Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Feline News for Feb and Mar 2009

I so regret that I've been unable to update this blog for the past couple of months. It's just that some career moves have kept me busy. Now, however, I am able to post on this blog, hopefully on a weekly basis again - so I can resume the weekly news updates, regarding wild cats around the world, from next Sunday. Here though are the feline news for the past two months...

So much has transpired in different parts of the world in the past eight or nine weeks that it's hard to begin... I'll start with the famous stray tiger that had been eluding wildlife officials in north of India for a protracted period of time... For those who lack recollection or knowledge of this affair - for nearly three months one stray tiger had been dodging wildlife officials in northern parts of India by playing a game of hide and seek with its pursuers. From the moment it strayed out of the Philbit Forest reserve in the northern Uttar Pradesh state of India in the last week of November, it had been a source of many sleepless nights for the concerned wildlife officials and for the people whose habitats the big cat brazenly crossed in its incredible journey that took it nearly five hundred kilometers southeast of the Himalayan foothills across forests, fields, villages and densely populated towns until it finally settled down in a stretch of jungle close to the town of Faizabad in late January of this year. Through this time it had dodged tranquilizer darts, angry mobs and traps set up for it by the exasperated forest rangers that were responsible for its capture and relocation. It almost seemed that the stray bengal tiger was looking for a new home for itself after being pushed out of its native forest by gradually increasing pressure of human encroachment on its territory. However, this foray of the feline was not without harm for the other top predator that it shared its land with - man! Through the three hundred mile trip, the tiger was responsible for the deaths of four people. And even though the cat was only obeying the laws of nature by being a predatory carnivore, it had broken the laws of man. And thus it was brandished a maneater by the state government and a reward was set up for its destruction. Still, in spite of the desperate efforts by its fledgling pursuers to track and eliminate it, the tiger had remained forever elusive. Night after passing night it stayed one step ahead of the forest guards, casting terror into the hearts of villagers whose habitats it traversed and gaining significant attention in the media. Thus pressure was mounting on the concerned officials at state and national officials to ensure a speedy end to this somewhat embarrassing melee that had, to an extent, exposed the shortcomings of the wildlife department concerned with the animal's capture... and it was there that I had stopped blogging in late January '09, and from here I shall pick up to conclude this story.

So after the wildlife staff had the tiger isolated in a stretch of forest close to Faizabad in January, they made several attempts to trap or shoot the animal but they remained unsuccessful owing to fate or human error. In many ways the tiger had lived a charmed life. Once it was sighted, earlier in its three month foray, by the conservationists and shot at with a tranquilizer dart. However the dart was deflected by the bushes through which the cat was moving. Then there is talk of an incident when the tiger showed up at a trap set up for it by the rangers but when the maneater appeared the terrified guard chose to lock himself instead inside the cage while the tiger consumed at its leisure the meat that lay outside. Still the toll continued to mount for cattle and human casualties and thus the forest department went adrift of custom and hired an outsider, a professional hunter to shoot down the felid. The hunter in this case was a local nawab, or lord, who is said to have bagged maneaters before. And thus, in accordance with the age-old custom of shooting big game in India, a machan or scaffolding was set atop a tree and a bait (cow) was tied underneath to lure the tiger to its demise. And so, after a few night's vigil, the hungry tiger finally showed up and fell victim to the powerful Winchester rifle in the hands of the hunter. Three bullets and the end of a magnificent and incredible animal that had captured variously fear, respect or imagination in those parts unlike anything else in decades. And it was only after the animal was dead and examined that the real surprise came to its baffled trackers - the young 'male' tiger that they had been pursuing constantly for over three months was in fact a 'female' - a tigress! The months of December to March are part of the mating season for bengal tigers and it is likely that the tigress made this long journey only in search of a mate in these times of vanishing tigers in India. This might explain why the efforts by wildlife staff to attract the supposedly 'male' tiger with a tigress they had introduced, as part of their operation, were unsuccessful. This discovery also discredits the traditional method of tracking tigers by paw prints. The hind paws of a male tiger are said to leave a squarer print than that of the female, that are supposed to have a rectangular paw print or pug mark. However, modern research has established this method of tiger tracking to be somewhat obsolete. And in many ways this tiger hunt is reminiscent of the colonial era in India in the early half of twentieth century when tigers were rampant and hunting from the back of an elephant or the safety of a machan was considered a sport by the British and Indian noble. However, this is the dawn of twenty first century. Tiger numbers in India are the lowest ever in recorded history and the loss of even a single animal is crucial to the success of tiger conservation at a regional and national level there. There is speculation as to why this animal in prime health with a good breeding potential, that might even have been pregnant with cubs, was shot at with a bullet instead of a tranquilizer dart! Only the concerned officials may offer an explanation for this - however this is a loss that takes one more adult bengal tigress out of the limited stock of this subspecies now left in the wild. Reports of the hunt alongside a picture of the animal are available here and here. History of this affair is available in older posts of this blog.

