Feb 16

The illegal trade in tigers is one of the most high profile threats to face these majestic big cats, yet it remains one of the most difficult to tackle.

Wildlife criminals control an organised illegal trade network which spans countries and continents, with tigers being unlawfully killed or poached because of the high value that their fur and body parts fetch on the black market.

Sumatran tigress

Working together to combat tiger trade

Heads of police and customs from the 13 countries in which tigers remain hope to change this, and have agreed to work together to tighten controls and improve cross-border cooperation following a meeting in Bangkok earlier this week.

The ‘Heads of Police and Customs Seminar on Tiger Crime’ was held to discuss ways to combat the illegal trade in the big cats, and was organised by Interpol and hosted by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC). The consortium seeks to scale up wildlife law enforcement effectiveness, through intelligence-led enforcement and advanced investigative methods.

Among the delegates were 26 senior crime officials, as well as representatives from partner organisations, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

[Our efforts to fight tiger crime] must not just result in seizures – they must result in prosecutions, convictions and strong penalties to stop the flow of contraband,” said John Scanlon, CITES Secretary General. “If we get the enforcement system right for the tiger, we will help save countless other species together with their ecosystems.

The meeting in Bangkok was held as part of efforts to improve protection and conservation measures for tigers in the wake of the 2010 Tiger Summit, where it was pledged to double the global population of tigers by 2022.

Photo of Sumatran tiger cub

Project Predator

The seminar was also used to formally endorse the Interpol-led initiative Project Predator’.

Launched in 2011, Project Predator aims to be at the forefront in improving political will to tackle the problem of illegal trade in tiger parts. It also aims to train enforcement officers in the necessary skills to fight wildlife crime.

Furthermore, Project Predator is working to encourage countries to establish National Tiger Crime Task Forces. Each of these task forces will then hopefully form working partnerships with Interpol, in order to provide modern intelligence-led enforcement practices for tiger conservation.

The project is not limited to the protection of tigers, but will in future extend to all of the big cat species in Asia under similar threat, including the snow leopard and Asiatic lion.

Photo of male Sumatran tiger

Tiger declines

Over the past century, tigers have lost more than 93% of their historical range, and population numbers have tumbled. Three subspecies of tiger – the Bali, Javan and Caspian tiger – are classified as Extinct, and only six subspecies of remain in the wild today, each with fewer than 1,000 individuals.

Find out more about the tiger seminar in an article by BBC News

Find out more about Project Predator

View images and footage of the tiger on ARKive

Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author

Feb 14

© Liz BonninHere at ARKive we thought we would celebrate Valentine’s Day by spreading the word about our favourite species with our Love Species campaign, and encouraging others to do the same. We are thrilled to see so many of you getting involved on Twitter, tweeting about the species you love and using the #LoveSpecies tag.

One of our favourite tweets came from scientist and TV presenter Liz Bonnin, and we were lucky enough to catch up with her to hear a little more about her love for her favourite species – the majestic tiger.

I have always been obsessed with tigers, not just because they are magnificent creatures but because to me they are the perfect embodiment of the power and serenity of nature. My first encounter with a wild tiger will stay with me forever and has shaped my life like no other single event.

The film crew and I had travelled to the “Tiger State” of Madhya Pradesh in central India and based ourselves in Baghvan Lodge, in the buffer zone of Pench National Park. Each cold, misty morning before sunrise we would set out in our deconstructed jeep in the hope of catching sight of one of the 50 remaining tigers on the reserve, but had been warned that this would not be an easy task. Past visitors had been known to spend weeks here without a single sighting. Driving through Pench, it was easy to see why Rudyard Kipling based his “Jungle Book” on this place. Langur monkeys, their strange black faces nestled in glittering white fur, littered the trees and kept a look out for crepuscular predators in the early morning light. The chital below returned the favour, barking out small alarm calls as two jackals stalked on a nearby open plain.  A rare sambar hind (the tiger’s favourite prey) browsed as a solitary jungle cat meandered down a sandy track. The scene was nothing less than mesmerising.

Tiger photo

And as luck would have it, on our second morning in Pench my dream of seeing a tiger in the wild came true. Chital alarm calls just a few hundred yards from the track we were driving on startled us in their intensity and suddenly a young chital broke out of the trees, stopping right in front of the jeep and staring at us, its pretty eyes as large as saucers, before bolting off into the forest again. And there in the distance, amongst the trees on a rocky incline I spotted a flash of orange and black, a tiger slowly climbing the hill and disappearing again all too soon.

Tiger photo

With the help of our guide, we soon found ourselves on top of a beautiful 40-year-old male elephant, its mahout gently and expertly guiding him through the thick forest, in slow pursuit of the tiger. My heart was beating through my chest as our guide and the mahout exchanged a few words in Hindi and before I knew it we were gathered around a low-lying bush. Below it, the young tigress was resting, her eyes semi-closed, her massive paws stretched out in front of her. She yawned, bore her bright pink tongue and impressive teeth and rolled over on her back, legs akimbo. She was and still is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. It was obvious that she was unphased by our elephant, but it was also very clear that he knew his place and that the Mahout was keeping us at a safe distance. A respect for boundaries was going on here, this was the tigress’ forest and we were merely being tolerated by her.

