May 2013 Newsletter

Time to Pre-Order Your Tigers Forever Book

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Panthera is excited to share that pre-order sales have begun for the new National Geographic book, Tigers Forever: Saving the World's Most Endangered Big Cat, by Panthera’s Media Director and National Geographic photographer, Steve Winter.

A portion of proceeds from the sale of this gorgeous book will go to Panthera’s Tigers Forever program, to help ensure the survival of the species long into the future.

Illustrating the story of the fight to protect and grow the last 3,200 wild tigers, this captivating book features over 100 beautiful photographs of wild tigers, threats facing the species, anti-poaching patrols, and the landscapes and people of India, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia that share their homes with this iconic species. Paired with these images are the stories, written by Winter and co-authored by environmental journalist, Sharon Guynup, about tigers, and Panthera’s scientists, partners and others working on the ground across Asia.

Fittingly, the co-creators of Panthera’s Tigers Forever program, CEO Dr. Alan Rabinowitz and founding Board Member J. Michael Cline, introduce the book. Candidly outlining the failed history of tiger conservation pre-launch of Tigers Forever in 2006, Cline describes the aggressive collaboration made between leaders in conservation and business, like himself, to create a new model of tiger conservation with Tigers Forever - a goal and metrics based program based on measuring success. Dr. Rabinowitz emphasizes what’s at stake with trying to save tigers, predominantly because of rampant poaching to feed a voracious black market trade for skins, bones and other tiger parts. Rabinowitz conveys, however, that hope remains, and lies in the targeted efforts of governments, conservationists, and local communities, and with clear conservation strategies like Tigers Forever.

Another highly-valued voice for wildlife, Panthera’s Vice President, Dr. George Schaller, provides a poignant foreword, sharing beautiful anecdotes from his observations of wild tigers, including the first-ever scientific study of the tiger “at a time in the early 1960s when others studied the species mainly along the sights of a rifle.” As one of the founding fathers of wildlife conservation, Schaller outlines an authoritative prescription for what we all must do as members of the Earth’s “ecological community” to secure a future for the tiger.

Winter explains why he spent a decade photographing tigers to produce this book, “I hope with these pictures I’m able to share images…that capture this animal’s stunning beauty and habits—and tell the story of why its existence is so precarious. I hope these pictures inspire you to act, to do something to help save tigers.”

Shipments of the hard-cover, 224 page Tigers Forever book begin in November.

Photographing from elephant back, setting remote cameras in forests frequented by tigers, and visiting communities throughout Asia, Winter has spent decades capturing the beauty of Asia’s wildlife and wild places – and the battle between those seeking to destroy and preserve them. Learn more about Panthera’s Media Director, Steve Winter.

Tigers Forever co-author, Sharon Guynup, writes on science, wildlife conservation, and environmental issues. Her work has appeared in publications including Smithsonian, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, BBC Wildlife, and Audubon. Guynup launched The State of the Wild book series analyzing the status of the world’s wildlife and wild lands, published by Island Press.

Learn more about the Tigers Forever book.

New Members of Panthera’s Pride

Panthera is pleased to announce the addition of several new members to our team. Joining Panthera from Namibia’s remote Caprivi Strip, Panthera’s Senior Lion Program Director, Dr. Paul Funston, brings over two decades of experience studying and conserving Africa’s lions, and other large carnivores and their prey.

A native of South Africa, Funston’s conservation work has included extensive research of predator-prey relationships and lion spatial and social ecology in Kruger National Park and the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park of South Africa and Botswana. Funston has implemented numerous studies of leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, African wild dogs, and ungulate population dynamics. Buts it’s lions that have been his main focus, working throughout Africa in areas as far and wide as Benin and Cameroon in West and Central Africa, where the lion is classified as ‘Regionally Endangered’. He has also worked in East Africa in Kenya and Tanzania, but built his career working on lions in southern Africa. These projects have been the focus of over 40 scientific reports authored/co-authored by Funston and numerous wildlife documentaries and television programs.

Dr. Paul Funston collars a cheetah in South Africa’s Venetia-Limpopo Nature Reserve

In his new role as Senior Lion Program Director, Funston will now direct Panthera’s strategic lion conservation initiatives across Africa through Project Leonardo. His first step will be to establish a new lion guardians site in the Caprivi region, with the goal of expanding human-wildlife conflict mitigation to the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA).

