every now and then. We have arrested a couple of people who are experts at making and laying out traps and those who have been arrested for poaching in the past. But not much evidence has been forthcoming," said Mr. Kumar.

The killing of a tiger, which is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act 1972, is a grave offence.

Mr. Kumar said the department had been unable to seize the mobile phone, which was used to photograph the dead beast. The poaching incident came to light after the photograph was published in a national daily newspaper last month by wildlife activist Rajendra Kerkar.

"We have attached a computer hard disc on which we suspect the photograph of the dead tiger was stored. We will be sending it to technical experts so that it can be scanned for any incriminating evidence," said Kumar said.

The Mhadei wildlife sanctuary is located in Goa's northernmost Sattari taluk and is spread across 208 sq. m. It was notified in 1999.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Villagers near Kishenpur sanctuary demand relocation

Villagers near Kishenpur sanctuary demand relocation

25 May 2009, 0239 hrs IST, TNN

LUCKNOW: The villagers living on the fringes of Kishenpur sanctuary in south Kheri forest division are demanding relocation. The demand is coming forward from village clusters in Kamp Tanda.

The hamlet was in news after a stray tiger from Kishenpur had killed three of its natives in between December and January. Though the man-eater was trapped later, yet it infused fear in villagers who had been living close to the sanctuary for hundreds of years. Now, they want land away from the sanctuary.

Even officials from the area confirmed that the demand for relocation was raised immediately after the killings took place. The intervening election period, however, had subsided the demand but the demands are coming again.

Officials also added that the demand is in favour of forest. If the villagers move out it will reduce the instances of man-animal encounters thus adding to the quality of forest.

The villagers, on the other hand, are raising other issues also in favour of relocation like better agricultural conditions since their major source of earning is farming. The decision on relocation will be taken up after National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) agrees on it.

Cyclone Aila Kills 15 in India, Bangladesh

Cyclone Aila Kills 15 in India, Bangladesh

MAY 25, 2009, 10:15 A.M. ET

CALCUTTA, India -- Strong winds and heavy rains from Cyclone Aila lashed eastern India and Bangladesh on Monday, killing at least 15 people and stranding thousands in their flooded villages.

By the evening, however, the storm had gradually begun to weaken, G.C. Debnath, an official at the local meteorological office said.

Five people were killed in the West Bengal state capital of Calcutta, where trees were uprooted, tram service stopped and schools closed early, according to the state's Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mayor Bikash Bhattacharya. Five others were killed in neighboring districts, Mr. Bhattacharjee said.

B.K. Bandhopadhyaya, an official at the Indian Meteorological Department in New Delhi said that the cyclone had generated winds of about 70 miles per hour.

Several rivers burst their banks inside the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, home to thousands of people and one the world's largest wild tiger populations, Khalil Ahmed, the area's district magistrate said. Thousands of residents were evacuated to safer areas.

It is believed about 250 tigers live on the Indian side of the Sundarbans, a tangle of mangrove forests, while another 250 reside on the Bangladeshi side.

Mrinal Chatterjee, the project director of the Institute of Nature Lovers and Climbers, an environmental group that works in the Sundarbans, said it was difficult to assess the damage to the tiger habitat because the water levels were too high for ecologists and forest officials to venture into the area. He added that fresh water sources in the mangrove forests were already likely inundated with sea water.

The storm also caused high waves to hit low-lying coastal areas in neighboring Bangladesh, said Farah Diba, an official at the Meteorological Office in the capital Dhaka.

At least five people were killed in the flooding that followed, the United News of Bangladesh news agency said. About 15,000 people were stranded in eight flooded villages as six-foot high waves crashed into the area, the news agency said.

Tidal surges breached flood-protection embankments in coastal areas about 85 miles southwest of Dhaka.

