February 2012 Newsletter

First Panthera Camera Trap Photos of a Jaguar Taken in Nicaragua

Situated in the heart of Central America, Nicaragua is one of the 18 countries that is home to Americas’ largest cat – the elusive jaguar. Nicaragua serves as a crucial link in the Jaguar Corridor, connecting jaguar populations in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras to all jaguar populations to the south of the country.

Over the past two years, Panthera’s Nicaraguan field scientists, including Sandra Hernandez and Lenin Obando, have worked to verify, or ‘ground-truth’, jaguar presence in Nicaragua’s remote northeastern territory, which includes the Wawashan Nature Reserve (WNR). Results from these ground-truthing surveys will allow for a clearer understanding of the status of jaguar populations and connectivity in Nicaragua, as well as on the overall connectivity of jaguars in Central America. Traveling on foot, by boat, and in trucks, Hernandez and Obando have journeyed deep into the forests of the WNR to interview local people about their knowledge, interactions with and perceptions of jaguars. Camera traps have also been placed in the same areas where interviews happen to capture photos of jaguars and their prey species, and to help verify interview data.

Recently, while collecting images from eight camera traps set up in late 2011 in the WNR, our team was thrilled to discover that one of the cameras had snapped Panthera’s first photos of a jaguar in Nicaragua (featured above and to the right). The overall size and head-to-body ratio of this individual suggests that it may be a young to middle-aged male, but additional photos are needed to confirm this.

While this photograph provides a glimpse of hope that jaguars still persist in the area, unfortunately it appears that the reserve has been heavily impacted by human incursion, and few jaguars are likely to exist within this area which was previously defined as a stronghold for the species in the region. The low numbers of jaguars is a direct result of habitat destruction and fragmentation driven primarily by illegal logging and unregulated agricultural development, along with direct poaching and overhunting of jaguar prey by local people.

Recent events have only exacerbated these threats. As a result of the widespread damage to Nicaragua’s forests caused by three hurricanes in the last few years, the Government has issued permits for the removal of fallen trees in these forests. This has given way to illegal logging and the illicit conversion of protected forest areas for agricultural developments. Even hunters from other countries are reportedly coming into the area.

Map of Nicaragua

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However the area where this camera trap photo was taken – Little Soonie Lagoon – contains a strong successional forest where jaguars and their prey could potentially thrive. There is less evidence of habitat destruction and fragmentation there than in other regions of the reserve, and our field staff have found other encouraging signs in the Lagoon, including scat, tracks, and tree scratches from jaguars; and a local guide also recently reported a jaguar sighting along the Little Soonie trail.

Surveys conducted by Panthera’s partner, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), have also revealed that relatively stable jaguar populations remain in the Bosawas and Cerro Silva/Indio Maiz regions to the north and south of WNR, although threats to jaguars in these areas exist as well.

Jaguar Corridor Map

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Currently, Panthera’s jaguar scientists are continuing the ground-truthing of the WNR, gathering data that will help shape effective conservation initiatives and help plan for a future for the jaguar in Nicaragua. Once these surveys have been completed, the team will be taking conservation efforts to the next level by establishing a Jaguar Corridor Committee – made up of government officials, local community representatives, and NGOs - that will oversee the protection and strategic implementation of Nicaragua’s Jaguar Corridor.

Be sure to check back with us for more updates on this critical jaguar conservation project.

Learn more about the Jaguar Corridor Initiative, which seeks to create a passageway connecting and protecting jaguars living and moving across the landscape, from Mexico to Argentina, to ensure the species’ genetic diversity and sustainability.

Jaguar Corridor Brochure

English Version
| En Español

‘India’s Last Lions’ by Panthera’s President, Dr. Luke Hunter, Published in BBC Wildlife Magazine

The March 2012 issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine features an article by Panthera’s President and lion expert, Dr. Luke Hunter, on ‘India’s Last Lions’ – the world’s only remaining population of 300-400 wild Asiatic lions secluded to India’s Gir Forest (see map below).

Pick up your copy of BBC Wildlife Magazine today to learn about the rise and fall of the Asiatic lion over the centuries, the current human-lion conflicts that threaten the survival of the species today, and read Dr. Hunter’s reflections on what may represent the only hope for the future of the Asiatic lion. The March issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine is now on sale.

