Thursday, August 31, 2006
Aug 31 2006
Paul Krismer does not "begrudge" a young cougar who attacked his four-year-old son.
In fact, the Comox Valley father concedes the unprovoked attack at Schoen Lake Provincial Park, south of Woss, was simply an isolated incident.
Speculating on why the cougar attacked at roughly 8 p.m. on Aug. 18, Krismer said conservation officers told him the one-year-old male animal was searching for food, and his son Paul Daniel playing a few metres away on the beach likely looked like easy prey.
"In my view, he saved his own life -he hunched over and tucked his head in and that likely saved him," Krismer told media during a press conference at the playground in Comox Marina Park, near the family home.
"I would have liked closure on this, with the cougar being (found and) killed, but I don't begrudge the animal because it's living out there too," Krismer said.
Krismer, who was standing on a nearby log and fishing, jumped and landed squarely on the animal with both feet. He kicked the animal twice more before it retreated back into the wilderness.
"I have a resilient son," he said of the youngster's bravery in the face of a 100-pound cougar that raked his back with front claws and clamped down on the back of his head with powerful jaws.
"I saw the cougar," offered Paul Daniel on his experience with an animal he'd only seen previously in photographs. "I seen the bushes move a bit - I remember hearing the bushes crackle."
Krismer's son draws a blank when asked to describe the attack further. He recalls an "ouch" when the cougar bit down into his skull.
Krismer acted out of instinct and on adrenalin when he saw his boy being attacked. Mom Rosemary Abram also sprinted across the beach barefooted to help her son, but her husband had already thwarted the attack.
"I had a momentary panic before I jumped that I might be (hurt). I ran along the log and just leaped onto the cougar.
"When I picked up my son (after the attack) I was thrilled he was okay. We assessed his wounds and found a puncture wound from an incisor at the back of his head. He had a lot of raked cuts over (Paul's) head and back."
The Krismer family spent the night watching over their son before taking him to Campbell River's hospital. Doctors assessed his injuries and provided antibiotics to prevent infection from the cougar bites.
While checking on their sleeping son, dad asked how he was doing following the attack. "He said 'great'."
Krismer never felt any danger for himself or the family while camping at Schoen, which was closed for a week while wildlife officials did an extensive search for the elusive predator.
Conservation officers conducted a canine-aided search for the animal planning to destroy it if trapped, but were unsuccessful and have since discontinued efforts pending another sighting. The park reopened Friday Aug. 25.
Krismer applauded the efforts of conservation officers, with one visiting his home to take measurements of his son's wounds to ascertain the cougar's age.
These are tough times for wildlife, especially for predators.
Humans are encroaching increasingly on wildlife habitat, and drought and bark beetle infestations have taken heavy tolls on all wildlife, including the predators' food supply.
Both dynamics are leading mountain lions to look increasingly on people as lunch. It's sad that officials with the Arizona Game & Fish and U.S. Wildlife services had to track and kill the mountain lion that has been stalking humans in the Granite Mountain area since July 20.
The killing of the lion came on the heels of six different incidents of a lion getting far too close to people in a menacing way. Six Prescott National Forest trail workers said a lion stalked them July 24 while they hiked on Trail 350 just south of Granite Basin Lake. They had to yell and throw rocks at the cat to get it to leave.
Campground host Paul Cravens said a lion followed him down Trail 351 near Granite Basin Lake during his evening walk this past Friday. Again he had to yell and wave his arms to get it to leave. On Saturday, three hikers on Trail 350 had to walk away from a lion that showed no fear of them even after they yelled at it.
Officials who killed the lion really didn't have much choice after the cat repeatedly menaced humans.
Let's hope the cat they killed was the cat and they don't have more than one mountain lion to worry about.
Regardless, everyone using the trails needs to be much more careful and cognizant of their surroundings. It takes desperate circumstances to force usually shy and reclusive wildcats to start taking that kind of an interest in people.
31 August 2006
Conservationists have cautiously welcomed a new law that comes into effect in China this week to codify existing treaties on the trade of endangered flora and fauna. Trade in some ingredients for traditional Chinese medicine, such as tiger bone, has helped push some species to the verge of extinction.
The new Chinese legislation outlaws the import and export of rare animals and plants for commercial purposes. Exceptions will be made for scientific research, propagation, and cultural exchange.
The law comes into effect Friday and codifies an international agreement China signed in 1981. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, known as CITES, prohibits the sale of endangered flora and fauna.
Environmental and animal activists hope China's new regulations will result in a crackdown on the trade in endangered species, including high-profile animals like the Tibetan antelope, or Shatoosh, killed for its fine wool.
Sun Shan of the Conservation International China Program says that in passing the legislation, the Chinese government has established clearer lines of responsibility.
"I hope it will have a big impact as illegal wildlife trade is still threatening wildlife both inside China and outside China. And by having this legislation I hope China will continue its regional leadership in combating illegal wildlife trade," said.
Some observers question the Chinese authorities' ability to implement the laws in a country where law enforcement is often hampered by lack of resources.
Under existing regulations, dating back to 1993, the trade in tiger bone and rhino horn is illegal. But there are several farms in China that breed tigers and animal conversation groups say they provide tiger parts for the traditional Chinese medicine trade.
Lisa Hua at the International Fund for Animal Welfare says these farms are only encouraging the trade in the endangered species and this contributes to the poaching of wild tigers.
"The government needs to take the lead to enforce the law and strengthen their law enforcement and management capacity to avoid poaching and illegal deals from happening. And on other side public need to be educated to be aware of the issue so they will know tiger not only solution for the illness they have," said Lisa Hua.
Ultimately, activists say, education is the key to stamping out the trade. So long as people believe tiger bones and other exotic animals or plants will give them a long and healthy life, they will continue to buy them.
Some studies put the number of tigers in the wild at fewer than 5,000.
Posted 8/30/2006 10:06 PM ET
MERUESHI, Kenya — A handful of sun-bleached white bones and the powerful stench of rotting flesh are all that remain of three lions.
Partimo Ole Mereru Shoop pushes back the acacia bushes that cover the savanna around his simple farm. "There, just there," he says in the language of his Masai tribe, pointing to flattened grass where the poisoned lions died.
Their remains were found last month. They are the latest victims in a bloody cull of lions across Masailand, a swath of southern Kenya claimed by both the cats and one of Africa's most recognized tribes.
As more Kenyans move to once-wild areas, tensions have grown between the cat and human populations, threatening the survival of lions in this part of Kenya, the Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project says.
The conservation project and the University of California have recorded 111 killings of lions in this area since 2001. They warn that the predator could become extinct in Kenya's most important tourist destinations unless the Masai can learn to live alongside the big cats.
The killings not only reduce the lion population, they threaten Kenya's tourism industry, the leading source of the country's foreign currency. In 2005, tourism brought in revenue of $670 million, compared with $537 million in 2004, Tourism Minister Morris Dzoro said earlier this year. He said 78% of visitors to Kenya are wildlife or safari tourists.
Shoop has little sentiment for the fearsome beasts. Lions roaming at night prowl within yards of his boma— a traditional Masai settlement surrounded by a thorn-bush fence.
Last year, lions snatched one of his cows just yards from the simple mud hut where he lives. In April, they took a cow and donkey from inside his cattle enclosure.
The livestock losses cost Shoop more than 20,000 shillings (about $280), a substantial amount here. The European Development Fund says 56% of Kenya's population lives on less than $1 a day. Shoop had to rely on friends and family to pay school fees for his children.
"It made me want to poison (the lions) and get rid of them all," he says. He quickly adds that he did not kill the lions that died on his land. Whoever poisoned them did the community a valuable service, he says.
Nine years ago, the tall, thin 44-year-old father of 10 encountered a lion as it tried to slip into his cattle enclosure. He fought off the animal but ended up in a hospital after a severe mauling.
"It's not good to kill the lions, but we never get compensation (for livestock losses), so what alternative is there?" he asks.
This corner of Kenya is famous for its prides of lions. Thousands of tourists visit Amboseli and Tsavo national parks and the Masai Mara reserves, where lions have been numerous enough that sightings are almost guaranteed.
The Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project monitors cats in a 3,800-square-mile area around the parks. Seamus Maclennan, a researcher with the project, warns that the killings have pushed this lion population to near extinction.
This year, 23 big cats have been killed. Maclennan says that means the slaughter is being accelerated. "I think there is a very real possibility that they'll get wiped out within the next decade," he says at the tented camp where he is based.
His report estimates the number of lions on the continent has decreased from more than a million in the 19th century to fewer than 28,000 today.
Maclennan has radio-collared eight lions to track their movements and see whether there might be a way humans and lions can live in proximity to each other. He says three of the collared lions have been killed by Masai in the past two years.
Livestock losses are only one factor that motivates the Masai to kill lions, Maclennan says. Slaughtering a lion remains a rite of passage for Masai warriors, who test their prowess with spears.
The tribesmen's reputation as warriors is one of the features that make the nomadic Masai of east Africa one of the continent's best-known tribes. Photos of Masai decked out in beads and wearing the distinctive red shuka, or cloak, are common on postcards and in coffee-table books in this part of the world.
While killing lions is illegal, such crimes often go unpunished, Maclennan says. "Young warriors who engage in traditional lion killing do not face significant consequences because of lax law enforcement and judicial corruption," says a recent report by the Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project. "Unless that changes in the immediate future, Kenya will lose its most important tourist attraction."
Arguments about the economic importance of the country's lion population hold little water with Elijah Kakarao, chief of about 5,000 Masai who live in Merueshi, a dusty area of scrub next to the dirt road that carries tourists to the Amboseli reserve.
He says he has tried to explain to his people that the lions are vital to tourism, which could help fund clinics and schools for the Masai communities close to the parks.
"People who visit, their money goes to the government and we don't see the revenue, and that makes (the Masai) upset," he says sipping milky tea brewed by Shoop's wife in the shade of an acacia tree. "We don't see the benefits, but we have to live with the consequences."
Kakarao says that if tourists want to see lions here, the locals should be compensated by the government for their livestock losses.
"People injured or killed by lions are not even compensated. So what are the chances for people who have just lost livestock?" he says. He waves a scrap of faded paper that lists nine outstanding compensation claims.
Wildlife bill pending
The Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife did not respond to requests for an interview on the issue of compensation for lion killings. It is drafting a wildlife bill that would overhaul compensation payments and formalize the methods in which communities can take advantage of the wildlife on their land, possibly by legalizing hunting.
A lack of cash has delayed payments to Masai for their losses, but the bottleneck is starting to ease, says Gichuki Kabukuru, a spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service, the body charged with protecting wild animals.
He dismisses the warnings about the destruction of the lion population, blaming "biased" research. He says most studies tend to look only at areas where humans and animals have clashed, rather than also considering regions where there has been relative harmony.
The Wildlife Service will be increasing patrols in this area, Kabukuru says. "We are doing all we can, but we have a lack of staff. We cannot police every corner."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will award more than $3.5 million in international conservation grants to 54 countries to help conserve imperiled wildlife throughout the world, Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne announced today.
Matching funds and in-kind contributions from nearly 100 partners, including American and international not-for-profit organizations and foreign governments, will raise the total to nearly $9 million.
"Partnership is the key to addressing the serious and persistent threats faced by hundreds of species of wildlife throughout the world, just as it is the key to conservation here at home," Kempthorne said. "These grants, coupled with the contributions of our partners, will make a huge difference in conserving habitat and reducing the threats of species around the globe."
Near the top of the list are grants of nearly $2 million under the Great Ape Conservation Fund, with matching funds of more than $2.3 from 20 partners, that will promote the conservation of chimpanzees and gorillas in Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Rwanda, and gibbons in Vietnam and Bangladesh, and orangutans in Sumatra and Indonesia.
"People and wildlife compete for the same living space," said Service Director Dale Hall. "The challenge for us is to identify ways to accommodate the needs of people as well as the needs of wildlife."
Grant support for Cameroon, the Congo, Gabon and Rwanda will help improve law enforcement designed to protect gorillas, aid in research, and promote a system to reintroduce gorillas to their natural habitat in the Congo and Rwanda.
Gorillas remain severely endangered throughout all of their range and have suffered from intense poaching, a loss of habitat and catastrophic disease outbreaks.
Under the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund, the Service is awarding grants to promote a program in Malaysia to reduce domestic trade in tiger parts. The Bengal tiger of Bangladesh will also get help, along with the Indian rhinoceros in Nepal, where poachers are a continuing threat. Grant money will be used to build support for the arrest of poachers and rhino horn traders, to create an awareness-raising program for the judiciary on wildlife law and the need to protect wildlife and an education program for young people on the importance of rhino conservation.
Like the gorilla, the one-horned rhinoceros in Nepal has also suffered from high levels of poaching, made worse by that country's long-running conflict between government forces and rebels. During a two-year period, 67 rhinoceros were killed and the demand for rhino horn on the Asian medicinal market remains high.
Service grants under the Elephant Conservation Funds will support diverse efforts to promote elephant conservation ranging from the establishment of anti-poaching programs to educational initiatives.
Projects in Bolivia, Costa Rica, Argentina, Belize, Nicaragua and Chile will help conservation work involving an array of species including the jaguar and puma in Belize, the tapir in Brazil and the iguana on Andros Island in the Caribbean. Other work will involve the training of wildlands managers, educational programs and teacher training workshops.
A grant to Russia will provide assistance to 32 of that country's nature reserves and parks, including help in improving law enforcement and working conditions for employees. Species that will benefit include the critically endangered saiga antelope, and the Far Eastern leopard, along with the Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, cranes, storks and some rare plants.
The grants, awarded through the Service's Wildlife Without Borders-Regional programs and the Multinational Species Conservation Fund programs, provide support for efforts targeting a variety of international species conservation initiatives. The programs benefit imperiled wildlife and fund projects that address the root causes of imperilment to wildlife. The grant programs are authorized under treaties and laws that include the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds, and the Convention on Nature Protection and Wildlife Preservation in the Western Hemisphere.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
(For a detailed list of grants, go to http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2006/grantslink.pdf)
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
New Delhi, Aug. 29 (PTI): The ambitious Project Tiger programme of the Centre has come in for sharp criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) which found that many tiger reserves do not even adhere to the prescribed norms for a core area or the protected zone of a sanctuary.
While the norms for tiger reserves prescribe an average area of 1,500 sq km with at least 300 sq km as the core area, the CAG report for 2005 found that 15 of the 28 tiger reserves spanned over less than 720 sq km.
Six of these 15 tiger reserves had a core area of less than the prescribed 300 sq km, it said noting that such discrepancies existed despite the knowledge that tiger population breeds well and grows rapidly in protected areas.
The CAG found that human settlements existed in the core areas in half of the tiger reserves, including Ranthambore, Sariska, Panna and Pench.
The result has been an increase of just 20 tigers in 18 years in 15 tiger reserves created upto 1984.
The Project Tiger Directorate (PTD) admitted that human settlements disturb tigers but said the areas were brought under the project considering the threat to the tiger population there.
The CAG also pulled up the PTD and the concerned state governments for the delay in notifying the tiger reserves as National Parks, which provides for a legal basis for ensuring protection.
"In many tiger reserves the final declaration procedures of National Part (core) and sanctuary (buffer) were pending even as of March 2006 even though the amended Wildlife (Protection) Act, 2003 set the time limit for completion of acquisition proceedings," it said.
A recent comprehensive report on the tigers` habitat launched in Washington DC recently said that most tigers in Sumatra were only living in a 40 percent shrunk area if compared to ten years ago.
At present tigers only occupied seven percent of historic range in Sumatra, a scientific report titled "Setting priorities for the conservation and recovery of the world`s tigers "2005-2015" said.
A research jointly conducted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), the Smithsonian`s National Zoological Park and Save The Tiger Fund (STF), the report called for international action to safeguard the population of tigers.
The research also showed that an effort to conserve and protect the tigers from hunters, to save species and their habitat will result in a stable population of the endanged animals.
However, the report concluded that success in the conservation of the tigers in the long term could only be reached through a conservation vision with a wide range of landscapes and the support of local government`s policy.
