March 2013 Newsletter

CBS '60 Minutes' Airs Update on Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar Project

Last month, CBS ‘60 Minutes’ aired an exciting update on Noca - the first female jaguar collared as part of Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar Project, which was featured on the 2010 ‘60 Minutes’ program, In Search of the Jaguar.

Re-airing original footage of Noca’s collaring from 2010, the update highlighted recent footage of Noca with a new mate – a resident male jaguar whom locals have nicknamed ‘Teo’ – and the exciting discovery that Noca had given birth to a cub since her collaring.

Watch the CBS '60 Minutes' Update on Noca

Panthera’s scientists have gathered years of data on Noca and other jaguars in the area using GPS collars, camera trapping, and other field techniques. All together, these data tell us about their movements, habitat use, prey requirements, survivorship, and mortality – and help us shape conservation actions to better protect jaguars across their range.

Camera trap photos and videos can also help us capture life history events – such as footage of Noca mating with Teo along the banks of the Piquiri River, which was taken last year in September just 200 yards from where Noca was first collared in 2010. Two weeks later, our camera traps snapped photos of Noca travelling with her nearly grown cub. And two months after that, additional images revealed Noca travelling by herself, indicating that the cub had likely dispersed in search of its own territory, leaving Noca to prepare for her next litter.

Noca’s story is a great one because we have documented her successful rearing of one cub, which is now part of the Pantanal’s next generation of jaguars, and, hopefully we’ll see a second litter of cubs for Noca in the next few months. Panthera’s CEO Dr. Alan Rabinowitz said it best during the 2010 '60 Minutes' program, “It’s through the data of a few animals like this that we’ll be able to save the whole species.”

Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar Project began just five years ago, and today, we are seeing a real recovery of jaguars across Panthera’s sites in the Pantanal. On the two ranches where Panthera is working, camera trapping efforts have identified 27 jaguars in 2012, compared to 17 individuals in 2011, and while we are still determining density estimates, we know there are at least 10 resident jaguars, and three females with cubs.

A photo of a teacher and students from the Pantanal Sao Bento school.

Year after year, jaguars are being seen far more frequently, which is contributing to a boom in ecotourism. Where fishing once made up 80% of the local revenue, and nature-based tourism (including birding and jaguar spotting) made up 20%, we are now seeing the reverse. Today, 80% of revenue in the Pantanal is driven by nature tourism, specifically people visiting the area to see jaguars in the wild, and 20% is generated from fishing. Local people are now able to experience the economic benefits of living with jaguars in this incredible landscape.

Jaguars are far more prevalent due in large part to the creation of safe environments for these cats – where Panthera and our partners are preventing the hunting of jaguars and their prey, and mitigating human-jaguar conflict. These efforts include working with ranchers in improving livestock husbandry techniques to reduce the number of cattle killed by jaguars, and prevent the hunting of jaguars by frustrated ranchers. Our team is also conducting extensive ecological research on jaguar behavior, ecology, and interactions with livestock in the region. And last year, Panthera opened a school on these ranches for both children and cowboys, demonstrating that conservation ranches can be good for employees, too.

Today, the Pantanal Jaguar Project serves as a model for the recovery of jaguar populations across their range, demonstrating that the Americas’ largest wild cat and local people can live alongside one another in a mutually beneficial environment.

Make a contribution and help us continue to protect jaguars, like Noca, in the Pantanal.

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Learn more about Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative - the most transformative carnivore conservation strategy, which seeks to connect and protect jaguar populations from Mexico to Argentina, within the human landscape.

See extra jaguar video clips, behind the scenes photos and more.

Video Gallery

CBS '60 Minutes’ Update on Noca

Original ’60 Minutes’ Program – In Search of the Jaguar

Noca plays with her new mate on the Piquiri River - Brazilian Pantanal, 2012

Noca Photo Gallery

New Report Confirms Almost Half of Africa’s Lions Facing Extinction

Lions in Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa

A new report published March 5th concludes that nearly half of Africa's wild lion populations may decline to near extinction over the next 20-40 years without urgent conservation measures. The plight of many lion populations is so bleak, the report concludes that fencing them in - and fencing humans out - may be their only hope for survival.

