Friday, April 30, 2010
Friday, Apr 30, 2010
It is 32.64 tigers per 100 sq.km., highest in any known tiger habitat; one of the key reasons is abundance of prey
Guwahati: The Kaziranga National Park, famous for one-horned rhino, has the highest density of tigers in the world.
This was revealed in a report titled ‘Monitoring of Tigers and Prey Animals of Kaziranga National Park,' released by Assam Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain at the State Zoo here on Thursday. The report says that the density of tigers at Kaziranga is 32.64 tigers per 100 sq.km., the highest in any known tiger habitat.
Previously, this status was held by the Corbett Tiger Reserve in northern India which had 19.6 tigers per 100 sq.km. The usual density varies from three to12 tigers per 100 sq.km. in different tiger reserves throughout the country, the report states.
One of the key reasons for the high density in Kaziranga is the abundance of prey, including the hog deer ( Axis porcinus), the sambar ( Rusa unicolor), the swamp deer ( Cervus duvauceli Cuv) and the wild buffalo ( Bubalis arnee), according to the report.
The 50-page report was compiled on the basis of a study carried out by Aaranyak, a society for biodiversity conservation in northeast India, the Assam Forest Department and the Kaziranga National Park Authority.
Aaranyak Wildlife Biologist M. Firoz Ahmed, who led the study, said it was conducted using the ‘camera trap' method of tiger estimation and covered an area of 144 sq. km. of the central and western parts of the park.
Earlier, Karanth and Nichols (1998) had indicated that tigers attained their highest possible density in Kaziranga. According to Karanth and Nichols, tiger density of Kaziranga was 16.8 tigers per 100 sq.km. Their efforts involved 525 trap-nights over 167 sq.km. The present study, involving 1,250 trap-nights of camera trap efforts, however, recorded almost twice the density compared to the last estimation made by Karanth and Nichols.
Explaining the reasons for using camera trapping, Mr. Ahmed said: “Stripes of tiger never lie. Tigers have different stripe patterns just like our fingerprints. By carefully observing the unique stripes all the photographed tigers of an area can be individually identified.” He said that Kaziranga is the only viable source population of tigers in the northeast region and it is important to know tiger population and ecology to scientifically manage prey, predator and habitats and also understand dispersal mechanism of tigers.
Mr. Hussain said the study results rekindled the hope for the protection of the tiger, which is fast disappearing from its range States throughout the world. He attributed Kaziranga's achievement to the dedication and relentless efforts by frontline staff to protect and preserve the wildlife and unique ecology of the World Heritage Site.
The study team has recommended regular monitoring of tigers and prey populations in the park to understand population dynamics and ecology in such a high-density tiger habitat. They also cautioned that considering the high density of tigers, human-tiger conflict on the fringe areas of the park may increase and recommended that the park management take necessary short-term and long-term steps to mitigate such conflicts and train more frontline staff in the park in regular monitoring of camera traps and also in recording sighting data of tigers and other animals on a regular basis.
The Aaranyak team worked under the supervision of their secretary-general Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, while the park staff were coordinated by director S.N. Buragohain.
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Rhys Blakely in Mumbai
April 28, 2010
For centuries, the prospect of spotting a Bengal tiger in the wild has been a highlight of visiting India. Now the Government is to end the spectacle amid fears that the species is being “loved to death” by visitors desperate for a glimpse of tigers in the wild.
Tourism is to be phased out in the core regions of the 37 tiger reserves, Rajesh Gopal, the head of India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority, told The Times. “We should not forget that tiger reserves are primarily for conserving the endangered tiger and tourism is just a secondary outcome,” he said. “Our reserves are small and prone to disturbance caused by tourism. They cannot compete with large African savanna parks, which can stand large number of tourists.”
The Environment Ministry has ordered India’s states to wind down tourism in such areas and to tightly regulate it in surrounding regions where the chance of seeing a tiger is far smaller, Dr Gopal said. People who live in core tiger habitats will be moved.
A count in February 2008 showed that India’s tiger population had plummeted to 1,411 animals, down from 3,642 in 2002. The latest figure is disputed, however. Some experts say that there may be only 800 wild tigers in India today and that the species could be rendered extinct in five years.
According to government officials, the species has already disappeared or is in danger of becoming extinct in 16 reserves. A century ago, when tiger hunting was a favourite pastime of Raj-era dignitaries, there were an estimated 40,000 in India.