"We should continue attempting to save the tigers," Tiger Program Advisor of the Wildlife Conservation Society Hariyo T Wibisono said.
To that end, a strong commitment and active role of all parties including the community, local partners, the government and international financing institutes was badly needed.
In the meantime, Djoko Sumarjo of the West Sumatra Natural Resources Conservation office (BKSDA) said conflicts between people and tigers in West Sumatra`s forests over the last three months had claimed the lives of three persons and at least three tigers.
Due to human`s encroachment of West Sumatra forest area, which is the habitat of Sumatra tigers (panthera tigris sumatrae), there had been six conflicts involving local residents and the endangered animals since early this year, he said.
In January 2006, two local residents and one head of cattle were killed by a tiger in Simamonen Hilir forest, Pasaman District, Djoko said adding the man-eating tiger was later shot by a local forest officer.
In Kapur IX forest area, 50 Kota District, a farmer was pounced to death by a tiger in mid January 2006.
A tiger was caught by inhabitants of Padang Pariaman, and two others were poisoned to death, and certain parts of the tigers` body were stolen.
It was also reported that a three-meter-long tigress was caught in Bungus Teluk Kabung forest in the province`s capital city of Padang. She was later sent to Kerinci Seblat National Park (TNKS).
"In Salido forest, tigers are often spotted by local residents and have frightened people living around the forest area," Djoko said.
"According to the latest data, Sumatra Island has around 200 or 300 tigers, which are found in Aceh, West Sumatra, Jambi and Lampung. Their number is estimated to drop by up to 40 percent due to environmental destruction," Djoko explained.
Hunting of Sumatra tigers was rampant due to high demand for the endangered animals in the black market, chairman of the West Sumatra chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) Agus Teguh Prihartono said.
"Tigers are in high demand. Buyers are willing to pay tens of millions of rupiahs for their skin or other parts of their body. Therefore, hunting of Sumatra tiger is quite rampant," Agus said. (*)
PRESCOTT, Arizona — Day-use areas around Granite Mountain in the Prescott National Forest were reopened Tuesday after wildlife officials killed a mountain lion that had been acting in a threatening way around people, officials said.
The big cat had been seen for more than a month near Granite Lake recreation area about 10 miles northwest of Prescott. It had become increasingly aggressive toward humans, and after two incidents over the weekend the area was closed.
"This lion was an imminent public-safety threat," said Tom Finley, a field supervisor with the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
(MILAN, Mo.) Reports of mountain lion sightings in the Heartland are not unusual. The Missouri Department of Conservation has fielded about 1,000 reports since the mid-'90s. So animal experts held a informational meeting in Milan Monday night to talk to residents about what they think they're seeing.
Conservation agents assured the crowd of about 100 that there is not a breeding mountain lion population in Missouri. In fact, the last time mountain lions bred in Missouri or Iowa was the late 1920s.
Even though there have been eight confirmed mountain lion sightings in Missouri since 1994, experts say there isn't a large number of the animals in the Show-Me State. However there are other big cats in the region.
"What we do have are individual animals dispersing into Missouri from [states like] South Dakota, Colorado and Wyoming, and we have a large and growing bobcat population that a lot of people are seeing for the very first time," said conservation agent, Dave Hamilton
If you think you spot a mountain lion, conservation agents urge you to take photos or video of the animal and look for hard evidence like footprints or droppings, then call the conservation agent or office nearest you. The department has a Mountain Lion Task Force that investigates most reported sightings.
--Dana Jay, Reporting
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
James Sanderson, CI Field Researcher
La Paz, Bolivia (July 26, 2006): With exquisite timing, the exciting news reached me here during a recent conference of Alianza Gato Andino (AGA), a coalition of groups dedicated to conservation of the Andean mountain cat (Oreailurus jacobita), one of the rarest and most elusive animals on Earth. The international model and movie star Isabella Rossellini, daughter of screen legend Ingrid Bergmann, had dedicated $50,000 to the AGA, half of the $100,000 Disney Wildlife Conservation Award she had received for her tireless efforts to protect wildlife. To all of us at the AGA conference, Isabella's love of Andean mountain cats came as no surprise. But eight years ago, when I first began the arduous task of actually finding and capturing this ephemeral feline, the little gray gato with the big bushy tail wasn't even on the conservation landscape.
In 1997, I had traveled to Chile in search of another shy and largely unknown cat, the tiny guigna (Oncifelis guigna) that had been photographed only once and had never been captured or studied alive by scientists. Defying the odds – and the skeptics – I caught and radio collared half a dozen within two weeks, earning me a reputation as an authority on the guigna, and enough grant money to go look for its Andean mountain cousin.
I headed to northern Chile, where the last known Andean mountain cat had been seen and photographed by a tourist some years before. I carried the usual grim warnings from colleagues and friends of altitude sickness, pulmonary thrombosis, frequent lightening strikes, and bitter cold nights. Living without fuel or power in the vast, treeless, snow-capped mountains and immense empty valleys isn't much fun. And keeping warm is little more than a vain hope.
Sharing a tiny house with the only other human in these parts, a park guard, I settled into a routine of scouting the area for signs of the cat. One day around noon, he summoned me with a single word: gato! I went outside, and just below a white wooden cross that held shortwave radio wires was unmistakably an Andean mountain cat. I rushed inside, grabbed my binoculars and camera, and scrambled up the rocks.
Much to my surprise, the cat – a male and completely unafraid – met me halfway. My heart was pounding, but not from running up a rock pile at close to 14,000 feet. I was now within a few feet of one of the world's rarest and most beautiful cats, the spirit of the Andes – a real, living gato Andino.
Then came a magic moment that most scientists dream about but few ever experience. I knelt on one knee, leveled my camera, whistled the alarm call of the cat's favorite rodent prey, and snapped a photo of the cat that showed up two years later in the February 2000 issue of National Geographic. Though I wasn't able to catch the cat, we met again on two other occasions. These brief encounters were simultaneously the highest highs and the lowest lows a conservation biologist can experience.
That the cat showed no fear of me was disturbing. Its use as a talisman of good luck – when dead and dried out – by the native Amerindians of the high Andes was a conservationist's dilemma. How do we save a cat that shows no fear of people and whose use as a good luck charm when dead (and it must be killed or otherwise it is a bad luck omen) dates far into antiquity.
Ultimately, good PR was all the Andean mountain cat really needed. My photograph in National Geographic caught the fancy of several interested conservationists, including retired CISCO Systems executive Christine Hemrick and the Wildlife Conservation Network, which eventually led to the creation of the AGA alliance to protect the cat. Fully six years after I photographed my first Andean mountain cat, a broad-based conservation effort was under way.
Working with AGA conservationists over the past two years, I've had the opportunity to capture and radio-collar the animals in Bolivia; others have been photographed and studied elsewhere in Chile and in Argentina, including a female with a cub. Only in Peru do we lack photographs of living cats.
We now have a better understanding of the geographic range of the most threatened cat in the western hemisphere. AGA is educating children and adults on the plight of the animal and why it is wrong to kill it out of superstition. Day by day, the battle to conserve Andean mountain cats in their native habitat is moving slowly in our favor.
The gato Andino appears to be safe, but in Asia, other small cats are slipping through the cracks. The bay cat (Catopuma badia) found only in Borneo, is the most threatened. The flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps) whose swampy lowland habitat is rapidly being converted into oil palm plantations, is the most aquatic and eats fish and frogs. The marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata) is highly arboreal, and the Chinese mountain cat (Felis bieti) is another of these high-elevation specialists that I have unsuccessfully searched for in the past three years. But here's a heads-up for these little feline fugitives from conservation: I'm looking, and I'll find you!
The Royal Thai Police's first training course for a special task force it has established as part of intensifying efforts by regional law enforcement officials to combat the illegal wildlife trade, will end tomorrow.
The course is being attended by officers from the Natural Resources and Environmental Crime Division and is the latest activity by the new ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (ASEAN-WEN), which says it signals Thailand's increased commitment to tackling the illegal trafficking of wildlife worth billions of dollars a year.
Subjects covered during the course include surveillance, interrogation and investigation techniques, wildlife identification and care, and wildlife conservation laws.