There is another tragic tale too of a tiger that had attacked people and had to be shot after a vengeful mob in India made it impossible for the conservationists to capture the animal alive. This incident occurred close to the famous Kaziranga National Park and even though its climax lasted merely a few hours, it was no less incredible than the aforementioned one. According to reports, an old tiger ventured out of the park some weeks ago, drawn out perhaps by its inability to catch normal prey owing to disease or old age. On March 19, it killed a villager on the outskirts of the park but was disturbed and driven away by villagers when it was trying to feed on its victim. A wildlife team was dispatched to capture the animal that tracked it down on March 23rd in a stretch of bamboo. However, as the staff attempted to dart the animal a mob of one thousand angry villagers gathered to take their vengeance upon the cornered tiger. They rendered the task of live capture of the animal impossible for the conservationists. Despite warnings and blank shots by the police to keep them at bay, the mob pressed on. One group of villagers decided to take matters in their own hand and made an approach to the furious tiger in the bamboo grove. The big cat charged and took down one of the group members and started feeding on it in front of the horrified onlookers. In the chaos that followed several shots were fired by the officials, one of which hit a veterinarian of the wildlife department and some of the others the tiger, that was fatally wounded in the incident. Another very unfortunate and dramatic incident that renders a blow to tiger conservation in those parts. More here and here.

The above are of relevance when it is brought into consideration that tiger numbers continue to decline in India. Seventeen tigers are said to have died since the start of this year, owing to reasons natural and unnatural. Seizures of animal skins routinely indicates that poaching continues to be a threat. Conflict with humans and loss of prey is another. Here is an account detailing their deaths and here is an article on the issue of wildlife poaching and smuggling of animal parts.

There is some good news too when it comes to tigers. Another maneating tiger, the 'Kheri' tiger that was responsible for five human deaths was successfully captured in India and is now in a zoo, denied of his freedom but spared his life after his killing spree. Another tiger that attacked a lady in Rajasthan was caught and relocated. So was a Sunderban tiger that had entered a cow shed and feasted on two of the cattle before being tranquilized by the wildlife team. Then there are accounts from some forests in India where tiger numbers are thriving instead of dwindling like many other areas. And in Italy, fate has finally sided with some tigers who were being held captive in miserable conditions and were rescued just before they were due to be slaughtered to make up the traditional Chinese medicines. More on these stories respectively here, here, here, here, here and here!

Moving to lions, the Asiatic lions in Gir Forest of India continue to show effects of overcrowding and loss of habitat and prey by launching frequent attacks on people. A few weeks ago a youth was killed by mating lions after he ventured too close to them to film the pair. There continue to be attacks on people and cattle in Gir. Accounts of some of them can be found here, here, here and here.

Again there is some good news too. A court in India sentenced sixteen lion poachers to five years imprisonment alongside some fine, setting a new precedent in the jurisdiction of wildlife crimes there. Then there is the heartwarming story of Bella the lioness, the beautiful one-eyed cat that was rescued from miserable conditions in a zoo in Romania and moved recently to her new enclosure in Malawi, Africa, after months of work by the Born Free foundation. More on the above here and here. And if you wish to read another interesting lion story, you can go here!

Now to leopards. There are both gloomy and encouraging reports here too. Whilst there are accounts of conflicts with man and poaching, there is also an account of a successful release of the spotted cat into the wild in Namibia and another report of a regional boost in their numbers. Also, a study is being conducted on clouded leopards that might help save this endangered and beautiful species. More here, here, here, here and here.

There is also good news for one of the most endangered wild cats in the world, the Iberian Lynx. Three cubs were born recently in the forest reserve for them in Spain. More cubs are said to follow soon, brightening the prospects for this threatened feline's survival in nature. The report is here.

I think that's it for this long roundup of cat-related news for the last two months. I will allow a week or so for you to go through it, and begin posting again regularly starting next Sunday ;) All the best till then.


Duni said...

Welcome back!
I'm so sorry to hear of the plight of that poor tiger...what a terrible way to end.
Looking forward to more posts about cats, and here's hoping you're having a good week so far!


Sandee said...

Those angry mobs kind of scared me a bit. Yikes. I can see their anger over the death of the villager, but it seems like they should have let the officials handle the situation.