The decline is largely due to poaching, but habitat damage caused by tourism has also reached critical levels, experts say. “Seeing a wild tiger has become a kind of status symbol,” M. K. Ranjitsinh, chairman of the Wildlife Trust of India, said. “People do not realise the harm to the broader ecosystem. They are loving the tiger to death.”
Tourists, whether in vehicles or on top of elephants, destroy the high grassland in which the big cats hunt, and drive away their prey, Mr Ranjitsinh said. In many parks, lodges have been built in core reserve areas while hotels block the corridors that tigers use to travel from one territory or reserve to another.
Some reserves have been criticised for using radio telemetry systems for tracking tigers for the benefit of tourists. Once found by a mahout — an elephant driver — brandishing an antenna, a single tiger can be hounded by dozens of tourist vehicles.
“The parks’ priorities have become warped,” Mr Ranjitsinh said. The bamboo forests and grassland in Kanha provided inspiration for Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book.
Experts agree that only radical action can bring back the tiger from the brink of extinction, but add that tourism is only one of several dangers. Poaching to feed Chinese demand for traditional tonics has taken a heavy toll. So too has competition for space between tigers and India’s booming human population.
Jairam Ramesh, the Environment Minister, said this month that unregulated tourism was as much a threat to tiger population as poaching. He said that he would clamp down on “mushrooming luxury resorts around tiger reserves”. He singled out Corbett National Park — named after the British hunter-turned-conservationist Jim Corbett and a favourite destination with Western tourists — as a habitat that had degenerated because of tourism. At least four tigers have died there in the past two months, according to reports.
— 832 tigers known to have been killed in India from 1994 to 2007
— 1,411 India’s remaining wild tiger population in 2008
— 21 tiger deaths so far in 2010, 10 from natural causes, 11 from poaching
— $5,000 Price paid by traders to poachers for a complete dead tiger
— $50,000 Price paid for a complete tiger at market
— $35,000 Price paid for a tiger skin at market
Sources: WPSI, National Geographic, Business Week India
Monday, April 26, 2010
April 25, 2010
Tasa Nugraza Barley
Listen up. If you are between 18 and 25 years of age, are concerned about saving the Sumatran tiger from extinction and live in Indonesia or Germany, then there is a competition that is just for you. Forest Friends, a joint program launched this month by the Indonesian and German chapters of the environmental group World Wildlife Fund, is seeking people to blog about Sumatran tigers and the Sumatran forest.
“This program’s goal is to facilitate the development of creative ideas from young people for saving the environment,” said Annisa Ruzuar, WWF Indonesia’s communications officer for the forest, species and fresh-water program.
Annisa said the group chose to focus on the Sumatran tiger in conjunction with WWF’s Year of the Tiger campaign, which was launched this year.
WWF is an international nongovernmental organization that works on issues regarding conservation, research and the restoration of the environment. The organization is the largest of its kind in the world, with more than five million supporters.
Until May 15, participants can create a blog with articles that discuss the competition’s theme, “Real action to conserve the forest and environment.”
Annisa said participants were encouraged to illustrate their stories with cool photos and short movies. Three participants each from Indonesia and Germany judged to have the best blogs will then be selected to compete in the final.
WWF will form three teams comprised of one person each from Indonesia and Germany. They will collaborate online to come up with creative plans and ideas to save the Sumatran tiger from extinction, as well as preserve the forest and all its inhabitants. Teams will then be asked to deliver their proposals via an online application provided by WWF.
The winning team will be determined based on the number of online fans they are able to amass. Ten trees will be planted in Sumatra forest for each fan the teams are able to acquire.
The Indonesian from the first-place team in the Forest Friends program will be given the chance to visit WWF’s field office in Germany. The winner from Germany, as well as the second and third-place finishers from Indonesia, will be given the chance to visit WWF’s field office in Sumatra.
Annisa said the program was designed as an effective medium to allow young people from the two countries to exchange information on issues related to environmental conservation.
“We believe that environmental conservation is a global issue. Thus, it requires involvement from people around the world,” she said.
Annisa gave one example of how the countries are interconnected when it comes to the environment. “If people in Germany don’t use paper efficiently, this will negatively impact the forest in Sumatra, because that is where the paper comes from.”
