January 2011 Newsletter

Critical Snow Leopard Habitat in Mongolia receives Protection

Mongolia is a snow leopard stronghold with more than 1,000 of the endangered cats, which may be 25% of the world’s wild population.  Mongolia is also a leader in efforts to conserve snow leopards and established one of the first national snow leopard conservation action plans.  Like other national plans now in place for the species, Mongolia’s plan focuses on threats such as snow leopard - livestock conflicts, and poaching for hides and bones.  Recently a potentially more destructive threat has come to light in a remote corner of Mongolia – mining.

The Tost Mountains of Mongolia’s South Gobi province support one of the highest population densities of this rare cat anywhere in its range. Panthera and the Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) recognized this when selecting the area for a highly acclaimed long-term study launched in 2008 which is providing information critical to the conservation of snow leopards globally. But South Gobi is rich in more than snow leopards, with large deposits of coal and precious metals.  In 2010 it became apparent that nearly our entire 500 km2 study area – some of the most important snow leopard habitat in the world – was slated for mineral development.  Situated between two of the nation’s largest protected areas, the Tost Mountains have no similar immunity and nearly 40 mining licenses had been issued there.  Recognizing the potentially devastating impact to the area and the cats, Panthera and SLT wasted no time in bringing our concerns to the government.

Click for Larger Version

Led by SLT’s Mongolia Program Director and recipient of the 2009 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Next Generation Prize, Bayarjargal Agvaantseren, a year-long effort to have the mineral licenses revoked ensued during which we were informed there was little likelihood of success.  That changed when the local people of the Tost Mountains became involved.  Concern for the welfare of a large predator is not what you would expect from a community of herding families.  But SLT’s decade of conservation work in the area, and our joint ecological study which was showing local residents the beauty of the cats through images from our camera traps, made them snow leopard fans and they petitioned the government to designate the entire site a Locally Protected Area.  After two rejections of the petition, Dr. Tom McCarthy, Panthera’s Executive Director of Snow Leopard Programs, traveled to Mongolia in October and met with the head of the Mineral Resources Authority and representatives of the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism to support the application for protected status. 

In December the news came that Local Protected Area status had been granted.  While this does not rescind existing mineral exploration licenses, it assures that no licenses will be granted for actual mining, which by default makes exploration far less attractive to current license holders.  Importantly, the new protected area links two of the country’s premier protected areas, the Great Gobi Strictly Protected Area and the Three Beauties National Park, creating a corridor of safety for snow leopards and other unique wildlife across much of southern Mongolia.

Learn more about Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program.

Map of Snow Leopard Range.

A Journey with Joe to Expand the Tigers Forever Program in India and Bhutan

Fresh tiger tracks found by Dr. Joe Smith in the Manas Tiger Reserve, India. Credit: Joe Smith/Panthera

In November of last year, Panthera's Tiger Program Director, Dr. Joe Smith, set off on a five week tour of northeast India, Indonesia and Malaysia to visit several projects that are part of the Tigers Forever program and explore potential new projects for 2011. Currently operating in six countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Lao PDR, India and Myanmar, the Tigers Forever program is a joint Panthera-Wildlife Conservation Society initiative that aims to increase tiger numbers at key sites in these countries by 50% over a ten year period.

Joe’s trip began with an initial visit to one of the new projects Panthera will launch in 2011 - a tiger protection and population recovery effort in the Greater Manas Landscape, which spans the border between India and Bhutan and includes Manas Tiger Reserve at its heart. On the Indian side of the border, the Manas Tiger Reserve contains a significant area of prime tiger habitat, including extensive grasslands capable of supporting high densities of tiger prey species. Although this UNESCO World Heritage site, once famed for its thriving populations of tiger, elephant and rhinoceros, has deteriorated during a recent period of social unrest, refuge for these animals has been provided by the extensive forests preserved in the Kingdom of Bhutan. Now, these protected habitats offer the best hope for repopulating tigers and other large mammals in the Greater Manas Landscape.

Thankfully, there is tremendous local support for this tiger protection and population recovery effort, and plans are well advanced for transboundary conservation projects in which teams from Bhutan and India will work side-by-side to tackle the threats to tigers in this region, including poaching of tigers for their beautiful skins and body parts and also the hunting of tiger prey species.

Camera trapping is one of the best ways to gather information about the size and distribution of tiger populations in this region, enabling Panthera and their partners to better protect the tigers in the Greater Manas Landscape. Panthera has recently provided 50 of its latest camera traps to field teams working on the ground in the Manas Tiger Reserve. These cameras are now being strategically placed in the forests of Manas Tiger Reserve on the Indian side of the border. Just weeks ago, we received word that camera traps have already detected tigers on both sides of the Indo-Bhutanese border!

Read The New York Times Green Blog post, “A Stealth Camera That Captures Big Cats," and view camera trap photos of wild tigers in Malaysia.

