Visionary Philanthropist Madame He Qiaonyu Pledges
US$20 Million For Wild Cat Conservation as the Newest Member of Panthera’s Global Alliance
October 13, 2017
Monaco – In a move indicative of China’s growing influence as a leader in environmental protection, visionary philanthropist and entrepreneur Madame He Qiaonyu, through her Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation, has joined forces with Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and WildCRU, Oxford University’s conservation research unit, to protect big cats and their vast landscapes within China and beyond. It is the first international partnership for the Foundation, which envisions establishing the largest collaboration for biodiversity conservation in the world.
Starting with the apex carnivores, Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation will invest
$20 million over the next 10 years to fund conservation programs devoted to the protection of big cats both inside China and around the world, focusing on 10 “at-risk” areas to be determined by Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation with Panthera and WildCRU.
The partnership will be announced tomorrow in Monaco in conjunction with a meeting of IUCN’s Patrons of Nature, of which Madame He is a member.
Madame He is Founder and Chairman of Beijing Oriental Landscape and Ecology Co. Ltd., the largest landscape architecture company in China. Since establishing Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation in 2012, Madame He has become a force in Chinese philanthropy, investing in such areas as female entrepreneurship, ecological education, and climate change, and is setting the standard in China for emerging philanthropists.
In 2017, Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation introduced an ambitious vision for nature conservation, unveiling an accelerated seven-year plan to protect 28 critical habitat areas within China and conserve dozens of flagship animal and plant species. The Foundation plans to leverage its investments through high-profile partnerships within China and beyond, adopting and applying best practices to achieve its objectives and developing models for conservation worldwide.
Madame He stated, “I feel fortunate to have met Thomas and to be working with Panthera. This partnership enables us at Qiaonyu Foundation to utilize the most professional and experienced team in cat conservation as we begin to protect and preserve these beautiful but fragile species. It is an extraordinary undertaking, and to achieve the ambitious outcomes we seek, we are going to mobilize all the passion and intelligence we utilized when starting our businesses.”
She continued, “I would also add that there are a large number of entrepreneurs in China who are actively paying attention to environmental issues. They would love to share their wealth, knowledge, and vision to search for more and effective solutions for conserving nature. Qiaonyu Foundation is calling on potential partners in China and indeed across the globe to unite together to protect our only homeland and promise a better future for this planet!”
As the newest member of Panthera’s Global Alliance for Wild Cats, Madame He joins Thomas S. Kaplan and Daphne Recanati Kaplan, His Highness Mohamed Bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, and Hemendra Kothari—among the world’s leading environmental philanthropists—in an international collaboration to preserve large-scale wildlife habitat and biodiversity around the globe by protecting the big cats.
Panthera Founder and Chairman of the Board Thomas Kaplan stated, “Madame He’s vision for species conservation is big and bold, befitting China’s enormous potential to change the trajectory for threatened big cats at home and around the world. Madame He is herself a force of nature, and I have no doubt that she will galvanize a new homegrown movement to join her in sustaining our planet’s most precious and vulnerable wildlife.”
Dr. Kaplan continued, “We are humbled to be among the first partners aligned with Madame He and the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation in this game-changing moment and look forward to working together under the auspices of the Global Alliance to realize our shared conservation goals.”
Phase One Will Focus on China’s Snow Leopards and African Lions
With a grant from the Recanati-Kaplan Foundation, in conjunction with Panthera and WildCRU, the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation will invest
US$1 million to build out their comprehensive snow leopard conservation program in China, now in the early stages of development. The program will focus on two pilot sites to be determined, with the goal of expanding over time into the larger geographical range critical for the species’ survival.
Addressing one of the most pressing cat conservation crises globally, Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation will also contribute US$1 million to lion conservation in Africa with a focus on the geographies and populations most at risk. Due primarily to bushmeat poaching and conflict with humans, lion populations have plunged by more than 40% in the past two decades. Today, just 20,000 lions remain, occupying only 8% of their historical range. However, research shows that lions can thrive in large, well-protected landscapes with secure buffer zones, providing hope for the future.
And, in a third component of the partnership, Panthera, WildCRU and Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation will design and implement a joint wildlife management training program for Chinese conservationists working in the newly formed conservation areas in China. The training courses will be tailored for application both in the classroom and in the field.
Dr. Frédéric Launay, who will assume the CEO role at Panthera on November 1, stated, “Panthera is immensely pleased and proud to have the opportunity to work with Madame He and the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation as partners in large-scale conservation. We see enormous opportunity to share knowledge, as well as to break new ground in creating a world in which humans and wild cats can thrive together.”
