May 2011 Newsletter

DisneyNature Chooses ‘Panthera’ as a Way to get Involved with Saving Wild Cats

We are proud to announce that DisneyNature has selected Panthera as one of its wild cat conservation partners, and is encouraging DisneyNature fans to support Panthera in order to get involved in the conservation of Africa’s wild cats.  DisneyNature kicked off Earth Day this year with the release of its latest nature film, African Cats.  Narrated by actor Samuel L. Jackson, this film follows the life story of a cheetah and lion family, and the hardships and challenges they face just trying to survive in the wild savannas of Kenya’s Maasai Mara region.

This story is made even more  miraculous when coupled with the human-induced threats that Africa’s lions and cheetahs face across their range, including loss of habitat, direct hunting by livestock owners protecting their livelihoods, and loss of wild prey due to overhunting by humans. To eliminate these threats, Panthera is partnering with the Living with Lions organization in the Maasai Mara region where African Cats was filmed to carry out the Lion Guardians program - a unique initiative that involves protecting this region’s lions by employing traditional lion hunters (local Maasai warriors) as ‘Lion Guardians.’

Visit Panthera’s ‘Let Lions Live’ campaign and learn how Panthera is working throughout Africa to help protect Africa’s wild lions. Through the month of May, every dollar donated to the ‘Let Lions Live’ campaign will be matched to help save Africa’s wild lion populations.

Visit Disney’s website to download educational materials and learn more about the film.

Learn more about Panthera’s lion conservation program - Project Leonardo.

Panthera Camera Trap Catches Poachers

Panthera's camera trap captures a photo of a poacher in India’s Orang National Park.

Last December marked an exciting milestone for Panthera with the distribution of our new and enhanced camera trap model, which consists of a remarkably energy-efficient camera that snaps photos of passing wildlife in just three-tenths of a second.  Given that wild tigers are very elusive and increasingly rare, these camera traps serve as a particularly valuable research tool that allow Panthera’s scientists to identify individual tigers using their unique stripe patterns and learn more about the abundance, movements and behaviors of these endangered big cats. 

Orang National Park in Assam, India was one of the first sites in which 48 of these camera traps were deployed.  Not far from India’s Kaziranga National Park, which is home to the world’s highest density of tigers, Orang maintains a small but thriving tiger population in its 78km2 area.  Panthera recently partnered with Aaranyak – a well-established regional wildlife conservation organization – to use these camera traps to learn more about Orang’s tiger population, which could represent an important source population.

The killing of tigers due to conflict and poaching are the biggest threats to tigers in Orang National Park, and across their range.  The 60-70 rhinos that live in Orang are also targeted by poachers, particularly for their horns.  Just weeks ago, after learning of a poached rhino near one of the local anti-poaching camps, Aaranyak’s field staff checked their camera traps in the area in hopes of unraveling any clues about the incident.

Park rangers stand over a rhinoceros killed for its horn in India’s Kaziranga National Park, not far away from Orang National Park.

The team was surprised to find that just four days prior to the rhino being poached, a set of camera trap images had been taken of three people walking down a park road armed with .303 rifles.  Amazingly, the clarity of the photos allowed two of these individuals to be identified as poachers from a village on the eastern border of the park. 

Presuming that the individuals photographed by the camera traps may have been involved in the rhino poaching incident, Aaranyak’s field team acted swiftly and notified the management of Orang Park of the evidence.  Soon after, the officials traveled to communities bordering the Park to hang posters of the photos and announced a Rs.25,000 reward (equivalent to nearly US $550) for information leading to the identification and arrest of the individuals caught on camera.Hours later, the identities of these individuals were revealed by members of a local community, which resulted in the two poachers surrendering themselves to local police. The third poacher has since fled the area.

Despite the loss of one of Orang’s rare rhinos, this turn of events is an incredible example of how collaboration between wildlife conservation organizations and local governments can help protect the wildlife of Orang National Park.  This incident also goes to show that while Panthera’s new camera traps have been designed to help monitor and understand more about wild cats, they can also serve as a surprisingly effective enforcement tool that helps protect rare species. Panthera  congratulates the Aaranyak field staff and the Orang National Park officers who helped bring these poachers to justice.

Additional Information

Learn more about the Tigers Forever program.

Learn more about Aaranyak and follow them on Facebook.

Read The New York Times Green Blog about Panthera’s Camera Traps – A Stealth Camera that Captures Big Cats.