Led by the University of Minnesota's Professor Craig Packer and co-authored by a large team of lion biologists, including Panthera's President, Dr. Luke Hunter, and Lion Program Director, Dr. Guy Balme, the report, entitled Conserving large carnivores: dollars and fence, was published recently in the scientific journal Ecology Letters.

"It is clear that fences work and unfenced populations are extremely expensive to maintain," said Craig Packer, who also sits on Panthera's Cat Advisory Council. Using field data from 11 African countries, the Ecology Letters study examines the cost of managing fenced and unfenced habitats, and compares lion population densities and trends in both. The report shows that conservation costs are lower, and lion population sizes and densities are greater, in reserves secured by wildlife-proof fences, compared to unfenced ecosystems. Lions in unfenced reserves were subject to a higher degree of threats from human communities, including retaliatory killing by herders, habitat loss and fragmentation, and overhunting of lion prey.

Panthera's Dr. Luke Hunter explained, "These findings highlight the severity of the lion conservation crisis today and the limited choices we have to ensure a future for the species. No one wants to resort to putting any more fences around Africa's marvelous wild areas, but without massive and immediate increases in the commitment to lion conservation, we may have little choice."

Lions in Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa

Whether fencing or some alternative physical boundary such as intensely managed buffer zones, it is clear that separating lion and human populations will be essential for the species' survival. Along with maintaining physical boundaries, conflict mitigation initiatives such as those carried out through Panthera's Project Leonardo and the Lion Guardians program, are not only required, but essential to reduce the killing of lions where humans and lions share landscapes. And these programs which we know work on a local level need to be taken to scale to make a real impact for Africa’s lions.

Panthera's Dr. Guy Balme stated, "We have shown that it is possible to keep both humans and lions in African landscapes by reducing lion-human conflict, but it requires extensive resources. As the numbers of people and their livestock continue to grow in Africa, it is essential to scale up these programs to avert losing many lion populations."

Today, it is estimated that fewer than 30,000 lions remain in Africa in just 25% of the species' original natural habitat.

Learn more about Panthera's efforts to protect and grow Africa's remaining lion populations through Project Leonardo.

To support our efforts to prevent and reduce conflicts, and to secure a future for Africa’s lions, please donate to Project Leonardo.

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Download this press release.

Related Press:

Cougars vs. Condors: Competing for Meat in Patagonia

Travelling on horseback for up to 21 hours a day, Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project Leader, Dr. Mark Elbroch, recently spent more than two years tracking, collaring and studying the behavior of cougars in South America’s Patagonia region. Based in the Chacabuco Valley of southern Chile, Elbroch sought to uncover the distinctive hunting habits and prey sources of the Patagonian cougar, in hopes of better conserving the species in this region.

In the midst of this research, Elbroch’s team was surprised to uncover one very consistent finding: cougars in the Patagonia region made nearly 50% more kills and fed less on these kills than cougars living in other regions of the Americas’, such as their counterparts in the United States. As described in a recent PLoS One journal publication, the team found that this uncharacteristic behavior is caused by Andean condor birds – a physically-inferior, but nonetheless aggressive scavenger, that frequently harasses cougars feeding on kills.

In particular, the scientists noticed that this behavior took place in open grassland areas that are more easily accessible to condors than forested areas, and where the cougar’s preferred prey – the guanaco (or llama) – is abundant. Furthermore, this research highlights that Patagonia cougars appear to be aware of the risks of losing their kills to condors, and mitigate this possibility in two ways: 1.) By hunting under forest canopies where they are safe from the prying eyes of condors, or 2.) Hunting where prey are most abundant in grasslands, and where the increased chances of making a kill offset their losses to scavengers.

Large Andean condors and smaller southern caracaras surround a guanaco killed by an adult female puma in Patagonia.

During an interview with OurAmazingPlanet, Elbroch explained, "to make up for the relatively brief amount of time spent with their kills in grasslands, cougars must kill more prey to get the same amount of meat…North American cougars may leave their kills when chased away by larger animals like bears or wolves. Although condors don't physically threaten cougars in the same way, their presence is irritating enough to drive cougars from their kills. And condors rarely arrive alone, but instead in the company of numerous sharp-beaked kin.”

Elbroch conjectures that Patagonian cougars’ aberrant and skittish behavior may also be attributed to the presence of sheep herders in grassland areas, where historically, cougars have been heavily hunted due to conflict with local communities over livestock.