She said that in 1985, Sumatra had 25 million hectares of forest covering about 57 percent of the land. But due to illegal logging and conversion, there were just 13 millions hectares of forest covering about 30 percent of the island in 2007.
This situation has had an impact on animals in the forest, including the highly endangered Sumatran tiger. Annisa said Sumatra was the only place in Indonesia where tigers could still be found.
According to research by a number of institutions, including WWF, aggressive hunting by humans caused the Bali tiger and the Javanese tiger to disappear in the 1930s and 1970s, respectively.
Other tiger subspecies, including the Caspian tiger, have also been totally wiped out. Among those that remain today are the Siberian, Bengal, Indochinese, South China and Malayan tigers.
Annisa said the Sumatran tiger faced a major threat as its habitat continued to decrease. Based on WWF research, there are only around 400 of the tigers left in the wild. She said that by supporting the Forest Friends program, people would help to save the remaining tigers.
“The more trees we are able to plant, the more tigers we will be able to save.”
World Wildlife Fund Forest Friends Program
From April to November
Tel: 021 5761 070, ext 509
Sunday, April 25, 2010
A tiger census has been stalled midway in Jharkhand's Palamau Tiger Reserve due to presence of Maoists in forests, an official said Sunday.
'We are unable to monitor tigers due to strong presence of the Maoists. The work has been stalled and we are seeking help from local people for the tiger census,' Manoj Singh, director of Palamau Tiger Reserve, told IANS over telephone.
'We are trying to complete the census by May-end. The data will then be sent to the Wildlife Institute of India (WII),' said Singh.
The reserve is spread over an area of about 1,100 sq km. As per a census in 1974, there were 50 tigers in the reserve. The wild cat population today stands at 17.
According to another forest official, appeals have been made to Maoists through local people not to disturb the tiger census. 'We are asking local people to persuade Maoists to allow census scientists venture into deep forest for collecting data,' said the official on condition of anonymity.
The reserve has around 200 elephants. The fauna found in the reserve includes deer, monkeys, peacocks, hens and rabbits.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Gyan Varma / DNATuesday, April 6, 2010 1:29 IST
New Delhi: Even as security agencies are busy fighting the bloodiest battle against Maoists, the red brigade is actually helping the environment and forests ministry conduct the tiger census.
For the first time in a decade, wildlife officials have managed to enter three tiger reserves in Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand that were earlier out of their reach.
After having detailed discussions with the Maoists in these three jungles and helping them understand the threat to Indian tigers, scientists and forest officials finally managed to enter Indravati tiger reserve in Chhattisgarh, Simlipal in Orissa and Palamu in Jharkhand.
“These tiger reserves are Maoist dens. But this time, we will have tiger census in these areas. Census in Indravati will be conducted in the second phase that would start after the monsoon,” Qamar Qureshi, a scientist in the Wildlife Institute of India that is spearheading the tiger census, said.
Senior officials of the National Tiger Conservation Authority said not just helping with the tiger census, Maoists have even agreed not to attack forest guards and offices in these reserves.
“During the last census, we could not find out the number of tigers living in those areas because they were completely under Maoist control,” said a senior official in the environment ministry.
The officer said tiger figures were expected to go up since these reserves have remained out of reach for humans. “We expect a rise in tiger population because no one has dared to go inside these reserves for years. Maoists are known to protect wild animals. Even poachers won’t dare enter these reserves,” the official added.
“We have been allowed limited access to the area. But at least we would know the state of the big cats in these reserves,” the official said.
Sources in the ministry also said attacks on forest officials and guards have stopped in Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh because of the regular discussions with the red brigade.
“We are in regular contact with Maoists and they have agreed not to attack forest guards and officials who are deployed in these jungles for the protection of wild animals,” the official said. He said discussions with Naxalites started after the red brigade destroyed a forest office in Simlipal.
Kaziranga, April 6, 2010
Union Environment and Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh on Monday said Kaziranga has brought fresh hopes on tiger conservation in the country with the National Park registering a density of about 30 tigers over 100 square kilometres of the park, which he described to be the highest in the country.
After a field visit the Minister told journalists inside the world heritage site, that such a high density indicate that Kaziranga with a total area of more than 1000 square km area should have more than 100 tigers. Mr. Ramesh said that figures of tiger census would be out in November. Assam Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain accompanied Mr. Ramesh in field visit.