In order to address the larger issue of regional tiger recovery, a more extensive collaborative project will be launched this autumn in which Panthera and several partners will support systematic surveys of tigers, their prey species and the threats these species face throughout the 5,850 km2 Greater Manas Landscape. Be sure to check back to learn about the latest developments with Panthera’s Tigers Forever projects!

See photos of the Greater Manas Landscape, fresh tiger tracks and other pictures from Joe’s trip.

Pepsi for Panthera: Competing for a $25,000 Grant to Support the Teton Cougar Project

We are thrilled to share that Panthera has recently been accepted into the Pepsi Refresh Project and now has the chance to win a $25,000 grant to support our Teton Cougar Project!  Now through January 31st, Panthera will compete with nearly 300 other organizations to receive the most votes, made both online and by text, and at the end of the contest, Pepsi will award $25,000 to the top 10 Pepsi Refresh Projects that receive the most votes.

You can help us win this grant by voting for Panthera twice a day through the end of the month! Vote for Panthera online at http://www.refresheverything.com/panthera and by texting 105105 to PEPSI or 73774 every day through January 31st.

In partnership with Craighead Beringia South, and led by cougar expert Dr. Howard Quigley, Panthera’s Executive Director of Jaguar Programs, Panthera is carrying out the Teton Cougar Project to gather data on the cougars’ range, their population size, and interactions with prey species such as deer and with other predators, including wolves, grizzly bears and black bears. The Teton Cougar Project is a particularly valuable and unique initiative because it allows Panthera’s researchers to compare the behavior of isolated cougar populations with cougars living within the Teton region who frequently interact with local human populations. These data will guide Panthera's work to stabilize cougar populations in the Teton ecosystem, avoid and mitigate human-cougar conflicts and understand more about the ecological dynamics and health of the Teton ecosystem. 

If Panthera wins the Pepsi Refresh Project, we will direct 100% of the $25,000 grant to the field to purchase and install 40 camera traps to monitor and study cougars in the southern Yellowstone ecosystem.  Please vote TODAY, and every day through January 31st!

Watch a brief Assignment Earth video, Cougars Compete to Survive, featuring Dr. Howard Quigley

Learn more about the cougar.

Read about the Teton Cougar Project and Panthera’s California Cougar Project.

Zambia: A Potential Lion Stronghold

A male lion resting in grass, Zambia.

Situated in Southern Africa, Zambia is a remote, landlocked country slightly larger than the state of Texas whose national lion population is estimated at just 1,000-3,200 lions. Rather than roaming free, these lions are being increasingly confined to the country’s large protected reserves, where their chances of finding genetic diversity and thus strengthening the lion’s chance of survival throughout Africa are slim. However, Panthera has discovered that Zambia, with a relatively low human density and therefore a reduced threat level from humans, has the potential to serve as a stronghold for the country’s lions. In order to investigate the conservation status of Zambia’s lions and address the prevailing threats facing the species, Panthera is carrying out the Kafue Lion Project in Zambia’s Kafue National Park (KNP) in partnership with the Zambian Wildlife Authority and Wilderness Safaris.

Based on the Kafue Lion Project’s research, Panthera has found that illegal poaching is potentially a major threat facing lions living within KNP, as commercial poachers set snares to capture ungulates, like antelope, which are sold for bushmeat. These snares are, however, indiscriminate, and lions can be caught and killed in the deadly wire traps. Poaching of lion prey additionally reduces the lion’s food sources, particularly along the park border that is easily accessible to surrounding communities, resulting in increases in livestock depredation and human-lion conflicts.

Click for Larger Version

Uncontrolled fires pose another major threat to Zambia’s lion populations (and other wildlife).  Fires are deliberately set by poachers, fishermen, and even wildlife authority staff and tourism operators in KNP to increase visibility and draw wildlife to nutrient-rich areas. . These routine burnings can have detrimental effects on the habitat, including reducing populations of the lion’s prey species, and directly threaten lion cubs left in dens by their mothers. In addition, Kafue National Park receives a high percentage of annual rainfall that often causes large areas of the reserve to flood. Since lionesses frequently give birth shortly before the rainy season, these annual floods are yet another threat to the survival of lion cubs in this region.

To mitigate these threats and learn more about the park’s lion populations, the Kafue Lion Project is using intensive research techniques including GPS or Global Positioning System collars to monitor how lions are adjusting spatially to different threats in their environment. Extensive call-up surveys (where we project sounds of prey animals in distress that result in lions coming to the area to see what is occurring, and allowing us to count them) and prey counts also provide vital data on the lion’s distribution and abundance throughout Kafue National Park which informs and guides conservation management decisions that will help to ensure a long-term future for lions in Zambia, and throughout Africa.

