Sunday, August 5, 2012

Back

Hey everybody! It has been over two years. Much has changed, around the world and in all of our lives. I hope it has all been for the best, for all of us, but I suspect there have been some bitter sweet times, alongside moments of joy and despair for all of us, much like everything else in life. Still I hope that everybody fared better than how our planet's wild animals have done during this time. While there have been some encouraging news, it appears that on the whole wildlife in general, and wild felines in particular have continued to disappear and give away to man's depredations. Poaching, habitat destruction, illegal wildlife trade and despicable practices like canned hunting and farming of top feline predators have inexorably brought the population of most big cat species closer to extinction..

Poaching continues to be the biggest threat to wildlife around the world. I'm sure many of you would've come across news of rampant rhino poaching in South Africa, where over twelve hundred rhinos have been poached since the beginning of 2008, including over 300 this year so far! This is a staggering number, for a species that is so close to the brink of extinction. The other top target for poachers is the tiger, the world's most popular animal and sadly amongst its most endangered. Relentless demand for nearly all of its body parts in Southeast Asia and China, coupled with an illegal wildlife trade with profits running into billions of dollars annually has resulted in a persistent decline of wild tiger numbers across most of its domains, despite the fervent effort of many conservationists. In the first half of this year, India lost nearly fifty of its wild Royal Bengal Tigers, many of them owing to poaching. This is close to the number of tiger deaths for the entire year of 2011. As can be seen, the trend is definitely for the worse. To read more about the above news, and the catastrophe of rhino poaching in South Africa, click here and here respectively.

And it's not just poaching. While tigers have been competing with humans for space in their habitat, giving rise to perennial man-animal conflict, they also have to compete with them for resources. In India, large swathes of tiger terrain are home to coal reserves. And as mining for coal is undertaken in these forests, it will have a devastating impact on the dwindling tiger numbers in these parts. A recent report by Greenpeace alludes to that. This is not much different from the fate Sumatran Tigers face in the southeast, as their habitat is systematically destroyed for pulp and paper. The smallest of tiger subspecies, Sumatran Tigers also face a grave threat from poachers who continue to set traps and evade rangers in their game of hide and seek in forests of Indonesia. Sadly the tiger numbers have continued to dwindle, as have those of Indochinese tigers, another endangered tiger subspecies, across their range. The farming of their 'domesticated' cousins doesn't do these wild tigers any good, as a recent news about tiger farms in Vietnam acting as trafficking hubs for illegal tiger part trade revealed. Vietnam was also identified as the epicentre of illegal global trade in rhino, elephant and tiger parts in the recent meeting of CITES and instructed to explain measures it has taken to curb black market trade of rhino horns. To read more about the above you can go here, here, here, here, here and here.

Still there are some encouraging news for the future of tigers. The annual meeting of core partners in Global Tiger Initiative in December last year commended the positive steps taken by member nations for tiger conservation during the previous year, with identification of challenges and setting up of goals for the future. A positive resolve was also seen at the above mentioned CITES meeting. And as World Bank outlined its intentions to protect tigers, WWF displayed it too, by recently releasing prey animals for Amur Tigers in China's northeast. WWF also marked this year's World Ranger Day by launching Cards4Tigers initiative, an innovative way to display gratitude to the forest rangers around the world who risk their lives every day under harsh conditions and minimum wages to protect our wildlife. To thank these brave men and women in the field click here. To read more about the above click here, here, here and here.

Perhaps the most encouraging news is about the species of tigers that had been declared extinct in the wild by experts, the South China Tiger. But thanks to the resolve and tireless efforts of a dedicated Chinese conservationist by the name of Li Quan, it appears that this oldest of tiger subspecies has been brought back from the brink of extinction. A bunch of South China Tigers are today flourishing under the South African sun in Laohu Valley Reserve, with plans to reintroduce these magnificent animals into the wild in China on the card. To read more about this amazing success story click here. To visit Li's blog and learn about her precious tigers, click here.

Some good news about Asiatic Lions too. While their cousins in Africa continue to dwindle owing to poaching and habitat loss, the Asiatic Lion numbers have on the whole been on the up. A recent breakthrough came when after years of dragging its feet the Gujarat government finally conceded in principle to allow some of its lions to be relocated to a separate reserve in Kuno Palpur Madhya Pradesh. This will allow the creation of a new population base of the endangered Asiatic Lions, increasing genetic biodiversity and reducing the risk of extinction of the subspecies through disease or a natural catastrophe. To read more about this click here. And to read about the factors driving poaching and loss of forest cover in East Africa click here and here.

Finally to Snow Leopards, perhaps the most beautiful of all wild cats. And again there is some mixed news. Recent research work conducted by WWF scientists shows that climate change is likely to have a harmful influence on the habitat of these majestic felines as the warmer conditions in Himalayas are believed to eventually cause an upward treeline shift of forests and subsequent progressive shrinking of Snow Leopards' habitat. Still there are some bright news, including the one of recent collaring of Snow Leopards in Afghanistan, demonstrating the will and perseverance of wildlife scientists and conservationists in the harshest of environments. And while you visit these two links here and here, also have a look at the video of adorable Snow Leopard cubs in their den in Mongolia here!

And that's it. Hope everybody is having a great weekend, and enjoying the Olympics in London, on or off site. And if you are all looking forward to seeing Usain Bolt tonight as I am, you would want to view this video before tonight's main event as well..





ps. I do apologize for this long leave of absence from blogging. The last two years have been spent in working to pursue a postgraduate career that I had dreamed of for long. Having finally achieved that goal, I find myself able to return to this cause of conservation of wild felines that is the passion of my life. Earlier this year I had the good fortune to visit some of the famous wildlife reserves in East Africa, as my lifelong dream to see these magnificent animals came true. I've shared the images from this memorable trip here and here. Have a great weekend guys!

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