The officers have also learned about links between the illegal wildlife trade and other illicit activities such as drug smuggling.
Thailand is playing a leading role in ASEAN-WEN which is a multi-country initiative designed to protect Asia's wildlife by facilitating cross-border cooperation and the exchange of vital intelligence about wildlife criminals.
By gathering together police officers, customs officials, prosecutors and environmental officials, the course reflects ASEAN-WEN's spirit of inter-agency cooperation. Officials from the Philippines National Anti-Environment Crime Task Force and National Bureau of Investigation, who are planning to hold similar training in the future, have attended the course as observers.
The United States Agency for International Development provided support for the course through a cooperative partnership with WildAid and TRAFFIC.
WildAid developed the course curriculum with contributions from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the international police organization, Interpol, and Thailand's Office of the Attorney General. Since 2000, WildAid, an international conservation organization with offices in Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Galapagos, Washington and Vladivostok, has facilitated training for more than 1,300 environmental protection personnel throughout Southeast Asia.
TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a joint program of the World Wildlife Foundation and the World Conservation Union.
A Thai policeman and a forestry official look at tiger carcasses during a raid at what they described as a major wildlife holding facility in Thailand.
Smugglers had kept live tigers, bears, pangolins and snakes at the facility until they received orders to deliver either live or dead animalsto their customers.
Thailand is believed to be part of a wildlife smuggling route supplying the market in China, according to a Wildaid official.
To see photo go to:
A tiger carcass confiscated from traffickers on their way to the Laotian border is seen at an unknown location in Thailand.
The carcass was cut in half to fit in the trunk of a vehicle, and police believe it was being sent to China. Many countries in Asia are worried that their tiger population, with an estimated number of 5000 to 7000 left in the wild, might be affected by the increase in demand in the wildlife black market in China.
To see photo go to:
The Associated Press
HEPPNER, Ore. (AP) — With Oregon's cougar population flourishing, state wildlife officials are planning to trap and kill 30 of them in hopes of improving the elk herd in the Heppner area.
"We'd been wanting to do some work for quite a while," said Steve Cherry, acting district biologist for the Heppner district of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
In June the commission approved Cherry's proposal plus similar ones for areas near Medford and Ontario.
Elk numbers in the Heppner Unit have dropped from 5,000 in 1999 to about 2,900 today.
"A large part of that is the declining calf ratio over the last six years," Cherry said. "We used to run 40 calves per 100 cows. Last year, it was 18 calves per 100 cows."
The ODFW says a survival rate of about 23 calves per 100 cows is needed to maintain a herd.
Researchers blame the big cats.
Researchers have radio-collared pregnant cows and their newborn calves to determine if predation, nutrition problems or a combination is causing the low survival rate.
When the collared cows give birth in May, the researchers try to collar the calves.
If a calf stops moving for too long, the collar emits a mortality signal. Researchers track it down and try to determine the cause of death.
Cherry says findings show that 73 percent of the dead calves have been killed by cougars.
"Our elk have very high pregnancy rates and pretty good nutritional condition," Cherry said.
Cherry does not have a precise count of cougars in the Heppner Unit. Using a model for northeast Oregon, he estimates there are about 125 cats in the target areas, which includes all of the Heppner Unit north of the North Fork John Day River.
Seven smooth-jawed traps have been set east of Heppner, hopefully to trap 30 cougars before June.
They will be out until archery season begins, and then again in December after hunting ends for the year. In December, the ODFW plans to hire a hunter with hounds to help locate and remove cougars.
Signs have been posted near the traps., and each is at the base of a tree with a "corral" of logs and rocks to funnel the cougar into the trap.
While people can't accidentally walk into the traps, Cherry said he worries about non-target species such as dogs, bears, bobcats and livestock. The traps are checked at least every 72 hours.
"It's a three-year process with an adaptive management approach," Cherry said.
"At the end of the first year we'll look at how many cougars we've taken, the effect we think it's had on the cougar and big game populations, and then we'll adjust our cougar quota for the following year."
Information from: East Oregonian, http://www.eastoregonian.info
27 August 2006
Rate of increase of tiger population reflects ineffectiveness of measures taken
Pugmark method for tiger census not foolproof
Personnel under-trained, poorly equipped
No tourist management plans in tiger reserves
NEW DELHI: The Comptroller and Auditor General has criticised the Centre for the way it managed Project Tiger, a Centrally-sponsored scheme launched in 1973 to protect tigers and to ensure a viable population of them in the country.
In the 15 Tiger Reserves created up to 1984, the number of tigers increased from 1,121 in 1984 to 1,141 in 2001-02, a rate of increase that highlighted the ineffectiveness of the measures taken. During the same period, the overall tiger population in the country declined from 3,623 to 2,906.
The census of tigers was generally carried out by counting pugmarks not considered a foolproof methodology and was not conducted annually in most of the Tiger Reserves, according to the CAG's report.
The implementation of the project was severely hampered by understaffing. The personnel employed were overage, under-trained and under-equipped in many cases, besides having a weak communication and intelligence network. Many tiger reserves neither prepared tourist management plans nor assessed the tourist carrying capacity of the reserves despite guidelines issued by the Project Tiger Directorate. The conflict between promotion of tourism and earning of revenue on the one hand and ecological protection of the tiger habitat on the other was thus not resolved, it said.
The activities on the ground were very often dictated by the immediate needs of the project and the funds released by the Government. The State Governments did not, in many cases, release their share of funds. Cases of diversion of Central funds for other purposes were also noticed during audit.
The actual area of 15 of the 28 Tiger Reserves was mostly less than the prescribed area of 1,500 sq km — definitely not conducive for conservation, protection and sustenance of a viable tiger population. Besides, the report said, the boundaries of many of the Tiger Reserves had not been demarcated nor the areas falling within the Tiger Reserves notified legally.
The Project Tiger Directorate did not have the means to undertake any monitoring of the implementation of the project. It had only seven personnel including non-ministerial staff and could not even process the periodical reports and returns received from the Tiger Reserves.
Lack of resources
Relocation of the people living within the Tiger Reserves as well as removal and prevention of encroachment was essential to ease the biotic pressure on the tiger population, the report said. Efforts in this direction did not succeed primarily because of lack of resources. Against the requirement of around Rs.11,000 crore to relocate 64,951 families living within the Tiger Reserves, the allocation in the Tenth Five Year Plan was a meagre Rs.10.50 crore.
The CAG has suggested that all Tiger Reserves should have a well-formulated management plan for appropriate allocation of resources.
It suggested that the Government make a firm commitment to relocate the local families and villages from the core and buffer areas of the Tiger Reserves and draw a comprehensive resettlement plan.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Managers expecting continued cutbacks in federal budget — and group says 80 positions will be put on the chopping block
By Jeremy Cox
Monday, August 28, 2006
Layne Hamilton resisted the idea of managing two wildlife refuges from the third floor of a hotel near an Interstate 75 off-ramp until she saw the advantages.
The Comfort Inn and Suites on Collier Boulevard is halfway between Florida Panther and Ten Thousand Islands national wildlife refuges. Every hotel guest she meets in the elevator or lobby is a potential refuge visitor. And the continental breakfast is always free.
Making do is a large part of what Hamilton does as the manager of two refuges in the western Everglades that are high on natural beauty and low on money. It's about to get tougher.
With the war in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina recovery topping the federal priority list, National Wildlife Refuge managers across the country are looking to the future with continued cutbacks in mind. In June, high-level managers across the refuge system's Southeast region formed a planning team to decide where reductions could be made if funding stays flat over the next three years.
Since 80 percent of the operating budget lies in staff salaries, people are the first to go, Hamilton said. The group concluded that 80 positions at local refuge offices will be put on the chopping block.
Hamilton is struggling to figure out where the ax should fall. Her eight-member office staff includes herself, a deputy manager, assistant manager, office assistant, two law enforcement officers (one of the spots is vacant) and two biologists.
"We were already pretty slim before this. I'm going to lose somebody. I just don't know who it is," Hamilton said.