The Union Minister announced that four regional offices of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) would be opened in Bangalore, Nagpur, Kolkata and Guwahati to spread out activities of NTCA to field areas and to ensure that it did not remain Delhi-centric. The NTCA headquarters in Delhi would also look after northern India.
Of the 39 project tiger areas in the country situation in nine are good, 12 are satisfactory while the scenario in 18 project tiger areas is precarious, he said. Mr. Ramesh said tigers have become endangered but not extinct in India. He said about 50 to 60 per cent of wild tiger population of the world is found in India and this has been possible because of huge and sustained efforts put under Project Tigers for conservation of the big cats.
Mr. Ramesh and Mr. Hussain were given a demonstration on how camera-trapping method is used for tiger census by wildlife biologist Firoz Ahmed of Aranyak, a society for biodiversity conservation, engaged in tiger census operation. The Ministers and top forest officials witnessed fresh pug marks of tigers inside the national park.
He said that if the State government wanted financial assistance to Kaziranga to double, the Central government would meet the demand as the barrier of treating Kaziranga as non-project tiger area broken.
Mr. Ramesh said that the Centre has offered Assam that whatever is required for helping filed staff of Kaziranga like night vision devices and for assistance for their mobility for instance, would be provided.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
NDTV Correspondent, Monday April 5, 2010, Kaziranga National Park
Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said that a "determined effort" is on to finish off the tiger population in the country.
Speaking to NDTV at Kaziranga National Park in Assam on Monday, he said: "It is not coincidental, it's not an accident, there is a deliberate conspiracy of real estate and mining mafia."
"I can't explain the unnatural mortality at Corbett, but this is an effort by some to depopulate tiger so they can take over Corbett," he added.
On his first Kaziranga safari as Environment and Forest Minister, Ramesh announced that the National Tiger Conservation Authority will be set up with one regional office in Guwahati.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
NDTV Correspondent, Saturday April 10, 2010
Simlipal Tiger Reserve, Orissa
As we enter the dense jungles of Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, freshly felled tree tell us about the presence of Maoists who, like the big cats, stalk the area but are rarely seen.
In March and April last year, there were 25 attacks by Maoists on forest and tourist establishments here which forced the field staff to flee their posts. Till December, all 60 posts in the tiger reserve spanning over 2700 sq km remained unmanned, allowing free access to poachers and the timber mafia.
But things improved after the new field director extensively toured the area to persuade the staff, including women guards, to return to their posts.
"Now there are 40 camps and 300 to 400 people inside. But fear is still there. Our anti-poaching activities have really been affected," said HS Upadhyay, field director, Simlipal Tiger Reserve.
"We haven't seen any Maoist so far but we are scared, naturally..." a woman guard said.
After the attacks, a group of local youth working on contract has taken over as anti-poaching squad. "The fear is very much there but we also need the job," said one of them.
No one here wears uniform to avoid being spotted by Maoists. Though there has been no fresh violence, fear of Maoist strikes has affected operations.
For years, parts of the Simlipal forests bordering West Bengal have offered a safe base to the Maoists who depend heavily on the three villages in the core area. But local villagers feign ignorance.
"We don't see Maoists coming out of jungle," said a villager.
With security forces intensifying their offensive in West Bengal, there are reports of heavy influx of Maoists into Simlipal. But the Orissa government is in a dilemma. It doesn't have enough forces to take on the Maoists but at the same time it cannot afford to let the ailing Simlipal Tiger Reserve turn into a battle zone.
From the Friends of the Florida Panther Refuge
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org
Monday, April 12, 2010
Snow Leopard Trust provides Mongolia relief effort Were helping families in Mongolia recover from a devestating winter We're helping f
We're helping families in Mongolia recover from a devastating winter
As you might have heard, Mongolia is facing one of the worst winters in three decades: herders have lost an estimated 4.5 million livestock as 19 of 21 provinces were hit by extreme cold and snow. The Snow Leopard Trust has established a relief fund so that we can immediately help families through this difficult time. One of our partners, Snow Leopard Trust UK, is providing $12,000 raised by Snow Leopard Vodka to bring hundreds of herders across 16 districts essential aid such as hay and fodder for their remaining livestock. In addition, our Snow Leopard Enterprises program will help families earn badly-needed income so they can begin to rebuild their lives. Terrible events like this can pressure families to hunt or poach wildlife in order to survive, but with help they can recover without having to resort to such measures.
