December 2010 Newsletter

Panthera Signs Historic Agreement with Colombia’s Ministry of Environment, Housing and Territorial Development to Protect the Jaguar


Panthera President and CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, and Colombia’s Minister of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Development, Beatriz Uribe, shake hands after signing an historic agreement to partner on the Jaguar Corridor Initiative.

This November, under the National Program for Wildcat Conservation of Colombia, Panthera signed an historic agreement with Colombia’s Ministry of Environment, Housing, and Territorial Development to partner on future jaguar conservation activities through the Jaguar Corridor Initiative.  Focusing on the Middle Magdalena and Orinoco regions of the country, Panthera and the Colombian government will work together, and with local communities and conservation organizations, to assess the current threats facing the jaguar, identify the locations and connectivity of key jaguar populations support the designation of new national parks and private reserves, establish and maintain jaguar corridors, coordinate with oil palm plantations to protect jaguar habitat and train government officials to respond to human-jaguar conflicts. Receiving support from the highest level is critical to ensuring real action on the ground. Panthera works bottom up, with local communities, and top down, with heads of state, wherever needed to drive our mission of saving wild cats.

In addition to this exciting development, Panthera’s President and CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, and several of Panthera’s international wild cat biologists and Geographic Information System experts presented at the Colombian Zoological Congress in November.  Dr. Rabinowitz gave the keynote lecture at the Congress in Bogotá.  This event was held to bring together the brightest national and international scientists, students, and policy makers to share ideas and promote the conservation of Colombia’s habitats and wild cats.  Word has it that The Cats of Colombia symposium in which Panthera’s staff participated was the most popular event at this year’s Congress!  Read more about this event in Spanish.

The Jaguar Corridor Initiative is a unique program that aims to protect and connect jaguar populations ranging from Argentina to Mexico to ensure the genetic diversity and future survival of this species. Today, Panthera is carrying out the Jaguar Corridor Initiative in 13 of the 18 jaguar range states by working closely with governments, conservation organizations and local communities to create wildlife corridors, gather ecological data on jaguar populations, mitigate human-jaguar conflicts, and reverse negative attitudes about the jaguar in Colombia.  

Get more information and photos on the signing.  Read a press release about the signing in Spanish.

Visit Panthera’s Colombia website in Spanish.

Livestock Depredation in South Africa - Who’s to Blame?


Just weeks ago, Panthera’s leopard expert, Tristan Dickerson, was called to investigate an incident in which 38 goats were killed over seven days in a local South African community.  Typically, Panthera’s staff are able to examine livestock carcasses and photographs of depredation scenes to identify which predator (species) is responsible for the attacks. However, as the livestock carcasses had been removed and photos of the carcasses were unusable, Tristan was unable to identify the culprit.    

Although two calves were lost to a hyena attack the night before Tristan arrived, many of the livestock owners assumed that leopards were to blame for these incidents, particularly because the village is situated next to a large, state-run reserve in prime leopard habitat.  Under normal circumstances, these events would have led to the issuance of a leopard destruction permit - an official authorization from the government to destroy local “problem” leopards. However, being on the scene, Tristan was able to step in and maintain that a permit could not be issued as it could not be determined which species was responsible.

Upon investigation, Tristan determined that these events occurred for several reasons. First, the community had recently been through a very dry winter, and livestock were forced to travel far from their enclosures to feed. Rather than corralling the goats in protected night-time enclosures, these animals were left in the bush, in prime predator habitat. Second, the dam that supplies the community’s livestock with water is also located a good distance away from the goats’ enclosures, where predators were also gathering to drink.  

To avoid future livestock losses, Tristan met with local villagers and discussed proper livestock husbandry techniques, including corralling their livestock at night. He also recommended contacting the local government to request that the livestock dam be moved to an area closer to the community.  In order to identify predators responsible for any potential livestock attacks in the future, Tristan and the Munyawana Leopard Project staff are planning to hold a workshop to teach local conservation authorities how to implement proper livestock depredation investigations.

Learn more about the conservation initiatives carried out through the Munyawana Leopard Project.

Also, see our July newsletter to read another story (and see fascinating video footage) from Tristan’s investigation of the use of leopard skins at a Zulu community’s Shembe religious gathering.  Over recent months, Tristan has met with a Zulu chief and Shembe follower to discuss the creation of a fake leopard skin to distribute among Shembe followers, thus discouraging the hunting of leopards for their skins.  So far, Tristan and the Munyawana Leopard Project staff have developed two leopard skin patterns, and are working to perfect this pattern to create a convincing leopard skin “knock-off.” 

