Saturday, September 30, 2006
This thesis is based on fieldwork undertaken during four months in early 2006 to investigate the following three objectives: prey abundance, food and feeding habits and kill monitoring in leopards of the dry forests and scrublands of the Gir area in India.
Maheshwari, A. 2006. Food Habits and Prey Abundance of Leopard (Panthera pardus fusca) in Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary . M.Sc. Aligarh Muslim University, India. If you have questions or comments, the author can be reached at: email@example.com
Sept. 28, 2006 — High-tech forensic methods used in human murder investigations are now being applied to crime involving wildlife, with remarkable success.
The perpetrators may lie and try to hide evidence, but scientists have been tracking down suspects for crimes ranging from the killing of animals for sport to the illegal smuggling of clothing and food.
Badger Baiters Exposed
British police recently apprehended individuals suspected of a crime known as badger baiting, which usually involves hitting a badger over the head with a shovel, placing the animal in a pit, and setting dogs upon it.
Dog owners often make bets on which canine will do the most damage. The practice still occurs, despite having been illegal in Britain since 1835.
Dirty garden spades were found in a suspect’s shed, but the man said he had just done some planting. The case seemed to be at a dead end until the police brought the spades to Ruth Morgan, a scientist at Oxford University’s Center for the Environment.
"Most people think that mud is mud is mud," Morgan told Discovery News. "What they don’t realize is that almost everything within dirt, such as plant materials, minerals and quartz, can tell us exactly where the mud came from."
Morgan and her team had just solved a murder case in England, linking dirt from a vacuum cleaner used to clean a suspect’s car to a location where two girls’ bodies were dumped.
The scientists used the same research methods when analyzing the mud-caked spades. Their findings will be published in the October issue of the journal Forensic Science International.
Examining the samples with microscopes revealed particles of quartz, iron-rich nodules, small clumps of clay, wood pieces, miscellaneous organic debris and light-colored root fibers. The mixture closely matched dirt samples from the badger baiting site.
The size and shape distribution of the particles also matched granules linked to the crime scene, but this still wasn’t enough evidence for conviction.
"In court, we’ve found that pollen and quartz analysis are stronger and more indicative pieces of evidence," Morgan said.
In this case, quartz turned out to be especially important, since the combination of grain textures found on the shovels could not be matched to more than 1,000 U.K. soil locations documented in the scientists’ database. The textures did, however, match dirt taken from the badger baiting site.
The evidence helped convict the suspects.
Since the case, the scientists have helped British authorities catch another badger baiter, whose boots were caked in mud and bits of badger fur. They also stopped an illegal importer of endangered falcons, whose rope carried mud that was linked to falcon breeding sites in Mallorca, Spain.
Shawl Smugglers Nabbed
Dirt analysis isn’t the only tool in a detective’s kit. Researchers also analyze fibers with microscopes and test DNA for a variety of wildlife-related criminal investigations.
This summer, Thai authorities, in conjunction with the Association of South East Asian Nations Wildlife Enforcement Network, the World Conservation Union (WCU), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and WildAid, busted a smuggling ring involved in the illegal trade of shahtoosh wool. This wool can only be obtained by killing the endangered Tibetan antelope.
"The wool is rare and like gossamer, so it's extremely valuable," Crawford Allan, deputy director of TRAFFIC North America, told Discovery News. TRAFFIC is the trade monitoring network for the WCU and WWF.
Allan explained that the illegal trade begins with poachers who kill antelope in the Tibetan Plateau. They smuggle the wool into Kashmir, where weavers make the shawls. The clothing is then sold in India or sent through "underground" luxury markets, sometimes involving well-known fashion designers and private "shahtoosh parties" complete with European models and private chefs.
The raid seized 250 purported shahtoosh shawls valued at several million dollars. They likely involved the slaughter of more than 1,000 Tibetan antelopes.
Since the shawls resemble a legal wool — pashmina — authorities are analyzing the shawl fibers to determine hair type and shape, and may also conduct DNA tests.
Culinary Criminals Caught
Mahmood Shivji, director of the Guy Harvey Research Institute at Nova Southeastern University, said he has worked with federal authorities to apply similar DNA testing to shark fins taken from a New York dealer.
Shark dealers usually send fins to international markets, primarily in Asian countries, saying the fins come from legally hunted species.
DNA testing conducted by Shivji and his team found that 230 pounds of fins came from endangered dusky, basking and great white sharks.
"When you confirm it with DNA (in court), it’s usually pretty much a slam dunk," said NOAA attorney Charles Juliand, who worked on the case.
This weekend, experts from 12 countries will meet at the Conference on the Protection of Sturgeons in Germany to discuss how DNA testing can help eliminate the sale of certain types of caviar.
The scrutiny of DNA work is particularly necessary for caviar, because it enables scientists to not only detect the species of fish, but also pinpoint where it came from. Sturgeon fishing is permitted in some rivers, but prohibited at others, so identifying the location is key.
While science is catching up with wildlife criminals, the real power for stopping these illegal activities is in the hands of the public, said Allan.
"Sometimes people aren’t even aware that the shawl they’re wearing or the food they are consuming is illegal and hurting wildlife," he said. "Educating the public is vital. We need to make others aware of these issues and how they are adversely affecting wildlife."
9/29/2006 7:01:03 PM
Some may refer to Riverside County as the last enclave of open space. Development had slowly crept into the county but is now making up for lost time. Unlike Orange County, where large acreages of land are under the control of a few privately owned land development companies, the direction of development in Riverside County is still made project by project and depends on the decisions of county agencies.
Several citizen groups are actively overseeing the development when projects come up on their radar, but one activist is advocating development from the point of view of the mountain lion.
It’s a tough sell for Vicki Long, the self-described “Mountain Lion Lady,” at times when speaking on behalf of a predator, a carnivore, an animal remembered for rare encounters with humans and sometimes with tragic results. The mountain lion, or cougar, can provoke fear in some people who believe the sleek majesty of the cougar is best left behind the bars at the zoo, not roaming around Riverside County in the wild. The thought of co-existing in a cougar habitat isn’t comforting.
But with around 5,000 cougars remaining in the state of California, they are skirting the edges of the federal endangered animal list and it is feared the mountain lion population will keep dwindling and eventually die off in the state.
Long has been fascinated by the mountain lion since the late 1980s, although she has yet to see one in the wild. She got involved when a petition drive was initiated to put Proposition 117 on the ballot. It would prohibit the hunting of mountain lions in California, which was being considered by the state legislature, and provide funding for the preservation of their habitat.
She helped gather signatures in the county and the proposition was passed by voters in 1990. “That’s how I got started,” said Long. “The state made me mad.”
Since then, the funding is still in place and has helped purchase habitat and park space such as the Santa Rosa Plateau. Despite the financing, the mountain lions are still in peril as development bisects the animals’ home range as they roam from the tip of Canada to the South America. A typical territory for cougars is about 110 square miles for males and 80 square miles for females, and their territories can overlap.
It takes them about six months to cover the territory while hunting for deer, rabbits, raccoons and mice, and upon their return trip, development may have begun in their previous path.
Riverside County has developed an innovative tool which is unique in the state with the exception of Coachella Valley: to preserve open space in the county for the benefit of citizens and wildlife.
The Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) has selected approximately four wildlife crossings for protection. There is one corridor between the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and the Pechanga Reservation, where a proposed rock quarry is undergoing an environmental review process; two corridors in the Indian Wash area between Corona and Lake Elsinore; and one corridor under the 91 freeway at Green River.
It was good in theory, but about two years ago as more and more projects began to threaten the cougar habitat, Long decided she needed an expert to study the habits of the cougar in the county and provide evidence to counter the rampant development despite the adoption of the MSHCP.
“[The mountain lion] is providing all of this money for habitat for people to hike on and it also provides for city parks,” said Long. “They are going to say they are doing this for mountain lions but it’s nothing but rhetoric — it’s not going to work.”
But why all of the fuss over a very large cat, anyway?
The mountain lion is known as an umbrella species. Take care of the “top cat” and the other wildlife will benefit from the effort, she says. “They call them an umbrella,” says Long, “because if you can save them, you just saved everything else.”
Enter the expert hired by Long prepared to battle with scientific evidence to save the animal. Dr. Rick Hopkins is a principal and senior conservation biologist with Live Oak Associates, Inc. based in San Jose. Dr. Hopkins travels all over the western United States making presentations to educate government officials, college personnel and the public about mountain lions and their needs. He is also on the board of trustees for The Cougar Fund of Wyoming, which is dedicated to protecting the natural habitat of the cougar in North America.