If you would like to contribute to this winter recovery effort, please earmark checks or donations to “Snow Leopard Enterprises.” If you have any questions please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Posted: Friday , Apr 09, 2010 at 0301 hrs
Lucknow: To prevent tiger mortality, a meeting between the officials of the state Forest department and National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is scheduled to be held by the end of this week.
With 14 tiger deaths already being reported from across the country this year, the meeting would focus on the mysterious death of a tiger in the state’s North Kheri forest division.
The carcass of an adult male tiger was recovered from North Kheri on January 6. According to the postmortem report, the cause of death could not be ascertained, as the carcass was over 48 hours old and the internal organs of the big cat had decomposed.
“The meeting is scheduled during April 10 to 12,” said B K Patnaik, PCCF, UP Forest department. “We will review the protection strategy that is being taken up by officials at the tiger reserves. We can review the shortcomings and loopholes in their strategy and suggest solutions,” said a NTCA official.
Gyan Varma / DNAFriday, April 9, 2010 0:10 IST
New Delhi: Finally, there is some good news from the jungles.
Conservationists in the government have sighted 117 tiger cubs in nine reserves in the past 15 months.
Favourable developments are happening in the national tiger conservation authority (NTCA), but wildlife officials are keeping their fingers crossed, hoping the cubs grow up safely.
The past few years have been worrisome for tigers in India — over 135 have died since the last census figures came out in 2006. To make matters worse, 80 tigers died in the nine reserves between January 2009 and March 2010. Last year was the bloodiest when 66 big cats were killed or died due to natural causes.
“Increasing number of tigersmeans breeding is happening in reserves,” Yadvendradev Jhala, a leading Wildlife Institute of India scientist, said. He, however, said the 117 cubs could not be included in the ongoing census. “Only adult tigers are counted,” Jhala said.
NTCA officials said the sighting of cubs was a good sign after so many deaths in a year, but it was important to protect them, so that they become adults and add to the population of tigers in India. “They multiply fast, but their mortality rate is also high. India loses 25-30 tigers every year, but 2009, when 66 cats died, was an exception,” an NTCA member said.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Shishir Prashant / Dehra Dun April 11, 2010, 0:30 IST
Amid mounting concern over the dwindling population of tigers in the country, a special tiger protection force has been mooted in the Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand. The force will assist the staff of the country’s oldest national park in reducing the poaching risk to the endangered animal.
There are only about 1,400 tigers left in the country, thanks to poaching, shrinking habitats and a decline in the prey base. The Jim Corbett National Park, named after the celebrated hunter-writer who brought down many a maneater in the hill state, has 160 tigers. This is the highest population of tigers anywhere in the country. The government, animal lovers and even some corporations are working overtime to save the animal.
What will be unique about the 112-man force is that it will include people who live in the vicinity of the park, the Van Gujjars. They will make up 30 per cent of the people taken on contract. The total expenditure on the force will be borne by the central government. Attractive financial packages are also being offered for the rehabilitation of the people from the protected areas. “If we have to save tigers for posterity, India is the place where there is still hope,” said Wildlife Institute of India Director PR Sinha.
In the Jim Corbett National Park, at least three tigers have died since the beginning of this year. It is considered one of the best habitats for the big cat. Last year was also not good for tigers in Uttarakhand, when nine of them died.
Uttarakhand has taken proactive steps in the past to save its wildlife. In 2001, five elephants had died mysteriously in the Jim Corbett National Park. Their tusks had been removed. The police swung into action, much to the chagrin of forest officials, and the killings came to an end. The police, at that time, had called for tiger police stations outside the reserve. But that never happened.
Great efforts are being put up at the highest level to save the tiger. Still, there are no visible signs as yet if poaching of tigers has come down. An estimate prepared by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, a United Nations agency, has disclosed that there were 100,000 tigers just 20 years ago in Asia. Now, only 3,200 are left in the wild.
Thursday, April 08, 2010
Monday, April 05, 2010
Published Date: 04 April 2010
By Tom Peterkin
A MASSIVE conservation project backed by American dollars is to be launched this summer in a bold attempt to bring the Scottish wildcat back from the brink of extinction.
Wildlife experts, scientists and volunteers are working on a £750,000 plan that they hope will save the unique creatures that have been mythologised in Highland folklore.
