Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Cougar Clippings" for 31 Mar 2010 from Mountain Lion Foundation

MLF Cougar Clippings
News Links 3/31/2010

Friend,

Here are a few of the top stories on mountain lions from recent news articles. For more frequent updates, visit MountainLion.org and read the news daily.

Arizona House Backs Radical Pro-Hunting Agenda

A legislative bill in Arizona (House Concurrent Resolution 2008), endorsed by the National Rifle Association, is now making it's way to the senate. If passed, it would not only make hunting a constitutional right (this is not a huge change since anyone can already legally hunt), but it would also declare that hunting is the ideal tool for wildlife management, and would prevent the public from ever being able to give input on wildlife policies. Scientific research and the public's views could both be completely ignored due to its combination with HB 2189. Although the tagline "constitutional right" makes it seem like this bill is expanding one's freedom, the fine-print actually removes the power citizens of Arizona currently have - and deserve to keep.

If a bill like this passed in California, mountain lion protection would revert back nearly 40 years, and lions would once again be killed for fun... and there's nothing the citizens could do about it. Giving up the right to shape state wildlife management policies and have your voice heard (whether for or against hunting) seems like a huge sacrifice just to have something that's always been legal labeled "constitutional." Contact your senator and stay tuned for more information from MLF about HCR 2008 and HB 2189.

Read the actual news story here...

GF&P Lion Meeting Focuses Only On Black Hills Lions

South Dakota Game Fish & Parks regional wildlife manager, John Kanta, spoke about the state's mountain lion population last week at one of the GF&P's cougar management meetings (calendar). His words highlighted the fact, yet again, that according to state agencies, "management" means "hunting." Cougars were nearly driven to extinction in South Dakota and thanks to protection laws, finally began to start repopulating the western sliver of the state. But in 2003, the SD GF&P decided it was time to start "managing" cougars in the Black Hills (the southwest corner of the state bordering Wyoming) and they removed the protection and opened a recreational hunting season to allow residents to kill the cats for fun.

Cougars have yet to establish a breeding population in any other part of South Dakota, and ranchers can freely kill any cat that happens to travel out of the Black Hills. Because cougars are so rare in the eastern half of the state, this region does not have any money-making cougar hunting opportunities, and thus the agency assumes they don't have to do anything. Or as the GF&P plainly puts it, "We're not going to manage the mountain lion outside the Black Hills." And so, the numerous residents calling attention to the fact that protection is a form of management, remain ignored.

Read the actual news story here...

Fourth Florida Panther Killed

More Florida panthers are being killed each year, primarily due to the shrinking habitat that remains crisscrossed with dangerous roadways. Aside from frequent roadkills, an increased number of panthers appear to be killed during fights with other panthers over territory. Each of the endangered cats would ideally roam his or her own home range approximately 100 square miles in size. Limited available habitat and overlapping territories has led to more aggression among panthers. Until they have some where new to go, their population will remain small and in jeopardy of extinction.

Read the actual news story here...

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Those were just a few of the lion articles from the past week. Click here to read more! The Mountain Lion Foundation follows cougar and wildlife news each week. For a complete library of the most pertinent news articles, visit the Mountain Lion Foundation Newsroom.

If you can not use the links in this email to read complete articles, cut and paste (or type) the following address into your browser:

http://www.mountainlion.org/newsroom.asp

Cougar Clippings is a service of the Mountain Lion Foundation. All material is copyright of the Mountain Lion Foundation and may be used with attribution for non-commercial purposes.

phone: 800-319-7621


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

Monday, March 29, 2010

Big B is brand ambassador for tiger conservation campaign

Big B is brand ambassador for tiger conservation campaign

Posted: Friday , Mar 26, 2010 at 1113 hrs

New Delhi: Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan has been signed on as the brand ambassador for a tiger conservation campaign.

Bachchan joins the Indian cricket and football captains as the face of the ''Save Our Tigers'' campaign, spearheaded by the environmental group WWF India and Indian telecom giant Aircel.

Bachchan said: "I immediately agreed because I feel it is first of all a national cause. It is a cause of nature, it is a cause of environment and if my face and my voice can be used to impress upon people that this is something essential and important."

"It is not just for the environment but for the entire nation then I shall be most willing to join it," he added.

"If I can be a voice that is going to be speaking about these issues, if I can be a face that perhaps a few people will listen to and hear and if I can convince even one individual to follow this path, this very righteous path," he said further.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/bigbisbrandambassadorfortigerconservationcampaign/596018/

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Nature lovers participate in 'Save Tiger Campaign' in Alwar

Nature lovers participate in 'Save Tiger Campaign' in Alwar

Monday, March 29, 2010,7:08

Alwar (Rajasthan), Mar 29 (ANI): Nature lovers from different professional backgrounds participated in a run organized for the 'Save Tiger Campaign' in Rajasthan's Alwar District.

Many senior administrative officials and politicians including local lawmaker Bhaway Jitendra Singh also took part in the event.

"We received a warm support from every resident of Alwar district. People of all age groups have participated in the event. We are planning to go to the villages adjoining Sariska region and spread awareness about our campaign. We will tell them that the future generations must witness the tigers which we are witnessing today and we don't want that the tigers will be extinct from our planet like dinosaurs," said Poonam Bedi, one of the organisers.

India is a key player in efforts to boost the global tiger population, which numbers just a few thousand.

Poaching and a loss of habitat have caused the tiger population to plunge from around 40,000 at the turn of the 20th century in India to a little over 1400 in 2010.

The trade in tiger skin and bones is booming in countries such as China, which has banned the use of tiger parts in medicine. But everything, from fur to whiskers to eyeballs and bones, are still sed for health purposes. (ANI)

http://news.oneindia.in/2010/03/29/naturelovers-participate-in-save-tiger-campaign-inalwar.html

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Bangladesh patrols to protect Bengal tiger

Bangladesh patrols to protect Bengal tiger

2010-03-29 20:20:00

Bangladesh will form patrols in the world's largest mangrove forest in a bid to stop locals beating the critically endangered Bengal tiger to death, an official said Monday.

The move follows an increase in tiger deaths in the 10,000-square-kilometre (3,860 square miles) Sunderbans forest, with dozens beaten to death over the last decade after wandering into local villages.

"It's impossible to conserve these rare tigers unless we involve villagers to help protect the animal," said Abdul Motaleb, the government's forest conservation chief.

There are around 450 Bengal tigers in the Bangladeshi section of the Sunderbans, the world's largest remaining population in the wild, according to a 2004 government census.

The new government-approved plan, the first of its kind in the area, will lead to the formation of a 10-person patrol team in each of the hundreds of villages on the edge of the forest, which straddles the Bangladesh-India border.

"The patrol teams will inform forest officials as soon as a tiger enters their village. They'll also persuade the villagers not to harm the animals," the official said.