The Indian Meteorological Department advised people in affected areas to stay indoors. The cyclone was expected to cause extensive damage to thatched roofs and huts and "minor damage to power and communication lines due to uprooting of large trees."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Another hitch in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve project

Another hitch in Pilibhit Tiger Reserve project

25 May 2009, 0220 hrs IST

LUCKNOW: The project for Pilibhit Tiger Reserve is facing a last minute hitch. The new home for UP tigers spanning over 72,000 square metre area has not been a start to finish project. This time round the plan needs a change in demarcation of core and buffer areas.

The high-level meeting held by senior officials of the department reviewed the status of the reserve on Thursday. "Objections have been raised against certain parts of the plan but it would be rectified soon", said sources.

The objections are over the allocation of area as buffer and core zone. Core zone is the deeper pocket of protected forest where no human interference is allowed and tigers can thrive in peace whereas buffer area is forest cover on fringes of the core.

This necessitates that lesser area be marked as a buffer zone. The plan broadly marks only 25 to 30 per cent of area for buffer zone. The major portion would be a core area to accord maximum protection to wandering feline population in Pilibhit.

Officials are re-working on it and might send back the blueprint to headquarters with corrections within three days' time. That could be the only delay as of now from the department's side, said sources.

Other states identified for getting a new reserve have arrived well on time but UP has turned out to be a laggard so far. If it acts fast it might bag fund in the upcoming meeting of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in all probability proposed in June.

New tiger reserve is a need for Pilibhit which has fairly good number of tigers moving over scattered patches of forest. The area has high human interference making big cats vulnerable to poachers. There is a need to unify these patches through afforestation, active forest management and conservation.

The new reserve is about bringing all five ranges of Pilibhit under a consolidated patch. The five ranges are Barahi, Mala, Deoria, Mahof and Haripur. Number of tiger sightings might not be good in all of them still bringing them all together will increase the prowl area for big cats.

The department had to shoot down a young tigress from Pilibhit in March after it strayed out and became a cause of trouble. The case goes for the new reserve. Proposal on the new reserve is proceeding slowly after it got an in-principle approval from NTCA in September 2008.

Zimbabwe: Sport hunting generates high interest from niche markets

Isdore Guvamombe

The Herald (Harare)
Published by the government of Zimbabwe
21 May 2009

Harare — The Sport hunting industry, which has risen from obscurity to a significant contributor to Zimbabwe's Gross Domestic Product, has generated high interest from niche markets in Europe and America, after Parks and Wildlife Management Authority floated a quota worth about US$100 million for the big four animals.

The big four are the elephant, lion, buffalo and leopard. The fifth big animal -- the rhino -- is not hunted since it is an endangered species.

The jolt of high-intensity amusement and leisure, sport hunting (shooting wild animals for trophies) has become the best bet that has, this year, attracted hunters from niche markets such as Britain, Italy, United States, Germany, Spain, Austria, Canada, France, Italy and South Africa, among others.

Parks have floated 500 elephants, 1 072 buffalo, 95 lions and 500 leopards for the 2009 hunting season which started in April and ends in November.

Thousands of smaller animals are also up for grabs in the same hunting season and could generate almost a similar amount of money.

However, it is the big four that have attracted the hunters.

Tour operators have recorded huge bookings from tried and tested hunters, so much that some of them are fully booked for their quota.

The actual statistics cannot be published for security reasons.

In an interview Parks and Wildlife Management Authority director general Dr Morris Mutsambiwa said 500 elephants, 1 072 buffalo, 95 lions and 500 leopards were on the 2009 hunting quota.

"It costs about US$25 000 to hunt an elephant over 15 days.

"It also costs a hunter about US$17 000 to hunt a lion," said Dr Mutsambiwa.

He said there had been a four-year moratorium on hunting in Matetsi and Gwayi Valley near Victoria Falls, which has now been lifted due to increased breeding.

"This year there will be lions in Matetsi and Gwayi Valley where we have been having a moratorium over four years.

"We had to reduce the number of buffalo on the hunting quota because of declining trophy quality in our herd. The indicators are that our trophy is getting smaller," he said.