Almost hunted to extinction, there are now thought to be fewer than 400 Scottish wildcats left – an alarming statistic that has prompted a rescue bid that will be the UK's largest ever conservation project.
Ex-pat Scots living in the United States, who appreciate the wildcats' ancient links with their clans, have contributed tens of thousands of pounds to the project, which could run for ten years.
The first step will be setting the first of thousands of box traps in remote areas of west Scotland later this year to catch the feral cats that are interbreeding with the wildcat population. They will then be neutered to protect the genetic purity of their wild cousins.
The Texan-based Summerlee Foundation, a private grant-making organisation, has contributed cash, as has Bosack Kruger, another animal welfare foundation in the USA. Further grants have come in from the Shuman Trust in Britain and Sir Cameron Mackintosh's Mackintosh Foundation. The show business impresario has a country home near Mallaig.
The creatures, which are the only surviving members of the cat family that are native to Britain, are now found only in remote parts of Scotland. They cannot be tamed and will fight to the death to protect their young.
For centuries, their fighting spirit and independence were revered by the old Highlanders and wildcats are depicted on some clan crests including MacPherson and Mackintosh.
The key to the plan is trapping and eventually eradicating the estimated 100,000 feral or farm cats roaming the Western Highlands. These can mate with true wildcats – therefore contaminating the wildcats' genetic line.
Now that man is forbidden by law to kill the creatures, feral cats pose the greatest threat to the pure bred wildcat (felis silvestris grampia) – a beast which has lived in Scotland for two million years.
When a wildcat mates with a feral cat, the resulting litter produces so-called hybrid cats, which themselves can produce fertile offspring.
The conservation project, which is to be led by the Scottish Wildcat Association, will begin in Ardnamurchan, the most westerly point on the British mainland.
Around 100 meat-baited box traps will be laid on the remote peninsula – one of the last remaining wildcat havens.
Vets will neuter any feral cats caught to prevent them breeding with wildcats before they are released. Thousands of box traps are likely to be set across the Highlands to the West of Loch Ness and Loch Lochy.
Steve Piper, of the Scottish Wildcats Association, said: "If we can clear out all of the feral cats in an area of around 7,000 square miles, there will be only wildcats left and they will be able to recolonise their natural habitat."
Scientists have also developed a genetic test that can determine the purity of a wildcat's breeding. Later in the summer, the plan is to test the hair or blood of any surviving wildcats that are found.
The test results will give scientists a precise indication of how much work needs to be done to ensure the wildcat's survival.
"These results should give us an idea of how many are left and how badly hybridised some of them have become," Piper said.
The project's lead researcher is the American scientist Dr Jim Sanderson, a member of the Small Cat Conservation Alliance and the Feline Conservation Federation, and who is regarded as one of the world's leading field researchers of wildlife with a speciality in small wildcats.
Outside Scotland, he has been involved in tracking rare animals such as the Andean Mountain Cat, the Bay Cat and the Fishing Cat.
Sanderson said: "The Scottish wildcat is the last remaining wild cat in the UK, and with a total population thought to be between 200 and 400 it is considered critically endangered. If the situation worsens it can only become extinct.
"I think the Scottish Wildcat Association's plan is presently the only viable comprehensive plan to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction. The time to act has come."
Sanderson added: "In Spain, the Iberian lynx, which also numbers around 200 individuals, is the subject of a ¤30-million conservation programme. The Scottish wildcat conservation programme doesn't even have a million pounds, so I would urge everyone who cares about this animal to support the Association's plan in the coming years."
Wildcat experts based in Scotland have also been consulted on the project.
Andrew Kitchener, the principal curator of vertebrates at the National Museum of Scotland, who has studied the wildcat, has been acting as an adviser to the project.
Kitchener said: "The evolutionary story of the wildcat goes back almost two million years and the Scottish population is the most northerly population of wildcat in the world and there are bound to be some evolutionary adaptations that are unique to the Scottish wildcat.
"They have probably been in Britain for 9,000 years – around five or six thousand years before the domestic cat was even invented. If we can't even look after the Highland tigers on our doorsteps, how can we ask the people of India to look after their own tigers."
Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://www.bigcatrescue.org
Updated: 04/04/2010 06:45:04 PM PDT
In a tale worthy of Greek tragedy, the lion king of the Santa Monica Mountains a few years ago murdered his lioness and two of his offspring.
