Sunday, January 25, 2009

Weekly Feline News

Well I deliberately waited to post this week's news until this Sunday to a) bring it back to schedule and b) learn of any latest news about the capture of the stray tiger in India. And even as I've met the first objective, the second eludes me - as well as the many frustrated wildlife officials in Uttar Pradesh, India, on the prowl of the big cat since the last couple of months...

And they have good reason for their exasperation. The stray tiger has killed again. This time it was a man in a village of the Faizabad district where the tiger is currently on the prowl. The victim was killed and eaten on January 15th, merely hours after the Wildlife Trust of India had given the local forest department an ultimatum of forty eight hours to capture the big cat alive... As news of the latest victim of the tiger spread even the conservationists at the National Tiger Conservation Authority of India (NTCA) gave way and a go-ahead was given to the local staff to shoot the tiger. However, there still remained the crucial task of finding the tiger before shooting him down with a bullet instead of a tranquilizer dart. And this continued to elude the trackers. A machan (modified scaffolding) was constructed in a tree overseeing a cow that the tiger had killed a couple of days later. Despite an all-night vigil to bag the man-eater, the tiger didn't show up. Pug marks discovered the following morning indicated that the tiger had approached the bait but then skirted it to continue along its path further down the forest. And this is just one instance of the manner in which the feline has continued to dodge its pursuers for the past few months. To date it has not attacked any of the goats or cows tied out as bait in the jungles through which it has moved. It also holds the reputation of not returning to any of its partially eaten kills. The unusual behavior of the young tiger is what continues to throw off its trackers. 'Either it is too smart or has begun to prefer human flesh', said Ajit Narain Singh, a tranquilizer expert. To be fair Ajit and his men did get a shot at the big cat a few weeks back when they had it isolated in a relatively small stretch of jungle. At that time the tranquilizer dart fired by the team was deflected by the bushes through which the animal was moving. Since then the tiger has grown decidedly more wary of his pursuers and killed more people. There are reports now that indicate that this same animal was responsible for another human death in the past - as it had initially moved out of its home range in November it had killed a man in the Deoria range of Pilibhit forest. On that occasion though, the tiger hadn't consumed any portion of the body.

Nevertheless, the total of the tiger's human victims is now four. Its man-eating behavior had all but condemned it to a violent end when a petition was moved in the regional court by a wildlife enthusiast to stop the forest staff from shooting the animal. The court has thereafter summoned the department to furnish a detailed report on this matter on Jan 28th. Following the court's move the state Forest Minister has now intervened to side with the notion of the live capture of the tiger. He has deployed further of his staff and instructed them to try their level best to capture the animal alive. They are now combing the forests nearly eighty miles east of the state capital, where the tiger is currently suspected to be on the move. The state officials are also on the lookout for two other tigers that have also strayed out of their natural habitats during the past few weeks and are spreading panic in adjacent villages. NTCA has provided a grant amounting to fifty thousand US Dollars for the capture of the three felids. To date they are all on the loose. You can learn more about them here, here, here and here.

It is sadly quite ironic, but there is also the thought that this recent turn of events in Northern India has brought to light the state of wildlife conservation there. Even as the fact that tigers are moving out of their territories to establish distant home ranges indicates that perhaps the population of the big cats is on the rise, there is also the belief that urbanization and loss of forest land is forcing the tigers to move out of their domain into human settlements. This is bound to create further conflict between people and animals in the future. There are almost daily reports these days of tiger attacks on people in India. Perhaps this protracted migratory move of the two and a half years old tiger, and his two older cousins, will go to assist other members of the species to reclaim some of their lost land where they can survive in isolation from humans. Otherwise it seems the population of these great cats will continue to decline in the wild. Here is a sobering but realistic account of the state of tiger conservation in India over this past year.

The state of tiger conservation is not very bright in the southeast too - as was recently made clear in Vietnam when police seized over two tonnes of animal parts in a raid on suspected traffickers. This is the largest seizure of this kind on record and it recovered bones and parts from many animals including tigers. They are said to have originated from Malaysia where tigers are already fighting a losing battle against deforestation, poaching and human encroachment. Here is this story and here is a discussion of the state of wildlife affairs in those parts.

Coming back to straying - tigers are not the only big cats on the loose in India. A leopardess created panic when it entered a house in a village in the northwestern state of Himachal Pradesh. Apparently the cat was after a dog that led it to the house in the middle of night! Fortunately nobody was hurt even though it took a few hours to subdue and remove the animal from the premises. The full story here.

Leopards are remarkable cats. Not only are they masters of great stealth and camouflage, they also possess tremendous strength. Here is an account of a leopard combating and killing an adult crocodile in Kruger National Park in South Africa - a unique occurrence. And here (graphic images) is another unique finding relevant to leopards - cannibalism!

There is good news for leopards in Arabia. The Arabian Leopards, the smallest of the leopard subspecies, are to benefit from a series of wildlife parks in the Middle East. The aim of the facilities is to promote conservation by captive breeding of these endangered big cats and subsequent release in the wild in future. To learn more about the efforts aimed to save these little-known but beautiful animals click here.