See award-winning photos of the frontlines of tiger conservation taken by Panthera Media Director Steve Winter in India’s Kaziranga National Park, which borders Orang National Park. 

Read about Panthera’s role in the newly-created International Tiger Advisory Group.

Read Panthera's Statement Congratulating WWF on New Images of Sumatran Tigers

Photo 1: A male tiger walking down a path in India’s Orang National Park.
Photo 2: Another male tiger walking down the same path, just minutes before two poachers are photographed walking along this path in the opposite direction.
Photo 3: A poacher out on the hunt is captured by Panthera’s camera trap. This image was used to identify and apprehend this individual.
Photo 4: Two poachers, unable to identify where the quick flash from the camera trap came from, in confusion check their flashlights by shining them onto their hands, and are photographed for the second time. This image was also used to identify and apprehend these two poachers.

Picking up Poop Builds a Roof

Euzebio Waiti in front of his house, now covered with a new iron roof.

Panthera’s field staff understand that while collecting cat scat falls under the less glamorous side of carnivore research, it can provide critical information that may be used to help conserve threatened species, like the lion. All feces contain epithelial cells that are shed from the intestinal lining as it passes through the animal's gut. Panthera has partnered with the Global Felid Genetics Programme (GFGP) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City to extract DNA from scat collected in the field, and to use this material to create a ‘genetic fingerprint’ for individual cats. These analyses provide Panthera’s scientists with a wealth of information about felid populations - such as their life histories, diets, social relationships, and movement patterns - which is crucial to planning effective conservation initiatives for wild cats throughout the world.

However, finding cat droppings among dense vegetation and across vast areas can be a challenge, particularly in tropical environments where they decay rapidly under the scorching sun. The Panthera-supported Niassa Carnivore Project, run by Colleen and Keith Begg in close collaboration with The Society for the Development of the Niassa Reserve (SRN), has come up with an innovative idea to overcome the difficulties of collecting cat scat in the Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique, where temperatures often exceed 100°F.

The Beggs have incentivized their team to collect the hard-to-find droppings by offering a ‘bonsela’ (a bonus) for each scat found. Euzebio Waiti, the Niassa project’s chief field assistant, took this challenge to heart and has spent much of his free time searching vigilantly for the elusive lion dung. Amazingly, despite their cryptic nature, he managed to find more than 50 scats during the last three months!

Euzebio’s efforts produced an impressive ‘bonsela’ for both himself and the Niassa Carnivore Project. He recently used his bonus to purchase a highly-coveted corrugated iron roof for his house, which is the first of its kind in his village! At the same time, the Niassa Carnivore Project now has a prodigious new supply of genetic material from a lion population that has never before been sampled. This has greatly improved knowledge of the region’s lion population - which numbers between 800-1,000 individuals, and is one of the few populations in Africa believed to be growing - and will allow the Niassa Carnivore Project and SRN to develop far more efficient conservation plans for lions and other large carnivores.

Learn more about The Niassa Carnivore Project.

Typical Niassa landscape showing the Lugenda River, Lipumbula Inselberg (isolated rock hill) and open woodland habitat with some plains areas. Mbamba Village where Euzebio lives can be seen in the far right corner.

Application Period Open – Postgraduate Diploma in International Wildlife Conservation Practice by WildCRU of Oxford University

We are excited to announce that the 2012 application period is now open for the Postgraduate Diploma in International Wildlife Conservation Practice, delivered by the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) of the University of Oxford.

WildCRU was founded in 1986 by Professor David MacDonald, and since mid-2007 Panthera and WildCRU have partnered to offer the world’s leading university center designed specifically for research in wild felid conservation.

The International Wildlife Conservation Practice diploma course focuses on equipping students with the practical skills and theoretical understanding required to contribute effectively to conservation research and action in the developing world.  The course is designed for individuals already actively working within the conservation field, and also for recent graduates who have gained field experience before or during their first degree. 

A degree in an appropriate natural science is required, but in exceptional cases candidates with demonstrated equivalent experience in field-based conservation and aptitude for postgraduate level studies may be accepted.  Applications are particularly welcomed from early-career field conservationists from developing nations, for whom sponsorship is possible. Candidates without field conservation experience interested in a career change will not be considered as priority candidates.

Preceded by one month of distance learning, this full-time residential course runs each year from March to September.  Interactive learning is a key philosophy of the WildCRU diploma course, and as such, class sizes are kept small, typically consisting of 6-10 students.  Since its creation four years ago, WildCRU has graduated 26 students from 18 countries. Over 75% of these individuals now work with wild felids in some capacity.  