Yet the fierce P-1, as scientists call him, has never attacked people or pets.
Such is the mystery and contradiction of one of the West's last great predators, the mountain lion, which can grow to nearly 200 pounds and kills prey by chomping on their necks.
For the last eight years, federal wildlife experts have been studying the mountain lion population in the Santa Monicas, using radio collars to track the movements of 15 of the cats also known as cougars or pumas.
While the study remains ongoing, some of their research was detailed in a book released last month titled "Urban Carnivores: Ecology, Conflict and Conservation."
"There are cases where people have been attacked, but everything we've learned shows it is such a rare, even bizarre kind of event," said co-author Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.
"They are out doing what they are supposed to be doing, which is staying out of people's way and eating deer."
The study is changing how wildlife officials and others view mountain lions. Even though the solitary cougars can evoke fear when spotted by hikers, the study has found that they can coexist with humans, even in urban areas, if able to roam in a sufficiently large habitat.
P-1, for example, the first to be tagged for the study, is considered the alpha cat of the group. He is one of the more aggressive animals, has fathered at least four cubs and got in several bloody fights. He also killed lioness P-2 and two of the cubs she bore for him.
But there is no evidence that he has attacked humans.
Since 1890, mountain lions in California have attacked 16 people, killing six. The last and only known attack in Los Angeles County occurred in 1995 in the San Gabriel Mountains. In statistical terms, people are 1,000 times more likely to be struck by lightning than attacked by a mountain lion.
Each year, the state Department of Fish and Game issues more than 100 "deprivation" permits, giving homeowners and livestock owners permission to hire specialists to euthanize lions that kill livestock and pets or threaten public safety.
But the number of cougars killed in California has dropped from a high of 148 in 2000 to 46 in 2008.
Officials at Fish and Game and the national Mountain Lion Foundation attribute the drop to campaigns educating the public on how to protect themselves, pets and livestock. Tips include bringing pets inside at night, securing animal enclosures and using guard dogs.
"Years ago, ranchers and people who had pets and livestock kind of assumed that killing the mountain lion was their only option when there was a problem," said Amy Rodrigues, the foundation's outreach coordinator. "But if you kill a lion, you just opened up that territory and a new mountain lion is likely to move in and that will just continue the cycle of losing livestock and having to kill more mountain lions."
At one point during the study, P-1 killed some of a hobby rancher's animals in the Santa Monica Mountains, said Jeff Sikich, a National Parks Service wildlife biologist. But instead of having P-1 killed, the rancher built an enclosure for his sheep and goats and bought Anatolian shepherd dogs.
Using a GPS tracking device, Sikich determined the cougar returned the next night but was deterred by the dogs.
Remarkably, the killing of the rancher's livestock was a rarity. Since 2002, officials have examined more than 400 sites where the lions have lingered for three or four days - a sign of a kill - and 95 percent of the dead animals were deer.
Tracking lions in an urban landscape helps biologists learn how they survive in the 153,000-acre park. Biologists are especially interested in whether they can cross freeways, making their way to the Simi Hills, Santa Susana Mountains and the Los Padres National Forest - the nearest source of genetically-different mountain lions.
"We've only had one lion cross the 101 Freeway from the north to the south," Sikich said. "In the long term, unless these populations are mixing, inbreeding will set in and that will eventually lead to them dying off."
Leading solitary lives, and having little contact with others unless mating or mothering, adult lions typically roam an area of 100 square miles. As part of efforts to ensure their survival, various agencies have acquired 85,000 acres in the Santa Monica Mountains, increasing interconnected habitat and helping ensure their genetic diversity and survival.
Meanwhile, the "whole big soap opera" with P-1 continues, Rodrigues said.
While it's common for male mountain lions to fight and kill each other to protect their territory and food supply, Riley said lion experts are unaware of any other male killing the female he mated with.
Riley speculates P-1 may have killed her while she was protecting her four one-year-old cubs. P-1 may have wanted to kill his two sons to protect his territory in an area surrounded by an ocean, freeways and massive development, Riley said. P-1 eventually did kill two of his children - a male and a female.
In 2007, the battery on his collar died and officials lost track of him. Since then, several other adult males have moved into his territory.
Last year, he got in a scrap with a younger cat in the Hidden Valley area.
"We went up there, found blood on the rocks and also P-1's collar, which is kind of amazing because these collars are rugged," Riley said. "So we knew he had been alive at least at that point, but we didn't know if anyone had died."