Last year, nearly 30 people were killed after they were attacked by tigers while fishing or collecting honey inside the forest, according to media reports, and villagers are traditionally hostile to the tigers.

Expert Monirul Khan said tiger numbers were likely only half the government's estimate, with fatal beatings being a key factor in the slow demise of the animal.

http://sify.com/news/bangladesh-patrols-to-protect-bengal-tiger-news-international-kd3uucabcaj.html

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"Cougar Clippings" for 25 Mar 2010 from Mountain Lion Foundation


MLF Cougar Clippings
News Links3/25/2010

Here are a few of the top stories on mountain lions from recent news articles. For more frequent updates, visit MountainLion.org and read the news daily.

Illinois Meeting to Discuss Mountain Lions

Next month will mark the two-year anniversary of the killing of a mountain lion by police in Illinois. The cat was the first mountain lion documented in Chicago since the mid-1800's. On Monday, the Brookfield Zoo will host a meeting to talk about the possibility of lions returning to the state. With Nebraska and Iowa - states that have clearly demonstrated they will kill any lion that wanders through - laying between Illinois and the West, the chances of lions recolonizing Illinois on their own remain rather slim. And without protection laws in place, any lions that do survive the trek still won't stand a chance.

Read the actual news story here...

Video: New Mexico Lion Relocated

A mountain lion seen wandering through a Santa Fe neighborhood in New Mexico was tranquilized and relocated to Carson National Forest by the NM Game & Fish Department. Before being released, the cat was examined by a vet due to a minor injury to his front paw. The healthy adult male weighed around 150 lbs and was not deemed to be a threat because he continued to show fear of people. Although still very rare, it does appear more state agencies in the West are beginning to try relocation rather than killing every mountain lion that wanders through a town.

Read the actual news story here...

The Day the Safety Net Failed

A year ago two tiny mountain lion kittens from the town of Solvang exposed a huge hole in California's mountain lion protection policies. Twenty years ago California voters passed Proposition 117, setting the standard for lion protection by banning the killing of lions for fun and labeling them a "specially protected mammal." However, the California Department of Fish & Game still has not written any type of official manual for how mountain lions should be managed to uphold this unique title; and unfortunately, two kittens learned this short-coming firsthand.

Read the actual news story here...

Anti-Hunting Activist Begins Nation-Wide Tour

Anthony Marr, a wildlife preservationist who leads a global anti-hunting coalition, is touring the country from March to October and will be stopping through more than 36 states and Canada along this year's Compassion for Animals Road Expedition (CARE). Marr will be holding press conferences to raise awareness about hunting as well as coordinating funeral motorcades to honor wildlife. The journey begins in Washington state next week and will pass through California during mid-April to early May along the way to the east coast. Watch the video for more information on CARE's events, when they will be in your area, and how interested individuals or groups can participate.

Read the actual news story here...

###

Those were just a few of the lion articles from the past week. Click here to read more! The Mountain Lion Foundation follows cougar and wildlife news each week. For a complete library of the most pertinent news articles, visit the Mountain Lion Foundation Newsroom.

If you can not use the links in this email to read complete articles, cut and paste (or type) the following address into your browser:

http://www.mountainlion.org/newsroom.asp

Cougar Clippings is a service of the Mountain Lion Foundation. All material is copyright of the Mountain Lion Foundation and may be used with attribution for non-commercial purposes.

phone: 800-319-7621

http://www.mountainlion.org/newsroom.asp

----------

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

India: Another lion found dead in Gir sanctuary

TNN, Mar 24, 2010, 04.04am IST

RAJKOT: A day after a lion was axed to death, a decomposed carcass of an Asiatic lion was found in Junagadh on Tuesday. The postmortem report, however, stated the big cat died of old age a fortnight ago.

The body was found along Machundri river at Jokhiya, near Gir West, Babariya range, infamous for poaching of six lions by a Madhya Pradesh gang in 2007. Basbariya range deputy conservator of forests Sandeep Kumar said the carcass is of a 14-year-old lion which died of old age 15 days ago.

"All 17 claws and nails were found intact on the body, except one which might have fallen off due to old age," Kumar said. Animal lovers, however, expressed surprise over the fact that the body was not spotted by forest guards in the area, supposed to be under strict vigil since 2007.

"It is surprising that the beat guards, who visit the area regularly for taking baths, could not spot the body. We are looking into the matter as this area is covered by the foot patrol staff, who file an 'all well' report on a daily basis," Kumar said.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Another-lion-found-dead-in-Gir-sanctuary/articleshow/5717765.cms

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Florida road system to warn of panthers

by kevin lollar - klollar@news-press.com - March 23, 2010

State and federal agencies are going high-tech to prevent Florida panther roadkill.

This summer, the Florida Department of Transportation will install a series of roadside animal detection systems (RADS) along a section of U.S. 41 near Bass Lake Road within Big Cypress National Preserve.

The detection systems warn motorists that wildlife is near the road. The project will cost $650,000, which comes from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant.

“RADS are used out West and in the Midwest, and they’re showing it’s pretty effective,” said Chris Piazza, a state transportation department project development engineer. “It’s reduced a lot of vehicle collisions with larger species like mule deer.

“We’re hoping our system will work with smaller species like panthers and bears,” Piazza said.

The Florida panther is an endangered species, with about 100 left in the wild.

Last year, 17 panthers were killed by vehicles; the single-year record for roadkill panther deaths is 25, set in 2007.

So far this year, vehicles have killed two panthers, both in Collier County.

Several kinds of warning systems are on the market, including one that shoots a laser beam parallel to a road: When an animal breaks the beam, lights flash to warn drivers.

A ground-penetrating detection system senses vibrations made by animals approaching a road.

“We’re evaluating both,” Piazza said. “If we get both out there, and if they’re effective, we could potentially set the standard for the state.”

Bids for the project will be opened June 8 with final selection of the contractor June 14.

Construction could begin as early as July.

In all, the detection systems will cover 1.3 miles of U.S. 41, an area where five panthers were hit by vehicles from May 1996 through April 2009 (data on how many of those animals died were not available Monday).

Since State Road 84 was expanded to become Alligator Alley — construction was completed in 1993 — the most effective protections against roadkill have been wildlife crossings (tunnels under Interstate 75 and continuous fencing from just east of Golden Gate Estates to the eastern boundary of Big Cypress National Preserve).
To protect cats along U.S. 41, state and federal agencies have decided to try new technology.

“We had a public meeting, and there was a lot of public sentiment against fencing and building additional crossings,” wildlife service spokesman Ken Warren said. “We said, ‘Hey, let’s look at alternatives.’ This technology is out there. There are success stories.”

If the detection systems work on U.S. 41, additional systems might be installed at other roadkill hot spots, Warren said.