“We were particularly concerned about the cougar,” explains Hopkins, and the potential for its inability to function in its natural environment due to encroaching development.
The work prepared by Hopkins and Live Oak Associates is called the Riverside County Conservation Plan. The four primary goals of the study were to generate a map of remaining habitat in the county, list and rank remaining wildlife corridors that allow the cougars to roam, develop a strategy to reduce contact between humans and cougars and create a public education program.
According to Long, Hopkins and other mountain lion advocates, it is of critical importance to focus on the Riverside County.
Hopkins, a 57-year-old La Cresta resident, has been presenting the information throughout the county and feels the study has been well received. In his comments to proposed projects in the area, he has cautioned officials to consider the effects on wildlife when approving projects. “We encourage the county to not assume that the remaining linkages in this region of the county can simply be eliminated or degraded even further in the mistaken belief that other suitable linkages exist… Errors in judgment would be catastrophic and irreversible,” he wrote.
In her efforts, Long refers to the legacy of President Theodore Roosevelt when she’s doing her “cougar” talk in front of county planning commissioners. Roosevelt created the US National Park System and preserved natural space during a time when most of the country was still undeveloped natural space.
“People must’ve thought he was crazy,” said Long. She tells the officials, “You need to be like Teddy Roosevelt; think like [him] and have some gumption and fortitude and forethought about what you do and how you vote on things, because people will be living with that in Riverside County in 100 years and what kind of legacy are you going to leave?”
Building on every square inch in the county is what she has seen before in Orange County and Los Angeles County and now it is happening here, she says. “It won’t be good for the people and it definitely won’t be good for the animals. It really won’t make that MSHCP work if they keep doing that.”
(CBS4) Connecticut Recent bobcat sightings in central Massachusetts have some homeowners on alert and one family just south of the border in Connecticut has spotted a bobcat at least six times recently even catching it on camera.
The first time the family saw her- they think the bobcat's a she- was on July 18th. Keith Dunkley was in the kitchen on his house.
“I noticed there was a woodchuck out there, so I grabbed my video camera,” he said.
The woodchuck was then attacked by the bobcat. Keith’s wife, Tina attempted to shoo away the bobcat to save the woodchuck.
The Dunkleys called Connecticut environmental officials about their furry visitor.
“They said they were fairly common in this area and weren't surprised something like this would happen,” said Keith Dunkley.
Marion Larson, the outreach coordinator for Mass wildlife says people in such places as Grafton, where a bobcat sighting was recently reported, should have little concern except for their pets, because bobcats tend to avoid people.
“We're the third most densely populated state in the country, five million acres with six million people on it sharing with wildlife and to have this elusive creature is a wonderful thing,” Larson said
No danger to humans, says biologist
A bobcat caused a bit of a stir in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park (formerly Walnut Park) Friday afternoon as he leisurely enjoyed the autumn weather just yards from an active playground area.
The cat was wandering not far from Witham Village Apartments, where a possible cougar sighting was reported a few days earlier.
A park visitor, who called the Corvallis Police Department, spotted the bobcat. Sgt. Joel Goodwin responded, and said he was able to walk right behind the bobcat, calling and clapping. The small wildcat basically ignored him.
“We are, I suppose, in his territory,” Goodwin said.
One passerby said she’d seen the bobcat several times in the park, and seemed surprised that it warranted a police response.
While Goodwin wasn’t worried about the children playing nearby, he kept bicyclists and onlookers at a distance, in the hopes that the bobcat would remain in sight and could be trapped by representatives of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
However, it was a tasty bird that finally encouraged the bobcat to jump back into a patch of nearby blackberries, where he could be heard thrashing about for a brief period.
“I wish I could see him,” said a bicyclist when she heard she’d missed the bobcat’s bold but brief appearance.
Biologist Ray Fiori of E.E. Wilson Wildlife Refuge arrived about a half an hour later, and he and Goodwin examined the spot where the bobcat had last been seen.
“From my experience, there are no human issues,” Fiori said, of the relatively safety of people living near bobcats. The animals live mainly on small mammals, and are not known to attack humans.
The park bobcat was unusually bold, but that did not indicate sickness or danger, Fiori said.
“There’s so much activity around here, and the cat grew up in the park, so he’s used to the activity,” he said, which means it wasn’t as shy as most bobcats are known to be.
While the bobcat might eventually be trapped and relocated, it was providing more of a spectator sport than a threat to the groups barbecuing and playing in the park.
A perceived cougar sighting also was reported in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in late June, and fliers were posted there to warn residents. Bobcats are known to prowl the park and snack on squirrels and other critters.
Those who spot bobcats or other wild animals near residential areas should call the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. If the animal appears to be aggressive or injured, call the police department.
SULTHAN BATHERY: The leopard trapped by Forest Department officials on Thursday night at Sasimala near Pulppalli was freed at Muthappankolly forests of the Muthanga Range in the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary on Friday.
The six-year-old female leopard was caught in the trap at around 8.30 p.m.
The local people intimated this to the Forest team that was camping in the area.
It is to be recalled that a resident of Sasimala was attacked by a leopard a few days back. Since then people here has been living in fear. It was suspected that more leopards are still roaming in the area.
One more trap will be laid for leopards in the region, the forest officials said.
The leopard was freed in the forest by range officers A K Gopalan and Radhakrishnalal, deputy ranger K R Thomas and forest officers Somasekharapilla and Rajeevan.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Wildlife experts in Moore County say they now have evidence that a large cat -- about the size of a cougar -- is roaming in the area.
Last week, Moore County Animal Control observed the tracks of a large cat near a horse farm off Youngs Road in Southern Pines. Wildlife experts took photographs and measurements.
"It's a large cat of some sort," said Paul Tillman, a wildlife control agent with Moore County Animal Control. "We don't know what it is."
There were several unconfirmed sightings of what people said was a mountain lion in different parts of Moore County during the summer.
Tillman said people should not panic. Experts say that if there is a large cat like a mountain lion in the area, it is unlikely that it would attack humans.
"People live with cougars out West every day," said David Rabon, endangered species biologist with U.S. Fish and Wildlife. "The key is to be cautious. ... We don't want the villagers out there with pitchforks and guns."
Tillman and his father, Robert, hope to capture the animal. The tracks measure about five inches long and four inches wide -- roughly the size of a human hand.
"Visual sightings are one thing," Tillman said. "This is something different. This is the first tangible evidence, proof of a large cat."
No one has reported seeing such an animal since the summer.
Johnny Parsons, who was at the time a security guard at Seven Lakes, started the reports this summer when he called the Moore County Sheriff's Office on June 28 to report seeing what he said was a mountain lion creeping through the gate at Seven Lakes.
Two days later, Karyn Ring spotted what she said was a "cat bigger than a bobcat" while driving on Jackson Springs Road.
Those two reported sightings opened the floodgates, and four more people reported seeing a large cat or, in one case, two. One person claimed that he saw two mountain lions kill a domestic cat. Additional sightings were near Lake Auman, the Country Club of North Carolina and near Holly Grove School Road.
A local doctor even reported that a government worker told him that a government wildlife agency released two mountain lions into Moore County to control the deer population several years ago.
The Eastern cougar is native to North Carolina and the Sandhills, but state and national wildlife experts say that cougars were eradicated from North Carolina in the early 1900s. They said that particular species may be extinct.
It is possible that such a cat could have been seen near Seven Lakes and also be in Southern Pines near Youngs Road. Big cats have a large range and use the riverine areas to travel, said Pete Campbell, a local biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said.
The land where the tracks were found is adjacent to the Walthour-Moss Foundation land. It has a large deer population that the animal could be living off of.
But the likelihood of its being a wild animal is very small, Rabon said. He said he gets several reported sightings a month, and none have panned out as Eastern cougars and only a small number as big cats.
Probably a Pet
The cat was probably someone's pet, experts say.
"A lot of people like to collect exotics," Tillman said. "It probably got loose from somebody, or they just let it go because they couldn't handle it."
An animal that had once been a pet may not have as much of a fear of humans as animals that grew up in the wild do, said Pam Fulk, executive director of the Carnivore Preservation Trust.
But large cats like to remain alone by their nature, she said. They are loath to seek out human contact. She worries more about domestic pets.
"That is prey size and they will eat it," Fulk said.
Even a cat that grew up raised by humans will have proficient enough hunting skills to get along in the wild, Campbell said.
"I think if it is somebody's pet, it's just living off the fat of the land," he said. "There are a lot of deer on the Moss Foundation."
Should it turn out to be a wild animal -- and not a pet -- it would have to be an Eastern cougar. That would make it the first documented case of an Eastern cougar in North Carolina in decades.