The fate of Snow Leopards also hangs in the balance - particularly in Afghanistan where the pelt trade threatens to bring the species close to the brink of local extinction. A combination of socioeconomic factors is contributing towards the poaching of these stunning felines. Efforts are underway, though, to still save the cats from vanishing. More here.

Moving to lions - they had a mixed week in Africa. News emerged a few days ago of an incident in Tanzania where two lions were speared to death by the Maasai tribesmen in revenge for killing of their cattle. Lions are often speared in similar incidents across Eastern Africa. In certain parts there are conservation programs that serve to educate people from avoiding lion territories and monitoring the movement of their cattle herds. One such program is that of Lion Guardians. Here is their blog.

In Lake Mburo National Park in Uganda lions were sighted a decade after they were thought to have gone extinct in those parts. Very encouraging news since all the previous lions in the park were lost during the nineties owing to hunting and poisoning by the local herdsmen who wanted use of the park for the grazing of their cattle. Here is the report.

And in Asia, lions killed and ate a guy who was perhaps taunting them. The full story is here. There was another attack on a human by the Asiatic Lions of Gir too - but this time the victim, a young shepherd, was saved in time by his herd of buffalo who drove away the lions. More on this here.

And these are most of the cat-related news for this past week. I know they are mostly sad. They make me sad too - but that's the way they are. See you guys next Sunday. Have a great week :)


Sandee said...

Okay that cat is smart as heck. He wouldn't even take the bait. I'll say he's plain smart. It's a shame he continues to kill humans though.

Those poachers ought to be ashamed of themselves. Anything for a buck.

Glad to have you back to you regular day. Sundays are good days for this type of post.

Have a terrific day. :)

Black Cat said...

Oh Omer, I'm so sad for this tiger... I don't want him to be shot dead. He is bright and beautiful. He doesn't know about humans being "top" of the "food chain". Why would he? I feel for those people's families... But, is his plight not partly, if not wholly, due to "us"? I hope you know what I mean :) xxx

Mickey's Musings said...

Cats are beautiful creatures. They are also wild animals. Why people take away their habitats and expect the cats to not be a problem is beyond me. Where do they think the displaced cats are supposed to go!!!
Humans may be the 'top' of the food chain,but they are not always smart or compassionate!

Black Cat said...

Thanks for your comment dear Omer! Wine is certainly a potent medicine but doesn't taste nasty like most medicines, heh heh!

I hate ticking clocks in the bedroom too. Radio, fine, ticking: blech! Purrs, bestest of best (if only...). Cats are the best alarm clocks in the world. Somehow William knew when my digital alarm clock was about to go off, even though it made no noise. He would put his paw on it and then wake me up in his own sweet way! :) xxx

Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard anything about this until I read your blog . It is sad that this tiger continues to kill humans and doesnt take the bait , maybe if they had a live trap they could catch him I mean it works on the Swiss Family Robinson ,who knows it may work now right? Free Bingo

Tee Stark said...

Hello, thanks for the visit. :)

Chubskulit Rose said...

Oh my goodness!

by the way, i am now following your blog.

Liz said...

Intelligence I would say with this particular tiger and a need to avoid man as much as possible unless he is hunting them as prey. Such a sad sad affair. It shows what has been happening with human encroachment into tiger habitat.

I hate poachers and the trade that drives their greed. It has to be stopped and the best way to start is with education with the younger generations as well as effective control and prevention. The latter two are so difficult to maintain without continuous funding to support the policing efforts.

Thanks for posting about the Arabian Leopard. This I just have to see. They sound so wonderful and so endangered.

All the kitties here on the farm say Hi and send you lots of purrs

And Purrs and Hugs from me and the rest of the crew here on the farm


Gee said...

I am so shocked with all these details...feel so sorry for the victims...

Duni said...

Thank you for the update. I feel so sorry for the tiger. I hope they can catch him alive.
I also agree wholeheartedly with Mad Bush Farm Crew in that we need to educated the young, but in India the majority are poor, living a hand to mouth existence. Many will never have the privilege of education.
I hope their is a happy ending to this story.


MaoMao said...

How sad about the tiger. Mickey said it so well, about our big wild cousins. Thank you for these informative posts!

Kittyhugs and purrs from MaoMao.

PurrPrints said...

I'm with Sandee on this one--smart cat!

Tee Stark said...

Hello, cats.. I have new pictures of Duchess. If you have time, you can visit me. Hope you enjoy looking at the new pictures. Can I add Duchess blog to your feline blog? Thanks a lot. :)

Karen Jo said...

This is one smart tiger! It is sad that he continues to attack humans, though. I fear that this will not end well for the tiger. I can understand some of the economic reasons that drive some people to poaching, but it is still horrible. I hope that it can be stopped by education and improved economies worldwide, but that will take a whole lot of work.

Black Cat said...

Hi Omer, are you okay or just busy?! I miss your Sunday posts. Not even a tweet from you either! Hope you're doing well and living well. :) xxx

Christine and FAZ said...

We really do need to find a way of living with wild animals. We can't keep destroying animals just because they don't fit in with the humans who take over their habitat.

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