July 2011 Newsletter

Panthera Partners with Save the Tiger Fund to Ensure a Future for Tigers

We are proud to share that Save the Tiger Fund (STF) and Panthera have joined together in the fight to save tigers in the wild. This new partnership between two of the most influential tiger conservation groups will increase the resources available for strategic tiger conservation efforts, with a focus on addressing key threats to wild tigers and scientifically measuring conservation success using the Tigers Forever strategy.

Visit Save the Tiger Fund.

Read the Full Press Release.

Support Tigers: Donate to the STF-Panthera Fund.

Panthera’s Board Member J. Michael Cline Featured in the WSJ for his Commitment to Cats

Panthera's Board Member has been featured in The Wall Street Journal article J. Michael Cline's Passion For Conserving Wild Cats for his exceptional contributions to tiger conservation. Besides being on Panthera's Board, Michael Cline is also a co-founder of Panthera’s Tigers Forever program.

Cline’s latest efforts have focused on the development of Panthera’s new and advanced camera trap model. Cline hand-picked the development team three years ago, who worked with Panthera’s scientists to construct this new model. Panthera is now producing a small, light, durable, inexpensive, digital camera that is far superior to anything existing in the marketplace and it is being used as a key tool for our tiger conservation efforts. This model consists of an energy-efficient, digital camera that snaps photos of passing wildlife in just three-tenths of a second. Given that wild tigers are very elusive and occur at low densities, these camera traps serve as a particularly valuable research tool. They help us identify individual tigers using their unique stripe patterns so we can apply sophisticated 'mark-recapture' statistics that yield density estimates of tigers in the area.

Panthera began distributing these new camera traps to project sites last December, and our wild cat scientists have already begun to gather critical and unexpected data using the enhanced camera trap photos. As an example, in April one of Panthera’s camera traps snapped remarkably clear photos of poachers in India’s Orang National Park, which later led to the poachers’ identification and arrest. Read the full story here.

Learn more about Panthera’s Board of Directors.

Learn more about the Tigers Forever program.

See camera trap photos of wild tigers in the Tigers Forever site in Malaysia, operated in partnership with JNPC, DWNP and WCS.

Read a New York Time Green Blog post about Panthera’s camera traps – A Stealth Camera That Captures Big Cats.

Searching for Snow Leopard Cubs

A camera trap snaps an up-close photo of a tiny snow leopard cub in Qinghai, China

In the past several months, the movements of Tenger – a 4-5 year old female snow leopard collared and monitored through the Panthera Snow Leopard Trust (SLT) research study in South Gobi, Mongolia – suggested that she may have established a den to give birth and raise a new litter of cubs. As shown in the map below, Tenger has recently remained in a very small area of just 9 km2 on the southern flank of the Tost mountain range overlooking the Gobi desert. These restricted movements are atypical for Tenger, whose home range encompasses a 200 km2 area. The uplinks from Tenger’s GPS collar had also become sporadic, indicating that she has been in an area, such as a den, from which her collar cannot make satellite phone calls.

Click map for a larger image

Typical habitat (with plenty of hiding places) for a den

In order to determine if Tenger has given birth to a new litter of cubs, scientists from the Mongolia study spent a few weeks in June searching for Tenger’s den in the southern region of the Tost mountain range. Not surprisingly, the scientists discovered that the mountainside where Tenger’s GPS locations were from has countless hiding spots, rocky outcrops and is altogether a very challenging area to search (hence perfect snow leopard habitat!). The search is also particularly arduous given the elusive nature of snow leopards, which have been aptly nicknamed ‘Asia’s Mountain Ghost,’ and the even more guarded behavior of a snow leopard mum who is protecting cubs.

A camera trap photo of Tenger (right) drinking water in Mongolia’s Tost Mountains with her formerly dependent daughter, Zaraa, in 2010.

Although the Panthera-SLT scientists have not located Tenger’s den or spotted any of her cubs, they were encouraged when they were finally caught a glimpse of Tenger, confirming that she is safe. As the restless cubs are too mobile to track down at this time, the Mongolia-based team will continue their search for an active snow leopard birth den next year. If successful, the team will attempt to weigh the cubs and implant PIT tags, or tiny microchips similar to those used on dogs and cats, which are inserted directly under the cubs’ skin for identification purposes.

Up until now, the process of rearing snow leopard cubs and cub survival in the wild is a mystery to the conservation community, and what is known has mostly been learned from studying snow leopards in zoos. The use of PIT tags and observations of snow leopard rearing in the wild will allow our scientists to learn about the characteristics of a typical natal den and speculate how a den is selected, how long snow leopard cubs stay in a den, when cubs begin to follow their mother outside of the natal den, how often and how long the mother leaves the cubs alone to hunt, how many cubs are typically born in the wild, and other valuable data. Because we had been able to collar Tenger’s older daughter Zaraa while they were still traveling together last year, we were able to observe some snow leopard dispersal behavior as Zaraa began to travel independently. Zaraa’s collar dropped off as scheduled this spring, and we hope to re-collar her this fall to continue observing her movements and see where she will establish her own home range.