The Eastern cougar is federally listed as an endangered species, Rabon said. People can be prosecuted for hunting it. But the law does allow for people to protect themselves and their property.
"If it is immediately threatening," Rabon said, "then they can defend themselves."
'Something Out There'
Whenever news comes out that there might be a large cat in an area, reports of sightings go up, Tillman said . That's what happened in Moore County during the summer, he said.
"My phone rang off the hook for a month or two," he said.
Even with the tracks, most experts are still inclined to discount the sightings from this summer. People often mistake foxes, coyotes, deer and even bears as big cats, they say.
"I'm still a bit skeptical," said Jonathan Shaw, district biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. "I get reports all the time and it turns out to be something else."
Even with a print, it will be difficult for experts to say what kind of cat it is.
"You can buy a tiger," Fulk said. "You can buy a leopard. It could be anything."
If someone were to come face to face with a large cat, the best thing to do would be to slowly and calmly back away, Fulk said, while trying to appear as large as possible.
"What you should not do is turn your back and run," she said. "Neither of those would be good ideas. That's what their prey does."
To report a sighting or any information on the animal, contact Tillman at 783-6173.
"Most definitely there is something out there," Tillman said.
Matthew Moriarty may be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Matt Crawford
Free Press Staff Writer
September 29, 2006
Among the places Vermont catamounts have been spotted include beer bottles, University of Vermont jerseys and an energy corporation logo.
Now the legendary big cat of the Vermont woods will start showing up on license plates.
Beginning next week, Vermonters will have the chance to put catamount-adorned license on their vehicles as the state's conservation plate program undergoes a facelift -- casting aside the peregrine falcon in favor of the beloved but elusive catamount.
There hasn't been an officially confirmed sighting of a wild catamount in Vermont since about the start of the 20th century, but unconfirmed sightings occur every year and are charted by Vermont's Fish and Wildlife Department.
"Ballpark, I'd say we get 30 to 50 reports of catamount sightings a year," said Kim Royar, a biologist with Fish and Wildlife. "No, we haven't seen one, but there certainly are a lot of folks who believe that have seen one."
The state doesn't have plans for reintroducing the felines that were vilified, bountied and hunted out of existence prior to the start of the 20th century, but the cats remain on the state's list of threatened and endangered species.
The peregrine plate was introduced in 1997 for pleasure cars. Since then, sales of the conservation plate have generated more than $1.5 million earmarked for the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's Nongame Wildlife Fund and Watershed Grants Program. The nongame fund protects, monitors and -- where possible -- improves the health of critters like the osprey and common loon. The watershed program helps cover the cost of projects such as streambank restoration, public access improvement and educational outreach.
There about 9,000 vehicles sporting a peregrine plate. According to Fish and Wildlife officials, both peregrines and catamounts will be available in the short term, until the peregrine plate inventory is gone.
The fee for the conservation plate is $20 more than the standard fee for vehicle registration. Of that, $10 goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles; the remaining $10 is divided between the Nongame Wildlife Fund and the Watershed Management Fund. When the plates are renewed, $2 will go to the DMV while the remaining $18 will be split between the two funds.
Vermont wildlife officials and lawmakers, who created legislation authorizing the special plates, are hopeful the catamount plates will reinvigorate the program.
"I'm not sure it's going to raise awareness on catamounts," said Rep. Steve Adams, R-Hartland, who served as chairman of the House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources committee, "but we're certainly hopeful this newly redesigned plate will be a hot seller."
Adams hopes the plate will be a must-have for UVM supporters -- one of only two Division I schools in the country (Western Carolina is the other) who have catamounts as mascots.
Plate designers underwent a lengthy search to find a catamount image that would work on the new plate, said Brendan Cosgrove of the Fish and Wildlife Department. Eventually, the 3M company, which produces part of the plate's facing, found a usable cat. Cosgrove said the plates will be produced by inmates in Vermont's corrections industry program.
"We're finally ready to go on this, and there's a lot of excitement about it," Cosgrove said. "I think the catamount really signifies Vermont and its ruggedness. The legend of the catamount has been a staple of Vermont for a long, long time."
Contact Matt Crawford at 651-4852 or email@example.com Did they listen?
In the spring of 2005, The Burlington Free Press asked readers of the Living Outside section to submit homemade plans for a redesigned conservation plate.
By a wide margin, the catamount was the most-favored critter of Free Press readers -- outpacing spiny soft-shelled turtles, lake sturgeon and the increasingly uncommon dairy farmer.
Reader Bob Morgan of Montpelier spoke for many of our plate designers when he nominated the catamount.
"The catamount or its extant relative, the Eastern mountain lion, is not only an apt symbol for the state," Morgan wrote in an e-mail, "it also reinforces the message that we must protect our wildlife species or they will disappear." Get your plate
Interested in having a conservation plate on your vehicle? Here's how you can do it:
Go to www.vtfishandwildlife.com, click on the "GOWILD" license plate icon on the home page and download a conservation license plate application.
Stop by Department of Motor Vehicle offices in Bennington, Burlington, Montpelier, Newport, Rutland or Springfield. Cats tale
Puma -- the official name for cats called catamounts, cougars, mountain lions and panthers -- can weigh 70-170 pounds. Their bodies are usually 3- to 4-feet-long with their long tails adding almost another 3 feet to their length. Males will have more than 100 square miles as their territory, but females claim only a quarter of that acreage as their home.
Puma prints have distinct characteristics that set them apart from those made by other large animals, such as dogs. All cats have four asymmetrical toes with a middle toe set forward from the others and a little toe off to the right or left, depending on the paw. The palm pad will have lobes at the bottom and either two lobes or a blunt shape at the top, the end closest to the toes.
Size does matter. On average, a puma print can be smaller than that of a large dog. Look for small claw marks to accompany the print only when the cat traversed a tricky surface such as mud or ice.
-- Free Press
BHUBANESWAR: Population of big cats has witnessed a gradual rise in Orissa during the past few years. Not only tigers, number of leopards has gone up, Chief Wildlife Warden Suresh Chandra Mohanty said here on Thursday.
Stating that the total number of tigers in Orissa stands at 192 as per 2004 census, he said the leopard count is 487.
In 2000, the leopards numbered 322, while tiger population stood at 166. The numbers jumped to 457 and 173 respectively in 2002.
Addressing the mediapersons here on Thursday, Mohanty said the latest picture on the status of the large cats could emerge only after the current evaluation is complete.
The third phase work is going on as part of the National Tiger Habitat and Population Evaluation System currently underway across the country. In the first phase, evidence of big cats, their co-predators and prey base were recorded. The mapping was conducted in the subsequent one.
As many as 927 leopard evidences and 738 tiger signs were recorded during the first phase.
Mohanty said currently the Wildlife Institute of India is carrying out a intensive search at three sites - Similipal, Sunabeda and Satkosia.
Of the three, Similipal is a Project Tiger area. Satkosia has already been selected for the tag, but is yet to be notified by the State Government.
New-age techniques like camera-trap; DNA analysis and radio metrology would be adopted during the stage. It will only be by the end of 2007 that results would be known.
“Before that it would be premature to guess anything,” he said.
The Chief Wildlife Warden also informed that Forest Department would adopt the pugmark impression pad (PIP) method early next year for a separate enumeration.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Collier County's plan to preserve habitat for species on the brink of extinction, as proposed, might offer little help to the most endangered creature of them all.
A Florida panther expert's presentation today before a county advisory committee cast doubt on whether a habitat conservation plan would save the best natural areas.
That's because county commissioners in their instructions to the 11-member committee forbade the panel from administering the habitat plan in the Rural Lands Stewardship Area.
The area encompasses almost 200,000 acres of natural areas, farm fields and pastures in northeast Collier, excluding Immokalee.
Much of the best remaining habitat for panthers that isn't already protected falls inside the stewardship area, said Darrell Land of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The habitat conservation plan committee is trying to decide what areas can be developed -- where builders could essentially harm or kill protected critters -- and what areas should be set aside in return.
When asked what areas outside the stewardship area should be shielded from development for panthers, Land suggested North Belle Meade. He also recommended the area between Immokalee Road and Bonita Beach Road -- much of which lies in Lee County -- and areas around the Corkscrew Regional Ecosystem Watershed.
There are about 80-100 panthers left in the wild, making them one of the most endangered species on the planet.
DOUGLAS, Arizona (Reuters) - A plan to fence off a third of the U.S. border to stop illegal immigration from Mexico may harm migration routes used by animals including rare birds and jaguars, environmentalists and U.S. authorities warn.