Learn about Panthera’s work to save the fewer than 30,000 African lions that remain through Project Leonardo.

Current Range of the Asiatic Lion – India’s Gir Conservation Area

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About the Asiatic Lion

Scientific Name: Panthera leo persica

Current Range: Gir Conservation Area, India

IUCN Status: Endangered

Threats: Forest degradation, retaliatory killings by local herders and drowning in wells.

Physical Features: Slightly smaller than the African lion. On average adult males measure 2.75ms (9 ft) in length and weigh 160–190kg (350-420 pounds) while adult females measure approximately 2.6m (8 ft) and weigh 110–120kg (240-265 pounds).

Diet: Chital, sambar, nilgai and wild boar; also domestic livestock.

Life Cycle: Breeds all year. Births peak Feb–early April. Litters of 1–5 cubs are born after a gestation of 110–116 days.

A Photo Gallery of the Asiatic Lion by Uri Golman

Photos generously provided by wildlife photographer, Uri Golman.
See more of Uri’s photos at www.urigolman.com.

Where Have Nigeria’s Lions Gone?

Last April, Panthera reported on field surveys carried out in 2009 by Panthera, WCS Nigeria and the Nigerian National Park Service, which revealed that Nigeria was then home to fewer than just 50 individual lions. Approximately 15-20 lions were estimated to live within Nigeria’s Yankari Game Reserve, while the remaining 30-35 lions were found to reside in Kainji Lake National Park in western Nigeria. These fragile populations represented two of only four known lion populations that remained in West Africa.

In order to closely monitor Nigeria’s endangered lion populations and measure the impact of ongoing conservation initiatives, Panthera’s Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Dr. Philipp Henschel, and scientists from WCS Nigeria, the Nigerian National Park Service, and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Bauchi State conducted follow-up surveys from January to February and May to June of 2011.

Panthera, in collaboration with our partners in Nigeria, has just released a report summarizing the results of the 2011 Nigerian lion population surveys. This report reveals that in just two years time, Nigeria’s lion populations have drastically declined from an estimated 44 individual lions in 2009 to just 34 adult lions in 2011. Astonishingly, scientists estimate that fewer than 5 lions remain in the Yankari Game Reserve, which as noted above, was estimated to hold a population of 15-20 lions in 2009.

A Comparison of Nigeria's Lion Populations in 2009 and 2011

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The primary reason for the decline of Nigeria and West Africa’s lions is human-lion conflict. When overhunting occurs of the lions prey base by local people, lions often turn to an easy and available food source - people’s livestock. These scenarios rarely end well for lions, who are frequently hunted or poisoned by villagers in retribution. The growth of human populations and the expansion of agricultural developments into the lion’s habitat only serve to exacerbate this problem.

Without concerted action, it is likely that Nigeria’s lions will disappear. In response, through Project Leonardo, Panthera’s scientists are working closely with local partners in Nigeria to strengthen anti-poaching patrols in the remaining populations and to continue to track and monitor the last 34 lions estimated to remain in Nigeria.

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In the near future, Panthera’s lead field scientist in West Africa, Dr. Philipp Henschel, will conduct a large survey in West Africa which will, for the first time, establish the distribution and status of lions in the WAP Complex – a protected area in Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger that is estimated to harbor the largest remaining lion population in West Africa – see map.

Be sure to check back with us for updates on Dr. Henschel’s surveys and the status of Nigeria’s lions.

To help Panthera save Africa’s lions, consider giving to our ‘Let Lions Live’ campaign.

Read Panthera’s April 2011 Newsletter article – Panthera Scientist has Rare Encounter with Regionally Endangered Nigerian Lion.

Nigerian Lion Survey Photo Gallery

Panthera’s Media Director, Steve Winter,
Wins Second Consecutive ‘Global Vision Award’
from Pictures of the Year International

We are proud to share that Panthera’s Media Director, Steve Winter, has received the 69th annual ‘Global Vision Award’ from Pictures of the Year International (POYi) for the second consecutive year. Winter was honored with this prestigious award for a series of 40 images, featured below, taken in Sumatra, Thailand and India that illustrate both the beauty and natural history of tigers, and documents the conflicts between tigers and the people that share their habitats. The photos and story of Steve’s journey to capture them were also featured in the December 2011 National Geographic article, “A Cry for the Tiger.”