“Right now, we’re optimistic that the use of this technology will prove another tool in our kit in terms of reducing threats to panthers,” he said.

http://www.news-press.com/article/20100323/NEWS0125/100322081/1075/Florida-road-system-to-warn-of-panthers

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

Monday, March 22, 2010

Tiger Gives Man Deadly Wake-Up Call in Jambi

Tiger Gives Man Deadly Wake-Up Call in Jambi

March 23, 2010
Fidelis E Satriastanti & AFP

A man was killed when a Sumatran tiger dragged him from a forest hut, breaking his neck and crushing his skull before his friends could save him, a conservation official said on Monday.

The 25-year-old victim died from injuries sustained in the Sunday night attack at Berbak National Park in Jambi, the provincial conservation agency head Didi Wuryanto told Agence France-Presse.

“A Sumatran tiger went into the makeshift hut while they were asleep and dragged one of the men out,” he said. “His friends heard screaming, but when they got to him, it was too late.”

Authorities are investigating why the men camped overnight in a forest where tigers were known to roam, he added.

Human-animal conflicts are becoming a rising problem as people encroach on wildlife habitats, particularly in the rainforests of Sumatra and Kalimantan.

In a separate development, officials on Monday said that the adult female tiger and three cubs found during a recent raid of an estate in Pondok Cabe Ilir, Tangerang, were indeed critically endangered Sumatran tigers.

The Feb. 20 raid, which involved officers from the National Police and Jakarta’s Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), also found 20 other exotic animals, including four birds of paradise, two Timor deer, three eclectus parrots and other rare birds in a two-hectare property belonging to Henry Yukio Sujatim.

“We have already done DNA tests on the tigers and they are Sumatran tigers,” said Darori, the Ministry of Forestry’s director general for forest protection and nature conservation, adding that the animals were now being quarantined at the Gadog Animal Rescue Center in Bogor and Tegal Alur Animal Rescue Center in West Jakarta.

He said Henry faced up to five years in prison and a Rp 100 million ($11,000) fine.

But Muslim Arief Toengkagie, head of the Jakarta BKSDA, said the owner had not been taken into custody because he was cooperating with authorities.

Irma Hermawati, coordinator of the Wildlife Advocacy Institution, said the owner needed to be thoroughly investigated to help bring down the illegal animal trade.

http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/tiger-gives-man-deadly-wake-up-call-in-jambi/365279

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Wisconsin: Hunters' spoils used to study state's elusive bobcats

By Meg Jones of the Journal Sentinel

Posted: March 21, 2010

Black River Falls - The sawdust and sand mixture floated up from the floor in the dimly lighted garage as researchers and volunteers worked quickly to unlock the secrets of the elusive bobcat.

Bobcats taken during last fall's hunting season were lined up on plastic tarps this month in the state Department of Natural Resources facility here. The work being done will help determine the health of Wisconsin's bobcat population.

At the DNR's once-a-year event, students and researchers collect tissue and teeth from the bewhiskered, stub-tailed animals that are so secretive they're rarely seen by Wisconsinites.

"We have lots of unanswered questions about bobcats," said DNR furbearer specialist John Olson.

Among the questions: How many bobcats live in Wisconsin? Where? And what are their reproduction rates? Also, how long do they live and are they genetically related to bobcats in other states?

All hunters and trappers who harvest a bobcat must turn over the skinned carcass to the DNR for population and genetics studies. Wisconsin is among only a few states doing such a comprehensive survey.

"Because we have these centrally collected pools of furbearer carcasses, it's very unique. Most states don't do this," Olson said. "We have research that we can share with many scientists."

On this day in Black River Falls, volunteers also took samples from fishers and river otters. One research project is investigating the effects of heavy metals on Wisconsin's river otter population. Between 300 and 400 carcasses were processed by three dozen volunteers, which included students from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and a Black River Falls charter school.

Bobcat canine teeth will be sent to a lab in Montana, which can determine age by counting rings, similar to aging a tree.

Sean Strom, a DNR wildlife toxicologist, carefully took samples from river otters in an effort to figure out how mercury, PCBs and newly emerging contaminants affect the animals.

"It really is valuable. I don't know many other places that do this. For researchers, it's literally a gold mine," Strom said.

While fishers and river otters are handled every couple years for research, bobcats are collected by the DNR annually. With few bobcat hunting permits allotted each mid-October to late-December season, it's akin to winning the lottery. Many hunters wait five to 10 years before getting a permit. Most keep the spotted pelt, though some are sold, Olson said. Sometimes, hunters keep the skull for mounting.
Tracking state's bobcats

Wildlife biologists estimate the bobcat population at 2,800 to 3,000 in the area north of Wisconsin Highway 64, roughly the top third of Wisconsin, where hunting is permitted. Bobcats have been seen south of Highway 64, and there's interest from hunters and trappers to expand the hunting zone. But wildlife biologists first need to know if there's a sustainable bobcat population south of Highway 64.

"If we look at expanding any zones, we better have good data because we want to protect the resource. We don't want to jeopardize any new or expanding population," Olson said.

It is believed the bobcat population increased in Wisconsin a few years ago. Though wildlife biologists are not sure why, it could be related to mild winters - bobcats have relatively small feet which makes it more difficult to walk on deep snow. Another factor could be an abundance of prey including rabbits, mice and fawns.
DNA differences

Dawn Reding, an ecology and evolutionary biology doctoral candidate at Iowa State University, used samples from 80 Wisconsin bobcats two years ago for a genetics study looking at the animal's population patterns across the Midwest. She discovered significant changes in the DNA of bobcats from different areas and learned that bobcats captured in southwestern Wisconsin were linked to bobcats found in southern Iowa. That suggests that southwestern Wisconsin bobcats may be migrating northward from southern Iowa, rather than coming down from northern Wisconsin.

Reding used 1,500 tissue samples from 15 states for her study.

"There's no way I personally would have been able to go out and collect all those samples. Without the efforts of the state agencies and hunters and trappers, I wouldn't have been able to do the research," she said. "These carcasses are extremely valuable not only to my research but people doing disease research and a lot of other projects."

Finding the nocturnal bobcats known for the tiny black ear tufts is difficult, which makes it hard to make a population estimate, said Eric Anderson, a UW-Stevens Point wildlife ecology professor. He brought 13 undergraduate and graduate students to the bobcat event.

"You have to be really careful with furbearers; it's easy to exploit them. We don't have a good handle on the numbers," Anderson said. "In Wisconsin, we probably have a minimum of 6,000 to 7,000 bobcats and yet most people have never seen them. They're a mystery."

http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/88787007.html

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

No fresh protection measures for tigers

No fresh protection measures for tigers

Publish Date: Monday,22 March, 2010, at 01:08 AM Doha Time

Despite rapidly dwindling numbers of wild tigers, no greater protection measures were afforded to the endangered animals at the 15th Conference of the Parties of the CITES yesterday.