Funding shortfalls have hit hard lately at the Florida Panther and Ten Thousand Islands refuges. Several projects have been delayed or only exist on paper. A few of them are:
• Purchasing easements on 370,000 acres on the north and west sides of the panther refuge that would have given the endangered cats a buffer from farms and fast-growing Golden Gate Estates. The refuge's conservation plan calls for paying $150 million for the land by 2010, but a lack of funding and willing sellers has doomed the project, Hamilton said.
• Building an environmental education center to be shared with Fakahatchee Strand State Forest, the panther refuge's neighbor to the south.
• A sea turtle monitoring program in the Ten Thousand Islands that ended after the 2003 nesting season because of its annual $27,000 cost. The program also included trapping and removing raccoons that preyed on the buried eggs.
Panthers get a safe haven
As its name suggests, the 24,300-acre Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge was created to give the big cats a place to roam. The federal government bought the property for $10.3 million in 1989 from two companies that trace their roots to Collier County's founder, Barron Collier.
There are 80 to 100 panthers in the wild, almost all of them in the swampy southwest corner of Florida. The elusive, territorial species is running out of room in South Florida as new subdivisions and highways creep into its habitat.
Nearly nine months into this year, biologists have documented eight radio-collared adult panthers and seven kittens in the refuge.
The refuge sits about 20 miles east of Naples on the north side of Interstate 75. The region offers a mosaic of land cover preferred by deer, panthers' favorite prey. The swampy spread provides an important travel corridor for panthers in Fakahatchee Strand, Big Cypress National Preserve to the east and Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest to the north, Hamilton said.
"They all seem to intersect right on the refuge," she added.
The panther refuge was closed to the public until last year, when a 1.3-mile walking trail opened in its southeast corner. A small brown sign facing State Road 29 that isn't visible to vehicles until they have almost passed it is the only indication of what lies behind the chain-link fence.
Far from public view, refuge biologist Larry Richardson operates a greenhouse where he is trying to raise dozens of rare orchid species for re-introduction. Elsewhere, a wooden cabin that was knocked slightly off kilter during Hurricane Wilma in October might be razed to make way for a modern education center — a rare perk made possible by hurricane recovery money.
The panther refuge is protected but not pristine.
Ditches along the side of State Road 29 and I-75 drain too much water off the refuge. Farm fields north of the property turn on noisy pumps after heavy rains to dump nutrient-loaded storm water into the reserve. An agreement forged at the refuge's creation makes it legal.
The government doesn't own the oil and mineral rights beneath the preserve, so Barron Collier's descendants could drill for oil one day. They haven't shown an interest in doing that, Hamilton said, but there are two abandoned oil platforms on the refuge that are a testament to its industrial past and possible future.
The Ten Thousand Islands refuge is an even more bare-bones operation. The 35,000-acre refuge stretches from Goodland east to Port of the Islands and as far north as U.S. 41 East. There are no highway signs anywhere to note its existence.
In 1996, the same Collier family swapped land that became part of the Ten Thousand Islands refuge, Big Cypress National Preserve and the Florida Panther refuge for 68 acres of Interior Department Indian school land in Phoenix.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which runs the refuge system, depends on crews at the nearby Rookery Bay national reserve to oversee part of the refuge.
Duck hunters flock to the north end of the refuge in the fall to hunt, but an inability to staff the area full time means guns can be toted into the refuge on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.
Next year, Hamilton hopes to use a $780,000 state Department of Transportation grant to build an observation tower and parking lot just south of U.S. 41 along an old oil pad road. Hunters could use the parking lot instead of stopping on the shoulder of the two-lane highway.
The Bush administration has recommended $381.7 million to run the nation's 545 refuges during the budget year that begins in October. That is nearly $800,000 less than the 2006 allocation, but the cut is much deeper than it seems, refuge advocates say.
The refuge system needs an additional $16 million annually just to keep pace with mandatory cost-of-living raises for employees and rising rent, utilities and fuel costs. The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement, a 21-member advocacy group that counts such divergent groups as Defenders of Wildlife and the National Rifle Association as members, is urging legislators to pass a $415 million budget.
The president's budget suggested a nearly 20 percent increase in spending at the two refuges Hamilton manages. That $1.3 million is far from guaranteed.
The House has voted to raise National Wildlife Refuge spending to $388.7 million. The Senate appropriations committee sent a bill to the Senate floor with $391.2 million in it. The full Senate is not expected to vote on the spending bill until after the November elections.
Once that happens, the two bills would go to a conference committee to work out the differences.
Calling in the volunteers
As federal money dries up, preserve managers increasingly are turning to volunteers to plug gaps. Last year, an army of volunteers logged 1.3 million work hours with a total dollar value of $22.5 million, the National Wildlife Refuge Association estimates.
The Friends of the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge has about 115 members, said Tom Murray, the group's president. He wants to raise that figure to 250 in a year.
Despite the help, refuges across the country have been forced to eliminate one of five employees over the past few years by leaving open positions unfilled and giving older staff members early retirements, said Michael Woodbridge, director of government affairs for the NWRA. Some refuge managers are considering "de-staffing" their parks to concentrate efforts on administration and land management.
"They call it preservation status, but we call it neglected status," Woodbridge said.
More than a third of the nation's wildlife refuges have no staff stationed in the refuges to watch over visitors. That includes the Florida Panther and Ten Thousand Islands refuges.
"If you want to commit a crime, do it on a refuge," Woodbridge said. "There's no one there to stop you."
A growing list of House members is seeking to revive the refuge system. So far, 62 members have signed on to join the National Wildlife Refuge Caucus.
"When you run into big budget deficits, (national park funds) are the first things that are cut," said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin, a Democrat, who is leading the drive. "Really, the question is getting things in front of members and staffs. Having a formal working group like a caucus gives me a chance to get information ... to the key staff people."
A day outdoors
As she tromped across the muddy trail at the panther refuge Saturday morning, Assistant Refuge Manager Takako Hashimoto paused at a tangle of greenery that blocked the path in front of her.
"This is new," she said.
About 10 volunteers showed up that morning to clear brush from the trail and plant wax myrtles and wild coffee. Since relocating from Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge four months ago, Hashimoto has made it her mission to develop a dependable base of volunteers.
"It kind of strengthens the ties of the refuge to the community," she said. "When people are aware of these places, they can get involved with the protection and conservation."
Saturday, August 26, 2006
By: Stacy Daniel
Paso Robles, CA Scary moments for some workers in Paso Robles when they discover an unwanted guest in their warehouse. A mountain lion wandered in, and fell asleep.
The warehouse is located in an industrial part of Paso Robles, just off Ramada Drive.
A Pacific Metals and Manufacturing employee was on his way home for the day when he noticed something hiding in the storage area. A closer look revealed it was a mountain lion.
The employee backed away and closed the door to lock the animal inside. Then he called for help.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department responded. By that time, the Mountain Lion escaped the warehouse.
Sheriff's Deputies forced the mountain lion out of its hiding place with a hose, and when it ran out into the open, it was shot with a tranquilizer dart.
"This is a pretty rural area, but I never thought it would get this close. It never dawned on me that it would be anywhere around here," said Bill Dube, warehouse employee.
Officials said the mountain lion was about two years old, not fully grown, and probably lost.
Mountain lions are common in California and can be found where deer roam, but they usually avoid contact with people.
Once sheriff's deputies subdued the mountain lion, they carried it to an outlying area in northern San Luis Obispo County and let it go.
Before this sighting, the last mountain lion incident was over a month ago in eastern Atascadero. That mountain lion killed eight goats before heading back into the wilderness.
By Nicholas Birch
Published August 25, 2006
ISTANBUL -- When Ahmet Caliskan shot a 143-pound leopard that had attacked his neighbor in the western Turkish village of Bagozu in January 1974, many assumed it was the last of its kind.
Conservation biologist Emre Can thinks that's not true. But he knows time is short if Turkey's biggest cat -- listed on the World Conservation Union's "Red List" as critically endangered -- is to be documented in the wild.
A specialist on big carnivores, Mr. Can began hearing rumors of Anatolian leopards -- slightly bulkier than their African cousins -- while working on a countrywide study of the wolf population in 1998.
Since then, he says, the leopard has been driven close to extinction.