Tiger photo

She rolled over, stretched, and for the next three hours led us on a ‘guided tour’ of her territory, walking majestically through tall grasses and rocky terrain, inadvertently showing off the strength of her limbs and agility of her step. I tried to soak in as much of her as I could – her form, her coat, those paws, her intense stare, as she stopped every now and then to observe us. And as we finally left her in peace, I knew that I would never forget this moment.

Liz Bonnin, Scientist and TV Presenter

Get involved

Do you love tigers as much as Liz or is there another animal or plant that steals your heart? Get involved and help spread the love for species this Valentine’s Day by tweeting about your favourite using the #LoveSpecies hashtag!

Jan 23

As today marks the start of the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon to be precise, the ARKive team decided to take a closer look at the Chinese Zodiac. Based on a cycle of twelve years, each year is assigned a different animal, and it is said that those born in the year of a particular animal take on its attributes and personality. Intrigued, we thought we would have a rummage through the ARKive vaults and meet some of these cosmic creatures…

Rat

Brown rat photo

It is said that people born in the year of the rat are intellectual, charming and sociable. Historically, the brown rat is believed to have originated from China and is indeed highly sociable, living in ‘packs’, it is also one of the most adaptable species on earth.

Ox

 Muskox photo

Those born in the year of the ox are strong, dependable and hardworking, much like the magnificent muskox. Muskox are known for their characteristic defence behaviour, in which the herd bunch together, forming an impenetrable line or circle to protect their calves from predators.

Tiger

Tiger photo

People born in the year of the tiger are said to be powerful, courageous and affectionate. The tiger is a mighty predator, capable of taking prey much larger than itself, including water buffalo, rhinos and even small elephants.

Rabbit

Rabbit photo

If you were born in the year of the rabbit, you are said to be kind, sensitive and flexible. The rabbit certainly is highly adaptable, and living in groups of up to 30 individuals, it will warn other rabbits of danger by thumping its back legs on the ground.

Dragon

Komodo dragon photo

It is said that those born in the year of the dragon, which begins today, are self-assured, noble and natural born leaders. The powerful Komodo dragon is the largest lizard in the world, and the strong males will wrestle each other for access to the females.

Snake

Smooth snake photo

Those of you born in the year of the snake are thought to be wise, calm and responsible. The smooth snake itself is extremely secretive, catching its prey with a quick strike and subduing it by squeezing with the coils of its body.

Horse

Przewalski's horse photo

People born in the year of the horse are thought of as cheerful, energetic and quick-witted. Przewalski’s horse certainly has reason to be cheerful – it had been declared Extinct in the Wild, but a careful captive breeding and conservation programme has since seen it successfully reintroduced.

Sheep

Bighorn sheep photo

If you were born in the year of the sheep, it is said that you are creative, sincere and sympathetic. The impressive looking bighorn sheep is well adapted to its rocky environment, with great agility and keen eyesight, it can also climb near vertical rock faces to escape from predators.

Monkey

Blue monkey photo

It is thought that people born in the year of the monkey are energetic, upbeat and good motivators. Sociable blue monkeys share the parenting duties between them, and live in groups of closely-bonded females, usually with a single male.

Rooster

Red junglefowl photo

Those born in the year of the rooster are thought to be practical, honest and perfectionists. Red junglefowl are the wild ancestors of all domestic poultry, although the bold and brilliant rooster is said to be more brightly coloured than its tame relative.

Dog

Dingo photo

People born in the year of the dog are said to be loyal, amicable and easy going. Many dingo populations live near human settlements, and can become very tame, although this brings with it the risk of hybridisation with domestic dogs – a real threat to the species.

Pig

Forest hog photo

If you were born in the year of the pig, you are said to be thoughtful, intelligent and well-mannered. The forest hog lives in groups of up to twenty, with the piglets protected by all the members of the group and able to nurse from any female.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to the animals of the Chinese Zodiac. In honour of the Year of the Dragon, this week we will be revealing a different ARKive dragon on Facebook every day, as well as a whole host of fun facts, and fortune cookies to reveal what the future might hold for each species. Make sure you check it out!

You can also wish your friends, family and colleagues a Happy Chinese New Year by sending one of our Komodo dragon e-cards.

And finally, why not get creative and download our new dragon mask to cut out and decorate – the perfect accessory for your Chinese New Year party!

Claire Lewis, ARKive Media Researcher

Dec 21

Camera trap studies have shown that scaled-up anti-poaching efforts in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex have proven to be successful.