However, the member-states reaffirmed a decision from the previous CITES meeting that countries should not breed tigers for the trade of their parts and derivatives.

"We narrowly avoided making the Year of the Tiger into the year of the dead tiger," the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Asia regional director Grace Ge Gabriel said.

Illegal trade of tiger parts and products from farming operations are already stimulating demand for dead tigers which fuels poaching of wild tigers.

Recent investigations in China have found an increase in the illegal sale of products from tiger farming operations claiming to contain tiger parts, both online and in stores. While there are fewer than 50 wild tigers left in China, tiger farms collectively have over 6,000 tigers and boast an annual reproduction rate of 1,000.

Operated also as safari parks for tourists, these tiger farms openly sell products such as `tiger bone wine' as health tonics.

"While we had hoped that a previous resolution on Conservation of and Trade in Tigers and other Asian Appendix I Asian Big Cat Species could have been strengthened at this CoP by prohibiting the breeding of tigers for commercial trade, we are glad that the hard-fought decision from CoP14 was retained," said Gabriel.

"We are thankful that there is still a thin line of defence between farming tigers for commercial trade and the world's remaining wild tigers, with less than 3,200 left."

Decision 14.69 from CoP14 states that "parties with intensive operations breeding tigers on a commercial scale shall implement measures to restrict the captive population to a level supportive only to conserving wild tigers; tigers should not be bred for trade in their parts and derivatives."

All tigers and other Asian big cat species are included in CITES Appendix I, which bans their international trade for commercial purposes.

Domestic trade bans are a key recommendation in CITES resolution on tiger trade control because legal domestic trade has been shown to undermine the international ban, stimulate poaching and threaten tigers in the wild.

http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=350239&version=1&template_id=36&parent_id=16

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Compromise reached on tiger trade proposal

Compromise reached on tiger trade proposal

Posted on 21 March 2010

Doha, Qatar: WWF welcomed improvements over trade in tigers and other Asian big cat species at a United Nations meeting on wildlife trade.

An amended CITES resolution on Asian big cats calls for increased regional cooperation among tiger range states, improved reporting, establishment of a tiger trade database and improved law enforcement. Representatives from the more than 100 governments attending the meeting, including the majority of the tiger range countries, agreed unanimously to a European Union proposal at Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

“This proposal was a test for the effectiveness of CITES as an international conservation agreement and despite the compromise, progress was made,” said Carlos Drews, Director, Species Programme, WWF International. “But words alone will not save wild tigers as a global poaching epidemic empties Asia’s forests and CITES governments will need to live up to the commitments made today.”

Unfortunately, no improvements were agreed to strengthen the control of domestic trade in tiger parts and products from tiger farms. Tiger range countries led by China claimed that CITES oversight would infringe on the sovereignty of countries and was beyond the mandate of CITES as an international treaty, even though similar measures have already been taken by CITES for Tibetan antelope, elephants, rhinos and sturgeon. However, the decision relating to tiger farming agreed at the last meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties in 2007 was retained, so the control measures have not weakened.

“We are pleased that no ground was lost and that China joined the consensus,” added Drews. “It is now up to the tiger range countries to work with the wider international community to crack down on illegal poaching and trade, and further reduce demand for tiger products.”

Investigations have found products like tiger bone wine are still openly available in Asian markets and online. Sustained efforts through demand reduction campaigns are desperately needed or the gains made since China’s 1993 domestic tiger trade ban will be severely compromised.

With tiger numbers still decreasing and an estimated 3,200 wild tigers remaining, poaching and illegal tiger trade as the most urgent threat to their survival must be addressed aggressively.

http://www.panda.org/wwf_news/?191304/Compromise-reached-on-tiger-trade-proposal

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Arizona: G&F worker is fired for alleged lying, cover-up in jaguar capture

G&F worker is fired for alleged lying, cover-up in jaguar capture

Tony Davis Arizona Daily Star - Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 12:00 am

The state fired a worker Friday for lying to federal investigators about the fact that the U.S.'s last known wild jaguar was lured to his capture and for concocting a cover-up story, officials said.

The employee, Thornton W. Smith, 40, said biologist Emil McCain told him he had put jaguar scat at two sites near the area where Macho B was captured a year ago southwest of Tucson, the Arizona Game and Fish Department revealed late Friday.
Smith, a Game and Fish wildlife technician, also said McCain later went to the area where Macho B was captured, removed all traces of jaguar scat and "made it look like our story," the department said.
"Yah. Yah. We (he and McCain) came up with a story, and I just, it's been eating on me, and I just couldn't live with it," the department quoted Smith as telling its internal investigators.
Game and Fish initially said the capture, which was followed days later by the jaguar's death, was accidental.
McCain, reached by the Arizona Daily Star by telephone late Friday afternoon, said "no comment" and hung up. At the time of the jaguar's capture, he was working for a nonprofit group that had a contract with Game and Fish.
Smith couldn't be reached for comment after the department released the information late Friday. Smith's former home phone number is disconnected.
Federal authorities are investigating Macho B's capture and whether it violated the Endangered Species Act.
One federal agency, the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Inspector General, concluded earlier this year that the capture by state workers was intentional and that the evidence points to criminal wrongdoing.
That agency said in January that the evidence against an Arizona Game and Fish Department subcontractor - and possibly a Game and Fish employee - is in the hands of federal prosecutors in Tucson. The inspector general's report does not name individuals who could be liable. However, the description of the Arizona Game and Fish subcontractor matches McCain in several respects.
Smith may be safe from federal criminal prosecution because he talked to the state, Game and Fish said Friday. The department said it never told federal investigators about Smith's statements. It also said it believes that because the state required its employee to "provide complete and factual information," his statements can't be used against him in a criminal prosecution.
Smith was fired partly because he violated written and verbal orders by talking to McCain about the capture despite the U.S. investigation, Game and Fish said.
The firing and revelation of Smith's statements comes almost a year after the U.S. launched its criminal probe into Macho B's Feb. 18, 2009, capture and subsequent release, which was followed by the jaguar's recapture due to health problems and euthanization 12 days later. The captures occurred near the Arizona-Sonora border in a remote canyon south of Arivaca.
Smith and another Game and Fish wildlife technician came upon the snared jaguar in the morning of Feb. 18 as they checked a series of snares that were part of a Game and Fish study. After Smith fired a sedative into the jaguar, the pair went to work freeing his leg from the snare and attaching a collar.
E-mails written in the weeks before the capture showed that McCain, Smith and others were soliciting instructions on how to sedate and otherwise handle a captured jaguar. They also received instructions on how to use the collar in case a jaguar was caught.
Because of the incident, Smith, a 12-year department employee, had been on administrative leave since March 8, 2010. He had been restricted from working on field activities since July 16, 2009. He is the only Game and Fish employee to be disciplined in the case "at this point in the ongoing investigation," the agency said Friday.
Smith's reported statements, as relayed by Game and Fish, amount to confirmation of many of the details that a research technician associated with McCain's group, the Borderlands Jaguar Detection Project, told the Arizona Daily Star nearly a year ago. Janay Brun's statements led directly to the federal criminal investigation.
Brun told the Star McCain had ordered her to place female jaguar scat at the eventual Macho B capture site two weeks before the first capture, to try to lure the male jaguar to that site. She said at the time that Smith was present when this conversation occurred.
Smith's reported statements made no mention of this specific incident. But they did offer additional information that the capture was deliberate.
Smith also said to state investigators that, "We made a different story to protect the department, protect Emil, to protect my association with Emil, about, you know, not leaving jaguar scat, but (tape recording inaudible)," Game and Fish's news release said. "But you know, I can't live with that. You know I did it."
Game and Fish repeated Friday its earlier statements that no agency officials directed anyone to capture a jaguar, "and that the department's actions related to the capture were lawful."
After Macho B's capture, he roamed in the wild for a few days, but had slowed down dramatically a week later for reasons that have never been fully and publicly determined. He was recaptured and euthanized on March 2, after Phoenix Zoo veterinarians concluded he had unrecoverable kidney failure.
A University of Arizona veterinary diagnostic lab later issued a report challenging that conclusion. But the Inspector General's Office reported this year that two other vet labs, at the University of California-Davis and the U.S. Geological Survey, confirmed there was kidney failure. Those reports haven't been publicly released.
Game and Fish said it did not allow Smith to resign Friday rather than be fired. The department said it held off taking action against him until now because it didn't want to hurt the federal probe.
"We made a different story to protect the department, protect Emil, to protect my association with Emil, about, you know, not leaving jaguar scat, but (tape recording inaudible) ... But you know, I can't live with that. You know I did it."
Thornton W. Smith, in a statement to internal investigators
Arizona Daily Star reporter Tim Steller contributed to this report. Contact reporter Tony Davis at 806-7746 or tdavis@azstarnet.com