The House of Representatives passed a bill this month authorizing the construction of about 700 miles (1,120km) of double fencing along the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border, which was crossed by more than one million illegal immigrants last year.
The proposal, which the Senate is expected to vote on in coming days, seeks to build continuous barriers separated by an access road for patrol vehicles on long stretches of the border in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Environmentalists and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wardens say the barrier would disrupt the migration of scores of species from jaguars to hawks and humming birds along a wildlife corridor linking northern Mexico and the U.S. southwest known as the "Sky Islands."
The chain of 40 mountain ranges links the northern range of tropical species such as the jaguar and the parrot in the Mexican Sierra Madre Mountains, and the southern limit of temperate animals such as the black bear and the Mexican wolf in the U.S. Rocky Mountains.
"Bisecting the area with an impermeable barrier such as a double reinforced wall or fence could really have a devastating effect on these species," said Matt Skroch, a wildlife biologist and executive director of the environmental non-profit group Sky Island Alliance in Tucson, Arizona.
"If they build it, we could really say goodbye to the future of jaguars in the United States," he added.
PIONEERS CROSSING NORTH
The proposal under consideration by Congress would replace a patchy, chest-high barbed wire fence that cuts across the wilderness areas of the southwest with large sweeps of continuous double barrier fencing topped with bright lights.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wardens in Arizona say the planned barrier would impact the fragile desert ecosystem, and could also harm migratory birds such as Gray and Swainson hawks and Rufous hummingbirds that soar over it.
"The fence would have a negative effect on everything from the insects that would now be flying around the lights instead of pollinating the cactuses, to the birds that eat them, right up to the large predators like the jaguars," said William Radke, the manager of the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, east of Douglas, Arizona.
Radke said the fence would prevent snakes and turtles, as well as wild turkeys and road runners from crossing. In addition, the bright lights at the top of the tall fence would interfere with birds' ability to navigate by the stars.
"A lot of migratory birds actually migrate at night, using stellar navigation and the moon to navigate. Suddenly lighting them up may disrupt a bird's ability to feed and rest and it may impact its survivability later on," he added.
Radke said the planned barrier would also sever the rugged highland trails used by "pioneer" jaguars currently crossing from Mexico and repopulating the rugged Peloncillo mountains east of Douglas after decades of absence.
The spotted cats originally roamed the Americas from Argentina in the south, to the Grand Canyon, in northern Arizona, but vanished from the United States several decades ago due to hunting and pressure from human encroachment on their habitat.
"The jaguars and a lot of the other wildlife that pioneer north from Mexico are coming here because their habitats are filling up down there," Radke said.
"If we cut off that access they are going to be restricted to areas where they are going to be in conflict with their own populations, it would have a negative impact," he added.
http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=politicsNews &storyid=2006-09-28T170911Z_01_N28283698_RTRUKOC_0_ US-ENVIRONMENT-USA-JAGUARS.xml&src=rss
Thursday, September 28, 2006
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Experts Say India, China Must Coordinate to Save Tigers
September 28, 2006 — By Reuters
NEW DELHI — India and China must share intelligence and strengthen their enforcement agencies to crack down on organised criminal gangs that illegally trade tiger skins and parts, wildlife experts said on Wednesday.
India has half the world's surviving tigers, but conservationists say the country is losing the battle to save the big cats. There were about 40,000 tigers in India a century ago, but decades of poaching have cut their number to 3,700.
Some groups say their number could be as low as 1,200.
The killing has been partly fuelled by rising demand for tiger skins and parts in neighbouring China.
Wildlife experts said that while India and China have stiff penalties for illegal trading in animal parts, both countries lacked the political will to follow up cases with convictions.
"We need a centralised wildlife enforcement unit in both countries led by professionals who share information," said Belinda Wright of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI).
Other experts said both nations were up against professionals.
"The vast majority of those involved in this trade are well organised criminal gangs, not just some individual poacher," said Nick Mole of the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), an independent international group fighting environmental crime.
The experts called for a new enforcement agency, like a "Wildlife FBI", to be set up as quickly as possible in India and China.
In India, violators have to pay a fine of up to 500,000 rupees ($10,900) and can be jailed for up to seven years. China hands down a life sentence to traffickers and poachers.
In India, there have been only 30 convictions in the past 30 years, and there are still around 1,400 cases pending in courts.
The EIA and WPSI said during a recent investigation in Tibet they found the trade in tiger parts booming and it was easy to buy and sell skins, which fetch more than $10,000 each.
NEW DELHI (AP) — Environmentalists accused India and China in a stinging indictment Wednesday of doing almost nothing to stem the rapid decline of tigers in the wild, saying the big cats will likely vanish completely within a few years without government intervention.
Trade in poached Indian tigers is flourishing across the border in Chinese-controlled Tibet, where organized crime groups sell them for use in traditional medicines, ceremonial clothing and as souvenirs, according to two environmental agencies, which secretly photographed the trade.
Photos shown at a news conference Wednesday showed dozens of tiger and leopard skins openly on sale, while in others, Chinese police officers laughed and posed with people wearing clothing made of tiger skins.
The groups — the Wildlife Protection Society of India and the Environmental Investigation Agency, a non-profit British-based group — accused the Indian and Chinese governments of failing to stop the trade.
"In China, the police have decided to turn a blind eye to the slaughter of tigers in India," despite tough laws against trading in endangered animals, said Belinda Wright, director of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.
She said India has not put together an effective force to combat poaching after 12 years of talking about it. "It is the politics in India that is killing the tiger, the petty agendas and personal rivalries," she said.
Kalpana Balkhiwala, a spokeswoman for the Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, which is responsible for tiger conservation, said the ministry had no comment on the report. Chinese officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
Both governments have received copies of the report, Wright said.
Last year, Indian officials were forced to acknowledge that poachers had wiped out every tiger in one of India's premier reserves, and that Indian wildlife officials had long exaggerated the number of tigers across the country.
But despite a loud public and official outcry, Wright said tiger protection has not improved.
The U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Save the Tiger Fund estimates there are 3,000 to 5,000 tigers currently left in the world, said Judy Mills, director of the fund's Campaign Against Tiger Trafficking.
However, conservationists believe official estimates of tigers in the wild are grossly exaggerated and that the true figure may be closer to 2,000 — or as little as several hundred.
"We need to start imagining a world without the great predators," Wright said. "It is about to become a reality. I stand before you completely defeated. So little has been done since we exposed this last year. The countries involved — India, China and Nepal — have done so little to curb the slaughter. India will soon have no tigers."
"It's just a handful of years before you have none left."
Trade in endangered species, including the Bengal tiger, is banned worldwide under a U.N. convention. But the high premium attached to tiger skins and the use of other tiger body parts in traditional Chinese medicines have created a thriving illegal trade.
Mills said China was considering lifting its ban on the trade of bones from tigers raised on farms for use in medicines. This will undoubtedly fuel the poaching of wild tigers because the animals are expensive to raise on farms and cheap to kill in the forests of India, she warned. And, there's no way to differentiate between the bones, she said.
"This will hammer the last nails in the coffin of wild tigers," Mills said by telephone from Washington, D.C. "There's no question in my mind."
An expose last year by Wright's group and the Environmental Investigation Agency helped curb the use of tiger skins in Tibetan ceremonial dress, particularly after the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, denounced the practice.
Now, she said, Chinese are buying pelts or body parts as souvenirs. "Chinese businessmen are buying it for home decor," Wright said.
The market will continue to expand unless the governments take a strong stand against the trade, said Debbie Banks, head of Environmental Investigation Agency's tiger campaign.
"The trade is run by highly organized networks who have far too much invested to let a few isolated raids and random seizures deter them," she said in a statement.
During the investigation, researchers even came across a Tibetan ceremonial tent made of 108 tiger skins. Its owners said it was several hundred years old, but it had recently been repaired and several of the skins looked new, said researcher Nitin Desai.
"I looked at it and said: That is the end of the tiger — 108 skins," he said.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Pamela Mesce shouted and shook her screen door in vain as a male Florida panther walked into the late-afternoon shadows with her 11-year-old house cat in his jaws.
“It was the most horrific thing in my 51 years I’ve ever seen,” said Mesce, who lives in Copeland on the edge of Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park.
“He just looked at me with my cat’s head in his mouth ... and he just walked (away) like he was moseying through.”
A state wildlife biologist confirmed Tuesday’s attack after hearing Mesce’s story and snapping pictures of slash marks in her screen door and a paw print in the muck nearby.
Copeland, an easily missed dot on Collier County’s map, was established long before the Endangered Species Act and modern zoning regulations took effect. But even existing development rules might not be enough in coming years to protect people from panthers and vice versa, wildlife biologists say.
