January 2013 Newsletter

The World of Wild Cats in 2012 and Beyond

Thanks to your outstanding support, all of us at Panthera are thrilled to share that 2012 was a truly landmark year for the world’s big cats, and Panthera’s wild cat conservation initiatives. In expanding our conservation programs to additional sites and establishing partnerships with new, invaluable partners over the past year, we have seen Panthera’s conservation programs make a real difference for tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards and other wild cats.

To demonstrate how far your support has carried Panthera’s conservation initiatives in the past year, here are just a few highlights of our achievements in 2012, along with some of our goals for the year ahead:

  • Expanded Panthera’s Tigers Forever program to new sites covering 25% of the world's most important tiger populations. These efforts are being carried out by Panthera’s growing team of trained biologists, Tiger Protection Teams, informant networks, and others who are combating poaching for the insidious illegal wildlife market. In 2013, Panthera will bring on additional law enforcement management specialists to combat poaching, scale up the Tigers Forever program to new sites across Asia, and develop new partnerships to spread Panthera’s successful Tigers Forever model across the tiger’s range;

  • Well on our way to securing the largest conservation network on the planet – Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative, which spans 18 countries and six million km2. Panthera is achieving this incredible feat by confirming the most critical corridors connecting jaguar populations; partnering with Latin American governments to establish jaguar conservation strategies; collaborating with land owners to mitigate development impacts on jaguars, and more. In 2013, Panthera has already established the first national jaguar conservation framework with the government of Guyana, and seeks to do the same throughout Latin America. Our team is also gearing up to build Costa Rica’s first Jaguar Conflict Response Team and advocate for the designation of a new national park in Colombia, which would protect an extensive portion of the northern Jaguar Corridor;

  • Successfully reduced the number of lions killed in Africa by expanding the Lion Guardians program model to Tanzania and Zimbabwe – an innovative project that trains and employs former lion hunters – Maasai, Barabaig and other communities - to protect lions. Panthera’s scientists also assessed the effects of trophy hunting on lion and leopard populations in several African countries, allowing our team to help shape legislation regulating such hunting and increase lion and leopard populations in the long term. In 2013, our team will continue to expand the successful Lion Guardians model in other key sites; introduce Panthera’s law enforcement and lion population monitoring system (SMART) to three national parks in Zambia to combat poaching; and mitigate bushmeat hunting impacting lions and other wildlife in Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique.

  • Made new discoveries, and some of the first observations, of wild snow leopard mothers and cubs in Mongolia, and developed new partnerships with monasteries in China to gather data and educate local people about snow leopard conservation. Panthera’s snow leopard scientists also completed the most extensive survey of snow leopards in northeast Pakistan, and established a community-based program for sustainable hunting of snow leopard prey in Tajikistan, scheduled to launch in 2013. In the year ahead, our team will develop new genetic tools to better understand the snow leopard’s ecology, and guide Panthera’s conservation strategies on behalf of ‘Asia’s Mountain Ghost.’

  • In 2013, Panthera’s leopard conservation project will also be expanded to join the ranks of our other big cat conservation programs, and the Teton Cougar Project will be officially led by Panthera’s team of cougar scientists.

These accomplishments, and Panthera’s ambitious goals for big cats in 2013, are only possible thanks to your continued support. We know that by supporting Panthera, you are making a choice to join our fight in ensuring a future for big cats. For that, we say thank you.

Read about Panthera’s achievements in our 2012 Year in Review Report.

Download Panthera’s 2012 Year in Review Report.

Guyana Government and Panthera Sign Historic Jaguar Conservation Agreement

MOU with Panthera Launches Guyana’s First Jaguar Conservation Framework

The jaguars of Guyana gained significant ground this month with the establishment of the country’s first official jaguar-focused agreement by the government of Guyana and wild cat conservation organization, Panthera.

Gathering in Georgetown, Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Honorable Robert M. Persaud, presided over the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr. Joslyn McKenzie, and Panthera’s CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz. Serving as Panthera’s fifth jaguar conservation agreement with a Latin American government, this MOU marks an official commitment by both parties to collaboratively undertake research and conservation initiatives that ensure the protection of Guyana’s national animal, jaguar conservation education among its people, and mitigation of human-jaguar conflicts in the country.

Launching this agreement provides a framework through which Panthera, in partnership with Guyana’s Protected Areas and National Parks Commissions, can strengthen the effectiveness of the country’s Protected Areas System for wildlife, and outline the most effective initiatives to conserve the nation’s jaguars. Several initial activities to be undertaken through the agreement include mapping of the presence and distribution of jaguars across Guyana, and implementing a human-jaguar conflict response team that helps ranchers in livestock husbandry techniques and assesses conflict hotspots to better focus mitigation efforts and reduce conflict.

