Photographic Journal: Lucid Light
Asa is unwell… and trying to put the wild back into wildlife…
“He’s fine, his teeth are sharp, I know because he bit me on the ass today!”
On my way to and from Asa’s den every day kids young and old yell out. I always yell something back. Remember, tiger is a generic word here in Nepal. Today I could only answer with a “yeah, he‘s ok”, because the young leopard is only that, maybe not even quite that.
Early yesterday morning I carried Asa through the jungle for about a kilometer back to his den. It was a struggle, he’s not little anymore and in these hot, humid times in slippery conditions I had to tread carefully down the steep trail. Asa was lethargic, not himself at all. This morning there was no real improvement and there was a slightly traumatized look in his eyes. The vet will be here soon and I’ve already arranged for scat samples to be sent to the lab.
So this is just an interim Asa Diary, you wont hear from me again until this situation is resolved because I’ll be hell bent doing just that. It’s two days from eighteen weeks since Asa and I got together and sometimes I think it’s a miracle he has made it this far.
Leopards do it tough, really tough. They are the most persecuted of the big cats, not even legally protected in much of their range. I’m going to be writing more about leopards as a whole and the rewilding process as soon as this latest issue is sorted. I’m often really envious of people like John Varty, the late Billy Arjan Singh and the Russian team at the Persian leopard rehab centre (V. Putin gave them 3 million to do their stuff), they’ve all had/have multiple resources whereas I have to scrimp for everything. The thing is I’ve become totally absorbed with these incredible animals, I want things to change, I want people to begin to understand the leopard and how crucial they are to our world. I want them to have the respect they deserve. Forget antiseptic for my ass.
To see this program through, to get this leopard back to where he belongs, serving his ecosystem, has become one of my biggest ever challenges. It’s a project with far reaching positive consequences though. I know it can be done, I just need more understanding and resources. I need to know who my real friends are.
Sometimes I’m really quite ashamed of recent generations of humanity. We’ve taken a lot of the wild out of wildlife, really stuffed up the ecologies
that has served us so well for so long. What worries me the most is that I don’t see a lot of concern about that, once again that loss of connection
to what is truly important. Ok, we say we’re concerned but how much do we really do?
However, it’s so important to be passionate and hopeful for what you believe in. A young forestry student cheered me up immensely with her attitude at a meeting earlier this week. There was no ego, no hidden agenda… just a passion for the outdoors, for the environment, for wildlife, for habitat and a willingness to make it her life’s work. No time for selfies on facebook when you are analyzing bat droppings, looking for leopard scat and trying to figure out and improve human/wildlife relations. Thank you, you gave me hope for the future.
And then there’s Ebony. Eight years old in Australia. Last night her mum made a really nice donation, bought an image of Asa and told me online of the way Ebony is following Asa’s story through my blogs. That really cheered me up. It made me think. Once again it gave me hope.
So right now I head off to see how the young leopard is doing. It’s hot and sticky south Asian jungle heat, I have to fight my own lethargy in these
conditions. I know there are people who do care about Asa and what this project stands for, putting the wild back into wildlife, and in this case, putting wildlife back into the wild. Thank you.
Actually, I think I know where some antiseptic is …
Yesterday a fishing eagle swooped like I’ve never seen a swoop. These birds of prey have been keeping eagle eyes on forest sessions. This particular swoop came within a cat’s ear of the little leopard. We were stunned. It was a 3D documentary. Shiva and I were within metres of Asa as the eagle shot through the forest with talons ready for the grab.
We’d honestly thought Asa was too big to be taken by a fishing eagle. Maybe, at the very last second this awesome bird thought the same thing. Or maybe it was a warning swoop to say, get out of our territory, we are the top predator. It was fantastic. I ran to Asa and he stuck to me but he had that wild look of raw wonder that I love when he has a new experience. He was defiant. My good friend Alexiane Le Gentil is back in the country helping me with images for UNESCO proposals. Alex was well hidden in a new format we are testing and got some great shots as Asa had another day learning how to be a leopard, this time in a new forest area where eagles swoop…
In the last few days the Kaski Wildlife Crime Unit has also swooped. There’s been too many leopard deaths of late. Strong networking of intelligence and a no nonsense approach means charges are imminent. I can’t say too much more right now but as the pre monsoon heat starts to kick in and wildlife starts to look for the fewer available water sources it’s that time of the year when anti-poaching and illegal wildlife trade combat really kicks into gear.
Meanwhile the new camera trap I am developing is closer to a prototype. More knowledge of the wildlife we live with is crucial to the goal of reducing conflict. Leopards, superbly cunning day and night, and as Asa has taught me, incredibly quick learners, are key players. Wildlife protection involves many facets… and often gets the blood pumping…
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Jack Kinross Coordinator at WildTiger Conservation Research and Development
Credits: WildTiger – Jack Kinross
Across Africa today wildlife is disappearing, and its story is grim. Yet there is one powerfully bright spot — Namibia — where its people have made the commitment to live with and protect their wildlife. “The Guardians” tells the story of Jantjie Rhyn, a farmer from one of Namibia’s vibrant communal conservancies. Despite the dangers of living with lions and other free-roaming wildlife, Jantjie and his community are committed to their protection because responsible tourism and national pride make his wildlife worth more alive than dead. He represents one in five Namibians that today are directly involved in conservation, making him a true guardian of Africa’s natural legacy. Namibians like Jantjie are showing the world how to improve wildlife and a community’s lives all at once.