As Funston joins the team, Lion Program Director, Dr. Guy Balme, will now lead the expansion of Panthera’s leopard conservation initiatives in southern Africa as Leopard Program Director, as well as monitor the continuing population recovery at the Phinda-Mkhuze reserves under Panthera’s Munyawana Leopard Project. Balme will additionally undertake a major expansion of Panthera’s Faux Leopard Fur Project and develop programs to tackle threats to leopards in Asia.

Panthera’s tiger task force also has a new, dedicated Chief Technologist, Chris Cline. Trained in mechanical engineering, Cline’s work with Panthera began in 2007 when, on a volunteer basis, he and two other IBM engineers undertook the development of Panthera’s custom-built camera trap for the Tigers Forever program.

Given the elusive nature of tigers, camera traps are invaluable for monitoring tiger abundance and whether populations are increasing or declining. Panthera has now deployed over 5,700 of these cameras at key sites for tigers and other large cats, worldwide. Now, Cline’s work is focused on extending the functionality of Panthera’s v4 camera trap by incorporating GSM wireless technology and image processing to detect and report potential poaching threats in real time.

Read Panthera’s Press Release on our Tiger Task Force.

Panthera’s Tajikistan Snow Leopard Program Coordinator, Tanya Rosen, visits Bachor village at the border of Tajik National Park

And in the mountain peaks of snow leopard range, Panthera welcomes wildlife conservationist Tanya Rosen as Panthera’s Tajikistan Snow Leopard Program Coordinator. Leaving a career in law for carnivore research, Tanya has studied bear ecology with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Interagency Grizzly Bear study team and human-carnivore conflict in Yellowstone National Park, Italy, and later in Pakistan through Project Snow Leopard. Tanya also worked with the Wildlife Conservation Society assisting in the development of a framework for trans-boundary Marco Polo sheep conservation between Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Tajikistan, along with researching human-wolf conflict in Montana.

Based in Khorog, the capital of the Pamir region, Tanya now leads Panthera’s snow leopard conservation efforts in Tajikistan, including carrying out snow leopard population surveys and threat assessments in the Pamir Mountains and helping to develop a community-managed hunting concession of snow leopard prey species in the Madiyan Valley region adjacent to the Tajik National Park. Within the Wakhan Valley, bordering Afghanistan, Tanya is also working with two local conservancies to mitigate human-snow leopard conflict. Most recently, Tanya facilitated the resolution of a poached snow leopard trafficking case in the Pamirs, where she is now organizing conflict mitigation workshops to prevent future such incidences.

Outside of the field, Panthera is also thrilled to welcome Leadership Gifts Specialist, Kathryn Reidy, Senior Grant Writer, Julie Hughes, and Staff Accountant, Zach Parton.

Learn about current career opportunities with Panthera.

Guyana Jungle Journey

Earlier this year, prior to Panthera’s signing of an MOU with the Guyana government, several of our scientists embarked on a ten-day exploratory expedition of Guyana’s Rewa River to assess the state of biodiversity and threats facing this watershed. This is the first post by Panthera’s Vice President, Dr. George Schaller, of the Guyana Jungle Journey blog series.

The dark wall of rainforest hems in the Rewa River in southern Guyana as our team ascends in two small boats. The forest is surprisingly silent. An occasional pair of blue and yellow macaws passes, screeching overhead, and the calls of black curassows boom from the shadowed depth. Only red howler monkeys are a noisy presence, their communal howls and roars sounding like an approaching storm in the canopy.

We are a team of nine on a ten-day exploratory expedition of Guyana’s Rewa River to assess the biodiversity and threats facing this watershed. The group includes Dr. Evi Paemaelere, Panthera’s jaguar scientist carrying out a jaguar conservation study in Guyana’s Rupununi savanna; Dr. Esteban Payan, Guyana project leader and Panthera’s Northern South America Jaguar Program Regional Director; myself, visiting the country for the first time; along with six Amerindian guides.

Our eyes focus on the river banks, hoping to spot wildlife—a capybara scrambling away, a black caiman lying motionless like a floating log, a giant otter gliding through the water. Usually the Amerindians, with names like Hilary and Gordon in this former British colony, are the first to catch a glimpse of some animal, once a jaguar and a tapir.

Despite our hopes, we actually see little wildlife. Birds flit through the undergrowth - fleeting visions that are gone before I can raise my binoculars – but the anhingas, white-necked herons, and tiger herons perched on snags waiting for fish, offer good views.