“I’d rather prevent these things from happening rather than reacting to them,” said Darrell Land, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist who has tracked panthers for years.
- - -
A county advisory committee meeting today could set in motion a possible solution to the county’s panther problem. The committee is exploring the idea of a Habitat Conservation Plan, which until now has focused almost exclusively on a single species, the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
If county commissioners approve the plan, it would carve up the county into areas where developers could harm or kill protected species and areas that will be set aside in return. Supporters say the habitat plan would streamline development approvals in return for regional conservation, replacing a system based on individual project reviews that often resulted in piecemeal conservation.
But critics call habitat plans “a license to kill.”
That was the title of a 2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer series that found such plans have shortcomings that shift the balance of power in favor of developers over endangered species. Only 27 percent of the plans reviewed by the newspaper included stipulations to ensure that proposed mitigation efforts would benefit the animals in question.
“I think if it’s abused, it is a harm (to wildlife),” said Brad Cornell of the Collier Audubon Society. “Can you craft a plan that truly does address the wildlife concerns?”
Despite such questions, Cornell said the county “can’t do this (plan) too soon. ... The alternative is the status quo, which we know is harming these species.”
- - -
Between 1986 and 1996, panther habitat disappeared at a rate of about 1 percent a year, according to a state Fish and Wildlife analysis. That rate has probably tripled since then, researchers say.
Most of that habitat lies in eastern Collier’s swamps, piney woods and farms. Panthers once rambled as far north as Arkansas, but hunting and loss of habitat have squeezed all but a handful of the remaining 80 to 100 cats south of the Caloosahatchee River.
Land said the actual panther count may be as high as 120, but there’s no way of knowing that.
“Now what we suspect is that the inn is full. There are no more vacancies and there is competition for the space that’s out there. With so many roads out there, that may explain why we have so many roadkills,” he said.
So far, nine panthers have been killed on Florida roads this year, one short of the record set in 2003. When all causes are added, this year’s panther death toll is 14.
Land is today’s featured speaker before the Habitat Conservation Plan committee. He plans to give a “big picture overview” of the species’ status in Collier as well as urge county officials to forge a stronger relationship with state wildlife officials.
Today’s meeting is at 10 a.m. at the county’s community development building off Horseshoe Drive.
The county turned its attention to panthers after U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials signaled they would reject a habitat conservation plan that only accounted for woodpeckers’ needs. The federal agency told the county to take a multi-species approach.
Panthers, typically a shy creature, were in the spotlight last week as county commissioners debated the location of the line used to shield panthers from encroaching development.
The head of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s South Florida office has said the agency is considering relocating the line, which touches Airport-Pulling Road at one point. But science, not politics, will drive any decisions.
- - -
Mesce’s husband, Bill, said he doesn’t fault the brazen panther for seeking an easy meal. But he doesn’t look quite as kindly on government biologists, who brought in eight cougars from Texas a decade ago to breed with the genetically weakening Florida panther population.
“I’m not pro-panther,” said Bill Mesce, a nature photographer. “To me, if it was going extinct, it was doing it for a reason.”
Pamela Mesce said she is afraid to go outside and won’t let her other cat outside, either. Several neighbors have had house cats disappear as well in recent days, she added.
The sight of her cat, Mizzy, kicking her feet while getting dragged away is seared into Mesce’s mind — a painful reminder of the consequences of living close to panthers.
As she recalled her personal tragedy Wednesday, she was struck by what the 911 dispatcher had told her the day before.
“Don’t shoot it,” the voice said. “It’s a protected species.”
“Well, you know what?” Mesce responded. “So is my cat.”
22,000-acre Big Cypress -- twice the size of the city of Naples -- is planned as a self-sustaining community surrounded by a nature preserve
By Eric Staats
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
In the 1920s, New York advertising magnate Barron Gift Collier began carving civilization out of a wilderness that would become Collier County.
Some 80 years later, the company that traces its roots to that pioneer is at it again, with plans to found a new town, dubbed Big Cypress, east of Golden Gate Estates.
Collier Enterprises wants to build some 25,000 homes in a new town and in a scattering of smaller villages and hamlets on 8,000 acres of farmland surrounded by 14,000 acres of preserve. The project would take 25 to 30 years to build. Work won’t get started until at least 2010, Collier Enterprises CEO Tom Flood said.
Big Cypress, along with its neighbor, Ave Maria University and its companion town, are products of a landmark 2002 growth plan that requires landowners to preserve and restore land to earn credits for development.
The 22,000-acre Big Cypress district is more than 34 square miles — about twice the size of the city of Naples — and represents an unprecedented blank slate to plan for growth in Collier County.
The company is planning public workshops to get community input on the Big Cypress plans after a kickoff event in late October. Details still are being planned.
The workshops would focus on land conservation, agriculture, parks, schools, economic development, roads and housing, according to the company.
Flood said the goal of the company’s planning is to make Big Cypress a self-sustaining town that fits with the rural character of eastern Collier County.
“We don’t see this as a bedroom community of Naples,” Flood said. “We see this as a place for people to live and work.”
The center of the town would be built in the middle of a loop created by a realignment of Oil Well Road and an extension of Randall Boulevard. Immokalee Road and Golden Gate Boulevard also would provide access to Big Cypress.
Plans don’t include hooking up the Vanderbilt Beach Road extension to Big Cypress. Some Golden Gate Estates residents had blamed the need for the controversial extension on the Collier company plans.
Flood said the extension is “not driving our thinking at all” and that it would be “fine with him” if the extension never hooks up to Big Cypress.
Plans propose a “conceptual alternative interchange” at Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) with a new road that would meander north, through Big Cypress to Immokalee Road.
The conceptual alternate location is about two miles east of the spot of a proposed I-75 interchange at Everglades Boulevard, which would have to be widened to six lanes, putting it through residents’ yards and driveways, Flood said.
The conceptual road through Big Cypress would wind past six villages, each with up to 1,000 acres. Plans also show two hamlets, each with up to 100 acres.
Flood said the company wants to create a 23-mile walking trail that would connect the villages and lend a rural twist to the project.
Besides the 14,000 acres of preserve within the district boundaries, Collier Enterprises also will have to preserve 13,000 acres beyond the new town to earn enough development credits under the 2002 growth plan.
Collier County Audubon Society policy advocate Brad Cornell said the Big Cypress plans still must overcome questions about size and compatibility with surrounding land, including habitat for the endangered Florida habitat and woodstork.
“They (the Big Cypress plans) are big; they’re really big,” Cornell said. “In every respect it’s big, and there’s a lot of questions left unanswered in my mind.”
For example, Cornell said he wants to know more about how the company will mitigate the effects of its proposed interchange at I-75.
Cornell said the mitigation should involve buying up panther habitat in Golden Gate Estates between North Belle Meade and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.
Another question is where Collier Enterprises will set aside the additional 13,000 acres it needs to earn development credits under the 2002 plan.
“We’re still mulling the road and how to optimize (the mitigation) for environmental benefit,” Florida Wildlife Federation field representative Nancy Payton said.
Overall, though, the plans are within the scope of the 2002 growth plan and “that’s a good thing,” Payton said.
She said environmental groups who backed the 2002 plan didn’t anticipate that new towns would start popping up so quickly. That also means preserve land is getting set aside more quickly.
“It is seeing our county change quicker than we’d like to see it change, but we’re prepared — we have a plan,” she said.
The next step is to embark on what Flood says is a genuine effort to get input from the town’s neighbors. The biggest neighbor is Golden Gate Estates.
“I think residents of Golden Gate Estates will be interested in what we’re doing and I hope they’ll conclude that we’re going to be good neighbors,” Flood said.
Golden Gate Estates Area Civic Association President Mark Teaters said, from what he’s heard so far, the company is “making the right moves.”
Teaters acknowledges, though, that Collier Enterprises might face a skeptical crowd in Golden Gate Estates residents who fear their rural lifestyle is slipping away.
“It’s not ever going to be the same,” Teaters said. “Things are going to change.”
Some changes will be for the better, Teaters said.
He said Big Cypress plans will bring commercial services closer and help solve traffic problems in the Estates.
Immokalee community leader Fred Thomas said the plans “make all the sense in the world.”
“It will help focus everyone’s attention on making Immokalee the industrial hub of Collier County,” Thomas said.
At the same time the company is touting plans for Big Cypress, the company is unveiling plans for a 580-acre expansion of an industrial park and 470-acre moderately priced housing development southeast of the Immokalee Airport.
The company also is talking with Collier County officials about speeding up planning for a bypass road around Immokalee, Flood said. He said Collier Enterprises is willing to provide land it owns for a link in the bypass. The road also would pass through land owned by Barron Collier Cos. and Consolidated Citrus.