http://azstarnet.com/news/science/environment/article_d86189d0-9a97-588b-afba-d19388143779.html

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Cheetahs seen in southern Angola for the first time in 30 years

Mar 19, 2010 by Christopher Szabo

A wildlife conservation group has reported the first cheetah sighting in southern Angola in more than three decades. The animal’s habitat was devastated during Angola’s civil war between 1975 to 2002.

Otjiwarongo, Namibia - The Johannesburg Star newspaper and Associated Press (AP) said the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) an international conservation and research group, did a survey in southern Angola’s arid Iona district (which borders on Namibia) where they found proof of the cheetahs’ return.

Cheetah specialist Laurie Marker observed male cheetah droppings on tree roots, which is how they mark their territory. Marker reported this to the CCF. Speaking in
Otjiwarongo where the CCF is based, Marker said:

We found nine different marking trees … two male cheetahs ran out. It was very exciting — there are cheetahs in Angola.

Since the end of the war, deer and buck have been returned to the 3,8 million-acre Iona wilderness area, attracting the fast felines which prey on them. Cheetahs are spotted cats, famed for being the fastest animals on earth. They can be distinguished from Africa’s other spotted feline, the leopard, by the black lines down their faces. The cheetah is also somewhat dog-like and much finer boned than the leopard.

The CCF said Marker used GPS to record locations of cheetah prey, including a large heard of 1,000 springbok, a small, fast gazelle and one of neighbouring South Africa’s national symbols.

The name “springbok” (literally: “jumping buck” in Afrikaans) describes the animal’s behaviour. The springbok is a relative of the Thomson’s Gazelle found in east Africa.
The group also said Alvaro Baptista, owner of one of the only bush camps near Iona, has asked for help in ensuring the once abundant cheetahs.

The region's sparse roads were destroyed during the war, which ended in 2002.

http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/289290

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U.S. Bobcat Proposal Fails to Receive International Support

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The proposal to remove the bobcat (Lynx rufus) from the list of species of wildlife regulated in the international trade was rejected by the Parties reviewing proposals today at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The United States introduced the proposal to remove the bobcat from Appendix II listing, which regulates their international trade.

The parties participated in considerable debate and there were divergent points of view on the proposal, including a strong showing of support by Canada which shares management of Lynx rufus with the U.S. Opposition to the proposal focused on issues concerning the possible impact to illegal trade of other listed spotted cats due to their similarity of appearance. The final vote in the Committee was 53 in support, 46 opposed and 15 abstentions. The final decision will be made by the plenary session of the CoP15 on the final day of the conference. Typically, that vote follows the recommendation of the Committee.

http://www.docuticker.com/?p=33470

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Farming the tiger to extinction?

Farming the tiger to extinction?

The Irish Times - Saturday, March 20, 2010

GEOFF POWER

With captive tigers in China’s breeding units now outnumbering those in the wild throughout Asia, the Chinese government’s attitude to the trade in tiger parts could be crucial to the survival of the species

THE DISCLOSURE that, so far this year, 11 Siberian tigers have died of starvation or been shot at a zoo in China has placed under further scrutiny the controversial breeding facilities, or tiger farms, first established in China back in the 1980s. There are approximately 6,000 captive tigers held in 200 breeding units around China, almost double the number of wild tigers that now remain across the whole of Asia.

The deaths of captive animals at the mainly privately owned Shenyang Zoo raised suspicion that the tigers had been slaughtered for their body parts and bones, an accusation denied by management. Nevertheless, the controversy about how these tigers died brings their fate into timely focus in a week when members of the Convention of the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) are attending a special conference in Doha, Qatar.

One of the issues up for discussion there is the illegal trade in tiger parts and the controversial existence of tiger-breeding facilities. “The general public do not appreciate just how close we are to losing the tiger,” says John Sellar, chief of enforcement at CITES. “It’s got to the point where it’s very questionable whether it’s now a genetically viable species.”

Tiger farms started appearing when China’s native tiger vanished in the wild. The extermination of the south China sub-species had provided an endless supply of tiger parts for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). When the reserve of tiger carcasses finally dried up in the late 1980s, TCM practitioners were forced to look elsewhere for their supplies, which led to an increase in the poaching of tiger populations in India and Sumatra.

Counsellor Lan Heping, at the Chinese embassy in Dublin, explains: “In the development of TCM, people found the medicine values of the tiger bone could invigorate the circulation of blood . . . drive away stroke and strengthen bones. Tiger-bone plaster and tiger-bone wine used to be an important part of TCM and were used for almost 1,000 years. Since 1993, China has never approved any use of tiger bone for medical purpose and has no plan to introduce the bred tiger bone in clinical medicines at the present stage.”