About a month later, they found new scat in the area. Genetic testing determined it came from P-1, who is believed to be 12 or 13 years old now - about the maximum life expectancy for a lion.
Biologists wonder if the king of the mountain lions is still out there.
"Maybe he's not out there anymore and if he is maybe he's not as dominant," Riley said. "We may never know of course."
Fish and Game officials killed hundreds of mountain lions throughout California to prevent them from threatening humans. But new research is finding that, even as civilization continues to push further into their habitat, the big cats are behaving themselves a little better, with fewer attacks. Photo: California Department of Fish and Game
ON THE WEB
National Park Service www.nps.gov/samo/naturescience/ pumapage.htm
Mountain Lion Foundation www.mountainlion.org
California Wildlife Center www.californiawildlifecenter.org
California Dept. of Fish & Game www.dfg.ca.gov/news/issues/lion/
By BEN LEUBSDORF Monitor staff
April 05, 2010 - 8:04 am
Bobcats often thought to be elusive predators, appear to be on the rise in New Hampshire, where they've been protected from hunting and trapping since 1989. The Fish and Game Department and the University of New Hampshire hope to learn more about what they're up to and where they live. Fish and Game wildlife biologist Patrick Tate spoke with us about a study that began last year and will end in 2013.
So why bobcats? The situation developed in the state where it appeared bobcat numbers were increasing over the last five to seven years. . . . We started to ask the question, "What exactly is happening with our bobcat populations?"
How are you studying - tracking, I guess - the bobcats? We are using radio collars . . . to track them and to determine what areas they're using on the landscape. We're also collecting any roadkill animals that are reported to the department. We're taking genetics from those animals . . . to determine populations. . . . The collars are providing habitat modeling.
How many are you tracking now? We currently have 12 cats with radio collars on them . . . in the Keene area.
What have you learned so far? We haven't crunched any of the data; however, looking at the areas that they're traversing, we're finding that during the winter months they're having a strong reliance on wetlands areas, marshy areas. But we won't have any significant data for two years.
This is a cooperative study by Fish and Game and UNH, but specially permitted trappers are getting involved, too? To capture a cat takes a very unique skill set. They're not an animal that is easily sought after, and that is where trappers come into play. . . . They know the little tricks of how to capture those animals. . . . And it's a select few . . . not just anybody.
Friday, April 02, 2010
Vivek Deshpande Posted online: Saturday , Apr 03, 2010 at 0427 hrs
Nagpur : The tiger-human conflict claimed one more life in Chandrapur district on Thursday when 30-year-old Gurum Shrirame was killed by a tiger in the Murpar area of Chimur range in Brahmapuri division.
“Shrirame had gone to the forest yesterday to collect Mahua flowers. He, however, didn’t return by the night. When villagers searched for him, a partly-devoured body dragged about 100 metres away from the spot of the attack was discovered,” Divisional Forest Officer Sanjay Thavre told The Indian Express.
This has taken the toll of those killed in seven attacks by tigers this year to six. Last year had seen a lull in the conflict, raging since 2006, with only four deaths occurring compared to 25 in 2008. This had led to a suspicion about disappearance of tigers from the conflict areas — either due to revenge killings or because of poaching. Many abandoned cubs were rescued, with their parents missing, from the conflict areas in 2009, strengthening the suspicion.
After one death each in January and August in 2009, three attacks and two deaths were reported in December. February had seen the maximum damage to human life with five deaths occurring in the month, four in Shivni range just outside the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR). Shockingly, these had happened within 12 days, with three happening on consecutive days — February 4, 5 and 6.
A young adult male was suspected to have caused all the deaths. All attempts to tranquillise the animal had failed. Since then, however, there is a lull in the Shivni range. The tiger is believed to have since moved away from the area. One of the deaths in February had also happened in the Chimur range, 40 km away from the problem area in the Shivni range.
The Forest Department is running a Corridor Conservation Programme in these areas to mitigate the conflict. The programme, however, has been shrinking in its area of operation for want of funds. Earlier, it covered three ranges. Now, it is being done only in two rounds in one particular range. The Chandrapur forest adjoining Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) is considered the biggest man-tiger conflict zone in the country with 63 deaths being reported till date in man-tiger (58) and man-leopard (5) conflicts since 2006.