Hiking the Himalayas to Help Panthera Save Big Cats


Our community of supporters continues to surprise us by crafting innovative and adventurous ways to represent Panthera and fundraise to support our global conservation work, including running marathons, recycling cans through the Cans 4 Cats program, and through many other ways.  Most recently, one of our devoted supporters, Jonathan Stevens, set out in Nepal’s snow leopard country to hike the Himalayan mountain Pike Peak, which reaches nearly 13,000 feet, with the goal of raising £2,000 to donate to Panthera.

After two and a half days of travelling, Jonathan and a team of other hikers began their trek in Jiri, Nepal, from which they made their way up through the jungle, avoiding ticks, leaches and other critters, across foothills and finally up into the rocky Himalayan mountains.  He then spent the next several days hiking uphill eight hours per day, battling altitude sickness in freezing temperatures, and sleeping in a damp sleeping bag due to camp sites that were up in the clouds. On the final day of the hike, Jonathan and the team spent four hours climbing in the dark by flashlight to reach the summit of Pike Peak, just in time to see the sun rise from behind the mountains and catch a glimpse of Mount Everest in the distance.

After a few days hiking down the mountain, Jonathan finally completed his two week adventure and has returned home to the UK a little haggard, but mostly proud.  Amazingly, in the process, Jonathan was able to raise £1000 from friends and family to donate to Panthera! 

On behalf of the cats of the world, we would like to send a warm “thank you” to Jonathan for embarking on this incredible and exhausting journey to help raise funds to support Panthera’s important work. Help Jonathan reach his £2,000 fundraising goal by visiting his JustGiving page

See photos from Jonathan’s trip.

Dr. Alan Rabinowitz’s PopTech “PopCast”


In October, Panthera’s President and CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, spoke at the 2010 PopTech Conference on  “Brilliant Accidents, Necessary Failures  and Improbable Breakthroughs” in the field of wild cat conservation.  Dr. Rabinowitz passionately discussed how he, as a child plagued with stuttering, was the “accident” who formed an unbreakable bond with animals, promising them that one day when he found his voice, he would use it to protect them.  In addition, Dr. Rabinowitz discussed how despite decades of wildlife conservation work, including building the world’s first jaguar sanctuary in Belize and the world’s largest tiger reserve in Myanmar, the conservation community has been failing to save big cats.

Dr. Rabinowitz also explained his “breakthrough” - “the reason conservation is failing is because it’s not at the right scale…and the scale we always fight for are these areas which we think should exist as a bambi-like equilibrium, a pristine environment where everything stays stable.” Instead of creating enclosed wildlife reserves for big cats, Dr. Rabinowitz clarified that to effectively protect tigers, lions, jaguars and snow leopards we must unite local and international communities, governments, and conservation organizations to establish wildlife corridors that connect populations of big cats, and ensure genetic diversity, within human landscapes.    

Watch the compelling “popcast” of Dr. Rabinowitz’s presentation, which received one of only three of the conference’s standing ovations.  Also be sure to watch the “popcast” of the Q&A panel featuring Dr. Rabinowitz and fellow PopTech presenters David de Rothschild, founder of and leader of the Plastiki expedition, and Susan Casey, author of The Wave and a former reporter on various conservation issues. 

Learn more about Panthera’s Tiger Corridor Initiative and watch a video outlining this corridor.  

Learn more about Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative.

92Y “Safari of the Mind” Lectures in January


As part of the “Safari of the Mind” lecture series, New York City’s esteemed 92nd Street Y will host two Panthera-led talks in January to highlight the state of and threats facing the world’s remaining lions and tigers.  On January 9th from 7:30-9pm, Panthera Executive Vice President and lion expert, Dr. Luke Hunter, and former ABC News Correspondent, Lynn Sherr, will sit down to discuss the uncertain future of “The Vanishing Lion” in the second of this three-part lecture series.  Following this panel, on January 16th from 7:30-9pm, Panthera’s co-founders, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, and Panthera Chairman, Dr. Thomas Kaplan, will participate in the third lecture, “Saving the Tiger: Already Too Late?,” to debate the precarious state of the world’s most endangered wild cat, the efficacy of current tiger conservation initiatives and what the conservation community, and world, must do to save the less than 3,200 wild tigers that remain today.

Visit 92Y and enter PAN3 at checkout to receive a 50% discount on your ticket purchase.

Video footage from the first of the three “Safari of the Mind” lecture series - “Jaguars: Americas’ Success Story” - featuring Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and Panthera Conservation Council member, Jane Alexander, will be available shortly. Be sure to check back with us.