China imposed the 1993 ban to help implement the international trade ban in tiger parts already in place under CITES. Since then, TCM practitioners have resorted to using alternative ingredients. Sarah Christie, tiger expert with the Zoological Society of London, says TCM practitioners “didn’t want to be the group that drives tigers to extinction, so it’s all just back-street stuff now”.

The tiger population was vastly reduced in Asia during the 20th century, mostly thanks to deforestation and the enormous growth in the human population. The predator had also been a prestige target for hunters in India during colonial times, and for bored Soviet Union soldiers stationed in Siberia. It had the misfortune of being declared an “enemy of the people” by China’s leader, Mao Zedong, in the latter half of the century.

Demand for tiger pelts has always been high.

The fear, mystique and majesty of the tiger for people in Asia has led us to this point. A common belief still exists that the essence of a tiger’s strength, agility and wisdom can be derived from its bone and sinew. Ultimately, the tiger may have the misfortune of being destroyed by its own mythology.

According to Lan Heping, the Chinese authorities have invested €50 billion in forestry protection projects to create more suitable tiger habitats and have cracked down on smuggling and the illegal use of parts, which carries the sentence in China of life imprisonment or death, along with confiscation of personal property.

“Maybe in some remote areas there are individual cases of some illegal actions, but that does not represent the mainstream – it’s not the government’s attitude,” Lan says.

Nevertheless, farm owners appear ready to flood the market with their stockpiles if China loosens the ban this week and allows for domestic trade. A letter, written and signed by tiger experts from several NGOs, states: “Tiger farmers have no vested economic interest in securing a future for wild tigers. One could argue that if wild sources go extinct, these investors would be in an economically advantageous position, having exclusive control of supply of the global tiger-parts market.”

ONE OF THE CHINESE signatories of the letter is Grace Ge Gabriel, Asia regional director with the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “While tiger farmers have been actively lobbying for the ban to be lifted, they’ve started to market and promote tiger products,” she says. “Since they cannot sell them as TCM . . . they are selling them as a wine or health product. It’s a recent phenomenon. What this trade is doing is stimulating a demand that was already waning.”

Sarah Christie would like to see breeding licences withdrawn. “There’s a chance to finish this by declaring a final ban. There’s already a legal ban in place, but we need to get the tiger farms closed down. There’d be a problem with the captive tiger population then, but it’s the best solution.”

John Sellar remembers a visit to a farm a few years ago, when “the owner of the farm was clearly disappointed the ban was still in place – he felt he should be compensated. Back in ’93 he would have had a strong case, if he could have proved he was engaged in a bona-fide commercial activity at the time. But instead he continued taking a commercial gamble that it would be lifted . . . That is like taking a gamble at Ladbrokes and feeling aggrieved if your banker doesn’t win.” Following that visit, Sellar was offered tiger-bone wine near his hotel.

The EU has put forward a document for discussion in Doha, proposing further restrictions and calling on member states, and tiger-range countries in particular, to improve law enforcement and provide more information on smuggling and trade.

Kevin Cahillane, of Ireland’s National Parks and Wildlife Service, is a member of the EU CITES Management Authority. “We are clear in what we want and the EU is fully behind it,” he says. “My own view is that China will probably vote against because they’ll say is a domestic trading issue. What we are asking, though, is: why have at all if it has nothing to do with the conservation of the species?”

Lan Heping insists that captive tigers will eventually be rehabilitated. “The fundamental aim is to ease the pressure of poaching on the wild tiger and finally save the wild tigers, especially the Siberian tiger and south China tiger, and resume or reconstruct the wild tiger species,” she says.

She compares the farming of tigers in China to that of less endangered animals such as crocodiles, deer and falcons. She states: “Neither is there any scientific justification to prohibit the controlled and limited use of bred tigers and its parts and derivatives. If the resolution or decision of the conference of CITES violated the CITES regulations and interfered with the internal affairs of the sovereign state and lost its . . . objective fairness, member states could not support it and could only manage its domestic trade according to its national law.”

This is a stand that worries Grace Ge Gabriel. “This is part of the strategy,” she says. “On the one hand they say, ‘we are going to increase law enforcement and crack down on trade and publicly say no to it’, and at the same time they issue permits for people to trade in wine products. A lot of smoke. And in the smoky environment, it gives the illegal operators the opportunity to engage in trade, and it confuses . . . it confuses the public and it confuses us, the NGOs. We don’t know what is legal and what is illegal.”

Despite this, Ge Gabriel is optimistic that the majestic predator will still be around when the Year of the Tiger is again celebrated in 2022. “I’ve a feeling the trade ban will hold,” she says. “I’m an optimist; otherwise I wouldn’t do the work I do.”

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/weekend/2010/0320/1224266695473.html


http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Saturday, March 20, 2010

‘Tiger poaching is only getting accelerated’

‘Tiger poaching is only getting accelerated’

Express News Service
First Published : 21 Mar 2010 06:23:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 21 Mar 2010 08:32:57 AM IST

BANGALORE: The year 2009 saw the maximum number of tiger deaths in the country due to poaching, with the toll reaching 32. However, 16 tigers were killed so far this year, in less than even three months.

If the Chinese government legalised tiger trade, it would sound death knell for the wild cat species as they were poached due to the demand in China for making traditional Chinese medicine.

Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI) made these observations at the Bangalore Press Club on Saturday at the screening of a documentary delving into the plight of the tiger. The Truth About Tigers is made by renowned conservationist and wildlife filmmaker Shekar Dattatri.

He said the film educated and delved into the complexities of the conservation of tigers in India. Ullas Karanth of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Wright of WPSI and Lokayukta Justice N Santosh Hegde were present during the screening.

Dattatri said that tiger conservation could not be the exclusive domain of the government and it was high time that the citizens got directly engaged in it. He declared that he was putting up a website (www.truthabouttigers.com), which would contain insights about tigers, their conservation and practical advice on what ordinary citizens could do help the cause.

Karanth said that strict monitoring, backed by a better habitat management and better governance was the key to saving tiger.

With the help of 500 cameras and assistance of Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, he hoped to arrive at the accurate number this time.

http://tinyurl.com/yfazt9p

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Ramesh sees delay of states deliberate

Ramesh sees delay of states deliberate

Published: March 21, 2010 04:04 IST
Updated: March 21, 2010 04:04 IST
Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 21, 2010 The State governments are deliberately delaying the notification of buffer zones for wildlife reserves, in order to make it easier to approve projects in those areas which could harm the environment, alleged Union Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh.

After the issue was discussed at the National Board for Wildlife meeting on Thursday, the Prime Minister decided to take up the issue with Chief Ministers, asking them to expedite the process, added Mr. Ramesh.

“Protected areas are under acute pressure,” he said. “The delay in notification is not sheer laziness…It is not accidental. It is deliberate to allow an easier approval process. The non-notification of buffer zones has led to a proliferation of projects with grave environmental consequences which threaten biodiversity.”

