Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Bogor, West Java Sat, December 15 2012, 3:40 PM
Deadly look: Ara, 17-year-old female Sumatran tiger, sits in her enclosure at Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI) conservation park in Cisarua, Bogor. Ara’s lost part of a leg in a trap set up by oil palm growers in Riau in 1997.
In a crouching posture and with a sharp stare for any approaching figure, a tiger gave a loud roar audible some 10 meters away. It was Ara, a once deadly 17-year-old female Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) now kept at Taman Safari Indonesia (TSI) conservation park in Cisarua, Bogor.
“Its right front leg was cut off after getting entangled in a trap set up by oil palm growers in Riau in 1997,” Irawan, head of the park’s education division, told The Jakarta Post at the TSI’s Sumatran Tiger Captive Breeding Center (PPHS) recently.
Sperm deposit: An employee checks tubes specially designed to keep the sperm of Sumatran tigers for years.Ara is one of the nine rare Sumatran tigers now being bred in captivity at PPHS. Discovered at the age of two, it is among those originally caught by local people in the forests of Sumatra. Some of them are old while others are physically impaired. These tigers are considered unfit for release into the wild.
The breeding ground covers 1 hectare of the TSI’s total area of 186 hectares on the slopes of Mount Pangrango. Closed to the general public, PPHS is the world’s only Sumatran tiger captive breeding center.
This center is tasked with rescuing the last of the three tiger sub-species once belonging to Indonesia, after Balinese tigers (Panthera tigris balica) and Javanese tigers (Panthera tigris sundaica) were declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 1940 and around 1980.
Well-planned: A board shows the schedule for collecting sperm from 11 Sumatran tigers in the park.Interestingly, the rescue is not only conducted through the natural process of reproduction, but also by building a Sumatran tiger sperm bank, so as to better guarantee the conservation of the last tiger sub-species in the country.
In 2007, at a workshop on the prevention of Sumatran tiger hunting and trading organized in Medan, North Sumatra, wildlife watchdog group Traffic Southeast Asia’s regional program officer Chris Shepherd said Sumatran tigers might go extinct by 2015.
Hunting, habitat fragmentation and forest burning have threatened the existence of Sumatran tigers, now listed as critically endangered animals, the highest category of threat. According to Shepherd, no less than 50 Sumatran tigers were traded in 2006, in whole form as well as in body parts.
Forum HarimauKita, a tiger rescue forum, referred to hunting and conflict with men as major threats to Sumatran tigers. Between 1978-1999, 146 cases of conflict were recorded. In 1998-2002, 38 tigers were killed, and in 2002-2004 the conflict claimed 40 human lives. Over 50 cases were noted in 2005-2007. Guardian: A keeper watches the behavior of Harpan, a male Sumatran tiger, before he is placed in a “wedding enclosure” to be mated with Ara.
Sumatran Tiger Coordinator and president of the South East Asian Zoos Association (SEAZA), Jansen Manansang, said at least 18 world zoo institutions had shown their concern and given donations to ensure the continuity of the captive breeding of the endangered animals of Sumatra.
The government has also assigned the TSI to keep the studbook of the population of Sumatran tigers. The only Sumatran tiger studbook keeper in the world is Ligaya Ita Tumbelaka, a lecturer from the Veterinary Medicine faculty, Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB).
Meanwhile, the high value of protected animals has also made Sumatran tigers a medium of diplomatic communication to promote bilateral relations of Indonesia, as is the case with komodo dragons and orangutans. Sumatran tigers have been sent to Australia and Japan for the same purpose.
Somphot Duangchantrasiri, head of the Khao Nang Rum wildlife research station, which runs a camera trapping project in Petchaburi’s Kaeng Krachan National Park, said his team had found the tiger population in the park was on the decline.
In their most recent camera-trapping project between November last year and January this year, no images of tigers were recorded. Significantly less tiger activity was also documented compared to a similar exercise in 2002.
”It is a warning sign of the [declining] tiger population in the site,” he said. ”Although we can’t say for certain there are no tigers left in the park, their population is certainly under threat due to deforestation and poaching,” Mr Somphot said.
The research team set up 47 cameras over an area of 500 sq km.
The cameras recorded images of around 30 mammal species including marbled cats, clouded leopards, golden cats and elephants. But they found no tigers.
