Wildlife TV shows have launched an ever-growing list of 'wildlife heroes' who shock and awe viewers running from charging lions, or holding up salmon heads among hungry grizzlies. While these network darlings garner serious attention from their fans they rarely do much for conservation, no matter what they tell the viewer (see last week's blog for a good example). Nor are they interested in sharing their spotlight with the real heroes who risk everything -- even their lives -- to really save wildlife.
Barely a month goes by without news of someone getting into a tussle with a 'tame' big cat. A recent case in point showed a young lion in a South African resort roughing up a British journalist who thought it would make good copy to go into the animal's cage for a close encounter. It's easy to dismiss the stunt as journalistic nonsense (which it is) but dozens of operations across Africa sell similarly close encounters with lions to the average tourist. For a fee, just about anyone can play with cubs, take a stroll with young lions or pose for photos to show the folks back home.
This week, Animal Planet kicked off the latest offering from likable Steve Irwin-wannabe Dave Salmoni. "Into The Pride" follows Salmoni as he attempts to prove that humans can live in harmony with wild lions. To do so, Dave scoots around the Namibian bush on a quad-bike looking for a close encounter with the big cats. You might think a 4-wheeler doesn't offer much protection but, provided they're not hunted or persecuted, lions quickly get used to vehicles. A vehicle acts just like a mobile hide which is why millions of people a year are able to enjoy extraordinary experiences watching wild lions from the safety of their safari jeeps and mini-vans in Africa's great game parks.
While some of you may know the snow leopard from the amazing chase sequence in the BBC Planet Earth series, most people think 'snow leopard' pertains to Apple's latest Operating System, or the brutal and ruthless villain, Tai Lung, from last year's smash hit Kung Fu Panda. Well, snow leopards are nothing akin to Operating Systems -- nor are they brutal and ruthless in any shape or form.
The snow leopard is one of the most elusive cats in the world. As few as 3,500 of them may still roam the harsh, forbidding mountains of Central Asia. No one knows for sure.
(Jackson, WY) - In the science of describing cat behavior -- or any wildlife species for that matter -- a compelling question is, how connected are individuals to each other? Or, how do they communicate with their neighbors, and how do these communications and interactions drive cat society? Intensive field research and observation can bring some important insights, and sometimes, some new questions.
Last month, 60 Minutes ran a segment on an agricultural pesticide called Furadan. Through much of the developing world, farmers scatter Furadan and similar poisons on their crops to keep insect pests at bay. As a big cat conservationist, I normally wouldn't worry about this except that Furadan doesn't just kill insects: it is also utterly deadly to lions.
I remember the day in 2006 when I learned that ten years of effort had resulted in the designation of the world's largest tiger reserve in a remote corner of Asia. I was euphoric, until late that afternoon when I received additional news about the deaths of two local people in the area, a mother of five and a teenage boy, who had succumbed to malaria. I had met and spoken with them both during visits to their villages. Now they were considered two more unfortunates on a list whose ranks swelled every year with the oncoming rains.