April 2011 Newsletter

Gaining Ground in Guyana for Jaguars

Just last month, in partnership with the Karanambu Trust, Panthera initiated our first ever jaguar conservation and research activities in the Rupununi region of central Guyana.  In order to learn more about the possible presence and distribution of jaguars in this region, Panthera jaguar scientist Dr. Esteban Payan and Dr. Evi Paemelaere set up 16 camera traps 1.5 kilometers apart on the Karanambu Ranch – a region that extends for 125 square miles and that is home to forests, riparian forests, savanna habitats and a 40-mile stretch of the Rupununi River.

Under normal circumstances, it may take 15 days to capture a photo of a jaguar. However, our team was surprised to find this jaguar photo only three days after traps were placed throughout the Karanambu ranch! This discovery is particularly exciting because it might be indicative of a jaguar population in the area. This photo also substantiates the importance of protecting Guyana’s savannas and forests for the conservation of jaguars and other wildlife.

Within Guyana, land that is not occupied by indigenous tribes is owned by the government, and managed using a long term leasing system. This leasing system is strongly shaped by Guyana’s Low Carbon Development Strategy, which aims to adhere to the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD) by protecting Guyana’s entire 16 million hectare rainforests.

Panthera and the Karanambu Trust are working to gather data on the presence and density of jaguar populations on the Karanambu ranch and surrounding areas to support Karanambu’s conservation efforts.  We hope that this research will also validate the importance of the Rupununi region as a connecting block for the jaguar corridor that extends between southern Venezuela, southern Guyana and Suriname.

Be sure to check with us for more updates on this novel and exciting project! Special thanks go to Panthera partner and iconic conservationist Diane McTurk, who operates the Karanambu Lodge.

Watch a clip of Esteban and Evi in Guyana as they travel to set up camera traps on Karanambu Ranch.

More Information

Learn about Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initaitive.

Learn about Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar Project.

Read Panthera's Jaguar Report Card: The State of the Jaguar.

Read Panthera's: Jaguar Corridor Initiative Brochure.

Learn more about the Karanambu Trust and Karanambu Lodge.

Dr. Evi Paemelaere is a grantee of the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Jaguar Research Grant Program, which is a partnership between the Liz Claiborne Art Ortenberg Foundation and Panthera that supports in situ jaguar conservation projects.

Panthera Scientist has Rare Encounter with Regionally Endangered Nigerian Lion

During a trip to the Yankari Game Reserve in central Nigeria in late January, Panthera’s Lion Survey Coordinator, Philipp Henschel, encountered and photographed a group of three lions while out on a field survey, including an old adult male, one female, and a cub thought to be 8-10 months old (pictured left) as they were resting, having just fed on a waterbuck.

While encounters like these are commonplace in some areas of Eastern Africa, lion sightings like Phil’s are sadly becoming exceedingly rare in Nigeria. In fact, field surveys carried out by Panthera, WCS Nigeria and the Nigerian National Park Service from January to August of 2009 established that Nigeria is now home to less than 50 lions found in just two disjunct populations. An estimated 15-20 lions exist in the Yankari Game Reserve, with the rest occurring in the Kainji Lake National Park in western Nigeria.

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Sadly, Nigeria harbors only two of four known lion populations remaining in West Africa, where the species is classified as Regionally Endangered on the IUCN Red List.. Losing these Nigerian populations would bring the lion two steps closer to extinction in West Africa, but Panthera is working intensely to prevent this from happening.”

Through Project Leonardo, Panthera is partnering with Nigerian wildlife authorities and the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Nigeria Program to strengthen and monitor the lion populations in Yankari Game Reserve and Kanji Lake National Park. Specifically, our joint team actively assists wildlife authorities in protected areas to increase and effectively coordinate anti-poaching patrol efforts.

To date, our team has trained wildlife rangers how to recognize and scientifically record signs of large carnivores in the field, data which are  used to track lion numbers and movements. In addition, Panthera is carrying out socioeconomic surveys in communities surrounding Yankari Game Reserve and Kainji Lake National Park to assess current levels of human-lion conflict. In communities where conflict exists, our team will work with local ranchers to improve livestock husbandry techniques, including training livestock owners how to build predator-proof livestock corrals, and consequently mitigate future human-lion conflict situations.

Read an article from The Daily Trust by Phil Henschel about what recent field surveys in Nigeria and other countries in West and Central Africa revealed about lion populations in these regions.

Read a recent article in The Guardian about threats facing Africa’s lions, with quotes from Panthera’s Executive Vice President, Dr. Luke Hunter.

How You Can Help

Right now, Nigeria is in the midst of its dry season - a period that traditionally sees an increase in poaching and illegal livestock grazing in the country’s protected areas. Panthera’s scientists have predicted that Nigeria’s lion populations within the Yankari Game Reserve and Kainji Lake National Park could potentially double in size if these areas are properly protected.