He pointed to areas such as the Tadoba Tiger Reserve in Maharashtra, which had 40 approved projects, mostly in the coal and power sectors, in close proximity to the protected area. Only one has been rejected.

Once the buffer is notified, what happens to projects that have already been approved? Mr. Ramesh said that while it was not clear if the notification could be applied retrospectively, he was open to overturning approvals if there was enough evidence that the project would harm the environment.

States have also been asked to identify critical wildlife habitats under threat from development projects such as mines, power plants and highway construction, as required under the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Only 18 State governments have even notified committees to begin this process in the three years since the Act was passed.

At the Board's meeting, the Prime Minister expressed concern about the high mortality rate of tigers at many reserves, especially at the Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand and the Panna reserve in Madhya Pradesh. He will lend the weight of his office in monitoring State governments on this issue as well, said Mr. Ramesh.

Corbett's tiger habitats are “threatened by the mining mafia, real estate mafia in a conspiracy with local political interests,” said Mr. Ramesh.

The Ministry has also asked for increased funding to relocate families out of tiger reserves and other protected areas. Of the 80,000 families to be relocated from 37 Project Tiger reserves, only 3,000 have moved so far. To pay the compensation of Rs. 10 lakh per family, the Ministry will need a total financial package of Rs. 8,000 crore over the next seven years, of which only Rs. 2,000 crore is available as of now.

Families in the other 663 reserves are also welcome to take advantage of the same scheme, said Mr. Ramesh, adding that about 1,000 families have recently asked to be shifted from the Kudremukh protected area in Karnataka, mostly in order to avoid harassment by the Maoists.

http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article260831.ece

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Singapore jewelers selling tiger parts: report

Singapore jewelers selling tiger parts: report

Fri Mar 19, 2010 2:27pm GMT

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Some jewelry shops in Singapore are illegally selling tiger parts, helping fuel the disappearance of the big cat from Asia, a local animal protection group said on Friday. A three-month investigation by Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) found that 59 out of 134 jewelry and antique shops it visited in the Southeast Asian city-state were allegedly selling tiger parts, including claws, teeth and pieces of skin.

All commercial tiger trade has been banned by the international CITES convention that Singapore has signed, and under domestic law the sale of tiger specimens is prohibited, even if the products turn out not to be real, ACRES said. Shopkeepers told ACRES that demand had been higher over Lunar New Year -- the start of the Year of the Tiger -- and more orders could be placed for parts that could take from a week to three months to be delivered.

The parts came from Southeast Asia, China and South Asia, they said.

Tiger parts are used to make jewelry and Chinese medicine.

Tigers in the Greater Mekong region face extinction, conservationists say. Global tiger populations are at an all-time low of 3,200, down from about 100,000 a century ago, as forest habitats disappear and the animals are killed for their body parts, used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Asian countries are a hotspot for the illegal wildlife trade, which the international police organization Interpol estimates may be worth more than $20 billion a year.

"As long as there is demand, there will be supply," said Singapore member of parliament Lim Wee Kiak. "Legislation alone is insufficient to bring a complete halt to the illegal trading."

http://uk.reuters.com/article/idUKTRE62I2IE20100319

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

PM to take up with CMs the issue of notification of buffer zones

PM to take up with CMs the issue of notification of buffer zones

PTI Saturday, March 20, 2010 17:45 IST

New Delhi: Concerned over undue delay by the states in notifying buffer zones in protected areas, prime minister Manmohan Singh will take up the matter with the chief ministers in this regard to expedite the process, environment minister Jairam Ramesh said today.

"The prime minister was unhappy over the undue delay by the states to declare buffer zones around wildlife sanctuaries as per Forest Rights Act. He will soon write to the states or hold a meeting, asking them to take up the matter on urgent basis," Ramesh told reporters.

The issue had come up for discussion at a meeting of the National Board of Wildlife chaired by the prime minister on
Thursday.

Ramesh was critical of the states for not doing their bit to save the threatened wildlife and instead deliberately adopting delaying tactics to benefit the project developers.

"Once the area is notified, the state government knows that they won't be able to approve the projects. Hence the delay and only approvals. But it is high time that they ease the pressures on the protected areas and sanctuaries," he said.

Ramesh said in Tadoba tiger reserve in Maharashtra, as many as 40 coal and power projects have been approved as its buffer zone is yet to be notified. Only one (Adani Power) was rejected.

"The real challenge is to identify the negative impacts such projects will have on the wildlife," he said.

Same was the case with critical habitats which were yet to be identified by the states with only 18 of them setting up a state-level committee to initiate the process.

Talking about ongoing village relocation in tiger reserves, he said Rs 8,000 crore would be required to move 77,000 families over the next seven years. So far, out of 80,000 identified families in 37 reserves, only 3000 have been relocated.

The minister pointed that families keen to move out from the protected areas as well will be offered Rs 10 lakhs financial package as is being done for those in tiger reserves.

"There is a general perception that we are supporting only village relocation in tiger reserves. But any family who voluntarily wants to move out even if it is protected area, we would provide financial compensation of Rs 10 lakhs to it," he said

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report_pm-to-take-up-with-cms-the-issue-of-notification-of-buffer-zones_1361307

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Manmohan concerned over unnatural deaths of tigers

Manmohan concerned over unnatural deaths of tigers

New Delhi, March 20, 2010

Concerned over increasing incidents of unnatural deaths of tigers in various reserves in the country, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to personally take up the matter with State Governments, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said on Saturday.

The Prime Minister expressed his concern during a meeting of the National Board for Wildlife Thursday, Mr. Ramesh told reporters here.

“The prime minister has agreed to lend weight of his office for monitoring state governments. He will also take up the matter with the chief ministers of various states, especially with the Uttarakhand government, as unnatural mortality of tigers have been reported from Corbett National Park,” he said.

According to Mr. Ramesh, 11 tigers were killed in first two months of 2010 while 66 tigers were killed last year.

“The normal mortality of tiger in a year is 30 but 66 were killed in 2009. Of these, 46 were killed inside tiger reserves while 20 were killed in forests. People from mafias to local politicians and many others are involved in it as they want the tiger population to dwindle so that the land can be used for mining or construction,” he added.

Mr. Ramesh said the state governments would be requested to expedite the process of notification of critical wildlife habitats under the Forests Rights Act, 2006 to minimise impacts on wildlife.

“There has been some progress on settlement of rights of people living in forests but not an inch has moved in protection of wildlife. Despite several reminders, many state governments have not taken steps for notifications of buffer zones in tiger reserves in the country. The delay in notification is not accidental but deliberate,” he said.

The meeting also discussed the relocation of people living on the periphery of tiger reserves. The government provides Rs.10 lakh as compensation to the relocated families.