Clouded leopard image

The elusive clouded leopard is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List

Candid camera

Thanks to a camera trap project led by the Wildlife Conservation Society’s (WCS) Asia Program, rare glimpses of endangered animals have been captured on film during the last year in the Western Forest Complex. The area includes 17 protected areas in Thailand and Myanmar, and houses a wide variety of fascinating species including the elusive clouded leopard and the impressive banteng, a rare species of wild cattle. The footage demonstrates that the increased anti-poaching efforts which have been established in the area are proving to be successful, and are having a positive effect on the local wildlife.

Green peafowl image

Images of the beautiful green peafowl were captured during the project

Elusive species become stars on screen

The footage captured by the camera traps features a vast array of forest-dwelling species, including many which are classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List such as the Vulnerable sun bear, and the green peafowl and Malayan tapir, both classified as Endangered. The camera trap project has also documented a variety of behaviours, from an Indochinese tigress and cubs drinking at a watering hole to a skittish banteng, and has demonstrated the species richness of the Thai forests.

Joe Walston, director of the WCS’s Asia Program, is delighted with the effects that increased patrolling has had on the local biodiversity, “The video represents a huge payoff for the government of Thailand, which has invested considerable resources in protecting wildlife and preventing illegal hunters from plundering the country’s natural heritage.

Indochinese tiger image

Indochinese tiger populations in the area have stabilised

Good news for tigers and more

The information gleaned from the video footage by WCS indicates that the numbers of Indochinese tigers, as well as populations of their prey species, have now stabilised in the region. It is estimated that there are now between 125 and 175 tigers in the area, which also contains one of the largest Asian elephant populations in Southeast Asia.

Overall, the news for Thailand is good with WCS stating that the country has one of the best anti-poaching records in Asia.

Read more on this story at Mongabay – Camera trap videos capture stunning wildlife in Thailand.

Explore species found in Thailand on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

Nov 17

A WWF camera trap survey has captured photographs of five wild cat species in a threatened Sumatran forest.

Photo of a male Sumatran tiger

The Sumatran tiger is a Critically Endangered species

Photogenic felines

Many species of wild cat can be somewhat secretive, but this latest camera trap survey, carried out in a threatened forest corridor which links Bukit Tigapuluh forest and the Rimbang Baling Wildlife Sanctuary in Riau Province, has yielded some wonderful images.

Five different species of wild cat were photographed in the as-yet unprotected area of forest in Sumatra, Indonesia’s largest island, including the Sumatran tiger which is classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List.

Photographs were taken of the Sunda clouded leopard, also known as Diard’s clouded leopard, and the marbled cat, which are classified as Endangered and Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List respectively. Two further felids captured on camera were the elusive Asian golden cat and the small leopard cat.

Photo of a male marbled cat

Male marbled cat

Deforestation

Sumatra suffers from one of the highest levels of deforestation in the world, and since 1985 has lost half of its forest cover, according to a detailed report released by WWF. With approximately half a million hectares of forest being cleared annually, Sumatra has become a focus in the fight to save the rainforests.

Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia’s coordinator for the Global Forest Trade Network (GFTN) programme, highlighted the main threats to the area’s forests and biodiversity: “Much of the natural forest area in the landscape is threatened by large scale clearance for industrial logging, pulp and paper, as well as illegal encroachment for palm oil plantation development.”

Photo of a captive leopard cat at night

Leopard cat

Threatened forests

Part of Bukit Tigapuluh forest has been designated as a national park and therefore is protected, yet forests surrounding the park, which have already been selectively logged, are now at risk of being completely cleared.

Except for the leopard cat, all of the species caught on camera in WWF’s survey are protected by Indonesian government regulations.

This underscores the rich biodiversity of the Bukit Tigapuluh landscape and the forest corridors that connect to it,” says Karmila Parakkasi, coordinator of the WWF-Indonesia Tiger Research Team. “These amazing cat photos also remind us of how much we could lose as more of these fragile forests are lost.

Capturing images of five different cat species is certainly an impressive feat, although the largest number of cat species reported to be present in a single habitat was in a recently protected forest in India, where seven were recorded.

Photo of a Diard's clouded leopard resting on board walks

Diard's clouded leopard, also known as the Sunda clouded leopard

Action for protection

Aditya Bayunanda believes that the presence of these fascinating cat species should encourage the Indonesian government to take action to save the forest in which they live: “Concession licenses of companies operating in these areas, such as Barito Pacific, should be reviewed and adjusted according to Indonesian Ministry regulations, which state that concession areas with the presence of endangered species should be protected by the concessionaire.

As well as a variety of cats, Bukit Tigapuluh is home to thousands of other species, including Sumatran orang-utans and Sumatran elephants, and WWF-Indonesia hopes that the National Park will be expanded to better protect its biodiversity.

Read more on this story and see the camera trap images at Mongabay.com – Photos: five wild cat species documented in Sumatran forest imperiled by logging.

View photos and videos of cat species on ARKive.

Kathryn Pintus, ARKive Species Text Author

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