“It’s time to get a shovel in the ground,” Flood said.
Thursday 28 September 2006
TEXTO: CARMEN G. BERNAL FOTO: VALERIO MERINO
CÓRDOBA. Lo describen como un hombre accesible y sereno. Y lo es. Trata al periodista de igual a igual, una virtud que lo hizo inaugurar ayer el IX Seminario que sobre Periodismo y Medio Ambiente se celebra en la capital. Al igual que su padre, el célebre escritor de «Cinco horas con Mario», es autor de una importante bibliografía, aunque, en este caso, el gran protagonista de sus «novelas científicas» ha sido un animal enigmático y amenazado: el lince.
¿En qué situación se encuentra el lince ibérico?
Desgraciadamente, sigue siendo mala. Nos engañaríamos si dijéramos lo contrario. Eso sí, existen ciertos atisbos que indican que la situación es mejor de la que era cuando empezamos, por lo menos en lo que a Córdoba se refiere. Los últimos datos que tenemos nos dicen que en el entorno de Andújar y Cardeña-Montoro está mejorando ligeramente la población de los linces. Cosa que no ocurre en Doñana, donde la cosa está empeorando un poco.
Las últimas informaciones facilitadas por el Proyecto Life hablaban de que existían tres hembras reproductoras en el entorno del Yeguas, con una decena de crías...
Sí, datos positivos todos. Distinto es determinar que la situación es buena. De todas maneras, es positivo que se haya estabilizado la población y que no pierda individuos en Sierra Morena. Eso es señal de que sabemos trabajar por el lince y da resultados. El problema es que no vale con que nazcan unos pocos linces más; necesitamos cientos de animales para que la situación no siga siendo grave y preocupante.
¿Qué población de linces existe actualmente?
Manejamos una cifra por debajo de los 200 ejemplares. Mientras no tengamos un millar, la situación de esta especie es mala.
La reciente incorporación de machos procedentes de Sierra Morena para la cría en cautividad en Doñana, ¿es un paso adelante para la mejora de la especie?
La cría en cautividad es una garantía que tenemos para que no desaparezca. Es un salvavidas por si todo lo demás va mal. La utilización de linces del entorno del Yeguas ha sido importante porque, en principio, han sido los únicos machos que han sido padres por ahora. Además se ha conseguido que se cruce un macho de Sierra Morena con una hembra de Doñana, cosa que no ocurría en la naturaleza desde hace siglos.
El principal problema de los linces, ¿sigue siendo la falta de alimento?
Sin duda. En Doñana la escasez de conejos, su principal alimento, es aún más grave. Esto, además de ser un problema para la crianza de cachorros, les ha obligado a salir de los límites del Parque Nacional en busca de roedores.
Lo que ha causado buena parte de los atropellos de animales, una situación que se repite a pesar de los esfuerzos...
Es complicado poner solución. La comarca del Doñana se ha desarrollado mucho y tiene una gran actividad agrícola y turística. Eso la ha dotado de una gran red de carreteras y caminos que, inevitablemente, el lince cruza buscando nuevos territorios.
¿Qué solución se le puede dar?
No hay una solución única. El planteamiento es el mismo que cuando nos preguntamos qué podemos hacer para reducir los muertos en accidentes de tráfico. Se puede trabajar para que haya menos, pero el accidente siempre puede pasar. Con los linces, hay que trabajar en el sentido de que haya menos carreteras por su zona de influencia, que la velocidad por ellas se reduzca y que exista la posibilidad de que el animal y el coche pasen por distintos niveles a través de pases de fauna en las carreteras.
¿Habría que concienciar más a los conductores?
Yo no soy muy crítico con ellos. Es más, en los últimos casos de atropellos han sido los mismos conductores los que han llamado a las autoridades y han recogido al animal. El tema es que hay personas que no quieren ir a 60 kilómetros por hora en una carretera recta y vacía. Los medios de comunicación tendrían que poner un poco de su parte en este tema para hacer saber a la población que salvar el lince y el medio ambiente requiere sacrificio y no sólo buena voluntad.
En la actualidad se está estudiando la posibilidad de introducir linces en el parque natural de Hornachuelos y el entorno del Guadalmellato. ¿Para cuándo podría estar efectivo el proyecto?
Cuanto más lento se lleve a cabo un proyecto de este tipo, mejor. Aunque, claro, eso lo determinará la situación del lince. No hay tiempo para ir muy lentos, lamentablemente. Creo que habría que empezar a soltar ejemplares en el 2010. Para eso se tendría que haber estudiado las zonas muy bien y seleccionar las más adecuadas.
En el entorno de estas jornadas sobre periodismo y medio ambiente, ha de reconocer que el lince, su gran pasión, ha tenido enorme repercusión en los medios frente a otros problemas quizás menos «vendibles»...
En eso tienen mucho que decir los comunicadores. El lince no es lo importante como tal. Sí como bandera de un medio ambiente bien conservado. Si nos dieran a salvar entre el lince o todo lo demás, elegiría sin duda lo segundo. El lince debe ser la bandera de un ejército en una batalla. Hay que salvar la bandera porque es representación de todo el grupo y no porque ella sola vaya a acabar con el enemigo.
Sep 28, 2006 12:11 am US/Eastern
(CBS4) GRAFTON An adult bobcat was found to be prowling in backyards in Grafton Sunday. Neighbors say they’ve been taken off guard by the animal’s presence and are not taking any chances with their pets or children.
“It’s a beautiful animal but it’s not something that I expected to be living in my backyard,” said Janet Halloran, a Grafton resident. “I was very scared. My children are out in the years. I have a young puppy that is contained in the yard.”
The bobcat was spotted Sunday afternoon by Kathleen Ferraro and her husband, who took several pictures.
“The cat was coming across the back of the yard and headed toward the garden,” Kathleen Ferraro said.
Some residents are not letting their pets outside and are taking precaution when their children play outside.
Experts said bobcats in the Grafton area are common, and although carnivores will usually only prey on small animals.
A dead lynx [i.e. caracal] was found hanging on a fence at the western entrance to Baviaanskloof in the Eastern Cape, one of the country's most botanically important regions, and a World Heritage Site.
Bool Smuts, director of the conservation organisation, Landmark Foundation, said in a statement on Wednesday he suspected the animal had been poisoned and hung on the fence deliberately.
"The animal in all likelihood died of poison and was displayed as a trophy.
"This can be seen only as a thumbing of the nose at conservation efforts in the region, particularly the conservation of predators.
"And this at the gateway to one of our World Heritage Sites," Smuts said.
Smuts has been campaigning for several years against attacks on wild predators, particularly against the use of gin traps which snap the leg bones of animals.
In the last four years 19 leopards and "countless more lynx" had been killed in the Baviaanskloof region.
Some of these had been caught in gin traps several times and released by vets and conservation officials.
Others had to be put down or died of thirst as they lay helpless in the steel jaws of gin traps.
Smuts said consumers needed to make the link between what they bought to eat and wear, and how these meat and wool products had been produced.
He called on consumers to boycott the "barbaric practices of poison and gin traps as a means of agricultural production".
"Gin traps have been banned in 80 countries and yet they are legally used in this country.
"I call on consumers of meat and fibre products to join a boycott of products that profit from these means of production," Smuts said.
He said consumers must call on retailers to supply "green" products which provided guarantees that they were not produced by farmers using poison or gin traps against wild predators.
This article was originally published on page 4 of The Cape Times on September 28, 2006
By Aaron Mackey
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.28.2006
Hikers in Sabino Canyon should be alert but not alarmed after the carcass of a deer that had been killed by a mountain lion was found on the main road Wednesday, officials said.
The carcass was left by the lion about a mile from the visitor center, prompting officials to put out the alert, according to a Coronado National Forest news release.
The carcass was in an area that is still open to the public. Part of Sabino Canyon is closed because of flood damage.
The mountain lion wasn't seen and the canyon will remain open, but people using it should be aware of their surroundings at all times, Josh Taiz, district wildlife biologist, said in the news release.
"Typically lions stay pretty close to their kills, so visitors should avoid the immediate area and be alert," he said.
The carcass was later moved to a remote area so the lion could return and eat without being disturbed.
While the lion was acting normally, officials were worried that people would be shocked to find the dead deer on the road, said Tom Whetten, a spokesman for the Arizona Game and Fish Tucson office.
"A lion killed a deer right on the road," he said. "People aren't used to seeing that."
Mountain lion prey on deer, javelina, rabbits, rodents and desert bighorn sheep, the release said.