The Global Alliance for Wild Cats
The Global Alliance for Wild Cats was formed in 2014 to convene the world’s most visionary conservation thinkers across borders and cultures in a shared commitment to protecting big cats and their ecosystems. The Global Alliance invests in deploying at scale the most effective solutions for mitigating their primary threats: poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, human-cat conflict, loss of prey species, and the loss and fragmentation of habitat.
Her Excellency Razan Khalifa al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and Secretary-General of the Environment Agency–Abu Dhabi, said, “On behalf of His Highness Mohamed bin Zayed, we welcome Madame He to the Global Alliance. How fortunate we are to have such a bright light as Madame He focused on the big cats. Only with such grand vision can we hope to achieve conservation on the scale needed to save them.”
“We are looking forward to working alongside Madame He and the Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation,” said Hemendra Kothari, Founder and Chairman of India’s Wildlife Conservation Trust. “This is truly an extraordinary example of international cooperation. Together, we can hope to recover tigers, snow leopards, lions, and all of the iconic cats upon which the delicate balance of nature depends, particularly forest and water protection and climate change mitigation.”
A New Wave of Chinese Philanthropy
Madame He is pioneering a burgeoning philanthropic movement in China, providing inspiration to a new generation of philanthropists across a broad spectrum of interests, including many focused outside of China for the first time.
She is a founder with Bill Gates, Ray Dalio, Niu Gensheng, and Ye Qingjun of the Chinese Global Philanthropy Institute, an organization dedicated to cultivating the development of philanthropy in China and around the world.
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards, and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 36 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Visit panthera.org.
About Beijing Qiaonyu Foundation
The mission of BQF is simple and straightforward: to protect the earth and nature, and conserve biodiversity. We aspire to become one of the most influential Nature Conservation Agencies in the world.
David Macdonald founded the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) in 1986 at the University of Oxford. Now the foremost University-based centre for biodiversity conservation, the mission of the WildCRU is to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems through original research. WildCRU is particularly renowned for its work with wild carnivores, especially wild cats, including its long-running studies on lion and clouded leopard. Its training centre for early-career conservationists, so far from 32 countries, produces experts and future leaders in global conservation. Visit wildcru.org.
Findings Could Raise Questions About All Solitary Carnivores
October 11, 2017
Jackson, Wyoming – Pumas, long known as solitary carnivores, are more social than previously thought, according to a new Panthera study published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances. The findings provide the first evidence of complex social strategies in any solitary carnivore—and may have implications for multiple species, including other wild cats around the world.
“It’s the complete opposite of what we’ve been saying about pumas and solitary species for over 60 years,” said lead author and Panthera Puma Program Lead Scientist Mark Elbroch, Ph.D. “We were shocked—this research allows us to break down mythologies and question what we thought we knew.”
Usually termed “solitary carnivores,” pumas have been assumed to avoid each other, except during mating, territorial encounters, or when raising young. The population studied interacted every 11-12 days during winter—very infrequently compared to more gregarious species like meerkats, African lions, or wolves, which interact as often as every few minutes. So to document social behavior, Dr. Elbroch and his field research team had to follow pumas over longer time spans.
Using GPS technology and motion-triggered cameras in northwest Wyoming, the team collected thousands of locations from GPS-equipped collars and documented the social interactions of pumas over 1,000 prey carcasses (242 with motion-triggered cameras that filmed interactions). Then, they used cutting-edge analyses of puma networks to reveal that the species exhibits social strategies like more social animals, just over longer timescales. The research is the first to quantify complex, enduring, and “friendly” interactions of these secretive animals, revealing a rich puma society far more tolerant and social than previously thought.
"Our research shows that food sharing among this group of pumas is a social activity, which cannot be explained by ecological and biological factors alone,” said study co-author Mark Lubell, director of the UC Davis Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior.
Here’s a breakdown of the most surprising findings:
- Every puma participated in a “network” of individuals sharing food with each other. Each puma co-fed with another puma at least once during the study, and many of them fed with other pumas many times.
- Choosing individuals with whom to share meals was not random or reserved for family members. The pumas seemed to recall who shared food with them in the past—and were 7.7 times more likely to share with those individuals. This is usually only documented with social animals.
- Males received more free meat than females, and males and females likely benefited differently from social interactions. Males got meat, while females likely received social investments facilitating mating opportunities.