In a country where 16 percent of the land is under wildlife -- 13 percent on State land and three percent on private land -- consumptive tourism is more interesting, especially to foreigners from Europe where most of the animal are in zoos.

To this group of people, hunting concessions are the best destination.


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Logging threat to Indonesia orangutans, tigers: Report

Date: 22-May-09
Author: Aloysius Bhui

JAKARTA - A logging operation planned by Asia's biggest pulp producer in Indonesia's Sumatra island threatens the habitat of rare orangutans, tigers and elephants, a joint report by five conservation groups said on Tuesday.

A license has been given to a joint venture between Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) and the Sinar Mas Group to clear 50,000 hectares (123,600 acres) of forest near the Bukit Tigapuluh National Park in Jambi to supply a nearby pulp mill, according to the report.

Peter Pratje of the Frankfurt Zoological Society said the project would destroy the forest home of 100 orangutans successfully reintroduced into the wild.

"It took scientists decades to discover how to successfully reintroduce critically endangered orangutans from captivity into the wild. It could take APP just months to destroy an important part of their new habitat," he said.

Another conservationist said the plan would also devastate the habitat of critically endangered Sumatran tigers and increase conflict with humans.

"Tigers struggling to survive as Jambi's forests shrink have already killed nine people in the area this year," said Dolly Pratna of the Zoological Society of London.

The forests are home to an estimated 100 of the last 400 Sumatran tigers left in the wild, the report said.

Up to 60 endangered Sumatran elephants also used the forest area slated for clearing, the report said.

A Sinar Mas Group spokeswoman defended the plan and said the site was already earmarked for development and was not a protected forest.

"We think our presence is good to help prevent any illegal logging, and reduce trespassing of animals that could destroy crops of local farmers," said Joice Budisusanto, adding that the firm normally allocated around 30 to 40 percent of its forest concession for conservation purposes.

The five green groups -- the Sumatran Tiger Conservation and Protection Foundation, Frankfurt Zoological Society, Zoological Society of London, WWF-Indonesia and WARSI -- have sent a letter to the ministry of forestry asking it to protect the area.

Forestry ministry officials could not immediately be reached.

APP, which is part of Sinar Mas, has a combined pulp, paper and packaging capacity in Indonesia of more than 7 million tonnes, according to its web site.

Green groups have frequently accused APP of destroying natural forest in Indonesia, accusations denied by the firm.

Separately, the Center for Orangutan Protection said in a report this week that the 2002 construction of a road through the Kutai National Park in West Kalimantan had led to a 90 percent drop in orangutan numbers from an estimated 600 to between 30 to 60 in the area since 2004.

(Editing by Ed Davies and Sugita Katyal)


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Big house cat turns out to be mountain lion - Calif.

Mountain lion in tree confuses San Bernardino neighborhood
7:21 PM - May 22, 2009

Residents of a San Bernardino neighborhood lined up to snap pictures of what appeared to be a well-fed house cat Thursday, only to find it was actually a 100-pound mountain lion.

"It was an issue of scale," said Kevin Brennan, a wildlife biologist for the California Department of Fish and Game. "It was sitting in a big tree."

The incident began about 8:30 p.m. near 40th Street and Electric Avenue when residents spotted the animal staring down at them.

While some began shooting photos, a man cutting wood in his backyard with a chain saw sensed something was amiss.

"Some folks thought it was a big cat, but he saw that it was a mountain lion," Brennan said.

Game wardens came out and tranquilized the animal and immediately moved it into San Bernardino National Forest.

"What is really interesting is how far into San Bernardino it was," Brennan said. "You see mountain lions in any foothill community, but to see them that far into a city is amazing."

The case also was interesting because people often mistake cats for mountain lions, not mountain lions for cats.

Brennan said 81% of mountain lion reports turn out to be other animals, usually bobcats, domestic cats or the odd golden retriever. Police in Redlands once mistook a cat for a cougar and shot it dead, he said. Other departments have done the same.

"I once had two people call and insist there was a mountain lion in the backyard," Brennan said. "It turned out to be two ground squirrels on a rock."