Click here to view Winter’s POYi Global Vision Award-winning photos from 2011 and 2012.

“It is a great honor to receive this distinguished award for my work documenting tigers,” said Winter. “I wanted to show both the majesty of these animals and the threats they face. My hope is that these photos will move people to action to help organizations like Panthera and our Tigers Forever program, which is working to save these awe-inspiring creatures in the wild.”

To make this winning collection of images, Winter traveled to Sumatra to find and photograph the rare and elusive Sumatran tiger; to Thailand’s Huai Kha Kaeng Wildlife Refuge, where armed enforcement patrols are deterring poachers; and to India, where Winter snapped a captivating image of a mother and her cub, relaxing in the jungle. Building upon its hands-on and scientific approach in the field, Panthera recently partnered with National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative to conserve the endangered tiger and mitigate key threats, such as poaching.

Read Panthera’s Press Release about Winter’s award.

View these photos on Pictures of the Year International’s website.

Watch a video of Steve Winter’s NatGeo Live! lecture – On the Trail of the Tiger – to hear about his experiences photographing tigers throughout Asia.

Read the recently published Washington Post article featuring Winter – Wildlife photographers turn their cameras toward conservation

'Carnivores of the World' Field Guide by Panthera's President, Dr. Luke Hunter, Chosen as a 2011 Best Reference Book by Library Journal

The sixth and most recent book by Panthera's President, Dr. Luke Hunter, entitled Carnivores of the World: A Field Guide has just been selected as one of Library Journal's 2011 Best Reference Books. Representing the first comprehensive field guide to all 245 terrestrial carnivore species, Dr. Hunter's book was one of just five books selected for the Library Journal Science category and one of 45 total books receiving this esteemed title in 2011. Library Journal's other Best Reference Book categories include Arts, Biography, Business and Economics, Clothing and Dress, Food, General Reference, History, Language and Linguistics, Law and Politics, Social Sciences, and Travel and Geography.

Carnivores of the World is the first comprehensive field guide covering all 245 terrestrial carnivore species, from the iconic polar bear to the world's smallest carnivore, the least weasel, which is small enough to squeeze through a wedding ring. Written for all audiences, this book provides the most scientific and current information for each species, including their distribution and habitat, feeding ecology, behavior, reproduction, threats, and conservation status.

Read more about Library Journal's 2011 Best Reference Books.

Learn where you can buy Carnivores of the World, access the book's field guide maps, and watch interviews with Dr. Hunter about the making of this book at www.panthera.org/carnivoreguide.

Winston Cobb Memorial Fellowship
Established Through Panthera

We are thrilled to announce that longtime Panthera supporter, Ramune Cobb, has recently established the Winston Cobb Memorial Fellowship under the auspices of Panthera. The new Fellowship honors the memory of a dearly loved domestic cat, Winston Cobb, to highlight the imperilment of his wild relatives and foster the professional growth of early career wild cat conservationists. The annual Fellowship entails an award of $10,000 to an exceptional early career conservationist who will undertake a three to six month field-based wild cat conservation internship with Panthera. Working closely with Panthera’s wild cat conservationists, Fellowship awardees will gain extensive field training and experience necessary for their professional development and for the conservation of wild cats.

“It can be so hard for young ones to get a toe in the door,” Ms. Cobb said, of creating the Fellowship. “I was very lucky in my working life that people did give me opportunities, and I had some great mentors along the way. I'm thrilled to now be able to create the same opportunities for young conservationists”.

This is the first Fellowship created through Panthera, and the first of its kind supporting hands-on training and field experience in wild cat conservation. Panthera extends a heartfelt thanks to Ms. Cobb for supporting the conservation of the world’s wild cats and the next generation of wild cat conservationists.

Fellowship applications will be accepted through April 1st. Click here to apply and learn more about the Winston Cobb Memorial Fellowship.

Click here to learn about Panthera’s Grants and Prizes.

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