- Territorial males acted like governors of “fiefdoms,” structuring how all pumas across the landscape interacted with each other. All pumas living inside each male territory typically formed a single network, and were more likely to share their food with each other. Social interactions occurred across these borders, but much less frequently than among cats within the same male territory.
The study emphasizes that puma populations are actually composed of numerous smaller communities ruled by territorial males. The loss of males, whether by natural or human causes, potentially disrupts the entire social network.
Videos and images captured during the study served as “irrefutable” evidence of social behavior, Dr. Elbroch said. “Suddenly, I was able to see what was happening when these animals were coming together. By stepping back, we captured the patterns of behavior that have no doubt been occurring among pumas all along.”
Except for lions and cheetahs (whose males form long-term social groups), all wild cats are typically described as solitary—a strategy characteristic of species living in complex habitats where predators compete for dispersed prey. This study should encourage researchers to study the social behavior of other solitary carnivores.
“This work goes against convention for solitary carnivores, but our evidence is supported by both behavior and genetics,” said co-author Anthony Caragiulo, Assistant Director of Genomic Operations at the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History.
Dr. Elbroch stated, “This opens the door to enormous possibilities. Are pumas everywhere behaving the same, or only in areas with large prey? Are other species like leopards and wolverines and so many others acting the same way? There is so much more to discover about the rich, secret social lives of wild creatures.”
Read the full study here.
Read Dr. Elbroch’s first blog about this paper.
Learn more about Panthera’s Puma Program here.
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 36 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Visit panthera.org.
Renowned Actresses and Conservationists Glenn Close and Jane Alexander to Chair Panthera’s Conservation Council Comprised of Leaders from the Arts, Business, Politics, Media, and Military
August 23, 2017
New York, NY – Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, today announced that it has convened more than 60 of the most respected figures from the worlds of business, law enforcement, government, fashion, media, entertainment, tourism, the military, and the arts in its Conservation Council, a global advisory board.
In a commitment of service unprecedented in the conservation community for its diverse scope and potential impact on the preservation of the world’s wild cats and their critical ecosystems, influential leaders in multiple fields, including Jeremy Irons, General David Petraeus, Sir Norman Rosenthal, and artist Maya Lin, have joined forces to save the world’s most charismatic wildlife.
Glenn Close and Jane Alexander, renowned stars of stage and screen and committed conservationists, will chair the Conservation Council, which, with its collective reach and influence, creates a conservation juggernaut to be unleashed on saving the world’s vanishing wild cats and their landscapes.
Ms. Close said, “For the millions of people around the globe who refuse to envision a future without wild cats and the wild places they need to thrive, we have Panthera. I am so proud to be a part of this wonderful organization that is standing squarely between big cats and the perilous threats they face—a global protective force that is turning the tide for our most iconic and vulnerable species. It's no wonder that Panthera has attracted so many leading figures to its cause; they know that you must be smart and fearless to confront and solve the world’s most intractable challenges and Panthera is both.”
Ms. Alexander added, “When we think of freedom, when we envision the great predators that roam the forests, the mountains and the savannahs, the tiger comes to mind, the lion, the jaguar and the leopard. It is thrilling to share our planet with them. And as top predators they keep it in balance.
But all wild cats today are threatened by human incursion, every single one of them, and some are on the brink of extinction. Panthera works to save them through keeping their habitats intact, ending poaching, and ensuring healthy genetics for future generations. I am proud to be helping this remarkable organization. If there is a future for great cats it is in the hands of Panthera and its partners globally.”
Members of the Conservation Council provide Panthera with actionable advice on a wide variety of topics fundamental to the growth and development of the organization, including strategy and operational planning, communications, and expansion of Panthera’s network. The Council members’ global reach into the worlds of public policy, media, and entertainment will serve to extend Panthera’s message to new audiences and open up new avenues of support.
Dr. Thomas Kaplan, Chairman of Panthera’s Board of Directors, said, “Panthera is extremely humbled and fortunate to have access to the wide-ranging and deep expertise of this august body of individuals. Though diverse in their vocations, geographies, and worldviews, they are united by their shared optimism that together we can change the course of cat conservation and realize the cascading benefits on all species that come from saving the “umbrella species” that the cats represent in their critical landscapes. We are extraordinarily grateful for their selfless commitment to Panthera’s mission and know that our efforts to protect wild cats around the world will benefit greatly from their guidance and collective passion.”