At the ceremony, the Honorable Robert M. Persaud stated, “We are proud of our new partnership with Panthera to secure the continuity of our sustainable development efforts while conserving our national symbol, the jaguar.”

Panthera’s CEO and jaguar expert, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, continued, “Historically, Guyana has achieved incredible success in sustainably balancing the country’s economic development, natural resource management, the livelihoods of its people, and the preservation of its unique wildlife and wild places. The signing of this jaguar conservation agreement demonstrates the government’s continued commitment to its legacy of conservation alongside economic progress and diversification.”

Unlike most other Latin American and developing nations rich in natural resources, Guyana has maintained an exemplary model of habitat preservation, assisted by sparse human populations in the southern half of the country and a strong ethic for sustainable development, aided by important regulatory frameworks. In recent years, Guyana has implemented a Low Carbon Development Strategy to protect its 16 million hectares of rainforests and adhere to the United Nations Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD). Additionally, in 2011, Guyana committed to the establishment of the national Protected Areas Act, providing a framework for the management of the country’s preserved landscapes, including those within the Jaguar Corridor.

Panthera’s CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, with Guyana’s Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment, the Honorable Robert M. Persaud, the day of the signing of an historic jaguar conservation agreement between Panthera and the government of Guyana – Jan 2013

Such dedication to environmental conservation, along with its unique placement rooted between Venezuela to the north, Brazil to the west and south, and Suriname to the east, has established Guyana’s pristine forest and savanna landscape system as a critical connecting block for jaguar populations in northern South America, and through the Jaguar Corridor. Conceptualized by Dr. Rabinowitz, the Jaguar Corridor Initiative is the backbone of Panthera’s Jaguar Program, which seeks to connect and protect jaguar populations ranging from Mexico to Argentina to ensure the species’ genetic diversity and survival.

Today, Guyana represents one of 18 Latin American countries that is home to the jaguar, and one of 13 countries in which Panthera is conducting jaguar conservation science. In fact, the signing of this MOU comes at the heels of a ten-day exploratory expedition of Guyana’s Rewa River by Panthera’s jaguar scientists, including Vice President and legendary biologist Dr. George Schaller, Northern South America Jaguar Program Regional Director Dr. Esteban Payan, and grantee, Dr. Evi Paemelaere. Along with assessing the state of biodiversity and threats facing this watershed, Panthera’s team made a milestone sighting of the notoriously elusive ‘forest jaguar’ during the trip, indicating the potentially healthy condition of the riparian forests bordering the Rewa River.

“Being able to have a forest jaguar sighting in 10 days in the river is a testament to the good health of this forest. Sometimes years pass without seeing a jaguar in a perfectly sound forest environment,” commented Dr. Payan.

Since 2011, Dr. Paemelaere has led Panthera’s jaguar conservation initiatives in southern Guyana, concentrating on the Karanambu and Dadanawa Ranches of the Rupununi savannas. Traversed by the Rupununi River, these savannas serve as an extraordinary hotspot of biological diversity and an essential element of the Jaguar Corridor, potentially connecting Guyana’s jaguars with those of the Amazons.

A male jaguar on Karanambu Ranch in Guyana’s Rupununi savanna. This jaguar was observed swimming across the Rupununi River on multiple occasions. 2011.

Panthera’s partnership with the Karanambu Trust and Lodge - a former cattle ranch emblematic of historic Guyana turned eco-tourism operation - established the country’s first jaguar monitoring site and first mammal-focused biodiversity survey in the country. Often working on horseback, Panthera’s jaguar scientists conducted surveys on both Karanambu and Dadanawa ranches using camera traps and interviews to determine jaguar density, and assess the extent of human-jaguar conflict and unique threats facing the species.

“A jaguar density of three to four individuals per 100 km2 for the Rupununi savannas means these habitats are as important as rainforests for the conservation of the jaguar,” said Dr. Payan. In partnership with the Karanambu Trust and WWF Guyana, Panthera has also contributed to capacity-building with local Amerindian communities.

In 2013, Panthera is working to assess the state and presence of jaguars inside a logging concession between the Iwokrama Reserve and Central Suriname Nature Reserve, also embedded in the Jaguar Corridor.

Read the full press release.

Guyana Photo Gallery

Map of Guyana

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Guyana Video from the Field

Panthera’s Northern South America Jaguar Program Regional Director, Dr. Esteban Payan, and Panthera’s Guyana-based grantee and wild cat biologist, Dr. Evi Paemelaere, discuss Panthera’s work in Guyana as they travel to set up camera traps on Karanambu Ranch.