"Two wild boar kills I investigated in the Taurus Mountains in 2001 were almost certainly the work of a leopard," he said. "After that, nothing."
But that wasn't the end of sightings. In 2003, one of Mr. Can's colleagues photographed the pelt of a leopard a hunter had shot near Lake Van, in Turkey's mountainous southeast. Mr. Can has since received a handful of what he calls "reliable" reports.
The evidence has been enough for Turkey's foremost nature conservation groups, Doga Dernegi (DD). When it began its campaign in June to halt extinctions in Turkey, one of the world's most biodiverse temperate countries, a leopard survey was second on its list of 10 priorities.
Budgeted at $56,500, the one-year project is still awaiting funding. DD director Guven Eken hopes Mr. Can will be able to do the feasibility study this fall and start the real work of detailed surveying and placing camera traps in the spring.
"It's very wild down there, and the area we've investigated so far is a negligible part of the animal's possible range," he said. "I'm confident we will find something, even if it's only one pair or two." Proving the existence of the leopards, he said, "would be a milestone in the history of Turkish wildlife conservation. The animal would be a perfect flagship species for the country."
Even more than Anatolian lions and tigers, which were wiped out in the 19th century and the 1970s, respectively, leopards have cast a long shadow over Anatolian history.
At Catalhoyuk, a 9000-year-old town in central Anatolia that is considered one of the most sophisticated Neolithic sites uncovered, leopards are by far the most popular subject of murals and sculptures.
Half-buried stone traps near the summits of Turkey's southern Taurus Mountains attest to the leopard's popularity in the Roman arena.
Resat Yilmaz, meanwhile, has more personal reasons for hoping that a big cat makes an appearance in southeast Turkey. A former mayor of Bagozu, and a friend of Mr. Caliskan, who died in the 1990s, he was one of the men who beat the leopard up toward the hunter's waiting gun in 1974.
"It took him eight bullets to bring the beast down, the last one at point-blank range," Mr. Yilmaz remembers, standing in the scrubby oak forest where the animal was brought down.
"When I reached him, he was stroking the dead beast's head, petrified. Neither of us knew what it was. He regretted shooting it for the rest of his life."
[ 26 Aug, 2006 0332hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]
NEW DELHI: The official figure on tiger counts will now come only at the end of 2007.
The environment ministry made this clear on Friday, a day when Parliament approved the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Bill aimed at setting up a national tiger conservation authority and a wildlife crime control bureau and the Comptroller and Auditor-General punched holes in the strategy and census methods followed on the tiger trail all these years.
In the 15 reserves created up to 1984, tiger counts rose from 1,121 in that year to 1,141 in 2001-02, "a rate of increase which highlights the ineffectiveness of measures taken under Project Tiger to attain a viable tiger population", notes CAG, in a report made public Friday.
During the same period, the overall tiger population in the country declined from 3,623 to 2,906.
CAG notes that even the inadequate data available indicated that over 60% of tigers died because of poaching, poisoning or electrocution. All statistics indicate that tiger deaths from poaching far outweigh deaths from natural causes.
The Project Tiger directorate, however, accepted it was "helpless in the enforcement of its guidelines in the absence of any statutory empowerment". The hope is, the new Bill will change this.
What both CAG and environment ministry agree on is that the earlier pugmark method of counting tigers wasn't good enough. CAG says tiger estimation was not done annually in most reserves; nine showed a decrease in numbers which was never analysed or investigated.
The Centre and the Wildlife Institute of India are now in the middle of a three-phase, mammoth effort to calculate tiger densities and habitat across the country, with the help of nearly 90,000 people and scientists, under the gaze of experts.
They are running late. So much so that WII scientists said Friday the final report could be expected only by November-December 2007. They are looking not just at tiger numbers but at patterns of distribution and the viability of populations.
CAG, putting the magnifying glass to tiger reserves, pointed not just to the diversion of Central funds but all kinds of problems. Fifteen of 28 tiger reserves had area less than half the prescribed area, not conducive for conservation.
The Project Tiger directorate had just seven staffers and could not even process the periodical reports and returns from reserves or critically examine management plans and issue directions.
CAG notes that relocation of people in reserves and prevention of encroachment is essential to ease pressure. Officials had some reason to celebrate, however, having won the battle to get the wildlife Bill through Parliament with changes which won over tribal rights Bill activists who were otherwise opposing it.
By Eric Staats
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Protection for the Florida panther, wood storks and red-cockaded woodpeckers could be falling through a gap in Collier County’s permitting system.
Since 2004, the county has given the go-ahead for scattered rural landowners to clear land totaling almost one square mile for nurseries and pastures without requiring state and federal review to see whether the clearing would harm endangered or threatened species, according to a review of county records.
The county's policy is to notify landowners that they might need state and federal wildlife or wetlands permits and to notify the state and federal agencies that the county has approved a so-called Agricultural Clearing Notification. Most of the time, though, nothing happens, according to county records.
County officials say the state's so-called Right to Farm Act, adopted by the state Legislature in 2000, prohibits local governments from restricting farm operations through their land development laws. Environmental groups disagree with that interpretation.
"That's a real bugaboo with this county," Florida Wildlife Federation field representative Nancy Payton said. "If the landowner says ag, the county goes deaf, dumb and blind, and it's 'Whew, one less thing for me to worry about.'"
Before a change in county policy in 2004, the county issued permits for agricultural clearing but not until landowners got any permits they needed from state or federal environmental agencies.
In 2004, the county stopped issuing permits for agricultural clearing and instead began issuing the "notifications."
"It's a system that I understand puts us in an appropriate legal process under the Right to Farm Act," said county Natural Resources Director Bill Lorenz.
To qualify as exempt from local regulations under the Right to Farm Act, landowners must prove their land is classified as agricultural by the property appraiser and submit a list of environmentally friendly farming practices they intend to use.
The county's application requires proof of ownership, an inventory of vegetation on site, a clearing plan and a $250 fee.
"There is a misconception by some property owners that the Right to Farm Act is the get-out-of-jail-free card," Payton said.
Of the 16 notifications the county has issued, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has sent letters to three of the landowners raising endangered species concerns. Two of those landowners did nothing further, they said. It is unclear whether they would have needed state or federal permits.
Paul Souza, acting supervisor in the Fish and Wildlife Service's office in Vero Beach, acknowledged earlier this month that it is difficult for the agency to keep track of clearing plans if they avoid wetlands that trigger federal review.
The agency takes "appropriate action" when it learns of "big projects" that might affect endangered species, he said.
All but 40 acres covered under the notifications issued since 2004 have been issued for land in North Belle Meade, some 15,000 acres north of Interstate 75 and east of Collier Boulevard.
The bulk of the approved clearing, 535 acres at the HHH Ranch in North Belle Meade, got the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Ranch owner Francis Hussey Jr. wants to harvest timber and improve pasture on a 962-acre site where he also has plans to mine rock for development.
The Fish and Wildlife Service sent Hussey a letter to say the plans could run afoul of the Endangered Species Act unless he created a plan to protect endangered species. The site includes habitat for the Florida panther, red-cockaded woodpecker and wood stork, according to the letter.
Hussey said earlier this month that, even before getting the letter, he had a consultant working on plans to protect wildlife.
Two other landowners who received similar letters from the Fish and Wildlife Service said they considered them courtesy letters that required no further action.
"I took it as a confirmation that someone else knew what we're doing and that it's OK," said Marlee Rognrud.
James and Marlee Rognrud qualified for a permitting exemption from the county under the Right to Farm Act to partially clear or thin out vegetation on a portion of almost 20 acres in North Belle Meade to create a grazing area. She said the county review process does a good job of protecting the land.
"It's complicated enough to get to use your land without having to go through everyone else first," she said.
Landowner James Jesella, who has received two agricultural clearing notifications covering 10 acres in North Belle Meade, said the county’s reviews for agricultural clearing already are too burdensome.
"It's like some birds are more important that any humans out there," he said.
"It will be authentic and final"
NEW DELHI: The final report of the tiger census will be ready by December 2007, according to the Union Environment and Forests Ministry. About 88,000 personnel were involved in the exercise.