Among the Council’s members are some of the most notable names in their respective fields, including singer Shania Twain and leading conservationists Kris Tompkins, former CEO of Patagonia, as well as Fashion Week founder Fern Mallis, author Wilbur Smith, ProPublica’s Andrew Revkin, the BBC’s Kate Silverton, and MSNBC political analyst Nicolle Wallace, to name a few.
Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, CEO of Panthera, said, “It’s a testament to the universal allure of wild cats, and the urgency of their plight, that we are able to convene this extraordinary gathering of minds. Gratefully, we look forward to drawing upon their talents to increase our impact and advance our mission.”
Hermès Artistic Director, Pierre-Alexis Dumas, said, “Panthera’s commitment to rigorous science, and their unique understanding of man’s complex relationship with big cats, promises hope for these iconic animals.”
Appointees to the Conservation Council are voted on to the Council by Panthera’s Board of Directors for their ability to provide valuable expertise and guidance that complements the skills of Panthera’s boards and staff. Panthera is also guided by its Scientific Council, made up of some of the world’s leading cat biologists, which advises the organization on science and policy matters.
Award-winning Singer and Songwriter and Panthera Global Leopard Ambassador, Shania Twain, said, "The image and spirit of the leopard is an inspiration to millions around the world, including myself. I feel privileged to give back to a creature that depends for its future on what we do now to save it… and I urge the wider world to join Panthera and me in this mission."
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts, and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 36 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats - securing their future, and ours. Visit Panthera.org.
Conservation Council Members:
Panthera Launches Epic ‘Journey of the Jaguar’ Expedition to Secure a Future for the Americas' Largest Wild Cat
World’s foremost jaguar scientists make first-ever attempt to traverse, protect the Jaguar Corridor in three-year, ten nation odyssey across Latin America
July 24, 2017
New York, NY – Panthera, the only organization dedicated to conserving the world’s 40 wild cat species, today launched the Journey of the Jaguar – a three-year, ten-nation odyssey from Mexico to Argentina that seeks to secure a future for the Americas’ largest wild cat.
Sixteen years after first identifying the Jaguar Corridor, Panthera CEO Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, accompanied by Jaguar Program Executive Director Dr. Howard Quigley, will lead the first-ever attempt by man to traverse this six million km2 landscape with the singular mission of accelerating progress to protect it. With Panthera’s scientists and partners, they will assess the state of the jaguar, the integrity of its wild landscapes, and the areas most in need of conservation attention throughout its range.
Shining a light on the importance of the jaguar to ecosystems, economies, and cultures across its range, Drs. Rabinowitz and Quigley will traverse Latin America’s wild landscapes in a race against time to move governments, corporations and communities to take decisive steps to save the jaguar and the incredible diversity of plants and animals, including people, that depend on its survival.
Panthera CEO Dr. Rabinowitz stated, “The Jaguar Corridor exists today because the jaguar shaped it and owned it, overcoming all obstacles that stood in its way. Although human beings are relative latecomers to the story of the jaguar, they are the crucial determinant in what comes next for the species.”
Embarking this week on the first official expedition of the Journey of the Jaguar, Drs. Rabinowitz and Quigley have joined Northern South America Jaguar Program Director, Dr. Esteban Payán, in northern Colombia to explore the nearly impassable Darien gap where Colombia meets Panama; conservation challenges and opportunities that exist in Urabá, home to Colombia’s mangrove saltwater-dwelling jaguars; and the San Lucas Forest, the critical link connecting jaguars in Central and South America.
Stopping off at Panthera’s conflict mitigation model ranches, the team will also visit the site where Panthera captured the first ever photos of a wild jaguar with cubs in an oil palm plantation, underscoring the significance of building sustainable agricultural plots that minimize impacts on migrating wildlife.
Creating refugees out of wild cats, habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human developments like oil palm monocultures is one of the greatest threats facing jaguars, alongside killings in retaliation for livestock depredation and overhunting of prey species. Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative seeks to connect and protect the mosaic of human-dominated landscapes from Mexico to Argentina that are vital to maintaining the genetic diversity and survival of the species. Cupped between Panama to the north and a handful of South American countries, Colombia holds the key to the jaguar’s passage from Central America to South America.
Dr. Payán stated, “The launch of the Journey of the Jaguar in Colombia is critically timed, as the country embarks on a new era of peace. As formerly unoccupied territories open up for conservation and ecotourism development, Colombia holds outstanding potential to further unify the nation and its people with a new focus on building peace with biodiversity. Protecting Colombia’s tremendous wild places and wildlife, including jaguars, is part and parcel of protecting the future of the people of Colombia.”