Dr. Schaller examines jaguar tracks on a sandbank of the Rewa River - Guyana, 2013

At intervals, we stop at a sand bar to search for tracks, and occasionally find pugmarks indicating that jaguars do, in fact, patrol the beaches of the Rewa in search of a meal. At night, two species of river turtles, genus Podocnemis, lumber onto the sandbars, shovel a hole in which to lay their eggs, and carefully cover the site. Also near the water’s edge, gladiator tree frogs dig small ponds, wall them with a low sand mound, and then deposit a gelatinous mass of eggs. To become aware of the marvelous adaptations of such small creatures provides a special pleasure on a jungle journey. However, Dr. Payan warns, “Don’t go barefoot into the water at these sandy places. Sting rays lie buried in the sand. Their sting is horribly painful.” I then prefer wet shoes.

Our lengthy foot transects through the forest again provide few sightings of animals, except ticks, black flies and an occasional yellow-footed tortoise, giant armadillo burrow, and agouti. Spider, white-faced capuchin and other monkeys offer the best views, but at the expense of a sore neck from peering up into the canopy. Rain forest animals are usually this cryptic, and one has to search for them quietly and with patience.

A ‘forest jaguar’ spotted on the banks of Guyana’s Rewa River.

Finally, our team makes a fleeting but significant sighting of the notoriously elusive ‘forest jaguar’, indicating potentially healthy riparian forests bordering the Rewa River.

Continuing upriver, we carry our gear and boats around two waterfalls, where ancient petroglyphs adorn the smooth river boulders. Whenever we camp, the Amerindians immediately go fishing, bringing back pacu, black piranha, and tiger cat fish, the last of which extends up to three feet long. But the only Amerindians in this part of Guyana is a small group of Wai-Wai along the Brazilian border.

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

After travelling for days in uninhabited forest, we arrive back at the mouth of the Rewa River, exhilarated by our remote jungle experience. Rewa village is located here, and like several other Amerindian tribes, the community has erected a tourist lodge consisting of a main building and several comfortable thatched huts.

Most tourists come to observe birds, and some 643 species have been recorded in the 83,000 square miles of Guyana so far. But, of course, visitors hope to see a jaguar, the national animal, during their jungle visit as well. Importantly, all eco-tourism profits go back to the community, helping to promote the conservation of Guyana’s wildlife and wild places.

Drs. Schaller and Payan take field notes in the gallery forests bordering the Rewa river.

Upon returning to Georgetown, near which most of the country’s 750,000 people live, we are met by Panthera’s CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, and Jaguar Program Executive Director, Dr. Howard Quigley. Here, we visit with officials from Guyana’s Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, and are greatly impressed by their detailed knowledge of the country and determination to protect its environment, 75% of which still consists of forest. With good planning, the country has and can continue to achieve a sustainable balance between economic development, such as mining, natural resource management, and conservation - protecting the country’s natural heritage for the long-term benefit of its plants, animals, and people.

Here, Panthera joins the government of Guyana in signing the country’s first official jaguar-focused conservation agreement, establishing a commitment to collaborate on research and conservation initiatives protecting the jaguar and its habitat. It is an important occasion, because for once one is not fighting on behalf of the last of a species or patch of forest, but can help a country toward a great and harmonious future. I savor my visit to Guyana, and hope that many others will also make that journey.

Guyana Jungle Journey Photo Gallery

See more photos, a map and video from Guyana.

Panthera Awards Second Winston Cobb Memorial Fellowship Benefiting Tajikistan’s Snow Leopards

Last year, the Winston Cobb Memorial Fellowship was launched to support the professional growth of early career wild cat conservationists. Created by Panthera supporter Rami Cobb, the annual Fellowship awards $10,000 to an exceptional young conservationist to undertake a three to six month field-based wild cat conservation internship.

We are excited to share that Panthera has awarded the second Winston Cobb Memorial Fellowship to snow leopard scientist Nuzar Oshurmamadov. A native of Tajikistan, Nuzar spent his childhood tracking snow leopards in the Eastern Pamir Mountains, exposed at a young age to human-snow leopard conflict and threats facing the species. Now, through this Fellowship, Nuzar will assist Panthera in addressing these threats by helping to implement a sustainable community-based hunting program of snow leopard prey species in Tajikistan’s Madiyan Gorge region.

