Xinjiang China snow leopard project expands

April 11, 2010

Philip Riordan, Xinjiang China Snow Leopard Project

The Xinjiang Snow Leopard Project team is back in China – and they’ve expanded their work from just Xinjiang province to across China, a very big task and we wish them luck!

The project has been running for a few years and is headed up by Philip Riordan, senior researcher at Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. Philip says in his blog “ we’re being encouraged by the Chinese authorities to include other provinces in our project.  Kun and I paid a visit to Sichuan in the summer and were delighted to find signs of snow leopard in Wolong Biosphere Reserve and giant panda hang-out. We have support from the local forestry administration and hope to survey areas on the eastern edge of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in the coming winter, so expect more boring discussion of warm clothing and ice! Excitingly, the Sichuan Forestry Administration have taken some photos of snow leopards using remote camera traps and I hope to be able to post these up soon.”

Snow leopard photographed by the Xinjiang China Snow Leopard Project in Wolong Nature Reserve, China.

What I especially like about Philip’s approach is his empathy with the local community as well as the endangered cats he’s researching and trying to save. Commenting on a recent prosecution in Xinjiang of two farmers accused of killing a snow leopard Philip says, “These are farmers from a very poor community, trying to protect their family interests and stop a snow leopard taking their livestock. Hard line conservationists will view any illegal killing of endangered wildlife as a serious and punishable crime. Legislation in China, and other countries, to protect endangered species enshrine this principle, but less than hard-liners hope that court systems will allow for some sensitivity.

Xinjiang province, China, bordering on Tibet. Wikipedia map.

“We need sensitivity, because the people living and working with snow leopards and other dangerous or damaging wildlife hold the solution to their protection. In an ever increasingly crowded world, we cannot separate people from these animals, so we must find ways to ensure that vulnerable communities are not disadvantaged by the goals of conservation.”

This is an exciting project and you can catch more about how its going on Philip’s blog here.

Illegal wildlife trade in Asia worth $10 billion

May 6, 2009

Illegal trade in wildlife in Asia is estimated at over $10 billion dollars, second only to weapons and drug smuggling. This is a staggering and potentially depressing story.
But ASEAN nations have recently made major commitments at an ASEAN Wildlife Enforcement Network (WEN) meeting to improve enforcement and also halt habitat depletion. A sad case is that tiger numbers in Asia have gone from over 100,000 to just 4,000 in the last 90 years.

ASEAN WEN member map

ASEAN WEN member map

WEN was formed in 2005 and is the world’s largest wildlife law enforcement network that involves police, customs and environment agencies of all 10 ASEAN countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand.

For a full report on what the WEN meeting agreed to and the work of WEN see here.

Technology sensors in fight against poachers

October 30, 2008

Technology has changed just about everything we do in the last 10 years so why not use technology to save endangered animals from poaching? That’s exactly what Steve Gulick, a tech-head and keen conservation biologist supporter has done. He’s developed motion-triggered cameras for biologists studying chimps in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park (NNNP) of the Republic of Congo. His system uses a network of metal detectors which can read moving metal objects like a machete or a rifle that a poacher may be carrying. It trips a sensor which in turn sends a radio signal to a wireless Internet gateway camouflaged somewhere nearby and then this signal is transmitted via satellite to the internet and a message logged and sent which reveals poachers’ positions. Rangers are then immediately able to go out and confront poachers rather than only learning about their presence from animal carcasses days later. How brilliant is that? It may even be that Trailguard, the name Steve has given it, could be used to identify poaching activities in snow leopard country in the high Altai mountains of central Asia. Here’s hoping.