Just in time for the latest expedition, Panthera today launched a new, interactive Journey of the Jaguar website, allowing users to follow Panthera’s jaguar scientists in real-time, and showcasing the fascinating stories, photos, and videos of the people, wildlife and landscapes the team encounters along the way.
Timed with the launch of a new conservation program in Mexico earlier this year, the first Journey of the Jaguar expedition explored Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, home to part of the country’s largest jaguar population. In April, Panthera’s scientists embarked on the second journey, traveling on foot and by mule from southeastern Arizona into Sonora and Sinaloa to assess the Northern Corridor’s unique threats and greatest conservation needs.
Dr. Quigley stated, “Securing the future of the jaguar has been a lifelong mission of mine as a scientist, and I’m excited to continue this adventure through the launch of the Journey of the Jaguar. As the survival of many big cats and other wildlife around the globe grows ever more tenuous, with faith in their future burning out, I’m encouraged by the resilience of the jaguar - a big cat for which hope still shines bright.”
Visit journeyofthejaguar.org to learn more.
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 36 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours. Visit Panthera.org
About the Jaguar Corridor Initiative
Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is the only conservation program to date which seeks to protect jaguars across their entire six million km2 range. In partnership with governments, corporations and local communities, Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative is working to preserve the genetic integrity of the jaguar by connecting and protecting core jaguar populations in human landscapes from northern Mexico to northern Argentina. Learn more.
New York, NY – A new study comparing the wildlife conservation commitments of nations around the globe has found that affluent countries in the developed world commit less to the conservation of large mammals than poorer nation states. Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, and Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) directed the study published today in Global Ecology and Conservation.
Led by Panthera Research Associate Dr. Peter Lindsey, scientists created a Mega-Fauna Conservation Index (MCI) to evaluate the footprint of 152 nations around the globe in conserving large, imperiled animal species, such as tigers, lions and gorillas. The MCI evaluates spatial, ecological and financial contributions, including: a) the proportion of the country occupied by each mega-fauna species; b) the proportion of mega-fauna species range that is protected; and c) the amount of money spent on conservation, either domestically or internationally, relative to GDP.
As reported today in The Economist, the study’s findings revealed that poorer countries tend to take a more active approach to the protection of large mammals than richer nations. Ninety percent of countries in North and Central America and 70 percent of countries in Africa were classified as major or above-average mega-fauna conservation performers.
Although challenged by poverty and instability in many parts of the continent, Africa prioritizes and makes more of an effort for large mammal conservation than any other region of the world. In fact, Africa accounts for four of the five top-performing mega-fauna conservation nations, including Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The United States ranked 19 out of the top 20 performing countries.
Conversely, approximately one-quarter of countries in Asia and Europe were identified as major mega-fauna conservation underperformers. Asia as a region scored lowest on the MCI, home to the greatest number of countries classified as conservation underperformers.
Lead author and Panthera Research Associate, Dr. Peter Lindsey, stated, “Scores of species across the globe, including tigers, lions and rhinos, are at risk of extinction due to a plethora of threats imposed by mankind. We cannot ignore the possibility that we will lose many of these incredible species unless swift, decisive and collective action is taken by the global community.”
Human-caused threats, including poaching for the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss and persecution due to conflict with people, among others, are devastating large animal populations around the globe. Recent studies indicate that 59% of the world’s largest carnivores and 60% of the world’s largest herbivores are currently threatened with extinction.
Professor David Macdonald, Director of WildCRU and co-author of the paper said, “Every country should strive to do more to protect its wildlife. Our index provides a measure of how well each country is doing, and sets a benchmark for nations that are performing below the average level to understand the kind of contributions they need to make as a minimum. There is a strong case for countries where mega-fauna species have been historically persecuted, to assist their recovery.”
The creation of this conservation index aims to mobilize and elevate international conservation support and action for large animal species, acknowledging those countries making the greatest sacrifices for conservation and encouraging nations who are doing less to increase their efforts. Scientists seek to produce this conservation index annually to provide a public benchmark for commitment to protecting nature’s largest, and, some would say, most charismatic wildlife.
Addressing how countries can improve their MCI scores, Dr. Lindsey commented, “There are three ways. They can ‘re-wild’ their landscapes by reintroducing mega-fauna and/or by allowing the distribution of such species to increase. They can set aside more land as strictly protected areas. And they can invest more in conservation, either at home or abroad.”