A camera trap photo of Tenger climbing a rock.

We also hope to learn about survivorship, or how many of Tenger’s cubs reach adulthood. Although snow leopard litters typically consist of one to three cubs in a captive zoo environment, wild snow leopard cubs are subject to natural predators, disease, and also human threats such as poaching or being captured for the illegal wildlife market. As the Mongolia-based study began in 2008, our camera traps have photographed wild female snow leopards with one to three cubs, but we know little beyond that as to what happens to the cubs. Data have also indicated that cubs are dependent on their mothers for approximately two years, which suggests that a litter could be born every two to three years. Panthera’s team of snow leopard scientists will use camera traps throughout the Tost mountain range and will radio-collar the offspring (when they are large enough) of our collared females to provide critical answers needed to better conserve these ecologically important cats and provide a glimpse into their secret lives.

Learn more about Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program.

Watch videos of wild snow leopard cubs.

See a photo gallery of wild snow leopard cubs.

Orjan Johansson who leads the Panthera-SLT study in South Gobi shared with us what it was like trying to find Tenger’s den:

“Outside a nice cave someone had played with the bushes and chewed on the stems, thought to be the cubs. I spent several hours searching the whole area but found nothing more than chewed bushes and snow leopard pugmarks [footprints]. We are guessing that Tenger gave birth around 1st of May which means that the cubs are 6‐7 weeks old now. Tenger has probably left the original den and the cubs are moving around fairly well. The cubs are probably big enough now that they move around in the canyon and can find hiding places themselves - tons of rocks, caves, crevices, and big thorny bushes- within or under which are perfect hiding places for a cub.”

Zaraa, one of Tenger’s cubs who has only recently become independent, is shown here after being fixed with a GPS collar. Panthera and Snow Leopard Trust scientists are now working to re-collar Zaraa, whose collar fell off prematurely, after this photo was taken, several weeks ago.

Panthera CEO Consulted on Status of Cougars in the Northeast United States Following A String of Cougar Sightings

Panthera’s CEO Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, was recently interviewed live on the Connecticut Public Radio program, The Colin McEnroe Show, and separately interviewed by Associated Press and The Journal News on the state of cougars (mountain lions) in Connecticut and in the Northeast United States region to comment on a cougar that was struck and killed by a car travelling on a Connecticut highway. The event has fueled much debate between state officials, residents reporting cougar sightings in their communities, and wild cat experts on the status and origin of cougars in Connecticut and throughout the Northeastern region of the U.S.

Listen to The Colin McEnroe Show interview to hear Dr. Rabinowitz’s take on the existence of cougar populations living within the Northeast United States.

Read the The Associated Press article - Mountain lion causes a stir in ritzy Conn. suburbs

Read The Journal News article - Big-cat activist gives own theory on mountain lions

Remembering Africa Proceeds Benefit Panthera’s Wild Cat Conservation Programs

We are excited to share that for a limited time a portion of proceeds from the sale of Robert Vavra’s most recent book, Remembering Africa, will be donated to Panthera to support our global wild cat conservation projects. For the next several months, Panthera will receive 15% of proceeds from the sale of this book and customers will receive a 10% discount when they enter the code PANTHERA at checkout. 100% of contributions made from the sale of Remembering Africa will go directly to the field where it matters most.

Remembering Africa is the latest book by author and photographer Robert Vavra that captures and celebrates the magnificence of Africa’s immense landscapes and iconic wildlife. The 624 page coffee table book features over 160 pages of unpublished photographs taken in Africa, and includes stories told around the African campfire and interviews on Africa with the world's leading conservationists, explorers, historical figures, and literary giants.

Among the individuals interviewed was Panthera Vice President Dr. George Schaller – one of the founding fathers of wildlife conservation who led the world’s first seminal study on lions in the Serengeti National Park in the late 1960s. Remembering Africa also features interviews with Jane Goodall, Peter Beard, Mary Leakey, Paul Theroux, and other fascinating individuals.

Help Panthera protect the wild cats of Africa and other cat species around the world to ensure that these incredible animals do not one day become distant memories.

Click here to see where you can get your copy of Remembering Africa.

Additional Information

Purchase The Serengeti Lion: A Study of Predator Prey Relations to read about the culmination of Dr. George Schaller’s seminal study on lion behavior, including the lion’s social system, population dynamics, hunting behavior and predation patterns.

See an exclusive collection of Dr. Schaller’s photos of Serengeti wildlife.