Today, as many as 300 of the remaining 3,500-7,000 wild snow leopards are thought to live in the Tajik Pamirs – an area which provides a potentially critical link between the southern and northern regions of the snow leopard’s range, and a vital genetic corridor for the species. In 2010, threat assessments carried out by Panthera’s scientists identified overhunting of snow leopard prey species by local communities, including ibex, Marco polo sheep and markhor, as a major threat to the region’s snow leopards. Depleting snow leopards’ natural prey base, the overhunting of these ungulate species additionally fuels human-snow leopard conflict that arises when hungry snow leopards attack livestock.

Madiyan villagers map the natural resource availability of Madiyan Gorge, including identifying where snow leopards, Marco Polo sheep and ibex are found, to help establish a sustainable community-managed hunting program.

In response, Panthera has developed a team of sustainable hunting experts to establish a model program that will better regulate the off-take of ibex and Marco polo sheep (thus better conserving snow leopards in the region), bring direct social and economic benefits to local villagers through tourism initiatives, and preserve the traditional hunting culture of local Tajik communities. Nuzar will join this team as part of his internship. Now, after several meetings with local villagers to discuss the social benefits of preserving their community’s biodiversity, including gaining legal rights to protect the area and assisting in conducting scientific monitoring, the community is excited about the project, now well on its way.

Nuzar joins Panthera’s team as an intern, but brings an extensive background in the management of community-based sustainable ungulate hunting programs. After completing his Bachelor of Science degree at Tajikistan’s Khorog State University, Nuzar served as Staff Biologist for the Pamir Biological Institute of the Tajik Academy of Sciences, developing a large mammal database for the Gorno-Badakshan region.

Most recently, Nuzar assisted Panthera, University of Delaware graduate student Shannon Kachel, and the Tajik Academy of Sciences in implementing a snow leopard population monitoring survey in Tajikistan’s Jartygumbez Istyk River region. (See a snow leopard cub video from this region.) Focusing his dissertation on the status of ibex populations in the Gorno-Badakshan region, Nuzar is also currently completing his PhD in Wildlife Ecology at Khorog State University.

Nuzar and future awardees will collaborate closely with Panthera’s scientists and gain extensive field experience to develop their professional wildlife careers and the implementation of effective conservation projects.

Learn about Panthera’s other grants and prizes.

Learn more about Panthera’s Snow Leopard Conservation Program and work in Tajikistan.

Check out the Trekking with Tom blog series from Tajikistan and India.

Watch a video of a snow leopard stealing a camera trap in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan Photo Gallery

The Dalton School Wildlife Conservation Club

We are always inspired to see the many ways people support big cat conservation, especially from young people. Formed in September 2012 in New York City, Dalton’s Wildlife Conservation Club is comprised of 16 motivated middle school students who volunteer their time and efforts to raise awareness and funds for Panthera’s critical tiger conservation initiatives.

Recently, Panthera was thrilled to learn that in just eight months, Dalton’s Conservation Club members had raised nearly $1,000 - 100% of which will go directly to the field to support Panthera’s Tigers Forever program.

Dalton Wildlife Conservation Club members measure the size of a tiger during a school assembly

Along with fundraising events, including an interactive Tiger Raffle and bake sale, Club members organized a school assembly to educate their fellow students about the state of the world’s endangered tigers – now estimated to number fewer than 3,200 in the wild – and inspire further support for tiger conservation and the future of the world’s largest wild cat.

Fueled by donuts and orange juice, these determined students meet each week before school to brainstorm new Club activities. Next up on the Club’s agenda is a Spring trip to the Bronx Zoo for an Endangered Species educational program, along with a presentation in the upcoming academic year by Panthera’s Vice President, Andrea Heydlauff, on the Tigers Forever program.

A group of the Dalton Wildlife Conservation Club members pose for the camera with the Club logo

Impressively, in addition to supporting Panthera’s conservation initiatives for the tiger – the Dalton School’s mascot – the Club has also raised funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy and organized educational events focused on raptors and the Arctic polar region.

Now, inspired by their elders, a group of 4th graders from the Dalton School have also organized a new raffle to support another big cat – the elusive snow leopard – through Panthera’s Snow Leopard Conservation program.

On behalf of all of us at Panthera, we thank and congratulate the Dalton Wildlife Conservation Club on their inspiring fundraising and tiger conservation education efforts. We also extend a special thanks to Dalton Wildlife Conservation Club Faculty Advisor and teacher, Dr. Malcolm Fenton, for helping to harness the passion of these students for wildlife conservation.

Photo of the Month

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Rare photo captured of a wild tiger chasing a porcupine in the Indian Terai.

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