At the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, developed nations vowed to allocate at least $2 billion (USD) per annum towards conservation in developing nations. However, current conservation contributions from industrialized nations have reached just half of that amount, averaging $1.1 billion per year (USD).
Co-author and Oregon State University Distinguished Professor William Ripple added, “The Mega-fauna Conservation Index is an important first step to transparency – some of the poorest countries in the world are making some of the most impressive efforts towards the conservation of this global asset and should be congratulated, whereas some of the richest nations just aren’t doing enough.”
David Macdonald founded the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) in 1986 at the University of Oxford. Now the foremost University-based centre for biodiversity conservation, the mission of the WildCRU is to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems through original research. WildCRU is renowned for its specialisation in wild carnivores, especially wild cats, for its long-running studies on lion and clouded leopard, and for its training centre, where early-career conservationists, so far from 32 countries, are trained by experts to become leaders in conservation, resulting in a global community of highly skilled and collaborative conservationists. Visit wildcru.org.
First evidence of breeding tigers and cubs in eastern Thailand in over 15 years
March 28, 2017
Bangkok, Thailand– In a welcome sign of hope for the endangered tiger, a new scientific survey has confirmed the presence of the world’s second breeding population of Indochinese tigers and provided the first photographic evidence of tiger cubs in eastern Thailand.
Announced at a press conference today, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), Freeland, a frontline counter-trafficking organization, and Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, hailed the finding as a critically-timed victory for the future of the Indochinese tiger, confirming the first evidence of a breeding population in Eastern Thailand in over 15 years.
Conducted in partnership by Freeland and Panthera with support from the government of Thailand, the camera trap survey carried out in the forest complex in Eastern Thailand indicated a density of 0.63 tigers per 100km2.
While these data suggest the region supports an exceptionally modest tiger density, on par with some of the most threatened tiger habitats in the world, the results conversely demonstrate the species’ remarkable resilience given wildlife poaching and illegal rosewood logging present in the complex – a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Breeding of tigers represents a key milestone for this UNESCO World Heritage Site. These and other results have inspired optimism that efforts to train and equip protected area rangers are paying off. The Director of the National Parks Division of the DNP, Dr. Songtam Suksawang, said, “The stepping up of anti-poaching patrols and law enforcement efforts in this area have played a pivotal role in conserving the tiger population by ensuring a safe environment for them to breed. However, we must remain vigilant and continue these efforts, because well-armed poachers still pose a major threat.”
Subject to such extreme levels of poaching, tigers are only believed to have survived in the area due to an early recognition of the significance of this Eastern Thailand forest complex for the species’ future in Thailand, and a strict, long-term investment in well-implemented, counter-poaching law enforcement efforts from the national government. These efforts have been supported by conservation organizations like Freeland and Panthera.
For more than a decade, the DNP and Freeland have surveyed tigers in Eastern Thailand and trained rangers tasked with their protection after others gave up on the idea that the area had any tigers. Freeland’s Chairman of the Board, Kraisak Choonhavan, said, “The existence of tigers here was often doubted, but these recent surveys are proving its importance not only nationally but regionally and internationally as well. It’s crucial to continue the great progress made by the Thai government to bolster protection for tigers at the frontlines.”
He added, “As long as the illegal trade in tigers continues, they will need protection. Counter-wildlife trafficking starts at the source. Here is a modern project that has helped to bring rangers and police together that should be replicated across all other tiger range countries, so these populations can recover.”
Panthera Senior Tiger Program Director, Dr. John Goodrich, explained, “The extraordinary rebound of eastern Thailand’s tigers is nothing short of miraculous, and a true testament to the DNP’s commitment to saving its most precious natural resource.”
Goodrich continued, “Even more invigorating, Thailand’s World Heritage Forest Complex is home to prime forested habitat that, with significant conservation resources, could support eight times as many tigers as it does now. With continued infiltration of rigorous anti-poaching protection, there is no doubt that this population can be fully recovered, burgeoning into a tiger stronghold and serving as a source of life and diversity for depleted tiger populations in Cambodia, Lao PDR and throughout the species’ range.”
Today, just 221 Indochinese tigers are estimated to remain in two Asian countries: Thailand and Myanmar. Thailand’s Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary, the site where Panthera’s CEO Dr. Alan Rabinowitz worked on the big cats in the 1980’s, is home to the largest (35-38 individuals) and only other known breeding population of Indochinese tigers.
