Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Snow Leopards -- Precious Felines of Asia's Snow Bound Mountains

Introduction :

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing about Snow Leopards and their Conservation.

Bound to Craggy Cliffs, Snow Leopards have always been present at "Low Densities" but what is shocking is their "Mass Slaughter" by Poachers in recent years in India, China, and Mongolia.

The Daily Mail -- A British Tabloid reported in March 2017 that Poachers in India kill 45 Snow Leopards a Year.

That is "Terrible". It is bad enough that there are only 500-600 Snow Leopards at the most in the Wild in India specially in the States of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Jammu and Kashmir to mention a few.

These Wild Cats continue to be killed for their "Magnificent Coats" worth a fortune in the Black Market and for their Bones which are promoted as "Tonics" in South - East Asia.

Their Prey :

Snow Leopards prey on Herbivorous Hoofed Wildlife such as Ibex, Argali, Urial Sheep, Blue Sheep, as well as Goat Antelopes known as Gorals and Serows as well as Tibetan Antelopes, numerous Gazelles, Musk Deer etc.

Snow Leopards are a "Key Indicator" of the well being of the Alpine and Sub- Alpine Ecosystem.

They influence the numbers and whereabouts of "Hoofed Herbivorous Herds" over a long period of time.

Thus, It can be said that the Snow Leopard is a "Keystone Species" in more ways than one.

Conclusion :

It has to be said right here and now that Snow Leopards control the number of Wild Sheep and Wild Goats that otherwise might overrun and overgraze Grasslands within Snow Bound Mountains.

Is there a Future for Wild Snow Leopards particularly in India ??

Going by reports concerning their poaching, It does not seem like. Yet, Snow Leopards have that uncanny ability to survive in dire circumstances.

Only Strict Conservation and Strict Protection can protect them for future generations to come.

We should have a "Vested Interest" in keeping Snow Leopards alive simply and solely for the reason that they control the population of Wild Herbivores.

Credits :

Out of the Shadows by Douglas Chadwick
Pages 114-120, National Geographic Magazine
June 2008, Vol -213, N0-6

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

SriLankan Leopards -- Big Cat Predators of the Emerald Isles

Introduction :

The SriLankan Leopard is one of 8-9 recognized Subspecies of Leopard.

It is an Apex Predator in the Island of Sri Lanka, meaning to say it has no natural foes that compete with it for food.

The SriLankan Leopard has existed for Thousands of Years in Sri Lanka making it "Endemic" to the Island. It is a distinct species as compared to Leopards elsewhere.

Biologists now say that the SriLankan Leopard living in Yala National Park in Sri Lanka is the biggest of all Leopards that exist on Planet Earth.

SriLankan Leopards have a presence in all National Parks and Forest Reserves in the Island, but it is in Yala National Park where their "Density" is the highest.

This is probably due to the fact that in Yala National Park, Prey in the form of Spotted Deer is available in plenty.

Prey :

The SriLankan Leopard has the most varied diet, A Big Cat Predator can have.

In Sri Lanka's South, namely in Yala National Park -- Herds of Spotted Deer make up its diet.

But, that is not to say it cannot tackle bigger prey like Water Buffalo.

This shows us that the SriLankan Leopard has a "Unique Position" at the top of the food chain in the Forest Ecosystem in Sri Lanka.

There are currently 900 SriLankan Leopards in the Wild on the Island of SriLanka.

Threats :

The Biggest Threat to the safety of SriLankan Leopards is Poaching and Habitat Degradation.

Poisoning of Leopards is quite common in areas with High Human Habitation.

This must stop immediately.

Conclusion :

These Magnificent Mammals are mostly arboreal that is they live on trees and are usually nocturnal and solitary with the exception of Females with Cubs.

Both Sexes of Leopards are "Highly Territorial" but territories of Males tend to overlap with some Females.

The Breeding Season of SriLankan Leopards is usually from May to July and the litter size is usually 2-3 Cubs.

The need of the Hour in SriLanka is strict conservation with regard to this Big Cat Predator and specially strict protection in unprotected areas throughout the length and breadth of Sri Lanka.

Credits :

1) Meet the Leopards of Sri Lanka
    By Chrissie Goldrick
    Australian Geographic
    December 05, 2013

2)  Lankan Leopard in the Spotlight
      By Himal Kotelawala

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Arabian Leopards -- Flagship Species of the Persian Gulf

Introduction :

Arabian Leopards were once found in plenty from Saudi Arabia to Oman and from Oman to Israel.

Today, They are restricted to "Protected Areas" in Southern Oman.