—David Kelly


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Ag official's letter: Lion count needed; deer in danger - California

May 23, 2009
By The Free Lance Staff


County supervisors Tuesday will consider endorsing a letter written by Agriculture Commissioner Paul Matulich arguing in favor of reinstating a long-absent count of mountain lions in California.

Matulich and some area ranchers contend there has been an increase in the number of sightings in San Benito County. In the letter (read the entire document below) Matulich expresses concern for public safety while arguing a count likely would show a need to ease restrictions in Proposition 117, passed by voters in 1990 to outlaw sport hunting of cougars.

Though the state fish and game department has not conducted official counts since 1988, it contends the mountain lion population has remained relatively stable and stands somewhere around 5,000 statewide. Fish and game notes how the number of sightings and incidents reported to the state have remained stable over the past two decades.

The Matulich letter reads as follows:

Dear Director Koch:

In 1990 the voters of California passed Proposition 117, the California Wildlife Protection Act. The Act prohibited the sport hunting of the California Mountain Lion, and it required that no less than $30 million a year be spent on wildlife habitat protection and related purposes. Additionally, the Act also required that one-third of the money ($10 million) must be spent to protect the California deer herd and the mountain lion populations, with special emphasis on native oak forests.

In 1985 Department of Fish & Game statistics indicate there were 700,000 deer statewide, their 2009 deer herd counts show that statewide there are 485,000. This shows a 31% reduction in the deer herd over a 24-year period. In 1988 two years prior to Proposition 117 a Department of Fish and Game survey of the mountain lion concluded that there were between 4,000 and 6,000 lions statewide. From 1988 to the present no surveys or counts have been documented on the number of lions in California since being under the protection of Proposition 117.

Due to the passage of Proposition 117, one of California's great natural resources is in danger of becoming extinct. The various species of deer in the state are constantly at risk from the overprotection of the mountain lion. In the 1950's and 1960's the deer herd was estimated to be well over 1 million, but since the elimination of the bounty on lions and the passage of Prop 117 for the protection of the mountain lion the California deer herd has decreased by over 75%.

This also leads us to the horrific possibility that with the increased numbers of lions roaming statewide it is highly probable that eventually an adult or a child will be mauled, maimed or killed by a mountain lion that has been forced into the more urban or populated areas of the state by the increasing numbers and their territorial tendencies.

Just in San Benito County over the last year or two there have been numerous sightings of lions around more populated areas, and verified evidence of a mountain lion within the city limits of Hollister.

Therefore the Board of Supervisors highly recommends that the California Department of Fish and Game perform an extensive survey of the number of lions statewide. A survey of this type most likely will show that some type of control or summary action needs to be taken as a safeguard to the citizens of California. Proposition 117 for the protection of the mountain lion may need to be repealed resulting in a savings of $30 million a year for the next 10 years to the people of the state.


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Arizona: Permit for jaguar's capture questioned

Documents and e-mails suggest state may have lacked authority to take cat

By Tony Davis and Tim Steller
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona - Published: 05.24.2009

Arizona's Game and Fish Department may have lacked the proper permit to capture a jaguar when Macho B stepped into a snare trap in Southern Arizona's oak woodlands last February.

The big cat was euthanized 12 days later after veterinarians determined he had irreversible kidney failure.

Since the capture, federal and state officials have said unequivocally that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had granted the state a permit to capture a jaguar, one of the rarest animals living in this country.

But a review of state and federal documents and e-mails about the permit issue raises questions as to whether the state actually had that permission.

The records show that there was uncertainty about that question among biologists for the two agencies. Two days after Macho B's capture on Feb. 18, a service biologist wrote that the permit question was "a big oops," in an e-mail obtained by the Star under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

Other documents obtained through the FOIA show that as recently as 2006, Game and Fish had a permit containing clear, explicit approval to capture a jaguar for scientific research. But for reasons not publicly disclosed, the agency had that provision deleted from its general endangered species capture permit, which took effect in 2007.