To do this, Panthera requires the resources to continue to train wildlife rangers to effectively patrol and protect lion populations from poachers in Yankari Game Reserve – an area that covers 2,244 km² – and Kainji Lake National Park, which extends for 3,970 km².

Help Panthera protect lions in Nigeria, and across Africa.

Donate to Panthera to support our lion and other wild cat conservation programs.

Goggles for Google: Lessons in avoiding snakes

Several months ago we shared a story about Google the dog, who has been undergoing training in Costa Rica through the Hablemos de Perros organization to become a jaguar scat-detecting dog for Panthera. Google was successfully certified in January as an official jaguar scat-detecting dog by the Miami K-9 Academy. Over the past few weeks, Google’s owner, Carlos Orozco, has introduced ‘the ultimate search engine’, who serves as a critical tool in conserving jaguars by efficiently finding jaguar scat (important DNA), to the second phase of his life-saving training – snake avoidance.

After equipping Google with goggles and booties (that he wears with pride), Carlos uses a medium-sized, non-venomous boa constrictor, shown above, to familiarize Google with the look and smell of this animal that he will most likely encounter in the forests while doing his job. He is also currently using a training collar that is programmed to vibrate when Google wanders too close to the snake. Google is being trained to protect himself from the very venomous fer-de-lance –a snake which is frequently found in the thick rainforests of Costa Rica and other jaguar range states.

Watch clips of Google’s snake avoidance training here and here.

Before Google was introduced to Panthera, our jaguar scientists would often spend days on end searching for jaguar scat buried in the dense rainforests of Costa Rica. Now, however, Google’s scat searches take just minutes to complete, after which he sits and is rewarded with his favorite toy - a large, red, and apparently yummy-tasting ball.

Once this jaguar scat is located, it is packaged up and sent on to the genetic laboratories at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and the University of Costa Rica to be analyzed. These analyses provide Panthera’s scientists with critical information about the movements, genetic diversity, abundance, and diets of jaguars in this region.

Thankfully, Google is now a part of the Panthera team and will vastly improve the efficiency of Panthera’s jaguar conservation initiatives in Costa Rica.

Learn more about Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative and visit the Panthera Costa Rica website.

See more photos of Google’s training.

More Articles and Videos of Google’s training

La Naciõn
Miami Herald
La Hoja de Almendro

International Tiger Advisory Group To Be Launched

In March, India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority invited Panthera’s President and CEO Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Vice President Dr. George Schaller, and Director of Tiger Programs Dr. Joe Smith to celebrate the 2011 Platinum Jubilee of Corbett National Park – home of the critically Endangered Bengal tiger – and to discuss the future of the country's tiger conservation strategies with the Minister of Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh, and other leading organizations and individuals involved in Indian tiger conservation.

One of the exciting outcomes of this meeting was the formation of a new ‘International Tiger Advisory Group (iTAG),’ which will be led by international tiger scientists and conservationists and provide guidance and objective oversight for tiger conservation practices and policies throughout the tiger’s 13 country range. Panthera’s Dr. George Schaller was selected as the iTAG Chairman, and Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and Dr. Joe Smith will serve as the group’s International Coordinators. India will be iTAG’s first priority.

Read more about the responsibilities of iTAG in this Tigerlink report.

Learn more about iTAG and read interviews with Drs. Rabinowitz and Smith in the April issue of Sanctuary Asia Magazine. www.sanctuaryasia.com

Watch a broadcast about the formation of iTAG by NDTV – India’s leading English language news channel.

While discussing the current state of India’s wild tigers, Panthera President and CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, and Vice President, Dr. George Schaller, noted that the future of the tiger depends on India. Dr. Rabinowitz stated that “India is the last bastion where we have the best minds, best landscapes, best habitats – it is the best place to demonstrate a turnaround of the tiger’s sinking fortunes.”

Currently, fewer than 3,200 wild tigers remain in the wild, with a large proportion of these found in India.

Learn how Panthera is working to save the tiger throughout its range in Asia through the Tigers Forever program.

Read Panthera’s blog post about India’s tiger population estimates and the 2010 Tiger Estimate Report from India’s Ministry of Environment and Forest.

The Power of the Petition

In case you missed it, the Mongolian government recently announced a proposal to issue permits allowing the hunting of at least four snow leopards – and possibly many more – for the sake of ‘scientific research.’ The local and international conservation community was quick to respond and rallied together to prevent this proposal from becoming a reality by meeting with and writing letters to senior Mongolian government officials, creating petitions and organizing press conferences to educate the public about this issue.

Panthera’s snow leopard experts, Dr. George Schaller and Dr. Tom McCarthy, wrote this letter to the Mongolian Government, explaining that no facet of snow leopard research or conservation requires the killing of the Endangered snow leopard and requesting that this proposal be rescinded.