Still, the team found traces of tiger activity at five spots in Panern Thung area and near Petchaburi River. They expected at least one of them to be a female tiger.
In the 2002 study, the team set up camera trapping equipment at 21 points – less than half the number of the recent study – and captured images of only four tigers.
Mr Somphot said a similar trend has been found in Kui Buri National Park in Prachuap Khiri Khan province.
In a recent survey conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), tiger population density in Kui Buri had decreased from 0.8 tigers per 100 sq km to 0.4.
”We might lose the tiger populations of two national parks if there are no effective measures taken to save them,” Mr Somphot said.
”The situation is very complicated as there are more than 7,000 people living in Kaeng Krachan National Park.”
The tiger population in Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary in Uthai Thani province has remained stable, while the number of tigers living in Mae Wong national park in Kamphaeng Phet province has increased, he said.
Ruangnapa Phoonjampa, chief of a WWF project to increase tiger populations in Mae Wong and Klong Lan national parks, said the two national parks are large enough to house more tigers.
She said the tiger population density in Haui Kha Khaeng wildlife sanctuary is 2.5 per 100 sq km. ”There is enough food and space for them in the two national parks. Moreover, there are no people living inside the parks,” she said.
The tiger population density in Mae Wong National Park is just 0.75 per 100 sq km. A recent WWF survey found 10 mature tigers with two cubs moving around Mae Wong National Park, in addition to the more than 32 other endangered species.
The survey has been forwarded to the Office of Natural Resources and Environmental Policy and Planning, which studied the environmental impacts of the proposed Mae Wong Dam project.
Conservationists fear construction of the dam will destroy tiger habitats.
Oscar-winning director Ang Lee’s new epic “Life of Pi” showcases the relationship between a teenage Indian boy and a Bengal tiger. But in reality, the predators are under increasing threat from humans.
Poaching remains a tremendous danger for the remaining feline population, with rising demand for tiger parts from East Asia, especially China where tiger bone is used in traditional medicines, experts say.
Rising man-animal conflict is also one of the leading causes of decline in tiger numbers.
Animal rights group PETA is hoping to use the popularity of the film to focus people’s attention on the real-life plight of Bengal tigers.
“Life of Pi is a work of fiction, but in real life, there are threats to animals in their natural habitat that must be addressed,” said Manilal Valliyate, director of veterinary affairs at PETA-India.
India is home to 1,706 tigers according to the latest census, almost half of the worldwide population. But that figure is a fraction of the 40,000 that roamed the country in 1947 at the time of the country’s independence.
In one of numerous reported attacks on the endangered big cats, villagers near the Bangladesh-India border bludgeoned a tiger to death earlier this month after it strayed from the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest.
Armed with sticks and boat oars, the angry crowd set upon the animal which was suspected to have attacked a local fisherman.
Despite tiger numbers still falling and campaigns in India and Bangladesh to protect the animal, conflicts with humans often prove fatal for one of nature’s most fabled beasts.
“The first instinct when a tiger is spotted is to just kill it,” laments Gurmeet Sapal, a wildlife filmmaker based in New Delhi.
“The feeling of fear and retribution is so strong that it shuts out any other emotion. What we don’t realise is that the tiger never attacks humans until it is forced to,” Sapal said.
In Lee’s movie, the protagonist Pi is forced to share a lifeboat with the tiger after a shipwreck kills his family after they set out for Canada from India, accompanied by animals from the zoo they ran.
Pi is initially nervous, but tries to train the cat in the hope it will not kill him as long as he keeps its hunger at bay.
The relationship that gradually develops between them over the 227 days they spend together on the lifeboat endears both the characters to the audience.
India has been struggling to halt the tiger’s decline in the face of poachers, international smuggling networks and the loss of habitat which encourages the animals to leave the forest in search of food.
So far this year, 58 tiger deaths have been reported in the country, according to Tigernet, the official database of the National Tiger Conservation Authority.
“The tiger’s prey base has been rapidly depleting because we have been eyeing his resources. The predator has to make a lot of effort to get its food,” said Mayukh Chatterjee, a conservationist with Wildlife Trust of India.
“In such a scenario, livestock and human beings become easy prey for the tiger and lead inevitably to conflict,” he said.
Filmmaker Sapal says it is only normal for people to think of the tiger as a dangerous animal, but its image as a voracious killer is misplaced.