Today, as the region’s apex predator, the cougar’s presence in Patagonia is indicative of healthy steppe ecosystems. On average cougars eat approximately seven pounds of meat per day, but kill 2 to 3 times this amount. With the high number of kills made by Patagonian cougars, they provide three times the food to their local communities than do wolves in Yellowstone National Park. This fact alone highlights the keystone role cougars play in Patagonia, and likely throughout their range.

Thanks to this study, scientists now understand how scavengers like the condor can influence predator-prey interactions, and the level of influence that the ‘near-threatened’ Andean condor maintains on the balance of local biodiversity in Patagonia. Simultaneously, this work reveals the importance of cougars in sustaining Andean condors - a national symbol of Chile - and iconic species for all of Patagonia and beyond. Providing a more comprehensive understanding of the Patagonian ecosystem, these findings will be used to better protect this beautiful and well-preserved habitat, and its wildlife.

Patagonia Video Gallery

A camera trap video of cougars, a fox and Andean condors feeding on a cougar’s guanaco (llama) kill in Patagonia. [No Audio]

Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project Leader, Dr. Mark Elbroch, uncovers a cougar kill and explains how Patagonian cougars hide their prey from scavenging Andean condors.

Patagonia Photo Gallery

Snow Leopards in Alaska?

Snow Leopards in Alaska? Well, no... but this summer, Panthera’s supporters are invited to join Snow Leopard Program Executive Director, Dr. Tom McCarthy, for an exclusive nature cruise of Southeast Alaska on board the luxury yacht M/V Sikumi!

Prior to his 20-year career conserving Asia's iconic snow leopards, wildlife biologist Dr. Tom McCarthy studied brown bears, black bears, and mountain goats on the islands and mainland of Alaska's majestic southeast coast. This July, Panthera’s fans will have the once in a lifetime opportunity to join Dr. McCarthy for a week-long exploration of the wildlife, fjords, bays and islands of Southeast Alaska, and a substantial portion of the cruise proceeds will go directly to Panthera’s Snow Leopard Program.

Mention “SNOW LEOPARD” when booking to ensure the maximum donation to Panthera.

On board the M/V Sikumi, guests will cruise through the sheltered waters of Alaska's Inside Passage, where wide sea lanes are dotted with uninhabited islands, narrow straits meander through deep fjords, and quiet coves are surrounded by snow capped peaks. Cascading waterfalls and spectacular tidewater glaciers fill this landscape, along with secluded beaches, alpine meadows and hiking trails of the Tongass National Forest that passengers will have the opportunity to explore.

Dr. Tom McCarthy in front of the M/V Sikumi

From July 14th-20th, Sikumi passengers can kayak, fish, explore tidal pools, take a dip in a natural hot spring, build beach fires, hop on a skiff ride to see glaciers up close, or just relax on deck soaking up the grandeur of Alaska's Inside Passage. Along the way, guests will learn about and see the gorgeous wildlife of this remote landscape, including wild humpback and orca whales, sea lions, seals, otters, black and brown bears, bald eagles, goats, and more.

In addition to guiding you through this incredible landscape, Dr. McCarthy will give special lectures on local wildlife and conservation issues, along with presentations on ‘Asia’s Mountain Ghost,’ the snow leopard. Learn about the first-ever GPS collaring study of snow leopards lead by Dr. McCarthy, which is helping to unlock the secret lives of this elusive and rarely seen wild cat. Also hear about Dr. McCarthy’s work with Buddhist monks on the Tibetan Plateau of China, who are helping to save a critical population of snow leopards in this remote corner of Asia.

The cost of this 7 day/6 night private cruise is $5,500 per adult, based on double occupancy, with rates for children available upon request. Passengers can also bring family and friends (up to 8 adults and 4 children) and reserve the entire boat for $42,000!

Visit the Sikumi website now to reserve your space on this trip of a lifetime and visit Panthera’s Sikumi cruise web page to learn more.

Cruise Photo Gallery

All images courtesy of Sikumi LLC.

Photo of the Month

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Two boys showing off their body paint during a Pulikali folk art performance in Umaria, India, taken by Panthera's Media Director, Steve Winter. This photo was an outtake from the 2011 National Geographic story, "A Cry for the Tiger," which featured Winter’s photos and explored the state of the world's remaining wild tigers.

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