The rarest cat in the world probably is the Amur leopard and certainly it is one of the most beautiful. That these magnificent animals are making a comeback is genuine cause for celebration considering that their numbers plummeted to around 30 not that long ago proving that conservation efforts are making a tremendous difference. This amazing big cat is without a doubt truly a wonder of nature with it's gorgeous patterned dense coat and extraordinary long tail. Living in some of the most hostile environments on earth in south east Russia this cat has to be a survivor and it makes my heat sing to think that with dedication and effort we can make a difference to the wild world by protecting it for creatures like these.
Britian has just announced it's toughest legislation to ban the trade in elephant ivory in a bid to show a serious committment to ending the wretched trade. If elephants are to have a chance other countries must follow including Australia and ban the trade in absolutely anything made of ivory. This should include antiques rare and unique old items regardless of their worth if we are really serious. Even Kenya has announced life sentences to anyone caught trading in ivory but it also gets down to people on holidays visiting foreign countries and being tempted to buy some trinket made of ivory. That a beautiful huge animal has been slaughtered for it should make anyone think twice.
Sudan is gone. We should mourn his loss as ours and feel great sadness that we allowed this to happen. How is it that we allowed a species to dwindle because of disregard to the huge threats these magnificent animals faced. That he was the last of his kind the Northern White Rhino should be a sobering thought and a wake up that we need to do more for other species facing the same fate, too many to count. That these giants and their ancestors walked the earth for more than 5 million years and that we have seen them decimated by exploitation and greed should be a source of great shame to us.
There seems to be no end to the dismantling of valuable conservation efforts of endangered species by the Trump administration. Now this dreadful excuse of a human and the worst president I have ever seen elected in America is moving to remove the North American lynx from the endangered list effectively removing protection for this beautiful cat. Without protection in place these animals become targets of hunters killing them indiscriminately. It's a tragedy for the civilised world that America is being 'led' by such a vile person who clearly has no interest in conservation wildlife or the beauty of the natural world. How much more damage will this egocentric pathetic excuse of a man do in the years of his presidential reign I dread to imagine.
The Major Mitchell cockatoo is one of Australia's remarkable birds but it is in serious decline in Victoria. The slender cypress pine trees these birds depend on have all but vanished from the Victorian landscape taking with them valuable nesting hollows. How has this happened ? With only 20 breeding pairs their future looks pretty bleak. Early settlers used slender cypress trees for building houses and fencing and overgrazing has led to a serious loss impacting on the lives of the distinctive Major Mitchell who has to compete with other birds such as galahs for space to nest. Millions of trees have been planted to re vegetate devastated areas so maybe there is hope that this amazing bird will survive.
When there are no words to describe the horror. What are we doing to this planet ?
Leopards are adaptable animals and new studies are showing they are exploiting urban life in India. There is evidence that the leopards are feeding on populations of rabid stray dogs in the crowded cities.
Interestingly thousands of people die each year from rabies after being bitten by infected dogs so the study has shown that the leopards preying on dogs is actually helping to reduce the numbers of people being bitten in the first place. Of course the leopards take a huge risk going into urban environments where people naturally fear them but it's an intriguing that they could actually be doing the human population a favour. Most of the dogs are starving and unhealthy and a real risk to health. It must be noted that leopards are opportunistic so dogs may not be the only animals on the menu.
More wonderful news about ivory. This time it's Hong Kong voting to increase penalties for trafficking in ivory and passing a new bill to end local trading. This is wonderful and another positive in the ongoing fight to end the relentless killing of elephants.
How can there be any legitimate argument to support canned hunting ? I can't think of anything more inhumane cruel or gutless than to shoot a captive animal. What kind of people are they that can engage in such appalling behaviour that gives an animal no chance whatsoever ? My only conclusion is that they are people who have serious psychopathic personalities and that canned hunting gives them the freedom to express this. That a well respected US hunting organisation The Dallas Safari Club has come out and criticised the practice speaks volumes about the awfulness of it all. Their argument that it deprives the concept of hunting of a fair and level playing field does little for me however. All hunting is an atrocious pastime that has no value on any level I can see. We as humans can surely find it in our hearts and minds the respect that animals deserve by treating them more like we would expect to be treated ourselves and not as a form of murderous entertainment.
Good news from Zimbabwee that the new president Emmerson Mnangagwa has banned the live trade in baby elephants and also made truly positive commitments to protect other wildlife that has seriously suffered under the Mugabe regime. A lot of work will need to be done to put right 30 years of suffering created by Robert Mugabe who had no interest in working with conservation organisations or doing anything to protect the precious wildlife of Zimbabwee now there is definite hope.
Great news just in that a major player in the smuggling racket involving ivory and body parts of African animals has been arrested in Thailand. It's a huge event catching these people especially the ones at the top of chain and Boonchai Bach is a ringleader of a major smuggling syndicate known to authorities. He has been active for at least 10 years in the poaching and supply of animal parts into South East Asia. This is wonderful news and a further step towards a safer world for animals without trash like this poacher predating and getting rich off the numerous animals that have died for nothing.
There is no doubt that the environment and the wildlife within America will suffer at the hands of Trump who clearly doesn't care about it. Yet more news of his dismantling of protection for animals and this time it's removing the Canada lynx from the endangered list. Anyone watching this president would have no doubts about his sentiments to the natural world, he quite simply doesn't think it has any value which shouldn't come as any surprise, all he cares about is money and his own enormous ego. I only hope that his term as president is short. The fragile wildlife of American faces just so many problems in surviving, mining exploration, busy roads, lack of protection and of course the appalling hunting groups notorious for their total disregard for animals. How the people of America voted this disgrace of a man as their president totally mystifies me when he had so clearly shown not just a disregard for wildlife but women and disadvantaged groups as well. A man so clearly out of touch with so many important issues in the world impacting on environments and the wild world, when he could do so much and chooses not to. It makes me feel incredibly sad that so much of the good work of conservationists that was supported by Obama is just being dismantled and eroded.