Once ranging across much of Asia, scientists now fear that tigers are all but extinct in southern China, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and much of Myanmar. Poaching for the illegal wildlife trade stands as the gravest threat to the survival of the tiger, whose numbers in the wild have dwindled from 100,000 a century ago to 3,900 today.
Freeland’s tiger conservation efforts in Thailand have been supported by Panthera’s Tigers Forever Program, David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Born Free Foundation.
The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) was established in 2002, assuming management of the country’s national parks once managed by the Royal Forest Department. As an agency of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, DNP also helps to protect the kingdom’s wildlife and rich ecology.
Freeland is a frontline counter-trafficking organization working for a world that is free of wildlife trafficking and human slavery. Our team of law enforcement, development and communications specialists work alongside partners in Asia, Africa and the Americas to build capacity, raise awareness, strengthen networks and promote good governance to protect critical ecosystems and vulnerable people. For more info, visit www.freeland.org or follow Freeland on Twitter @FREELANDpeople or www.facebook.com/freelandfoundation.
|Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers and their vast landscapes. In 50 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future, and ours.|
New York, NY – New data have renewed concerns about the potential impact of the proposed Nicaraguan Interoceanic Canal on the future of the jaguar and other species if proper mitigation actions are not taken.
Gathered by Global Wildlife Conservation (GWC) and Panthera, in collaboration with Michigan State University (MSU), four years of data have allowed researchers to identify two significant genetic pathways for jaguars and other species that may be bisected by the Canal. Without these pathways, three of Nicaragua’s rarest large mammal species, jaguars, white-lipped peccaries, and Baird’s tapirs, will struggle to find other individuals in neighboring populations for breeding, which is key to conserving the genetic diversity of these species and therefore healthy populations.
“Bisecting these pathways could endanger the survival of some of Nicaragua’s most emblematic species,” said Dr. Wes Sechrest, Chief Scientist and CEO of GWC. “We all have a role to play in ensuring the future of the wildlife we share our planet with; working to ensure that development projects have the smallest environmental impact possible must be a top priority of governments and companies globally.”
In 2013, the Hong Kong-based Nicaraguan Canal Development Company (HKND) received a concession to build the approximately 170-mile long interoceanic canal. HKND defined the route of the proposed canal in 2014 and is set to begin major construction at the end of 2015. The proposed canal is designed to accommodate the world’s largest shipping vessels, including those unable to pass through the Panama Canal, and canal officials predict that the megaproject will double Nicaragua’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Researchers at GWC and Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, ran analyses to identify the key genetic pathways for jaguars, Baird’s tapirs, and white-lipped peccaries in the proposed canal zone after obtaining a camera trap photo of a jaguar on the proposed canal route in November of 2014. The camera trap photo was taken in the indigenous Rama community, Bangkukuk, one of the epicenters of proposed canal development on the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua.
As recently as 15 years ago, the indigenous territories of Caribbean Nicaragua boasted some of the largest forests in the Central American isthmus. Since then, illegal cattle ranching has devastated huge expanses of these forests, leaving relatively little habitat for wildlife and threatening the food security and cultural survival of the indigenous and afro-descendant peoples who hold legal, communal tenure to the land. Most remaining viable habitat, and the only remaining reserves of significant size, are found in and around the indigenous and afro-descendant communities. The two pathways that GWC and Panthera have identified are both within indigenous lands and are the only active portions of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor in this region of Nicaragua.
Researchers from GWC and Panthera submitted a technical report to the Nicaraguan authorities with a list of suggestions and possible mitigation actions that could prevent the loss of wildlife dispersal and genetic connectivity in the context of canal construction. The report emphasizes the acute threat posed by the still advancing cattle ranching frontier, and the importance of prioritizing actions to address it.
“Even in the absence of canal construction, without increased efforts to address the expanding cattle ranching frontier, the country’s remaining Caribbean reserves will effectively disappear within the next 10-15 years,” said Sandra Potosme, Panthera’s Nicaragua Coordinator. “In our opinion, if we are to maintain genetic connectivity for these three threatened and ecologically important species, it is not only important to include environmental mitigation actions specifically designed to support their dispersal through the canal zone, but critical for all of us involved in Nicaraguan conservation to work closely with local and national authorities to help tackle the cattle ranching invasion and fully invest in the conservation of the country’s indigenous lands and protected areas.”
The IUCN Red List classifies jaguars as Near Threatened globally, but they are rare in Nicaragua with a population of fewer than 500. Baird’s tapirs are close to Critically Endangered in Central America and many biologists believe that range-wide hunting has made the white-lipped peccary the most threatened mammal in Central America. All three play unique and important ecological roles.