Related Press:

‘Young Tom’ of Tanzania – A Lion’s Spearing and Rescue

In addition to its notoriety for three spectacular volcanic craters and the Olduvai Gorge archaeological site where the unearthing of hominid fossils helped to establish Africa as the ‘cradle of mankind,’ Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) is particularly renowned for its ubiquitous wildlife. Drawing in thousands of tourists from around the world every year, the Ngorongoro region hosts one of the world’s most superb natural phenomenons – the annual great migration of over 1 million wildebeest, zebra, gazelle and other herbivores, which graze and bear their young across Tanzania’s Serengeti plains, to Kenya’s Maasai Mara region, and back.

With ungulate prey abundance of this magnitude, the Ngorongoro region currently supports a healthy population of lions. For this reason, the Serengeti Lion Project (SLP), directed by Panthera’s Cat Advisory Council Member, Craig Packer, has been studying and working to conserve the lions of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area since 1966. Today, this work continues through biologists like Panthera grantee Ingela Jansson, who are tasked with monitoring the numbers and well-being of the NCA’s lions, and their interactions with local Maasai communities.

Map of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

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Several years ago, close monitoring of the ‘Thin’ lion pride, which inhabits the NCA’s Ndutu region, revealed that 11 new cubs had been born, including a handsome cub nicknamed ‘Young Tom’ by locals. Soon after this discovery, however, Ingela and her team learned that ‘Young Tom’ was the only cub out of the 11 to survive past the age of one.

Typically, under such circumstances, a sole cub like Young Tom would fall victim to infanticide – a behavior through which male lions kill cubs in a pride to hasten the onset of oestrus in female lions, and thus spread their genes. However, perhaps because his ten-year old father was the only male siring cubs within the Ndutu region’s three prides (the Thin, Masek and Big Marsh prides), Young Tom was accepted by the Thin pride. Once he reached physical and sexual maturity, Young Tom joined his father in defending and siring cubs within the three prides, including seven cubs born to the Masek pride in early 2012.

In mid-October, however, Ingela and staff from the local Ndutu Lodge were notified that an injured, male lion had been spotted lying under a tree in the Ngorongoro’s Hugo Valley area. When they arrived at the scene, Ingela was disheartened to find Young Tom lying under this tree with a large gash in his stomach. When they approached him from a distance, the severity of Young Tom’s wounds became apparent as he struggled to get up, shakily walked in the opposite direction and sunk back down to the ground.

Acting quickly, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area authorities were alerted, who sent a veterinarian to anesthetize Young Tom and treat his wounds, assisted by Ingela, the Ndutu Lodge staff and NCA rangers. Once he was immobilized, Ingela saw that his wounds had undoubtedly been caused by a spear, which had cut all the way through his back, piercing the other side of his body. Unfortunately, by this time, the wounds had become infected, and therefore dangerous to stitch up.

Instead, the vet administered an antibiotic injection, and cleaned and applied broad-spectrum antibiotic spray to his injuries, including puncture wounds on his hind legs caused by other predators. The team took blood, saliva, tissue and fecal samples to test for Young Tom’s exposure to various diseases and parasites, measure his hormonal levels and examine his DNA. Ingela also took photographic records of his teeth, and measured his body length, shoulder height, neck circumference and heart girth to add to the SLP’s lion demography database. After weighing Young Tom at a hefty 146 kg (321 pounds), Ingela fixed him with a GPS collar and waited for him to wake from the anesthesia.

See photos of Young Tom’s rescue below.

After a three day recovery, the SLP team was happy to track Young Tom as he slowly made his way back to the Masek pride. Since October, Young Tom’s wounds have healed with no sign of infection, and he and his father now primarily travel with the Masek pride, guarding their youngest offspring as new male lions enter the Ndutu area and attempt to overpower the Thin and Big Marsh prides.

In the months ahead, the Serengeti Lion Project team will continue to monitor the activities of Young Tom, now nearly four years old, and will collar and track five additional lions in the region to learn more about their range use and interactions with local pastoralists. In particular, these data will demonstrate whether the Ndutu region’s high-density lion populations are breeding across the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, including into the Ngorongoro Crater and the larger Serengeti National Park - genetic exchanges thought to have expired. (See map above)

The SLP is also working to build collaborative relationships with local Maasai communities to ensure they are part of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area’s lion conservation strategy. Today, the SLP employs local Maasai to assess ‘hot-spot’ conflict areas involving livestock depredation. As the program expands, the SLP hopes to adopt conservation strategies from the Lion Guardians program and other initiatives, including employing more local Maasai to monitor lion populations, increase tolerance for lions among the Maasai communities, and mitigate human-lion conflicts by improving livestock owners’ husbandry skills and notifying them of lions’ whereabouts in relation to their livestock.