In Southern Oman, They can be found in Fair Numbers in "Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve" -- A Rugged Mountain Range comprising of plateaus and rocky paths where temperatures in Summer hover around 46 Degrees Celsius.

The "Arabian Leopard" is one of the Big Cat Predators that is extremely "Rare and Elusive".

The Arabian Leopard is considered to be a Beautiful and Magnificent Animal -- All in One.

It is 4 Feet 4 Inches Tall and considered to be one of the smallest leopards still living on Planet Earth.

Male Arabian Leopards are usually around 25-35 Kilos in Weight, While Female Arabian Leopards are around 20 Kilos in Weight.

The Habitat that Arabian Leopards prefer is Arid- Mountainous Areas with Oasis that have Permanent Drinking Water.

Prey of Arabian Leopards :

Arabian Leopards are the "Apex Predators" in the Arabian Desert Region. They prey exclusively on Desert Dwelling Gazelles as well as on Ibex that are found near Oasis in the form of "Mini- Herds".

What is most beautiful about Arabian Leopards are its black rosettes on its creamy yellow coloured skin. Isn't that Outstanding !!

Between 1997 - 2000 Camera Trap Images revealed that there were 15 Leopards at Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve as a Breeding Population.

They consisted of 9 Female Arabian Leopards, Five Male Arabian Leopards, and most interestingly a Cub.

Threats to Arabian Leopards :

The Biggest Threat to Arabian Leopards are "Habitat Degradation" and Poaching for their Skins by the local population. Often They are killed by local herdsmen when their livestock are killed and eaten by Arabian Leopards.

Conclusion :

Arabian Leopards need to win over the Hearts and Minds of the Local Population not only in Oman but elsewhere where they are found. They Should not be seen as Pests but rather as a vital part of the ecology of that region.

Credits :

The Last Lair of the Leopard
By Anna McKibbin

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Help Save The Last Saharan Cheetahs from Extinction

Introduction :

Deserts cover a large portion of the Earth's Mass.

There are Herbivorous and Carnivorous Species that live in Desert Areas, making some Deserts a "Potential Bio-Diversity Hotspot".

There are many species that live under "Harsh Conditions" in Desert Regions.

In an Environment, like the Sahara Desert in West Africa and North Africa "Low Precipitation" is the norm.

Herbivorous Prey are normally found in the Sahara Desert in small numbers.

Ditto is the case for Big Cat Predators that live on the periphery or in the Sahara Desert itself.

The Last Saharan Cheetahs :

One such Big Cat Predator that is rare, elusive, and found in the Sahara Desert is the "Saharan Cheetah".

It is a "Critically Endangered" Big Cat Predator mostly found in the Desert Regions of Algeria and Mali.

That, there exists Saharan Cheetahs in the Sahara Desert and in the neighboring Sahel Region is new to Scientists and Wildlife Biologists.

This Saharan Cheetah is a "Resilient" Big Cat Predator living in extremely harsh conditions where Herbivorous Prey and Water are hard to find.

Scientists, say that there are roughly 200 odd Saharan Cheetahs most of whom who live in Southern Algeria and in Mali.

The remainder live in arid areas of the Saharan Desert in countries such as Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso.

Saharan Cheetahs in Algeria and Mali have been found to be active almost completely at night when temperatures in the Desert are at their lowest.

Saharan Cheetahs have been found preying on 2 Kinds of Desert Dwelling Gazelles.

They are Dama's Gazelle and Dorca's Gazelle. This has been conclusively established by Camera Traps.

Conclusion :

Saharan Cheetahs desperately need our help today. Let us do something constructive for them.

Credits :

1) The National Center for Biotechnology Information on the Saharan Cheetah.

2) Daily Kos -- "Ghost in the Sand Dunes, The Cheetahs of the Sahara.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Help Save Rare Desert Elephants of Mali

Introduction :

The Republic of Mali which is situated in Western Africa is a Landlocked Country of over 1 Million Square Kilometres.

Vegetation ranges from "Desertification" in the Northern Half of the Country to Savannah Grasslands in the Southern Half of the Country.

The Climatic Conditions in the Northern Half of the country is "Scanty Rainfall". There is a Wet Season in the Southern Half of the Country which commences in June and ends in October.

The Dry Season from February to June is the Driest and Hottest Time of the Year with temperatures crossing 40 degrees celsius on a daily basis.

Elephants in West Africa :

African Elephants had a large range in Western Africa stretching from Coastal Forests in the Ivory Coast right to the heart of the Sahara Desert.