Warnings about mountain lions abound at the park's visitor center and trail, but officials wanted to reiterate the need to be aware, Whetten said.
The discovery of the carcass on the road doesn't necessarily mean mountain lions are becoming more brazen, said Bob Steidl, an associate professor with the University of Arizona's School of Natural Resources.
"Is there a possibility that a particular lion might be less fearful of humans?" he wrote in an e-mail. "That is a possibility, but not a certainty."
In spring 2004 Sabino Canyon was the site of a lion hunt after several human encounters with mountain lions. After closing the park, game officials planned to shoot the cats. They later decided to trap and move them after a public outcry.
An 80-pound female lion was eventually trapped and taken to a Scottsdale rehabilitation center.
Officials arrested three people who they said had set false trails and wrecked traps set for the lions.
In August, Rodney Coronado was sentenced to eight months in federal prison for trying to stop the hunt. Matthew Crozier was sentenced to three years of supervised probation.
Esquire magazine writer-at-large John Richardson was sentenced to one day in jail.
● Alexis Huicochea contributed to this report. Contact reporter Aaron Mackey at 629-9412 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Date: 21 September 2006
TOKYO, Sept. 21 Kyodo - The United Nations University is developing an information system aimed at collecting reports on poaching and illegal wildlife trade in Asia. Under the scheme the university will gather information through an international network, evaluate it and offer it to law enforcement-related authorities in various countries.
The Internet-based geographic information system application will aid the relevant parties in identifying and monitoring the illicit trade routes.
The Asia Conservation Alliance Task Force, established by groups centering on the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society, will cooperate with the university in collecting the data. Forty-two organizations in 13 countries, including China, India and Japan, will take part in the task force.
The system's database will comprise reports on illegal wildlife trade by the university as well as studies conducted by governments and conservation organizations of various nations.
In addition to offering the information to relevant governmental and conservation organizations via the Internet and in the form of news letters, the university will also provide the data to Interpol, the secretariat of the Washington Convention and other international agencies. The system will use animated graphics to illustrate areas of wildlife poaching, trade routes and the places where the illegal goods are found.
The university plans to launch the system on a trial basis within this year at the earliest, researcher Remi Chandran said.
According to the secretariat of the Washington Convention, which controls commercial transactions of endangered wildlife, Asia is a hot spot for illicit trade.
Tiger poaching for fur and animal parts used in herbal medicine is reported to have reduced their population to around 5,000. Tibetan antelopes in China are reportedly facing extinction due to a spike in poaching and illegal exports of the animal's fine down used to make high-priced shahtoosh shawls.
Large amounts of African elephant ivory tusk have reportedly been shipped to China in recent years, while Japan is described as the biggest market for pet reptiles illegally caught in Southeast Asian countries.
John Sellar of the secretariat said caviar and Tibetan antelopes are sold at extremely high prices, with the most expensive caviar going for 1,800 euro (about 270,000 yen) per 250 grams and a shatoosh shawl costing $20,000 (about 2.34 million yen). He also said that illicit wildlife trade has grown and become more international.
He said he would be pleased if the university's system could contribute to the enhancement of citizens' awareness and to the promotion of international cooperation indispensable for combating illegal trade.
http://www.savethetigerfund.org/AM/Template.cfm? Section=News_Headlines&TEMPLATE=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm& CONTENTID=2841
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2006
CONTACT: KRISTY CAMPBELL
Governor Jeb Bush today announced the following appointments:
Florida Panther Technical Advisory Council
Dana C. Bryan, of Tallahassee, environmental policy coordinator for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Park Service, succeeding Deborah Jansen, for a term beginning September 22, 2006 and ending August 1, 2009.
Richard A. Clark, of Cantonment, chief of science and resources management for Gulf Islands National Seashore, succeeding John Pons, for a term beginning September 22, 2006 and ending August 1, 2007.
Michael J. Conroy, of Athens, Georgia, assistant leader for the Fish and Wildlife Research Unit of the United States Geological Survey Georgia Cooperative, succeeding Stephen Humphrey, for a term beginning September 22, 2006 and ending August 1, 2009.
Joseph D. Clark, of Maryville, Tennessee, research ecologist with the United States Geological Survey, succeeding Melvin Sunquist, for a term beginning September 22, 2006 and ending August 1, 2007.
Nicolay “Nick” Kapustin, of Jacksonville, senior veterinarian with the Jacksonville Zoo, succeeding Peter Gallagher, for a term beginning September 22, 2006 and ending August 1, 2007.
Frank Montalbano, III, of Tallahassee, president and CEO of Montalbano and Co. Consulting, succeeding Solon Mills, for a term beginning September 22, 2006 and ending August 1, 2008.
Laurie A. MacDonald , of St. Petersburg, wildlife ecologist and Florida director for the Defenders of Wildlife, succeeding Robert McDaniel, for a term beginning September 22, 2006 and ending August 1, 2008
"I'm becoming intrigued with these stories," said Commissioner Darnell Earley at the September NRC meeting after hearing from citizens who said they have seen Michigan cougars or had their livestock attacked by the large cats.
The Wildlife Police Committee will give a report on cougar sightings at its Oct. 5 NRC meeting. In August and September, the NRC and DNR were offered proof of the cougars' existence in Michigan. Citizens and conservation groups presented evidence of more than 1,200 sightings, including almost 100 sightings that involved evidence of a breeding population; confirmed DNA, scat, hair and bone samples; photos; videos, and livestock kills.
Citizens and wildlife groups have been putting pressure on the commission to investigate the cougar and develop a management plan based on its endangered status. The Michigan Citizens for Cougar Recognition is encouraging all citizens with information or evidence to attend and summarize their cougar observations at the meeting's public session.
Founder Denise Massey says that people unable to attend can forward their sighting reports to her through the Web site www.michigancougar.com.
[ 26 Sep, 2006 2307hrs ISTTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]
BANGALORE, India: The growl in the Project Tiger has been muzzled. Of the six new tiger reserves approved by the government of India in the Ninth Plan, only four have been created.
Tigers breed well and their population grows rapidly in habitats that are without disturbance, but 64,951 families are living inside the forests and, of these, 17,650 families are within the core areas, where tiger breeding is possible.
These families have to be shifted out for better management of forests and to increase the tiger population. But the Tenth Plan has approved only Rs 10.50 crore for relocation of these families, while the requirement is Rs 11,041 crore.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), who has compiled these facts in a comprehensive report — Conservation and Protection of Tigers in Tiger Reserves — has indicted the Union ministry of environment and forests and also state governments for their tardy progress in protecting the national animal.
The very issues that conservationists and experts have been warning about have come home to roost. One of the most damning observations of the Project Tiger reads: "Project Tiger authorities have not developed any accepted norms for sustaining a viable tiger population."
The observation was inspired by strong statistics — in the 15 tiger reserves created nationally up to 1984, the total number of tigers increased from 1,121 in 1984 to only 1,141 in 2001-02 — which shows the ineffectiveness of the measures taken by Project Tiger authorities to attain a viable tiger population.
K Ullas Karanth, tiger researcher and director, Wildlife Conservation Society, seconds that no regulatory mechanism is in place.
"If you don't set a limit on the number of tourists/vehicles visiting the reserves, then you must face the consequences on ecology. In Ranthambore, for example, virtually every area is thrown open.
The mission drift of Project Tiger is the single biggest problem. The entire forest service structure has to undergo a radical overhaul," he says, declaring that the forest department is no exception to financial mismanagement.
There's more: Any and every measure suggested and implemented, albeit ineffectively, has been criticised.
Protection measures in the tiger reserves are weak due to the absence of measures to combat poaching, poor communication network, inadequate provision of arms and ammunition, deficiencies in creation of strike force, poor intelligence gathering, inadequate patrolling camps and tardy progress in concluding the cases of wildlife crimes.
As a result, poaching has continued and touched an annual level of 22 over a period of six years.
Scientific Advisor of Wildlife First and Director of Wildlife Conservation Society’s India Program K. Ullas Karanth has been awarded the Sierra Club’s prestigious International Earthcare Award 2006 for his "unique and outstanding contribution to environmental protection and conservation." Previous recipients of the Award, established in 1975, include Andres Perez, President of Venezuala and Gro Harlem Brundtland Prime Minister of Norway. Dr Karanth has worked relentlessly to infuse his path-breaking scientific findings on tigers into policy in order to secure a future for tigers and their prey. He has campaigned for a shift in policy from the flawed total count method of tiger censuses to statistically validated sampling-based techniques for estimating tigers and their prey.