Learn more about The Kafue Project through the Wilderness Wildlife Trust and on The Kafue Project’s Facebook page

Learn more about what Panthera is doing to protect lions through Project Leonardo and the Lion Guardians program.

Read the results of the latest lion survey in West and Central Africa - Lion status updates from five range countries in West and Central Africa.

Map of Lion Range in Africa

Read Panthera's Lion Brochure: Project Leonardo: Saving Africa's Lions

Read Panthera’s lion report card: The State of the Lion.

Be sure to check our Events page for details about “The Vanishing Lion” lecture given by lion expert Dr. Luke Hunter, Panthera’s Executive Vice President, to be scheduled in the coming months.

In the Donor Spotlight: Saying “I Do” to Saving Big Cats

After dating for eight years, Panthera fans Gabriela Sanchez and Rod Teasley tied the knot in Austin, Texas this past October…but unlike most weddings, Gabriela and Rod used their big day to help Panthera save big cats. Rather than accepting conventional gifts, Gabriela and Rod encouraged their guests to make a donation to Panthera. 

Gabriela and Rod also included a big cat theme at their wedding, using images of wild cats as escort cards at each table and providing interesting information about the conservation status, geographical location and other facts about big cats. 

The couple offered cake jars as an exit gift which included labels displaying Panthera’s logo and creative big cat cake names such as ‘Lion Pride Lemon,’ ‘Salty Snow Leopard,’ ‘Velvet Jaguar,’ and ‘Roaring Tiger Carrot.’ All we can say to that is “yum!”

Panthera is very grateful to Gabriela and Rod for their generosity and are honored and thrilled to have been recognized on their big day. We would like to extend a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the newlyweds and their guests for supporting Panthera’s mission to conserve and protect the world’s wild cats. Congratulations, Gabriela and Rod!

View photos from the wedding and get ideas for how you can help support big cats on your big day.

92Y Lecture: “Saving the Tiger: Already Too Late?” – Sunday, January 16

As part of Panthera’s Safari of the Mind lecture series held at New York City’s 92nd Street Y, Dr. Thomas Kaplan, Panthera's Chairman and Founder, and Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Panthera's President and CEO, will come together this Sunday, January 16th, at 7:30pm for a special presentation on “Saving the Tiger: Already Too Late?”

Buy your ticket now.

Drs. Kaplan and Rabinowitz will examine the fragile state of Asia’s tiger populations, which are now estimated to number less than 3,000, and whether the current conservation initiatives being carried out by local and international governments, NGOs and conservation organizations can save this magnificent species from extinction.

Dr. Rabinowitz is renowned within the wild cat conservation field for his work involving tigers, including his role in Myanmar in creating five new protected areas, including the country's first marine national park, first and largest Himalayan national park, and the world’s largest tiger reserve in the Hukaung Valley. In addition, Dr. Rabinowitz helped establish Taiwan’s largest protected area and last piece of intact lowland forest and produced the first field research on Indochinese tigers, Asiatic leopards, and leopard cats in Thailand, in what was to become the region's first World Heritage Site.

Dr. Kaplan is additionally celebrated for his support of wild cat conservation, and particularly those projects concerning the protection of the tiger, and his learned knowledge of the tiger conservation field.

We invite you to take part in this special event featuring two of the world’s most prominent tiger conservationists to evaluate the current state of the tiger conservation field. Visit 92Y and enter PAN3 at checkout to receive a 50% discounton your ticket purchase.

Check our Events page for information about “The Vanishing Lion” lecture given by lion expert Dr. Luke Hunter, Panthera’s Executive Vice President, in the coming months.

Scientific Publications

Integrating occupancy modeling and interview data for corridor identification: A case study for jaguars in Nicaragua. Authors: Katherine A. Zeller, Sahil Nijhawan, Roberto Salom-Pérez, Sandra H. Potosme, James E. Hines.View this Publication

Book Chapter – Mamíferos in Biodiversidad de la Cuenca del Orinoco. Authors: Fernando Trujillo González, Marisol Beltrán Gutiérrez, Angélica Diaz-Pulido, Arnaldo Ferrer Pérez, Esteban Payán Garrido. View this Publication

Lista de los mamíferos de la cuenca del Orinoco. Authors: Arnaldo Ferrer Pérez, Marisol Beltrán, Angélica Paola Diaz-Pulido, Fernando Trujillo, Hugo Mantilla-Meluk, Olga Herrera, Andres Felipe Alfonso, Esteban Payán. View this Publication

Preliminary results of a long-term study of Snow leopards in South Gobi, Mongolia. Authors: Tom McCarthy, Kim Murray, Koustubh Sharma, Orjan Johansson. View this Publication


Panthera’s March 2011 grant round is now open. Applications will be accepted until March 1, 2011. For more information and to apply, visit http://www.panthera.org/grants-and-prizes.