An interesting experiment with a mirror in the Gabon forest shows two leopards investigating. The cub far more curious than the mother but their behaviour makes me ponder the intelligence of animals. How do we guage that ?
From Sunday 31st December 2017 it will be by law illegal in China to trade in or buy ivory. What a momentous and wonderful thing for elephants and such a happy start to 2018. China has been one of the biggest dealers and markets for elephant ivory so this step is hopefully one that will make a difference. It can only be a good thing for elephants.
Moyo wa Kiburi (Swahili for Heart of the Pride) African lioness
acrylic & mixed media on canvas Diptych 120cm x 60cm
Just finished this diptych close to my deadline of end of December but only just ! It has been one of the most challenging paintings I have attempted. It's a work I wanted to show as a portrait of the fierce nature of the lioness as protector and provider of the cubs. Her life is not an easy one often fraught with danger from the large prey such as buffalo that fight back, from marauding males intent on takeover that threaten the lives of the cubs as well as the lionesses. The larger the pride the more successful they are in providing for the young and themselves.
How is it that a species can be as few as 50 ? That is is the sad number of Asiatic cheetah estimated to be left in Iran. Conservation funding has been withdrawn leaving this extremely vulnerable animal at the mercy of human settlement with roads to cross that are certain suicide. Not very different from it's African cousin the Asiatic cheetah is a little smaller with a lighter coloured coat. It's the usual conflict story of farmers versus the wild animal that predates and kills livestock. Success has come in other countries where people have been educated about protecting their animals by keeping them safe at night and the revolutionary idea of keeping Maremma dogs that live with the herd. Why can't that be done for the Asiatic cheetah ? How much of a challenge will it be to save this amazing animal from extinction if the powers that be in Iran or elsewhere aren't motivated enough to help this animal survive. Inevitably it comes down to economics but once the cheetah has gone it's gone.
Bringing back the extinct Thylacine to the Australian mainland is a possibility now that scientists have managed to sequence the genetic material of these strange animals. Just because we can should we ? How would the animal survive anyway in the very different landscape and environment it disappeared from in the 1930's ? I'm not convinced it's a good idea any more than bringing back to life the woolly mammoth. If we can't keep the animals alive and in healthy numbers that already exist what would be the point of bringing one back long dead ?
It would be difficult to imagine a more heart warming encounter with a wild animal. This is just so touching and shows how extraordinary animals are when we respect them.
Do elephants mourn their dead ? It's a fascinating topic that we humans cannot even begin to understand because we can only view the behaviour through our own prism of emotions and understanding. Clearly elephants have a concept of death when we see them go quiet and nuzzle the bones of one of their own. Recenly I saw a doco that showed giraffe doing very much the same thing, arriving silently at the bones of one that lions had killed, sniffing and touching the pieces left with their noses and mouths then standing quietly looking down at what was left, just a huge leg bone with the hoof still attached. It was clearly some recognition but of what ? death or the familiar scent left of a giraffe they knew ? There is so much about the emotional lives of animals we simply cannot know.
At a time when wild animals need our greatest protection and care the news that US president Donald Trump is lifting a ban on the import of trophies. It shouldn't be any surprise to any one who has watched with horror the disregard this president has shown for the environment. His own sons have been photographed with leopard trophies so it's clear they weren't raised with any appreciation of nature or the animals in it. Elephants already facing their greatest battle to survive, lions at the mercy of psychopaths like Palmer the dentist, along with many other species targeted as trophy animals will be affected by the ruling. It is truly shameful and regressive at a time when the animals deserve and need our protection to help them survive against increasingly overwhelming odds that this president would condemn so many to ultimate slaughter and all within the law. Shame shame shame on you Trump and may your reign as president be short. A few days later and Trump has had a change of heart it seems but I wonder for how long.
Looks like New Zealand is getting serious about dealing with their cat problem. Even a cat lover like me can't disagree that something has to be done about domestic cats roaming at will that inevitably leads to hunting of indigenous animals and birds. Australia has one of the worst feral cat problems in the world and it's out of control so I applaud any government prepared to do what should be done before it's too late. Surely it's not too much to expect that people who have a cat get it microchipped to identify it. Clearly asking people to take responsibility isn't enough to safeguard the wildlife from their cats, it has to be made into law for it to be effective. New Zealand policy means that any cat found roaming free that is not microchipped will be euthanised. Hash but necessary especially when the statistics deliver the shocking numbers on how cats impact on wildlife.
Recent statistics have shown a downward trend in the poaching of elephants for their ivory which is absolutely the best news. However it's too soon to celebrate success as the war is far from over with elephant populations severely declined in many parts of Africa. It is positive news though and shows how sustained effort and wonderful brave people on the ground in the hot spots really are making a difference to what at one time seemed and insurmountable problem to overcome. Many elements have combined to create this downward trend which include asian governments imposing bans on the trade of ivory along with other countries willing to do what it takes to stop the demand for ivory that always means the senseless slaughter of these magnificent giants of the African continent.
Nature and wildlife always has the capacity to surprise us. That in our observations of animal behaviour something is revealed to challenge what we have previously understood about a species. Mountain lions are just one of those animals proving we have underestimated them by assuming they are solitary as so many of the big cats are. However the recent amazing filming of their interactions with each other seen through camera traps show us they are far from loner animals, that they in fact form 'friendships' with each other and share their food. I wonder what other animals we think we know all about are ready to show us surprising behaviour yet to be understood. Animals have complex intriguing lives that continue to open up a world of previously unknown behaviour that we can learn so much from.