Have a terrific day. Good to see you back. :)

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

Omer that is such a tragic end to a beautiful creature. Reading both the sadder news and better news made me think about the Snow Leopard Trust's report on the shooting of Long Tail in Mongolia by a herder. My kids and I were devastated when we read the bad news. Long Tail was the subject of a documentary some time back. Now he is gone. One less valuable male for the breeding population much like the female Bengal tiger now lost to us all.

Purrs and hugs from me and the kitties here on the farm

Mickey,Georgia , Tillie said...

Good to hear from you again Omer :)
The news is happy and sad. Tigers are on the losing end when they interact with man. We really need to give them space,instead of taking away their habitat.
It is good,however, that the Lynx has cubs and more may be born :) It is good that there are bits og good news. WE hope there is lots more :)

WE hope you are settled and doing well in your studies. Your commitment and drive are your strengths and you will do well!! Keep us posted.

PurrPrints said...

I'm really sorry to hear that the tiger we had been reading about for so long was eventually shot and killed. I can understand why people were angry at it, but i wish there was more sympathy to the fact that it was driven into attacking humans by the absence of sufficient land and mates...it's really sad.

Black Cat said...

Welcome back to blogging dear Omer. This post has taken me all evening to read (following all the links too) in between eating, snoozing and watching some TV, so I can well understand how you didn't have time during your studies because the research alone must take hours! I don't consider a second wasted though, because it's all so interesting!

I'm devastated at the fate of the Indian travelling tiger. I tried to find out about him (now known to be her) during your absence but I must have been Googling the wrong keywords... *Sigh*. The story of Bella the lioness's rescue was heartwarming though!

Thanks for visiting. I'm okay though have turned upside-down into a non-blood-drinking vampire - up all night and asleep all day, doh! Joke: If your feet smell and your nose runs you're built upside-down. Harharhar, duhr! (You can "thank" Pinky for that one!) :) xxx

Thomma Lyn said...

Welcome back! It's good to see you again. I hope things have been going well for you.

Absolutely fascinating post. And heart-wrenching about the tiger who turned out to be a tigress. I got tears in my eyes reading. Thank you for keeping us up-to-date on news re: the big cats. They are such magnificent creatures, and the more attention, care, and concern given them, the better that they may survive and live proud and free.

The Ballicai send lots and lots of purrs! We've missed you.

Thomma Lyn, the Ballicus Mom.

MaoMao said...

What Momma said! Alla us Ballicai are so glad to see you're back. And thankies fur alla the newsies on our big cuzzins. We were so sad to read about the tigers. We hope so much that things can turn around fur them.

We were happy that there was good newsies about the lion and about the lynx cubbies!

Kittyhugs and purrs from MaoMao and alla the Ballicai.

MISS PEACH ~(^.^)~ said...

Oh Omer, I am overjoyed to finally hear from you dearest friend. You are never far from my heart. I read the card you sent me last year, again this past week, and said a prayer for you. I will come back later to read the rest of your post....know my heart leaps with joy to know you are well....
Love Miss Peach

Name: Mr. Hendrix said...

Welcome back Omar! What a shame that those poor tigers were killed when all they were doing was trying to LIVE! I am glad that others were able to be saved and take comfort in the fact there are many wildlife protectors out there who face down angry mobs to protect our large feline cousins.

I am very glad there is good news to counteract the bad. purrrrrs

We are so glad to hear from you and are happy you are doing well.

Jan's Funny Farm said...

Good to see you posting again and to know you are okay!

This is quite a lot of news we were not aware of.

Princess said...

Omer, it is so good to hear from you again. I enjoyed reading this very well written report on our tiger cousins. So tragic. Life is full of questions and problems to be answered.

best wishes in your studies Omer.
I am hoping you are learning and in a good environment for growth!

BeadedTail said...

Welcome back! That's a lot of news and I'm sorry to hear about the tiger being killed. I wish there could have been a better resolution.

mister jeter harris, hizself said...

deer omer,
it haz been sum time hazzen't it.
i hav sum more reedin to do on yer blog ... but i wanned to kwiklee say "hello!"

The Cat Realm said...

Thank you Omer for this detailed update, thank you for visiting again, and we hadn't realized that you are in Tasmania now???
Oh - we just read it all on the snowforest blog. We are so sorry you had to give up the cats but we think it was a wonderful thing of you to do, true love to hold their interests before your own! You will for sure have cats again in the future, they'll seek you out, hahahahahahahahahaha!
Good hearing from you again!!!!
Karl and the gang

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