Project Tiger, the ambitious wildlife conservation venture of the Government, has almost completed data collection for its first two phases and its report will come out by December this year. The work of collecting data for phase three is going on and the final report will be completed by November next.
Presenting a report on the status of Project Tiger, Union Environment and Forests Secretary Prodipto Ghosh told reporters here on Friday that the Wildlife Institute of India was using the most modern methods to come to its conclusion. "Whatever numbers we arrive at after the exercise is complete, it will be authentic and final," he said.
Phase one of the report will be about the distribution of tiger and the state of its habitat, while the second phase deals with the tiger population.
The three main methodologies being used for the census are: camera trap that enables one to identify individual tigers by the pattern of their stripe; the DNA profile, which is taken from the faeces of the animal; and the pug mark. The forest area has been divided into eight segments but a reason for concern is that there is no corridor, which is essential for the existence of the tigers. This time, the emphasis is more on monitoring the present status and future of the habitat of tiger than on simple counting.
According to experts, India is not the only country that has suffered tiger loss, rather the loss has been less here than in other countries. Twenty-six per cent of the districts have lost tiger population in the past 80-100 years but this is low when compared globally. Human pressure on land has been one of the most obvious causes for the loss of the animal's habitat, the experts said.
Friday, August 25, 2006
By Julio Ochoa
Friday, August 25, 2006
Gregg Cross saw his first wild panther Thursday morning.
Unfortunately, as is common in most Florida panther sightings, the cat was dead.
Still, the 136-pound, fully grown, 3- to 4-year-old male left quite an impression.
"It wasn’t moving, but you could still see the light in its eyes," Cross said. "It was really eerie. You could see like almost steam coming off its body. The eyes looked almost alive."
Moments before Cross drove by the panther on east Corkscrew Road near the intersection of Alico Road, a westbound truck hit and killed it.
The accident happened just after 5:30 a.m. on a rural part of Corkscrew Road, which becomes a major throughway for commuters who use it to cut to Interstate 75 from Immokalee and Lehigh Acres.
Early morning drivers can reach speeds of 75 mph, Cross said.
The road is just one area where Southwest Florida's eastward development encroaches on panther habitat.
Though vehicles kill panthers, the loss of habitat ultimately will lead to the death of the species, said Chris Belden, panther recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"Death is not as important as the loss of habitat to development," Belden said. "The habitat is what it takes to produce panthers. Without the habitat panthers can't survive."
So far this year, there have been 14 panther deaths in Florida, eight of which were caused by vehicle collisions, said Darrell Land, panther team leader for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. At the same time, 19 kittens were born, Land said.
"It does seem like, regardless of these losses, there are certainly replacements being made, so hopefully we'll be able to maintain the status quo," he said.
The status quo in South Florida is between 80 and 100 panthers. That's up from an estimated 30 panthers that roamed the same area about 30 years ago. By some accounts, South Florida only can handle about 80 to 100 panthers.
Any hopes of increasing the panther population beyond the status quo diminishes with their shrinking habitat, Land said.
"The real challenge is: Can we preserve enough land that supports the 80 to 100 panthers so 20 years from now we can have 80 to 100 panthers?" he said.
The panther killed Thursday was not the first death on the eastern ends of Corkscrew and Alico roads, Land said.
During the late 1980s others were killed by vehicles on Alico Road around Southwest Florida International Airport, he said.
Thursday's cat likely was heading north where some habitat still remains, though it is diminishing daily.
Drivers on Treeline Avenue on the way to the airport's new terminal can see panther-crossing signs, though development is mowing down habitat on either side of the road.
"The future looks bleak for panthers in Lee County because of all the growth that's happened," Land said.
Belden put together a plan that outlines what it would take to recover the endangered species, some of which, he said, "will never be able to happen."
It would take 240 panthers to create a population that would have no loss of genetic material and could maintain itself for more than 100 years, Belden said. For the federal government to take the panther off its endangered species list, it would need three populations of 240 animals, he said.
With panthers needing a range of between 100 and 150 miles, there is simply not enough space in South Florida for that many panthers, Belden said.
Instead, scientists have to manage the population artificially by introducing genetic material, he said.
Scientists monitor about one-third of Florida’s panther population by placing collars or microchips on the animals.
The panther killed Thursday had neither.
In dangerous wildlife crossing areas, officials build bridges, under which animals can cross. The truck hit Thursday’s panther about 300 feet from such an underpass, Land said.
If there is a silver lining to Thursday's death, it could be that the panther possibly was expanding its range by heading north, said Stephen Williams, president of the nonprofit Florida Panther Society.
If panthers can expand their range into parts of central and northern Florida, they have a better chance of multiplying and surviving, he said.
"Some look at this as a tragedy, but it's an indicator that cats are adapting," Williams said.
Now if only people would learn to adapt by watching out for wildlife on the roads, he said.
"By and large it's a matter of consciousness and dedication to being a good driver," Williams said.
"Get the cell phone out of your ear and pay attention to the beauty of Florida. You might see a cat."
KTVB & KTVB.COM
BOISE -- Boise police shot and killed a cougar Wednesday evening in the backyard of an east Boise home.
Around 7 p.m. police received a call that the cougar was in the 1900 block of Mortimer Court, near the foothills.
On the recommendation of Idaho Fish and Game, an officer shot the cougar because he was concerned about it being a threat to residents. Officers initially were waiting for a Fish & Game warden, but due to pending darkness, Fish & Game advised officers to put the animal down for neighborhood safety.
The cougar was first spotted on August 13th in the area of Crestline and Claremont. Boise Police officers and Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials decided to leave the animal alone, because it was not posing a threat to public safety.
Boise Police activated its "Geo Notify" system to alert residents to the cougar's presence by automated phone message.
With New Mexico Game and Fish officials asking the public for input on the state's cougar management plan, a slide show and informational session on the predator set for Aug. 30 is well timed.
The event at the Ruidoso Public Library is co-sponsored by Animal Protection of New Mexico, Forest Guardians and Sinapu, said spokesman Sarah Pierpont.
"Mountain Lions in New Mexico and the West: Natural History, Conservation and Coexistence," will feature speakers Wendy Keefover-Ring of Sinapu, an organization dedicated to the preservation of large carnivores in the South-west, and Jon Schwedler of Animal Protection of New Mexico.
The program at the library next to Village Hall at the corner of Cree Meadows Drive and Kansas City Street is set for noon as part of the library's Adult Awareness Program Brown Bag Lunch.
The West's red-rock canyon country, rugged foothills, and piñon-covered mesas provide critical habitat to mountain lions, who also are called cougars, panthers or puma. A charismatic species, mountain lions are an icon of the Southern Rockies, Pierpont said.
The large golden cats, shy and unsocial by nature, prefer rugged terrain that is suitable for ambushing their large prey, such as mule deer and elk.
Mountain lions require expansive habitats because they are an "obligate carnivore," they only eat meat and their food supply is dispersed over long distances. A male lion requires at least 100 square miles of habitat in the arid West, Schwedler said.
A female cat spends about 70 percent of her lifetime raising young. Born year-round, but with births peaking in the summer and fall months, kittens are totally dependent upon their mothers for their first nine months. They typically spend between 10 and 18 months learning survival skills from their mother, he said.
Common sense precautions, such as traveling in groups while recreating in lion country can eliminate potential human-lion conflicts.
The session Aug. 30 will cover the natural history of mountain lion, skills to successfully co-exist with the large native carnivore and how people can help ensure New Mexico's proper management of the state's cougar population improves.
Keefover-Ring, Sinapu's dir-ector of the Carnivore Protec-tion Program, and Schwedler, APNM's Cougar Campaign contact, will be touring eight New Mexico cities to present the program.
Schwedler explained that NMG&F officials are proposing increasing the harvest limit of 233 cougars across the state by 17 percent to 273.
Currently, a set number of cougars may be sport hunted and killed within each game unit, but those killed on private land in each area are not counted in the final tally.
Essentially, an unlimited number of the mountain cats could be killed on private land, he noted. "That's the way it has been for a long time. As far as I know, no other state handles cougar management that way."
To try to capture some of private land cougar kills, NMG&F officials are considering creating a separate category of management to come up with a sustainable mortality level, combining all private, road kill and sport harvest in a unit added together for a total of 446 cougars statewide.