“Tigers never kill for sport. They don’t store meat in the deep-fridge. They kill their prey only when they are hungry,” he said.
“If we can make people understand the importance of the tiger in our food chain and ecosystem, we would have won half the battle.”
The other half — against poachers greedy for tiger parts — can only be won with constant monitoring and patrolling, says Belinda Wright, director of the non-profit Wildlife Protection Society of India.
“The tragedy is tigers are more valued dead than alive by wildlife criminals,” Wright said.
“There no longer should be any compromise on our conservation efforts if we want these magnificent creatures to survive.”
Canyon Sandcat was reported to have an ingrown nail and was limping so he went in for an exam by Dr Wynn this morning. Turned out that it’s nothing big, just a little stiff in left arm, so he is on pain killer / anti inflammatory meds for a few days.
He has gained 2 pounds since his last vet visit in the spring and looks very good. His blood work looks better than before, with slight elevations in his kidney values, which are expected in a 12 year old Sandcat. Has anyone ever heard of a Sandcat living to 12 before?
He was given fluids, and had X-rays, and had his nails clipped, and then released back out into his enclosure.
Only 32,000 Lions Remain out of 100,000 Roaming Africa in the 1960s
The king of the African savannah is in serious trouble because people are taking over the continent’s last patches of wilderness on unprecedented scale, according to a detailed study released this week.
A male lion feeds in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The Kruger Park area is one of only ten strongholds left for lions in Africa. National Geographic photo by James P. Blair.
The most comprehensive assessment of lion (Panthera leo) numbers to date determined that Africa’s once-thriving savannahs are undergoing massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. The decline has had a significant impact on the lions that make their home in these savannahs; their numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000, down from hundreds of thousands estimated just 50 years ago.
Some 24,000 of the continent’s remaining lions are primarily in 10 strongholds: 4 in East Africa and 6 in southern Africa, the researchers determined. Over 6,000 of the remaining lions are in populations of doubtful long-term viability. Lion populations in West and central Africa are the most acutely threatened, with many recent local extinctions, even in nominally protected areas.
Population size classes of all lion areas. Figure used in the research study ,courtesy of Stuart Pimm and other authors/”Biodiversity and Conservation” journal.
“These research results confirm the drastic loss of African savannah and the severe decline in the number of remaining lions,” said Big Cats Initiative (BCI) Grants Committee Chair Thomas E. Lovejoy, University Professor for Environmental Science & Public Policy at George Mason University and Biodiversity Chair of The Heinz Center. “Immediate and major action is required to save lion populations in Africa.”
“Immediate and major action is required to save lion populations in Africa.”
African savannahs are defined by the researchers as those areas that receive between 300 and 1500 mm (approximately 11 to 59 inches) of rain annually. “These savannahs conjure up visions of vast open plains,” said Stuart Pimm, co-author of the paper who holds the Chair of conservation at Duke University. “The reality is that from an original area a third larger than the continental United States, only 25 percent remains.” In comparison, 30 percent of the world’s original rain forests remain.
Lions in West Africa are at highest level of risk, Pimm and the other researchers found. “The lions in West Africa are essentially gone,” said Pimm. “Only a radical effort can save them at this stage.”
Your study found that the population of wild lions in Africa plunged by two-thirds in 50 years. What’s the methodology to determine the populations then and now?
Scientists estimated that 50 years ago, approximately 100,000 lions made their home in Africa’s iconic savannahs. This estimate was made using rough calculations of the size of remaining habitat and lion density. Our research suggests that lion populations have experienced a dramatic decline, and numbers have dropped to as low as 32,000 individuals. We compiled all of the most current available estimates of lion numbers and distribution – continent-wide reports, country-specific lion conservation strategies and action plans, and newly published lion population surveys. To fill in any gaps, we drew from the knowledge of the co-authors and colleagues working across Africa to conserve lions.
Lion cubs (Panthera leo) surround a patient lioness, nipping and playing, Londolozi private game reserve, South Africa. National Geographic photo by Chris Johns.
Counting carnivores is a tricky business. Individual identification is a tremendous challenge and requires high-resolution cameras or good, unobstructed views in person. They are often shy and cover large distances. Lions are difficult to count even though they are social and sleep most of the day. Only a very few lion populations are known at the individual level, such as Liuwa Plains National Park, Zambia. Individual recognition of every lion in an area requires intense study, significant resources, and low numbers of individuals. Therefore, researchers use a variety of other imperfect techniques to estimate lion population size in all other lion areas. Some more common estimation techniques include spoor tracking or call-up surveys.