“Nicaragua’s government is among eight countries throughout the Americas that have signed formal agreements with Panthera to recognize the critical importance of the international jaguar corridor and to help protect it,” said Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, Panthera’s CEO. “We are optimistic that we can work together to make a concerted, science-based effort to conserve genetic connectivity for wildlife in the context of the proposed canal.”
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to the conservation of wild cats and their ecosystems. Utilizing the expertise of the world’s premier cat biologists, Panthera develops and implements global conservation strategies for the most imperiled large cats – tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards, cheetahs, cougars and leopards. Representing the most comprehensive effort of its kind, Panthera works in partnership with local and international NGOs, scientific institutions, local communities and governments around the globe. Visit Panthera
Global Wildlife Conservation
Global Wildlife Conservation protects endangered species and habitats through science-based field action. GWC envisions a world with diverse and abundant wildlife and are dedicated to ensuring that the species on the verge of extinction are not lost. The global organization brings together scientists, conservationists, policymakers and industry leaders to ensure a truly collaborative approach to species conservation. Learn more at www.globalwildlife.org
Meeting of World Leaders in Lion Conservation Convened by WildCRU and Panthera at the Recanati-Kaplan Centre in Oxford in 2016
New York, NY - Partners WildCRU and Panthera today announced that they are organizing and hosting a landmark summit for range wide lion conservation in 2016, in honour of Cecil the lion, whose death triggered a global outpouring of empathy and awareness for lions and their imperilled status.
As the American talk show host Jimmy Kimmel said when he exhorted his viewers to support WildCRU's Hwange Lion Project, out of the sadness of the illegal death of Cecil can come good. The global roar for lion conservation that followed has created a unique moment – and potentially a historic turning point – for lion conservation. Seizing that moment, partners WildCRU and Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization, are convening the Cecil Summit to grasp this new momentum in lion conservation, and inviting the foremost conservation experts from organizations throughout the lion conservation community to join us in a concerted effort to save the lion.
Professor David Macdonald, Director of WildCRU, said, “The key question for the summit to address, realistically but ambitiously, will be what could success look like? How might Africa, with all its varied circumstances look, following a successful revolution in lion conservation and how could this feasibly be delivered.” He added, “and delivering the well-being of lions, and other big carnivores, necessitates also delivering the well-being of local people, communities and nations that live alongside them – that is the holistic goal of modern wildlife conservation.”
Lions are in crisis. Because lions are uniquely visible to tourists there is a false impression that they are not endangered. The opposite is true: they are disappearing in plain sight. From an estimated population of 200,000 across Africa a century ago, and 30,000 a decade ago, as few as 20,000 lions may now roam free in the entire continent. Their numbers have been devastated by loss of habitat and wild prey, poaching, conflict with farming communities, unsustainable legal hunting, and emerging threats including the use of lion bones in traditional Asian medicine. Lions are being killed daily in Africa.
Dr. Luke Hunter, President of Panthera, said, “When I first started studying lions over two decades ago, it was inconceivable that the species might one day be endangered. Now, we have to confront that reality. Lions and people both evolved in Africa and co-existed for millennia, but today, one is losing the race for survival. The Cecil Summit will bring together the best minds to respond to this massive conservation challenge. ”
Cecil was studied through the Hwange Lion Project, operated by Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU) and supported by Panthera, for eight years before being tragically killed outside Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park.
About WildCRU and Panthera
WildCRU is the leading university-based felid research and conservation centre in the world. Its partnership with the highly accomplished cat scientists of Panthera, who represent the most comprehensive effort of its kind in cat conservation, enable them and their multiple partners to achieve landscape level impact. To effectively implement strategies that stick, as exemplified by WildCRU's Hwange Lion Project and Panthera's Project Leonardo, they actively work with governments, park managers, landowners, local communities and NGOs to develop actionable solutions.
WildCRU, founded in 1986 by David Macdonald, has a mission to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems through original scientific research. It is a part of the Zoology Department, University of Oxford. Visit www.wildcru.org and follow WildCRU on Twitter @WildCRU_OX
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to the conservation of wild cats and their ecosystems. Utilizing the expertise of the world’s premier cat biologists, Panthera develops and implements global conservation strategies for the most imperiled large cats – tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards, cheetahs, pumas and leopards. Representing the most comprehensive effort of its kind, Panthera works in partnership with local and international NGOs, scientific institutions, local communities and governments around the globe. Visit www.panthera.org