The application deadline for the 2012 course is June 17, 2011.

Visit the WildCRU diploma website for more information on the course, including details about the curriculum and how to apply.

Contact WildCRU’s course coordinator, Dr. Christos Astaras, at if you have difficulties accessing the website.

For more information please visit

More on WildCRU

Founded in 1986 by Professor David MacDonald, Oxford’s first Professor of Wildlife Conservation, the mission of WildCRU is to achieve practical solutions to wildlife conservation problems through original scientific research of the highest caliber.  WildCRU trains committed conservation scientists to conduct research, and put scientific knowledge into practice.

Existing within the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology, WildCRU was the first university-based conservation research unit established in Europe, and with over 50 researchers, it has grown to be one of the largest and most productive conservation research institutes in the world.  WildCRU has had a longstanding specialization in wild carnivore research, which has led its partnerships with Panthera. 

The WildCRU course is made possible through a significant donation from Panthera’s Founder and Chairman, Dr Thomas Kaplan, and his wife, Daphne Recanati Kaplan, and support from the University of Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education (DCE).

Join Panthera’s Campaign to ‘Let Lions Live’

Three weeks ago, Panthera launched its ‘Let Lions Live’ campaign to raise $30,000 for the fewer than 30,000 lions that remain in the wild in Africa, and thanks to your generous donations and help in spreading the word about this campaign to others, we have already raised 62% of our $30,000 fundraising goal!

We now have 15 days to raise the remaining $11,430 for the ‘Let Lions Live’ campaign, and we need your help to keep the momentum going!  

What you can do to ‘Let Lions Live’

  • Make a donation.  Each dollar you give in the next 15 days will be matched one-for one by a generous donor. And every dollar you give goes straight to the field where it matters most.
  • 100 a month supports the salary of a local guardian protecting lions
  • $350 a month pays a well-trained park guard to secure and help survey an area
  • $600 covers the costs of constructing one ‘boma’ – used to protect livestock from lions
  • $1,000 helps cover the costs of an aerial flight to survey or tack lions
  • Spread the word. Contact at least 3 friends about the ‘Let Lions Live’ campaign through email, Facebook, Twitter, and other means. 

To thank you for your donation of any amount, and for passing this email along to three friends, you will be given a link to download a unique Panthera screensaver filled with stunning photos of wild lions from across Africa.

We’d also love to hear what encouraged you to donate and spread the word about the ‘Let Lions Live’ campaign!  Was it Dr. Hunter’s stories, the ‘Let Lions Live’ video, a lion cub image? Email us at and let us know!

Additional Information

Learn more about Panthera’s Project Leonardo.

Learn more about the Lion Guardians program.

Read Panthera's 'Letters from Luke' to learn about the stories of the lions and people of Africa that lion expert and Panthera Executive Vice President, Dr. Luke Hunter, has encountered in the field.

Latest Partnership: Velo Enterprise

Panthera is excited to share that we have recently partnered with Velo Enterprise - a leading manufacturer of cycling saddles, grips and handlebar tapes based in Germany.  Through October 20th, Velo will run the Senso Wildlife campaign to raise awareness about and support the conservation of wild cats, whose features inspired the creation of Velo’s racing products.  Throughout this promotional period, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Senso saddles will be generously donated to Panthera. The campaign will initially be held throughout Germany and promoted through advertisements, online and in cycling shops, and a sweepstakes will also be held in which two winners will be awarded a trip to South Africa.

Visit the Senso Wildlife campaign webpage and download a flyer about the campaign.

Read Velo’s Press Release

More coverage on

Latest Partnership: David Mayer Sculpture

Sculptor David Mayer uses animals as the subjects of his artwork, much of which depicts the forms of the world’s wild cats.  In order to help conserve the animals upon which his artwork is based, David has recently partnered with Panthera, and generously offered to donate 10% of proceeds earned from the sale of his 'Lion,' ‘Jaguar,’ ‘Leopard,’ and ‘Leopard bust’ sculptures to Panthera, and to a variety of other conservation organizations.

David’s most recent wild cat artwork includes a bronze leopard bust and a lion sculpture, pictured below.  Over the next year, David will continue to sculpt until his collection of artwork is brought together for an exhibition in 2012/2013.  

Read more about this partnership.

Visit the David Mayer Sculpture website.

Email to join the David Mayer Sculpture email list and stay up to date on David’s latest exhibitions and sculptures. 

Leopard Bust