What are the main causes of lion decline?
There is a variety of factors leading to lion decline across their range. One of the most important things we identified was habitat loss. People usually think of savannah Africa as being comprised of wilderness, vast open grasslands stretching to the horizon in all directions. However, our analysis showed that from an original area a third larger than the United States, only 25% remains. In comparison, 30% of the world’s original tropical rainforest remain. Most of this reduction has come in the last 50 years due to massive land-use conversion and burgeoning human population growth. Besides habitat loss, another major driver of decline is human-caused mortality. This includes poaching, retaliatory killing, and trophy hunting.
How many of the remaining 32,000 wild lions in Africa are in stable populations in viable habitat? Where are the strongholds?
Our analysis identified only 67 largely isolated areas across the entire African continent where lions might survive. Of these 67 areas, only 10 qualified as strongholds where lions have an excellent chance of survival. These strongholds are located across East and Southern Africa, but importantly no areas in West or Central Africa qualify. Unfortunately this means that for the remaining 32,000 wild lions in Africa, only approximately 24,000 are in populations that can be considered at all secure. More than 5,000 lions are located in small, isolated populations, putting their immediate survival in doubt.
What’s the prognosis for wild lions? Extinction?
The drastic reduction in lion numbers and habitat highlighted by our research is certainly alarming from a conservation standpoint. Yet, African lions are not in immediate danger of extinction. Substantial lion populations exist in large, well-protected areas such as the Serengeti or Kruger ecosystem. Many of the remaining lion populations in East or Southern Africa are in well-protected areas such as national parks and game reserves (although some of these allow hunting). Nevertheless, this should not be used as a blanket statement; there are populations and even countries in these regions that have few or no lions remaining. Overall, lions in West and Central Africa are in the gravest danger of extinction. More than half of the populations vital to lion conservation in these regions (as noted by the IUCN) have been extirpated in the past five years, with several countries losing their lions entirely. According to our research, fewer than 500 lions remain in West Africa, scattered across eight isolated sites. This is of serious concern as these populations contain the most genetically unique lions in all of Africa and are most closely related to the Asiatic lion.
Why is it important that we try to sustain the survival of wild lions in Africa?
Large carnivores play valuable ecological roles in “top-down” structuring of the ecosystem. For instance, removal of lions may allow populations of mid-sized carnivores to explode which would have cascading impacts on other flora and fauna. From an ecological perspective, large carnivores are crucial for balanced, resilient systems. However, the lion is so much more than just the largest carnivore in Africa. It is a powerful cultural and political symbol. Attempting to list all the uses of lions in African proverbs, symbols, names etc. would be a nearly impossible task. Finally, lions are vital to the tourism trade, which in turn is economically critical for many African nations.
How does your study help conservation of the big cats?
You cannot protect what you do not know you have. This is a simple but true adage. Our compilation needed to occur in order to prioritize areas for conservation action. With a good map, numbers, and some understanding of connectivity between the lion areas, we now know which populations are threatened with extinction or conversely, which are well connected and well protected.
How is the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative helping the situation for lions?
The Big Cats Initiative has quickly become a major player in lion conservation. We have sent nearly U.S.$800,000 into the field of which nearly all is in Africa and over half is dedicated directly for lion conservation. However, we are not doing this alone. Other international organizations like Panthera also contribute. We have developed collaborations with these types of groups to identify and execute important work, and many BCI grantees have contributing funds from other organizations. However, because we focus on actual conservation efforts and not research, we fund many projects that do not have a chance elsewhere. We identify innovative projects that halt lion decline, bring them to global attention, and help them to increase in size. This stepwise process of giving start-up money and then escalating funds to increase scale is unique and the only way to meaningfully contribute to halting lion decline across large swaths of Africa.
We have two excellent examples of this process. The Anne Kent Taylor Fund operates in the Masai Mara region of Kenya. This program collaborates with locals to strengthen livestock corrals, or bomas. The boma fortification is so successful that demand is outstripping supply of chain link fencing and many locals are copycatting and experimenting with their own designs. This is the hallmark of a successful program. Another fantastic operation is the African People & Wildlife Fund that works on the border of Tarangire National Park, in northern Tanzania. Their flagship activity is building stronger bomas, but they employ a large variety of tools and methods to interrupt the circle of retaliatory killing of cats. They work at all levels of the community from the schoolchildren to the leaders. Their long-term commitment is helping build a community that sees tangible benefits from preserving big cats, and a culture where retaliatory killing or poaching is unacceptable.