“Out of 80,000 families to be relocated from tiger reserves, only 3,000 have been relocated so far. And 77,000 families have to be relocated over the next seven years, for which a total financial package of Rs. 8,000 crore would be required. There is a gap of Rs. 2,000 crore to Rs. 2,500 crore but we will able to make it,” he said.

According to Mr. Ramesh, the village relocation will not just be from tiger reserves but from any protected area wherever there is demand for such relocation.

“The government will support any voluntary relocation from any protected area and a compensation of Rs.10 lakh will be provided to the families,” he said.

There are 37 Project Tiger reserves in the country and 663 protected areas.

http://beta.thehindu.com/news/national/article260567.ece?homepage=true

http://www.bigcatrescue.org/

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Time magazine article on Afghan snow leopard

To Save a Snow Leopard: A Special Afghanistan Mission
By Tim McGirk - Kabul Wednesday, Mar. 17, 2010

In a valley high in the Wakhan Mountains of Afghanistan, a hunter several weeks ago waded through snowdrifts to check his traps and found that he had snared one of the rarest creatures alive: a snow leopard.

If a naturalist had seen the leopard, he or she would have focused on its snowy fur with black, half-moon markings and its white goatee. A naturalist would have known that it is a solitary, elusive creature, a night hunter that roams the icy Central Asian peaks far above human villages. A naturalist would have known that there are perhaps less than a thousand of them left on the planet. But the hunter who snared the snow leopard saw only a $50,000 price tag. That was the fee supposedly offered by a wealthy Pakistani businessman to any hunter in the Wakhan who could deliver a snow leopard — alive. See a TIME photoessay on the rare and endangereed snow leopard in Afghanistan.

The leopard was snarling and furious at being caught, with its hind leg gashed by a wire snare. But otherwise, it was in good shape. With the help of a few friends, the hunter tied the leopard's legs and muzzle, threw it in the back of a truck, and headed out of the Wakhan Valley to Feyzabad, a three-day journey of hairpin curves along terrifying mountain roads.

But the capture of a snow leopard, once believed to be extinct in Afghanistan, didn't stay secret for long. The feline was to become the object of a four-day rescue operation that involved NATO forces, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul, a royal prince and even Afghan President Hamid Karzai. But the mission would end like so many others of similarly good intentions in Afghanistan. (See 10 species near extinction.)

First, the hunter and his friends were undone by their own greed. Upon reaching Feyzabad, they thought they might get a better price for their cat than $50,000 and began to shop around. "Somebody on the Internet was supposedly offering $2 million for a live snow leopard," says Mustapha Zaher, director general of the National Environmental Protection Agency in Kabul.

But the environmental protection agency office in Feyzabad was tipped off about the cat. Zaher happens to be a prince, the grandson of the late Afghan monarch Zaher Shah, and he has far more clout around Kabul than the ordinary bureaucrat. "I raised a hullabaloo," Zaher tells TIME with a grin. He paged through his contacts book, calling U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, a contingent of German troops stationed in Feyzabad (who at first were skittish about leaving their base, even though that region of Afghanistan is relatively calm). And he called the Afghan President. It had been a hard day for Karzai; suicide bombers and gunmen had attacked an Indian guesthouse in Kabul, killing dozens. But the President was sympathetic to the plight of the leopard. "He told me, 'Do what you can to save him,' " says Zaher. (See the top 10 animal stories of 2009.)

The leopard was confiscated from the hunters, and Richard Fite, a New Hampshire veterinarian who advises for the U.S. Agricultural Department in northern Afghanistan, was dispatched to tend the snow leopard. Fite was more accustomed to dealing with farm animals, and to encounter a snow leopard was a marvel. "I never imagined in my life that I would be so close to such a creature," he says in a telephone interview. At first, the leopard was kept in a cage at the police station, where it was poked by curious onlookers.

When Fite examined the leopard, it had been moved to the atrium of a nearby guesthouse, and its cage was littered with chunks of uneaten raw meat. The leopard growled at Fite but remained subdued, he says. When he looked into the eyes of the animal, says Fite, he could tell it was ailing. "All I could think of was the tragedy of it all," he says, adding, "The mental stress on the animal from capture, transport, being bound and being held for almost a week would have been unimaginable."

Over the next three days, Fite tended to the leopard. Then, after advice from experts at the World Conservation Society in Kabul, a decision was made to fly the leopard back to the Wakhan and free it into the wild, once it had regained strength. "We didn't want it dumped unconscious on a snowfield where it would freeze to death," says Dave Lawson, the Society's country director. Bad weather kept the U.S. helicopter grounded. After what seemed like a day of improved health — the leopard was holding its head up and grooming itself — and a break in the storm clouds that would allow the chopper to take off, Fite was optimistic. But the next morning, on March 2, he was informed that the snow leopard had died. "My guess — and it is just that — is that it died from shock" he says, adding, "Snow leopards are solitary, reclusive animals."

An Afghan elder who had seen the leopard in the cage wept when he saw its dead body carried out. "A lot of these mountain people have respect for wildlife," says Lawson, who was told by an elder that "God put these animals here for us to look after." The death of a snow leopard may not be of great consequence in Afghanistan's larger turmoil. But for many Afghans, the snow leopard is a symbol of the country's spirit of untamed wildness. For a few brief moments, everyone from the President to the top U.S. diplomat in the country turned their gaze away from politics and terrorism to a shivering, sick cat in a cage. And when it died, everyone from the highest echelons of power to humble villagers suffered a profound loss.

— With reporting by Shah Mahmood Barakzai / Kabul

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1972402,00.html

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Cougar Clippings" for 17 Mar 2010 from Mountain Lion Foundation

MLF Cougar Clippings
News Links 3/17/2010


First Panther Roadkill of the Year

The first Florida panther killed on a roadway in 2010 has been reported. Each year, approximately 10 to 15 of Florida's 100 remaining endangered panthers are killed just by collisions with vehicles. Last year a record high 17 were killed this way and an additional 7 from other causes. So far, this year has been off to a somewhat better start with only two panthers killed. The first was killed by another panther and the second - this young adult female - killed by an automobile.

Read the actual news story here...

Residents Decide Fate of South Dakota's Lions

South Dakota's Game Fish & Parks Department will begin touring the state later this month to hold meetings about mountain lions. Officials would like to gather public input on the management plan and share results from their research. Previous negative comments from the ranching community - claiming lions were all over the place and causing problems - directed the GF&P to drastically increase hunting quotas over the past few years. Every voice counts. Please attend one of these meetings to speak up for your lions.

Read the actual news story here...

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Those were just a few of the lion articles from the past week. Click here to read more! The Mountain Lion Foundation follows cougar and wildlife news each week. For a complete library of the most pertinent news articles, visit the Mountain Lion Foundation Newsroom.

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