Nowadays, when Fish and Wildlife Service officials explain how the state has permission to capture a jaguar, they cite three documents: the general endangered species capture permit and two documents outlining programs and plans for managing jaguars (one also mentions other imperiled species).

None of the documents says anything about capturing a jaguar. By contrast, they lay out plans and conditions to capture more than 30 other species.

"Absolute authorization"

Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Mike Martinez said the three documents work together to authorize a capture. He declined to elaborate because the service's law enforcement branch is conducting a criminal investigation into Macho B's capture and death. One issue under investigation is whether the state had the proper capture permit.

In April, Arizona Game and Fish spokesman Bob Miles said the same three documents gave permission to "take" a jaguar.

"We had absolute authorization, documentation in place with the Fish and Wildlife Service to do the work that we continue to do on jaguars," he said.

Miles declined last week to say why Game and Fish deleted specific authorization to capture a jaguar, and said the department would comment after the investigation is over.

In his April interview, he said jaguar capture isn't spelled out in the permit "because we had no intention of killing a jaguar." Under the Endangered Species Act, a "take" — an otherwise illegal act requiring a federal permit — can mean killing, harming or harassing an imperiled species.

Nicholas Chavez, the service's special agent in charge of the criminal investigation, also declined to comment.

E-mail exchange

The permit came up in an e-mail exchange among Fish and Wildlife Service biologists in Tucson and Albuquerque on Feb. 20, two days after Macho B's capture.

"Uh oh, the AGFD permit with the jaguar language expired in 2006. . . . The new one (good until 2011 . . . ) doesn't include any jaguar language," wrote Erin Fernandez, a biologist in Fish and Wildlife's Tucson office. "Since the capture was incidental to their other authorized activities, are they covered under the permit for future capture?"

In reply, Sarah Rinkevich, service biologist and a University of Arizona graduate student, said she thought the capture may have been covered, based on a state-federal endangered species agreement that is related to the endangered species permit.

"This is a big oops, however," Rinkevich added.

In a follow-up e-mail, Vanessa Martinez, in the service's Albuquerque office, said the federal regulations for endangered species allow any state agency to take an endangered species if there is a state-federal agreement in place, which she believed there was.

But while she thought the regulations left the agencies "covered" legally for an accidental jaguar capture, she still wondered if officials needed to amend the state endangered species permit "to include the jaguar part."

To the director of the environmentalist Center for Biological Diversity, the exchange suggests a breakdown of federal oversight of the jaguar capture and verges on collusion to cover up an illegal capture of endangered species.

Game and Fish officials, instead of saying "Let's investigate whether the taking was illegal," downplayed uncertainties over the permit as "a big oops," said center Director Kieran Suckling.

Suggestion of uncertainty

An internal Game and Fish Department e-mail exchange also suggests that agency's officials weren't certain about whether an accidental jaguar capture had been authorized. It, too, was obtained from the service under the Freedom of Information Act.

To legally but accidentally capture an endangered species, a person, company or agency needs what's called an "incidental take permit," allowing that party to harass, harm or kill the species in the course of another action, such as clearing trees for timber production or bulldozing land for a subdivision. Permits authorizing deliberate capture are issued for scientific purposes or to improve a species' chances for propagation or survival.

On March 4, two days after Macho B was euthanized, Game and Fish official Eric Gardner wrote to a colleague that "we also need to talk about amending the permit for future incidental take (and any related follow up actions). Not sure we need to go there soon, but since we can't plan on incidental, we may want to be prepared in case it happens." Gardner is the department's non-game branch chief.

In his e-mail to Terry Johnson, the department's endangered-species coordinator, Gardner wrote that he didn't know if Johnson had electronic or paper documentation for the recapture. If he didn't, Johnson should document a conversation he had had about the recapture with Benjamin Tuggle, the director of the service's Southwest regional office, Gardner wrote.

"I suspect you have this covered, but just don't want something to fall through the cracks," Gardner said.