A lion pushes on through a gritty wind in the Nossob Riverbed, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, South Africa. National Geographic photo by Chris Johns.
Research Paper: The size of savannah Africa: a lion’s (Panthera leo) view Published online journal Biodiversity and Conservation: 2 December 2012
Abstract: We define African savannahs as being those areas that receive between 300 and 1,500 mm of rain annually. This broad definition encompasses a variety of habitats. Thus defined, savannahs comprise 13.5 million km2and encompass most of the present range of the African lion (Panthera leo). Dense human populations and extensive conversion of land to human use preclude use by lions. Using high-resolution satellite imagery and human population density data we define lion areas, places that likely have resident lion populations. In 1960, 11.9 million km2 of these savannahs had fewer than 25 people per km2. The comparable area shrank to 9.7 million km2 by 2000. Areas of savannah Africa with few people have shrunk considerably in the last 50 years and human population projections suggest they will likely shrink significantly in the next 40. The current extent of free-ranging lion populations is 3.4 million km2 or about 25 % of savannah area. Habitats across this area are fragmented; all available data indicate that between 32,000 and 35,000 free-ranging lions live in 67 lion areas. Although these numbers are similar to previous estimates, they are geographically more comprehensive. There is abundant evidence of widespread declines and local extinctions. Under the criteria we outline, ten lion areas qualify as lion strongholds: four in East Africa and six in Southern Africa. Approximately 24,000 lions are in strongholds, with an additional 4,000 in potential ones. However, over 6,000 lions are in populations of doubtful long-term viability. Lion populations in West and Central Africa are acutely threatened with many recent, local extinctions even in nominally protected areas.
US Chemical Killing Off Wild Lions
Authors: Jason Riggio (1, 14), Andrew Jacobson (1, 14), Luke Dollar (1, 2, 14), Hans Bauer (3), Matthew Becker (4, 5), Amy Dickman (3), Paul Funston (6), Rosemary Groom (7, 8), Philipp Henschel (9), Hans de Iongh (10, 11), Laly Lichtenfeld (12, 13) and Stuart Pimm (1, 14). (1)Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA (2)Department of Biology, Pfeiffer University, Misenheimer, NC 28109, USA (3)Wildlife Conservation Research Unit, University of Oxford, Recanati-Kaplan Centre, Tubney, OX13 5QL, UK (4)Zambian Carnivore Programme, PO Box 80, Mfuwe, Zambia (5)Department of Ecology, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA (6)Department of Nature Conservation, Tshwane University of Technology, Pretoria, South Africa (7)Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg, PO Box 524, Auckland Park, 2006, South Africa (8)African Wildlife Conservation Fund, 10564 NW 57th St., Doral, FL 33178, USA (9)Panthera, 8 West 40th Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10018, USA (10)Institute of Environmental Sciences, PO Box 9518, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands (11)Department Biology, Evolutionary Ecology Group, University of Antwerp, Groenenborgerlaan 171, 2020 Antwerpen, Belgium (12)African People & Wildlife Fund, PO Box 624, Bernardsville, NJ 07924, USA (13)Department of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06511, USA (14)National Geographic Society, Big Cats Initiative, Washington, DC, USA
Today, passenger pigeons’ habitat consists of a few museum display cases around the U.S. Photo: edenpictures
Human activity—mostly habitat destruction and overhunting—has obliterated nearly 900 species over the past 500 years. Around 17,000 plants and animals are listed today on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of endangered species. According to the IUCN, one in eight birds, one in four mammals, one in five invertebrates, one in three amphibians and half of all turtles face extinction.
<em>The Guardian produced this guilt-inducing map (see the interactive version on their website) showing how the world’s countries fare when it comes to extinction counts:
Photo: The Guardian
For U.S. citizens, this looks particularly bad, while those in Vietnam, Kazakistan and Paraguay come off as innocent protectors of local wildlife. However, this map is inherently biased. These are only documented extinctions, after all. While the U.S. is undoubtedly skilled at bulldozing wetlands to build shopping malls and shooting passenger pigeons