Click here to learn more about the Serengeti Lion Project and check back with us for an update on the progress of Young Tom, and the lions of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.

The Serengeti Lion Project extends a special thanks to NABU International, National Geographic, Vectronic, and Ndutu Lodge for their continued support.

Learn more about Panthera’s Project Leonardo.

Watch a video of Young Tom, still walking with a limp, going to join the Masek pride several weeks after his examination and collaring. NCA, Tanzania

Female lions from Young Tom’s Masek pride chasing gazelles…and being chased by elephants. NCA, Tanzania

A Conversation with the Lion Encounter Industry on ‘Walking with Lions’

Last year, the international conservation journal, Oryx, published a Panthera co-authored report, (‘Walking with lions: Why there is no role for captive-origin lions (Panthera leo) in species restoration’) which assessed the potential of Africa’s ‘wildlife encounter’ operations to assist in the conservation of the continent’s declining wild lion population, now estimated to number fewer than 30,000 individuals.

Popular among tourists, these self-proclaimed ‘eco-tourism’ operations typically charge paying customers to pet, feed and walk with hand-raised and so-called ‘tame’ lions, claiming to eventually release these captive lions into the wild.

However, as outlined by a panel of wild cat biologists in the ‘Walking with Lions’ report, an evaluation of the suitability of captive lions for release into the wild concluded that captive-bred lions and their offspring are poorly-suited for survival and release in such reintroduction projects compared to their wild-born counterparts, and are unnecessary given the widespread success of wild-wild lion re-establishment programs. The report also demonstrated that no lions have been successfully released from such ‘wildlife encounter’ operations, and that commercial captive lion reintroduction programs operate largely under a 'conservation myth.'

In response, representatives from the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust (ALERT) and Lancaster University submitted a letter to Oryx outlining their concerns over claims made in the Panthera co-authored report.

This rebuttal, and an additional response from the authors of the original ‘Walking with Lions’ report, were recently published in Oryx’s January 2013 issue. We invite you to read this forum below and provide your feedback to Panthera at info@panthera.org.

Additional Resources

Read Panthera’s Press Release, New Report Finds Captive Lion Reintroduction Programs in Africa Operate Under ‘Conservation Myth’.

View a gallery of lion encounter photos.

Read a Q&A with Panthera’s President, Dr. Luke Hunter, on ‘Walking with Lions’.

Learn about Panthera’s Project Leonardo.

Click the image below to read the current issue of Oryx:

Application Rounds Open for Panthera’s 2013 Awards and Grants Programs

Ever-committed to our mission to foster the next generation of wild cat scientists, Panthera maintains a number of award, grant, fellowship and prize programs, including the Kaplan Graduate Awards and Small Cat Action Fund. Panthera’s 2013 applications for these programs are currently open:

The Kaplan Graduate Awards (KAP) is the world’s only scholarship program supporting outstanding young biologists in the field of wild cat conservation that requires a significant in situ component. Applications for the Kaplan Graduate Awards are encouraged for projects on all wild cat species, in all regions of the world, and applicants must be post-graduates pursuing a higher degree (MSc., Ph.D., or equivalent). Kaplan Graduate Awards are typically given for one year, but may be extended to subsequent years depending upon awardees’ performance and results.

Panthera is currently only accepting Letters of Inquiry (LOIs) for the Kaplan Graduate Awards Program. The deadline for the LOIs has been extended to February 10th, 2013. Click here to learn more.

The Small Cat Action Fund (SCAF) is a unique grants program established by Panthera, with the oversight of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, which supports in situ conservation and research activities on small cat species. Open to any qualified individual or institution, SCAF awards are given for one year, but may be extended to subsequent years, contingent upon awardees’ performance and results.

The 2013 SCAF intake round is now open. The deadline for proposals is March 1, 2013. Click here to learn more. Please note that the SCAF budget range has been raised to $15,000.

Learn about all of Panthera’s Grants and Prizes.

Read the press release, "Kaplan Graduate Awards Program Grants More Than $1 Million To Become The Largest Funder of Students With A Passion For Cat Conservation"

Panthera is currently reviewing applications for a full-time Grant Writer, based in New York City. Click here to learn more and apply for the position.

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Send one of Panthera’s Valentine’s Day e-cards this year to show your loved ones how much you care about them, and saving wild cats! Personalize one or more of our ten e-cards featuring stunning photographs of big cats with Valentine’s Day messages, for just a minimum donation of $10 per e-card. To make a more substantial donation to Panthera, click here. 100% of your donation will go directly to the field, where it matters most.

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