In a reply that day, Johnson wrote, "I look forward to discussing the incidental take issue and will be happy to assist in requesting authorization for future incidental or intentional capture and collaring."

Notice of intent to sue

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed a notice of intent to sue over the permit issue. It noted Game and Fish's claim that the capture was accidental. The department's Johnson wrote in a report in late February that "incidental capture and collaring of the jaguar has been authorized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1998."

The center's requests for a copy of an incidental-take permit have not produced the document, the notice said.

"Unless and until such documents are produced, the center must conclude that AZGFD was not permitted to incidentally take jaguars in connection with the black bear/mountain lion study," the notice said.

Game and Fish's response

On its Web site, Game and Fish posted a statement responding to the lawsuit notice, pointing out that on April 1, the center asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate Macho B's capture and death.

"That investigation is now being conducted," the statement says.
"Only the Center for Biological Diversity can now explain why they have issued a notice of intent to sue the Game and Fish Department prior to the conclusion of the investigation they called for and supported in April. While the department is still reviewing the notice, our initial read does not indicate any substantive difference in the allegations in the notice and those issues that are part of the ongoing investigation."

In reply, center Executive Director Suckling said the service's investigation is criminal, while the center's lawsuit will be civil, aimed not at prosecution but at preventing future jaguar captures without proper permits.

Contact reporter Tony Davis at 806-7746 or, or Tim Steller at 807-8427 or


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India: Leopard strays into jasmine farm

16 May 2009, 0333 hrs IST, TNN

TUMKUR: It appears Tumkur district is turning into a leopard territory of sorts, what with the number of times these big cats have made an appearance there. On Friday, the wild cat was spotted at a jasmine farm at Kadirae Kambadhahalli near Sira, Tumkur district.

When a 11-year-old boy went to the farm early in the morning to pluck flowers, he saw the leopard resting, bang in the farm's centre. The stunned boy quietly slipped out of the farm, to avoid startling the wild animal. He informed the villagers who, armed with weapons, tried to send it back to the forest. On seeing the crowd, the leopard hid behind a bush. The villagers then alerted the police and forest department, whose local team came to the spot. They lit crackers to scare the animal. In the evening, they finally succeeded in chasing it back to Badavanahalli forest.

This is third time in the past three months that a leopard has strayed into human habitat in Tumkur district. In May, the animal was found in Gubbi, and, last month, a big cat entered Tumkur College.


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In search of the snow leopard

22 May 2009

Spot the elusive predator, stealthily making its way through the rocky terrain; even a glimpse of its flickering tail is a highlight as the colorations of this beautiful Cat are almost impossible to spot in the rugged territory. World Big Cat Safaris will be adding a new snow leopard safari to its portfolio and introducing its guests to one of the most sought after wildlife sightings in the world.

With numbers dwindling year upon year this is a once in a lifetime experience to track the critically endangered snow leopards of Ladakh in India whilst also supporting the local communities of Ladakh and the snow leopards through The Snow Leopard Trust.

The trip will be escorted by Dr. Yash Veer Bhatnagar, a Director of The Snow Leopard Trust and a leading figure for conservation of snow leopards and their habitat. It is truly a privilege to have Dr Bhatnagar work with us on this trip as, having worked in this arena for a number of years, Dr Bhatnagar has seen the snow leopard on a number of occasions (and knows what to look for!) and will educate the group on tracking the snow leopard, its habits and lifestyle in order to maximize the chances of spotting one in its natural habitat.

Every attempt will be made to track this elusive predator but time will also be spent meeting the local people as guests stay in village homes, taste some of the local cuisine, and admire the local cultures, traditions and religions. The safari will also visit the mountainous monasteries and crumbling palaces of Ladakh. Other wildlife spotting may include Golden Eagles, Argali, Blue Sheep and Red Foxes.

The first Snow Leopard Safari will run from the 15th February to the 1st March 2010. Price includes: accommodation and most meals, internal flights (Delhi—Leh—Delhi), transfers, porters and ponies to carry baggage, park and monument fees as per the itinerary, expert guide Dr. Yash Bhatnagar, local guides, insulated mattresses and sleeping bags.