He has had to face, a press release from Wildlife First said, the ire of the establishment which has constantly attempted to scuttle his academic freedom by "denying rightful permissions to carry out scientific research. This has not blunted his urge to continue his scientific work for over two decades which has contributed to major conservation successes that include development of scientific protocols, based on long-term research, to estimate tigers and its prey which have resulted in over 50 publications in peer reviewed scientific journals; The formation of the Kudremukh National Park to protect the highly endangered Lion-tailed macaques; Reducing habitat fragmentation in the Bhadra Tiger Reserve through the voluntary resettlement of 16 villages ; Developing win-win solutions to resolve human-wildlife conflicts in a socially just manner in Nagarahole National Park
Dr Ullas Karanth is also a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London and a Trustee of Centre for Wildlife Studies. He has served on the Indian Board for Wildlife and the Steering Committee of Project Tiger, Government of India.
Wednesday September 27, 2006
The night of Sept. 16 was extremely frightening for Sandi Griston.
This was the night her nine-year-old miniature pinscher, Max, was attacked by a wild animal on the Griston’s Tower Road acreage. It turns out a cougar was the culprit that left a gaping four-inch gash on the tiny dog’s back.
"When I heard this scream I thought ‘oh great, something’s got my rabbits,’" Griston explained. "I went running out the door to scare away whatever this was, and it turned out the rabbit was actually poor Max."
Griston said she screamed loudly to scare the predator away. It let Max go quickly before she could make out exactly what kind of animal it was. Despite the nature of the situation, she admits she was quite calm and collected.
"When I saw Max, he was quivering and he was covered in sand. My first reaction was he’s had an encounter of some sort," she said. "The next thing I noticed, he sort of moved and this wound gaped open."
Griston describes the wound as looking as if it was cut with a scalpel. She also noticed marks on her dog that looked like punctures made from sharp claws. Although she didn’t see what had mauled Max, her veterinarian indicated the wounds on the pet were indeed the result of a cougar attack.
According to Whitecourt Fish and Wildlife officer Greg Gilbertson, cougars are very prominent in the Whitecourt area.
"There are a number of cougars in the area," he said. "The population seems to be on the increase over the last few years."
This population increase is due to an increase in the deer population – the main food source for cougars.
Although the cougar population is on the rise, Gilbertson reveals that Alberta Fish and Wildlife rarely has problems involving the reclusive animal, despite sightings within town. He said cougars aren’t really anything to worry about.
"You’re chances of being attacked by a cougar are very remote," he stressed.
According to Alberta Environment, shouting, waving a stick, or throwing rocks can intimidate cougars because these acts make them feel as though you are the predator. This behavior can prevent attacks. One of the possible reasons Max escaped the cougar’s grasp is that Griston was screaming and shouting to scare the animal away.
Other measures can be taken to prevent encountering a wild cat. For people living in cougar country, pet food should not be left outdoors, and deer and other wildlife should be kept off private properties as much as possible. It’s also important to keep pets inside or in a covered kennel during the evening, and store livestock feed in a proper manner.
As for Max, he’s recovering well at home.
"He’s incredibly active for the ordeal he’s been through," Griston said, adding she hasn’t seen any evidence of the cougar being near the acreage since the grueling incident.
Gilbertson is encouraging anyone who has seen or encountered a cougar in our area to contact Fish and Wildlife.
Hopefully, the new mechanism may bring happy tidings for tigers in the country. The constitution of the National Tiger Conservation Authority is probably the most momentous resolve after the launch of Project Tiger in India in the early Seventies. The Central government introduced a bill to this effect in the parliament last month, and consequently the Wildlife (Protection) Amendment Act 2006, envisaging a National Tiger Conservation Authority came into effect a few days back. The amended Act will lend Project Tiger, now a directorate under the Environment Ministry, a statutory status and its directive will have Constitutional authority. The Authority, as they say, will only supplement and not overwrite the existing laws, and will have powers to monitor all tiger conservation activities in the states.
The precursor to this decision was, if we strain our memory, several key recommendations of the tiger task force submitted to the Prime Minister last year. The members of the TTF observe in the report that the Centre does not have a major role in tiger conservation, and it has more or less become the responsibility of the states, and it should take an effective initiative in this direction. The constitution of this Authority under the amended Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, may also widen the scope for the Centre to intervene in tiger conservation in the states. Hopefully, the new mechanism will provide a long awaited opportunity for the central and state governments to work in close tandem for tiger conservation.
One of the most ambitious conservation schemes of its own kind in the world, Project Tiger initially recorded tremendous success with amazingly perceptible results in first stabilizing and later increasing the tiger populations in the Tiger Reserve areas. The general restoration of ecological damage, strengthening of protection, and improvement of infrastructures were commendably carried out in these wildlife ecosystems. The national and international community also heaved a sigh of relief that the tiger in this county was now back from a very critical brink and would ultimately reach a safer status, specially in the Tiger Reserve areas. There are now 28 Tiger Reserves in 17 states of the country, with a total area of 37,761 sq.km, which is only around 1.14% of the total geographic area of India.
Amid this applause and complacence of the mid eighties, the bad news started trickling in that some of these tiger bastions were not so safe after all, and general forest areas, which harbored about 50% of the country's total population, with, of course, a lesser degree of protection and already overburdened staff, were also witnessing serious trouble. This new grave threat with multiple dimensions arose from a very complex socio-economic and demographic order prevalent in the country. And conservation in several Tiger Reserves was now interfaced with increased poaching, encroachment, illicit grazing, infrastructural weaknesses, and other flaws. Expectedly, managed forests also did not fare well. In a nutshell, the worried conservationists pressed the panic button for the tiger's plight, and since then tiger conservation has made a chequered history in India. More recently, these threats snowballed into several conservational fiascos, raising a vehement "foul" from the watchdogs.
Project Tiger started as a 'Central Sector Scheme' with the full assistance of Central Government till 1979-80. Later, from 1980-81, it became a 'Centrally Sponsored Scheme' with equal sharing of expenditure between the center and the states. So far, the Project Tiger directorate at New Delhi has been headed by several eminent wildlife conservationists of the country. The directorate, however, as the TTF report suggests, has been functioning more or less as a financing and advisory body to the state governments for the development of the Tiger Reserves, with managements responsible solely to their respective state governments. Besides, it has little say on matters deemed important to it. This very arrangement, however, had also once taken the project to new heights, and no serious concern was ever raised. But the tougher times now hint at the porosity and gray areas in the current mechanism where many issues of utmost importance need quick consensus of both the governments for formulating effective policies.
The functioning of the Authority may require the officials to delve deep into the legislative powers of the central and state governments. We already know that the Indian Constitution provides for the union list and as well as the state list. There is, of course, also the concurrent list. There are several important conservation issues that are either the union or the state subjects. Therefore, it takes a lot of time and appallingly long procedure for both the central and state governments to reach a consensus for any change or improvement in the existing acts and policies for tiger conservation. In this way, the constitution of the NTCA with several MPs, chief wildlife wardens, and senior officers from different ministries that are crucial to conservation along with NGIs and experienced wildlifers as members is a most welcome move. And so is the lending of a statutory and legal status to the PT Directorate. This mechanism will ensure that the PT directorate will more effectively coordinate with tiger range states and enforce the guidelines under an MOU or any such arrangement.
Besides, the directorate may also be empowered to extend its role to the managed forest areas of the country, and the states may also receive the much needed enhanced funding. The newly acquired dental formula will help it work much more efficiently! It is, however, too early to predict the shape of things to come.
The NTCA has a most unenviable task on hand. A lot of balancing act and tightrope walking!! First of all, the power sharing mechanism between the Centre and the states is of utmost importance for the success of this new venture. It is a very delicate issue and no party should feel that it is going to be overshadowed in this joint effort. Besides, there are many issues on which the Authority has to obtain the consensus of the central and state governments. For instance, there are still 273 villages with human populations of around a hundred thousand, a vast sea of humanity and cattle, in the core zones of the various tiger reserves. The buffer zones of the Tiger Reserves also harbor 1487 villages with around four hundred thousand humans. If the villages have to be relocated at all within a timeframe, or if they are to be allowed to remain inside and use the park resources, it would require a clear-cut sound policy that might vary from state to state given the socio-political situations. The nature of tiger poaching also varies from sporadic revengeful killings to well-organized crimes to even terrorism in several Tiger Reserve areas and managed forests. In this way, every tiger state may need a special protection strategy. Besides, illegal land use, controversial diversions, enhancement of the protected area network, creation of buffer zones, ecodevelopment, research and monitoring, wildlife tourism, staff development and a host of other issues require a fresh review and lateral thinking vis-à-vis the rapidly changing backdrop for their desired effect on tiger conservation.