"Our concern is that is so high, it represents more than 25 percent of the cougars in the state, by (NMG&F's) own estimates," Schwedler said.
"If you look at their numbers, the number of females being killed in the sport harvest is going up," he said. "When it goes over 25 percent, you're looking at the population not going up. It will be going down. In 2005, 48 percent of the harvest were females."
Marty Frentzel, chief of public information and outreach for NMG&F, emphasized that the proposals are just that, proposed changes and they are up for debate.
He explained Monday that the number of allowed kills is not going up in all sport hunt zones.
"Some are going down," he said. "But if you look at the overall numbers, you don't see that. Cougars do have a significant impact on other animals."
The overall number includes cougars killed by the predator control program in the state designed to protect livestock.
Frentzel emphasized that the review is the normal setting of two-year hunting regulations.
"This year, we are proposed adjusting the numbers by the zones," he said.
"It is an increase, but our management objectives probably are not the same as others. Cougars are a valuable big game species. We don't want to eliminate them, just reduce the number in certain units."
Only one sport harvest unit has no limit, he said. It's located in Hidalgo County in desert bighorn sheep country.
Rick Winslow, Large Carni-vore and Furbearer Biologist with the Wildlife Management Division of NMG&F, said the estimated adult cougar population statewide lies between 1,500 and 2,500.
The changes being contemplated are based on new habitat and range ideas for cougar in New Mexico, he said.
"Basically, we are not done trying to integrate the changes yet, so the proposed rule change available on the G&F Web site is not the final version," Winslow said. "We always accept public opinion. Two more Game Commission meetings are scheduled dealing with the current changes to the regulations for the next regulation cycle of 2007-2009."
Schwedler said the number of days it takes a hunter to kill a cougar has been going up since 1969 and the level of success is going down, which would indicate the resource is declining, better habitat is needed and the female subcategory should be modified and protected as a source of replenishing the population. When females die, they may leave orphaned cubs who also will perish without the protection and nutrition from the mother.
The animals harvested should be examined for age, condition and sex, no matter where or how they are killed, Schwedler said.
He placed the population estimate of cougars at a lower figure of about 1,400.
"With an annual sport kill number at 273 and sustainability mortality figure at 446, that's pretty scary," he said.
The groups also want to see more NMG&F outreach for residents to learn how to live with cougars in their communities.
"We don't want to wait until someone loses a pet," Schwedler said. "If you have mule deer in your backyard, don't leave pets outside overnight" The cougars will be drawn by the mule deer herd, but are opportunistic and will kill smaller prey such as cats and dogs.
The next Game Commission meeting is set for Sept. 28-29 in Tucumcari, Frentzel said. People are welcome to present oral comments.
Written comments may be submitted by Aug. 30 by e-mail to Darrelweybright@state.nm.-us or by regular mail to New Mexico Game and Fish, Attn: Darrel Weybright, Big Game Program Manager, P.O. Box 25112, Santa Fe, NM 87504.
Check for the time, date and location of other commission meetings on the department Web site at www.wildlife.state.-nm.us.
(c) Copyright 2006 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Wednesday, 23 August 2006
A GROWING corp of scientists and naturalists believe there are big cats roaming the Australian bush.
And they think the Hawkesbury region, the greater Blue Mountains and areas around Lithgow could be home to a breeding colony, right on Sydney's doorstep.
They are joined by a similarly expanding group of politicians and residents who are demanding the State Government foot the bill for conclusive DNA testing.
Many want the State Government to issue warnings to those living in regional and rural areas to alert them to the presence of the large predators, which some claim are responsible for missing dogs and mauled livestock.
Hawkesbury Mayor Bart Bassett said the State Government needed to act on the community's concerns.
"We definitely need investigation into DNA on what's been collected, not to scare people, but to encourage people to be more willing to report sightings, if the department acknowledged there were large cats in national parks," he said. "And if the DNA is proven, there should be a trapping program."
Dr Johannes Bauer, a wildlife ecologist from Charles Sturt University, was asked by the Department of Primary Industries to look into sightings in the Hawkesbury area. He concluded there were big cats.
Dr Robert Close, an associate professor of biology at the University of Western Sydney with an interest in big cats, believes there is something to the hundreds of sightings in NSW.
"I've got an open mind about it," Dr Close said. "Some of the reports seem to be fairly compelling, as are some of the kills."
Dr Keith Hart, a Rural Lands Protection Board veterinarian who has tracked leopards in Africa, has examined many carcasses and casts of footprints and is convinced there are leopards here in the Hawkesbury.
Hawkesbury psychologist Dr Tony Jinks, who works at the University of Western Sydney, saw a black leopard in 2002 in Kurrajong Heights.
"I recognised it immediately as a black leopard," Dr Jinks said. He did a sketch of the animal he saw and reported his sighting to the then-Department of Agriculture to be greeted with the words "oh, so the fire didn't kill it then?"
In 2000, David Pepper-Edwards, a recently retired big cat expert formerly with Taronga Zoo, identified a large animal track cast taken in Grose Vale as "possibly that of a puma".
Bill Atkinson, from the NSW Department of Primary Industries Agricultural Protection Officer, concluded in his own report: "Nothing found in this review conclusively proves the presence of free-ranging exotic large cats in NSW, but this cannot be discounted and seems more likely than not on the available evidence."
He quoted a report by Dr John Henry from Deakin University in Victoria, written more than 20 years ago (updated in 2001), that supported the case for pumas in the Grampians and elsewhere.
"If there are pumas in the Grampians – and we believe there's a strong case for that – then they would have bred up, they would have then moved out into adjacent suitable habitat," Dr Henry told ABC radio in 2004. "That's the Great Dividing Range. So they would have moved into the vicinity north of Ballarat, across central Victoria."
While the department maintains it is taking the issue seriously, most reports are never acted upon due to the time factor involved. Mr Atkinson said in many cases he found out too late about sightings to collect meaningful evidence on-site.
Despite the hundreds of sightings in NSW, a 'cone of silence' and a culture of ridicule prevails where the big cat is concerned.
Real or imagined, we'll never be the wiser unless the State Government takes a proactive approach in dealing with the issue.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
(AP) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. A mountain lion ran into a home Tuesday and escaped through a window about an hour later.
Soon after he arrived home from work, Clifton Sanches said he heard his dogs barking loudly outside.
"I got up to shut the dogs up and a mountain lion came through my window, it came right through my screen door," Sanches told KKTV.
He went to a neighbor's house to call for help and he and sheriff's deputies waited outside the house. About an hour later, the big cat butted its head against a screened window before breaking through and running away.
Two mountain lions were spotted in Colorado Springs last month. Wildlife officials shot and killed one of the cats because it seemed lethargic and ailing.
"To have a mountain lion sighting is one thing. To have a mountain lion actually enter a structure is really rare," Colorado Division of Wildlife spokesman Michael Seraphin said.
Last Updated: Tuesday, August 22, 2006 | 3:31 PM PT
A young boy is recovering at home after being attacked by a cougar in Schoen Lake Provincial Park on northern Vancouver Island last Friday night.
The four-year-old from Comox, B.C., was playing on a log, watching his father fish near the park campsite when the cat pounced on him from behind.
"He sustained puncture wounds and lacerations to the back of his head and scalp area and he has some lacerations on his shoulders and back," said conservation officer Dan Dwyer.
"The dad heard the screams, came down the log and jumped on the cougar, administered several blows … until such time the cougar actually let go and retreated back into the woods."
The youngster was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment and released. His name has not been made public.
Conservation officers used dogs to search for the cougar but could not find it.
The park, 140 kilometres north of Campbell River, was closed following the attack. It is scheduled to reopen this Friday.
Cougar safety tips
Parks officials say small pets and children are more likely than an adult to be attacked by a cougar.
They advise that people who encounter a cougar should not run or turn their backs on the animal. Instead, they should raise their arms to make themselves look bigger, act aggressively and throw things at it if possible. But the cougar should also be given room to escape.
If the cougar does attack, officials say, fight back and do not play dead.
Cougars weigh 40 to 90 kilograms and can reach more than two metres in length, including their tails.