For more information, visit


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Friday, May 22, 2009

Security audits in tiger reserves in the offing

Security audits in tiger reserves in the offing

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Delhi (PTI): With huge funds not helping much in conservation of big cats, states will be soon asked to conduct security audits periodically in tiger reserves to plug loopholes threatening the endangered predators.

"Every year we have been doling out huge money to the tiger-bearing states for the protection of the cats. But unless they review their security system and fill up the gaps, all efforts to save the endangered animal will be futile," a senior environment official told PTI.

He said a proposal in this regard will be soon sent to the 18 tiger-range states advising them to carry out periodic security audits of their tiger reserves to ensure that the guidelines for protection of animals are followed in letter and spirit.

"These security audits should be carried out at the state level as also from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) from time to time and will aim to address issues such as implementation of security protocols, reviewing staff preparedness to prevent or respond to any crisis," he added.

Elaborating further on the proposal, the official said, the states need to carry out regular mock drills, keep a tab on monitoring by senior officials as also updating threat perceptions as poachers employ innovative ways to kill tigers.

These suggestions have been drafted by NTCA along with NGO Traffic India as part of a security plan meant to lay out the entire gamut of management activities necessary for protection of the big cat.

A periodic review of the steps should be done by independent and anonymous evaluators to ensure accountabilty of the authorities, as per the security plan.

In the recent budget, the Finance Ministry had allocated a whopping Rs 60 crore for the conservation of tigers in the country whose numbers have drastically declined to 1,400 as estimated by Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII).

Besides man-animal conflict and reducing habitat, poaching is seen as a major threat to the survival of the big cats in the country.

3 national park directors transferred over disappearance of tigers

3 national park directors transferred over disappearance of tigers

May 21st, 2009 - 1:14 pm ICT by IANS

Bhopal, May 21 (IANS) Taking serious note of the decline in number of tigers in the state, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has transferred field directors of the Kanha, Panna and Bandhavgarh national parks with immediate effect, an official said Thursday.

“Reviewing wildlife conservation in the state at a meeting of senior forest department officials late Wednesday, the chief minister expressed displeasure over the prevailing situation on tiger conservation across the state and warned of strict action against slack officials,” a highly placed official told IANS.

Chouhan, the official said, has also sought details of tiger conservation efforts going on at Panna and other national parks and wildlife sanctuaries in the state. He has also sought an early fact-finding report on the mysterious disappearance of tigers in Panna.

Madhya Pradesh’s reputation as a ‘tiger state’ sustained a blow early this month when a four-member central inquiry committee, which included India’s top wildlife experts, looked into the population of the big cats and officially announced that Panna Tiger Reserve was tiger-less since January.

After the Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan, this was the second tiger reserve in the country that was declared to be without a single tiger.

“It is regrettable that not even one tiger is left in Panna,” said committee chairman P.K. Sen, ex-director of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

Sen also expressed surprise over the reserve’s senior officials earlier saying that tigers were present and on the basis of their statement a tigress each was even shifted from Kanha and Bandhavgarh to the Panna Reserve (in March) to maintain the big cats’ gender balance.

Soon after the NTCA report, the Madhya Pradesh government formed a committee to look into the disappearance of the big cats in Panna tiger reserve on the directives of the Minister of State for Forests Rajendra Shukla.

“We want to know the reasons which led to the disappearance of the tigers in Panna reserve and ensure that the big cat population is protected in Madhya Pradesh,” Shukla said.

The six-member committee formed include NTCA member secretary Rajesh Gopal, former director of Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, H.S. Panwar, state principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) wildlife H.S. Pabla and former state PCCF J.J. Dutta.

The committee is looking into the disappearance of the big cats in Panna and would submit its report in three months and also moot ways to protect the tigers. The NTCA reported last year that only an estimate 1,410 tigers were left in the wild in India.