The Destruction caused by widespread poaching to Elephant Populations has been extremely shocking to say the least.

The Current Population of Desert Elephants in the Gourma Region of Mali stands at 300 and rapidly declining because of rampant poaching in 2015 which resulted in the untimely death of more than 50 Desert Elephants for their "Precious Tusks".

Desert Elephants of Mali's distant "Gourma Region" bordering the country of Burkina Faso also situated in West Africa is the northern most "Elephant Population" in existence since the total extermination of Mauritania's Elephants in the 1980's.

FYI -- Mauritania is a country based in West Africa.

Desert Elephants of Mali are the only remaining population of Elephants once found in plenty across the Sahel Region in West Africa.

Conclusion :

A French School Teacher by the name of Bruno La Marche did an extensive study of these Desert Elephants where he found that they lived in relative harmony with Nomadic Touareg Pastoralists.

Desert Elephants of Mali are "Unique Elephants" as they are highly adapted to the Harsh Desert Conditions. They can go for many days without water due to their unique adaptation of the Local Environment.

Note :

Let us take a stand right now against the rampant and widespread poaching of these Desert Pachyderms.

Credits :

Research Gate -- Ranging Behavior, Population Status, and Recent History of Desert Elephants of Mali.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Botswana -- The Land of Giants

Despite their large size, African Bush Elephants walk through the Bush in Botswana softly -- Animals that are highly intelligent as well as strong and gentle.

With its immense floodplains and extremely dry Kalahari Sands -- Northern Botswana is home to the biggest African Elephant Herds in the world.

Often at Sunset, one can watch Family Herds with their young calves making use of their trunks to swim across the mighty Chobe River.

The Dry Season from May to November induces large groups of African Elephants to get to the Chobe River for drinking and bathing. They come in such immense numbers that it gives wildlife tourists to see these Pachyderms in a variety of ways -- namely in the water, on land, and up close and personal.

Adult African Elephants eat at least 140 Kilos of Grass, Fruits, and Vegetables found in the wild.

They drink up to 220 Litres of water every day.

But, what is the best thing to watch in Chobe National Park and in the adjoining Okavango Delta is Elephants taking a Mud Bath. This Mud Bath not only cools down the elephant when it is extremely warm but keeps nagging parasites away.

In Northern Botswana -- One can see various sex segregated herds of elephants like Herds led by Grandmothers and Bachelor Herds led ably by Patriarch Elephants.

Chobe National Park, Moremi Game Reserve, and Mashatu Game Reserve are some of the places in Botswana to see these amazing herds.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Snow Leopards -- Charismatic Felines of Russia's Altai Mountains

Introduction :

The Snow Leopard is so "Rare and Elusive" that its often known as a 'Ghost' that moves between Mountain Range and Mountain Range.

But, in the Altai Mountains in Southern Siberia one often comes across this Magnificent and Beautiful Big Cat Predator.

In Sailyugem National Park in Russia's Altai Republic -- Camera Traps that are sophisticated and modern are keeping track of these wild cats.

These Camera Traps are installed on Ridges where these beautiful cats can often be seen travelling for prey such as Ibex and Musk Deer.

In Sailyugem National Park, Snow Leopards are found in inaccessible and remote cliffs where winter temperatures can plunge to 45 degrees below zero.

Camera Traps help Scientists and Biologists identify single snow leopards from their unique system of Rosettes on their grey fur.

The Snow Leopard is venerated as an animal sent by God by the simple people of the Altai Republic.

Snow Leopard Paintings and Engravings can be found all over the mountainous areas of the Altai Republic.

In Russia, an estimated 70-90 Snow Leopards are thought to exist in the wild specially in and around cliffs and ridges in Southern Siberia.

Snow Leopards live in remote parts of Russia untouched by Man and His Destructive Developer Ways.

Snow Leopards in Southern Siberia face a multitude of threats today.

The most important being 'Poaching' for their skins and bones which are most desired in Far East Traditional Medicine.

Zero Tolerance towards poaching of Snow Leopards must be observed.

Conclusion :

To ensure, a healthy population of Snow Leopards in Russia -- We must first ensure that they have a good "Prey Base" most notably Ibex, Musk Deer, and Argali.

These are Antelopes/Mountain Sheep/Mountain Goats that provide a regular meal for Snow Leopards -- "Rain or Shine".

Credits :

1) Russia's Rare Snow Leopards find protection in Camera Traps by Alec Luhn
       The Guardian Newspaper, March 2017

2)  Stunning Rare Footage reveals Elusive Snow Leopards
        National Geographic, April 2017