HALF MOON BAY — A necropsy report released late Friday showed two mountain cubs shot to death by California Department of Fish and Game wardens Dec. 1 were much younger and smaller than the agency had previously stated, and Director Charlton Bonham acknowledged the agency needs to do better.
The report, conducted by Fish and Game, found the cubs were about 4 months old and weighed 13-14 pounds, the size of a house cat. Their stomachs were empty and they were in poor condition when they were gunned down while huddling under a porch on the outskirts of downtown Half Moon Bay.
In defending itself against criticism after the shooting that it should have tranquilized the animals, the department initially described
This cub was shot shot and killed by California Department of Fish and Game wardens. (Courtesy of Mark Andermahr)
them as about twice as big — 9 months in age and 25-30 pounds. Officials referred to the cubs at the time as “subadults” who had likely been preying on local pets.
“I now realize these animals were smaller than assumed. I regret this unfortunate incident in Half Moon Bay for all involved,” Bonham said in a statement. “The department intends to learn from this experience. We take the safety of the public and the welfare of California’s wildlife with the utmost seriousness.”
Tim Dunbar, executive director of the California-based Mountain Lion Foundation, is one of several experts who had expressed skepticism about Fish and Game’s initial reports on the shooting. The foundation is now working with the agency and Assemblyman Jerry
Hill, D-San Mateo, to formulate legislation that aims to prevent such incidents in the future.
“This just reinforces our opinion that the actions taken in this situation were incorrect,” Dunbar said. “And we’re hoping that this will help bring some fundamental changes to the department in how it responds to public safety incidents involving mountain lions.”
The legislation would likely put in place protocols to require wardens to give greater consideration to tranquilizing or trapping cougars. Hill said Friday that, if talks go well, he will have an announcement in the next few weeks. Under Proposition 117, which banned mountain lion hunting in 1990, such a change to the law would require a four-fifths vote of the state Legislature.
Bonham said Friday that an internal review was under way before the shooting and will likely wrap up in January.
“Prior to the incident at Half Moon Bay, I directed the department’s leadership team to evaluate our guidelines on how we respond to interactions with mountain lions and bears and determine how we can do better,” Bonham said.
The necropsy did not note anything abnormal about the cats, other than that they appeared to be starving, with little to no fat deposits. One of the cubs, which wildlife experts presume were orphaned siblings, had congestion in its lungs.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.
Woman Crusades to Protect Big Cat Cubs
MONTEREY, Calif.- A woman who has dedicated her life to rescuing and rehabilitating animals is making an appeal to the California Department of Fish and Game to change their policies regarding mountain lions following the fatal shooting of two cubs in December.
Rebecca Dmytryk, director of the Monterey-based Wildlife Emergency services, formerly known as WildRescue, said game wardens in Half Moon Bay shot the cubs on December 1st, as the rehabilitation and release of cougars in California is currently prohibited.
In a news release Friday, the California Department of Fish and Game said the two female lions were about four months old and in poor condition and DFG biologists believe it would be unlikely they would have been able to survive in the wild. The two lions weighed about 13 and 14 pounds and their stomachs were empty.
“An incident like this one requires time to gather all the facts. With the necropsy reports, I now realize these animals were smaller than assumed. I regret this unfortunate incident in Half Moon Bay for all involved,” said DFG Director Charlton H. Bonham in the release. “The Department intends to learn from this experience. We take the safety of the public and the welfare of California’s wildlife with the utmost seriousness.”
The two lions were first reported to DFG on Nov. 30 by the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
The lions returned to Half Moon Bay the following day, Dec. 1. By the time wardens arrived at approximately 2 p.m., the lions were under a backyard deck and the rain was constant. Wardens were only able to see the heads and faces of the lions.
“In a perfect world we would have had further non-lethal options available. Law enforcement authorities from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office and DFG attempted to haze the lions over a 36-hour period but were unable to move the lions out of the area. Our trained wardens work in extraordinarily difficult circumstances every day and this day was no exception,” said DFG Assistant Chief Tony Warrington, also in a news release Friday.
Dmytryk said it is possible for the big cats to be successfully treated and returned to the wild where they belong.
Her petition has received nearly 800 signatures and support from more than 35 licensed wildlife rehabilitators from around the state.
Dmytryk has been involved in the field of wildlife rehabilitation for over 30 years and her focus is on first response.
Dmytryk said in a news release, regarding her appeal, she and her husband were ready and available to respond that day to help wardens with the cubs, had they been called.
“I wish they had reached out to the wildlife rehabilitation community for other solutions rather than killing the cubs. I believe the cubs could have been safely captured,” said Dmytryk.
She and colleagues are forming a task force to create minimum standards that will detail the requirements for a California Cougar Compound. Next, says Dmytryk, they will need to find a remote, isolated piece of undeveloped land on which to build a large enclosure, and funds to construct it.
Sumatran tiger sperm bank
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.
Photos by JP/Wahyoe Boedhiwardhana
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.
An adult tiger sets off a camera trap in the Tenasserim mountain range in 2001. FILE PHOTO
The animal recovers, but other tigers may meet a different fate.
This female tiger caught in a barbed wire fence was later rescued.
Photograph courtesy Karnataka Forest Department via WCS
National Geographic News
Published December 14, 2012
On the morning of December 4, a coffee planter in the Indian village of Nidugumba found a tigress caught by the paw in his estate’s barbed wire fence.
She had wandered about three quarters of a mile (1.2 kilometers) from India’s Nagarahole National Park into Nidugumba. The park was declared a tiger reserve in 1999 and has 10 to 12 tigers per 62 square miles. (From National Geographic magazine: Can we save the mightiest cat on Earth?)
“Wherever tiger conservation has succeeded and populations produce surpluses, tigers getting snared or cornered in human settlements is not uncommon,” said K. Ullas Karanth, a scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society. He estimates that 30 to 50 tigers are caught across India in a year, typically in illegal wire snares set by villagers to catch deer or pigs. (Related pictures: Tigers in peril.)
The coffee planter who found the tigress contacted Nagarahole forest staff, and rangers and veterinarians arrived to tranquilize the animal. Her paw was then untangled from the fence, and she was transported to Mysore Zoo for examination and medical treatment. Officials will soon decide if she is strong enough to return to the wild or should remain in a zoo.
Not all big cats are so lucky when they enter areas densely populated by humans. Two days prior to this tiger’s rescue, a tiger roaming through villages in Wayanad, Kerala, a state in the southwest of India, was cornered by a local mob and shot dead. Reports state that the tiger’s body was paraded before the public.
A camera trap caught video of a mother tiger and her two cubs in a protected Sumatran forest, the first evidence of breeding in this location, conservationists say.
The footage was captured in Sumatra’s Sembilang National Park. Scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) have documented evidence before of the endangered species in nearby Berbak National Park.
The video of these big cats shows the mother and her two youngsters walking past the camera. Scientists said they estimate the cubs are less than a year old, according to a ZSL release.
“This is the best early Christmas present, and we are absolutely delighted to find the first evidence of breeding in Sembilang,” said Sarah Christie, ZSL head of regional conservation programs, in a statement. “We will continue working with leaders of both national parks as well as the government to ensure the areas are better protected and well patrolled.”
The finding gives scientists some hope; there are only 300 Sumatran tigers, the smallest of the tiger species, estimated to be in the wild, according to the release. Camera traps have also caught video of tapirs and sunbears in the nearby Berbak forest.
Sembilang and Berbak National Park are some of the only places in the world where these tigers remain, according to the release.