Following this letter, Panthera reached out to our community of supporters to sign a petition against the move to hunt snow leopards for research. Inspiringly, Panthera’s community worked in concert to spread awareness about the hunting proposal and recruited friends and family to show their support through email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. As a result, Panthera’s petition went viral, and more than 4,000 individuals signed the appeal.

Thank you to all of our supporters who showed their support for snow leopards.

In a matter of three weeks, due to the efforts of many, both on the ground in Mongolia and internationally, the Mongolian Government made the right decision for their country, and, for their snow leopards. On March 23rd, the Government announced that they would rescind the decision, and would not allow any hunting of snow leopards to take place. Panthera congratulated the Government immediately for showing their commitment to conserving this amazing cat.

Please continue to support Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program, by making a donation to Panthera.

Learn more about the 3,500-7,000 snow leopards that remain in Asia.

See the latest snow leopard camera trap photos taken in Mongolia.

Read the latest media coverage about this event on TreeHugger and Mongabay.

Read Panthera’s Press Release.

‘Lost Land of the Tiger’ Airs on National Geographic

We are excited to share that the BBC 'Lost Land of the Tiger' program featuring Panthera President and CEO and preeminent tiger expert, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, will air in the United States on National Geographic starting Friday, April 8th, through Friday, April 15th. Tune in to watch Dr. Rabinowitz and a team of scientists as they travel through the incredible country of Bhutan in search of tigers.

All air times include:
Friday, April, 8th, at 9pm EST
Saturday, April 9th, at 12am & 9am EST
Monday, April 11, at 11am EST
Friday, April 15th, at 5pm EST

This program was previously aired in the United Kingdom by BBC as a 3-part series in September of 2010 and was watched by almost 5 million viewers.

Get more information on the Lost Land of the Tiger program from Panthera and National Geographic.

Learn how Panthera is helping to save the world's remaining 3,200 tigers through the Tigers Forever program and Tiger Corridor Initiative.

The Lost Land of the Tiger program also recently received the ‘Best Conservation Message’ and ‘Best TV Series Over $500,000 Budget’ Awards from the International Wildlife Media Center and Film Festival. Read More.

Remembering Rinchen Wangchuk – A Champion for the World’s Snow Leopards

We are saddened to share that Rinchen Wangchuk, a dear friend of Panthera’s and the Founder and Director of the Snow Leopard Conservancy–India Trust, passed away last week after years of battling ALS. Among the international wildlife conservation community and beyond, Rinchen was renowned for his incredible lifetime contribution in studying and saving snow leopards.

Rinchen dedicated his career to the development of community-based snow leopard conservation initiatives by cultivating and sustaining genuine relationships with local communities in his native homeland of Ladakh, India. In his decades of work, Rinchen consistently reversed local communities’ deep-seated, negative perceptions of the snow leopard and worked side-by-side with local herders to improve their livestock husbandry practices, thus protecting the illustrious ‘mountain ghost.’ Rinchen is also well known for his development of a conservation education program for children in northern India and an eco-tourism Himalayan homestay program that has now multiplied across other snow leopard range states.

Recently, the Snow Leopard Conservancy honored Rinchen with an Award for Outstanding Achievements in Community-Based Snow Leopard Conservation. In a letter congratulating Rinchen on this award, Panthera’s Executive Director of Snow Leopard Programs, Dr. Tom McCarthy, wrote, “From my first days as a snow leopard conservationist, I have had a great admiration for your work and your dedication. Through all those years it has been a privilege to call you a friend as well as a fellow crusader in the sometimes difficult struggle to save our favorite cat.”

On behalf of the world’s snow leopards and those of us you leave behind, we thank you, Rinchen, for your inspirational dedication to the protection of the world’s snow leopards, and for your friendship. On your behalf, and that of the snow leopard, we will whole-heartedly continue your fight to save this magnificent species. You will forever be remembered and missed.

Watch an interview with Rinchen.

Latest Partnership: Jack Vartanian

During the month of April, Jack Vartanian will generously donate 10% of sales from the recently released MENAGERIE COLLECTION to Panthera.  The MENAGERIE COLLECTION includes diamond and gold jewelry depicting the leopard, including a ring, earrings and necklace.  Each piece of jewelry is handcrafted in Brazil.  Visit www.jackvartanian.com to see pieces from the MENAGERIE COLLECTION and support their partnership with Panthera.

Read about the MENAGERIE COLLECTION and this partnership in Women’s Wear Daily.

Upcoming Events

View our upcoming events here: http://www.panthera.org/events


An estimate of leopard population density in a private reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, using camera-traps and capture–recapture models. Authors: Shannon Chapman and Guy Balme.
View this publication.