Wildlife Warriors in Action

Panthera were able to save this snow leopard on Thanksgiving—and with our help, they can save many more.

Peering into the dark corners of a snow-covered corral in a remote village in Tajikistan, I could just make out the snow leopard’s shape, trapped with the bodies of the sheep he had just killed. The devastated herder was moments away from killing the snow leopard—until Panthera stepped in.

Incidents like this one happen every single week, and they’re on the rise. The good news is, predator-proofing corrals eliminates attacks on livestock and retaliatory killings of snow leopards. Panthera have already built 130 of these lifesaving corrals in this region. It costs $2,500 to build one predator-proof corral and our donations help Panthera to purchase the materials like lumber and mesh wiring, and employ local people to do the work.

To support Panthera in saving snow leopards visit: www.panthera.org

In the face of relentless threats, the strategies Panthera pioneered over the past ten years are already making a difference. But when it comes to catching poachers, halting deadly conflict, and preserving crucial habitats for wild cats, the next decade is even more critical.

Join Panthera’s Million Dollar Act for Big Cats Challenge and help them reach their goal by December 31 so they can hit the ground running in 2017.

Give Big Cats a Great Christmas! panthera.org/million-dollar-challenge

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In early September 2016, the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), together with Panthera, held a workshop to consider future initiatives to conserve the African lion. The topic is urgent because numbers of lions have plummeted over the last century from an oft quoted figure of around 200,000 to nowadays closer to 20,000 and falling. The workshop, prompted by global attention given to the death of Cecil the Lion, who had been tracked for years by WildCRU, is the Cecil Summit. The Summit culminated with an open session offering the opportunity to hear the views of top lion experts and also a variety of innovative thinkers from fields such as economics, development, international relations and ethics.

About WildCRU: 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.

About Panthera: founded in 2006, Panthera 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.

Natasha Milne has been a professional photographer for over 20 years. She is the co-editor of the acclaimed environmental book One Hundred and One Reasons To Get Out of Bed, and the creator of the new My Home Planet podcast. She has a bachelor’s degree and when not working, volunteers with her local wildlife rescue organization in Sydney, Australia, where she’s rescued everything from lizards and possums, to birds and bandicoots.

In this guest piece, Nat shares the inspiration and central theme behind her new podcast; which focuses on the potential of individuals to create a culture for conservation, to find their voice, to lead by action—to be Planet Heroes!

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Heroes. While there are certainly those who are worthy of the title, it seems that these days, the word ‘hero’ has been appropriated by Hollywood blockbusters and over-enthusiastic sports commentators.

Of course that’s not really true. There are plenty of people out there in the real world to whom the term hero would apply-those who go out of their way to do something courageous, or noble or brave. Many people have their own ideas of what a hero looks like-and when asked, most could name at least one person who embodies their definition of one.

Without really being aware of it, over the past few years, I’ve found myself searching out stories of hope to counter all those headlines of our planet in crisis. So, by default I’ve really become a seeker of heroes. And what I’ve discovered is that the world is actually full of them, millions in fact. And the ones who interest me the most are those who wake up each day and put our planet and those we share it with first.

Some of my heroes are familiar: Jane Goodall, Sylvia Earle, Rick O’Barry, Rosalie Kunoth Monks. They’re people I turn to, for inspiration and to remind me that humanity is in fact capable of compassion, selflessness, courage and bravery. But what about those who are less known?

Last year I decided to share the insights of some of these everyday planet heroes in a book that I produced with my friend Dr. Barbara Royal. So while some, like Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle, are in the book, they are joined by ninety-nine others. A boy with a lemonade stand raising money for orangutans, an ex-ranger providing critical equipment and help to wildlife rangers in Africa, a race car driver using her global reach to highlight species extinction and who offsets her own carbon footprint, a conservationist creating a wildlife corridor from the Yukon to Yellowstone-just to name a few. Each explaining the one thing they are passionate about and sharing their reasons for getting out of bed to nurture and preserve our beautiful earth.

As an extension of that book I recently began a podcast called My Home Planet-a place for seekers of planet heroes like me to meet and listen to some of those incredible environmental and animal advocates, and to bridge a gap between preaching to the converted and those who are comfortably unaware.

What is it that drives these people to do what they do? is it simply circumstance or choice? These are the questions I ask in the podcast. And what I’ve realized is that while many of their well known achievements are certainly interesting, it is in asking questions about their childhoods, memories and passions which garner the best responses. By allowing each guest to tell their story without interruption or confrontation they feel comfortable in sharing their greatest insights.

For instance, Audrey Peterman shares the inconceivable fact that up until the late 1950’s many people of colour were still being lynched in some U.S National Parks, and it is for this reason that she strives each day to make sure that the beauty of nature is accessible to all people. The lyrical way in which Audrey Peterman describes her first trip to the Grand Canyon caused one listener to declare “I think if Mother Earth had a human voice, it would resemble very closely to hers”.

As Lola Webber heartbreakingly describes the horrors of a South Korean dog meat market, she whispers out a promise she made to those dogs six years ago. As she speaks of her daily commitment to abolishing the illegal dog meat trade, she also shares a surprising fact that not one of the hundreds of dog farmers she meets actually wants to do this as a job.

And while environmentalist, entrepreneur and best selling author Paul Hawken kicked off the first episode with musings on why there are no mocking birds left in his neighborhood, he also challenges us to rethink climate change as happening for us, not to us.

Along with each guest’s individual insights, a common thread emerges: they do what they do, because they understand that every action counts, big or small. And while it’s easy for many of us to feel that our actions don’t make a difference, these people are out there everyday showing us nothing is ever black and white and that everyone can do something. Paul Hawken sums it up nicely when asked why he does what he. He simply replies “because we’re here”

So hero? Well I actually think it should be used more often, more appropriately, beyond film and sports, to describe the millions upon millions of people who just pick their one thing, whatever it is, and take those small world steps to inadvertently become big planet heroes.

Learn more about the podcast, book and Natasha at: myhomeplanet.org

Ethical Encounters 1

Celebrating the experience, creating memories as part of a journey—this motivates today’s traveller. Tourism has transitioned from the pursuit of disconnecting, to a craving for connecting with new cultures, and wildlife. Travel represents the salve to our myopic world—a chance to expand our horizons and deepen our sense of connection and contribution. Wildlife encounters are perhaps the most popular, but is this form of tourism good for nature?

The Tiger Temple in Thailand is one example of tourist deception and odious misconduct of animal welfare. Promoted as a unique encounter and opportunity to support an endangered species—people naturally flocked to the site, hoping to connect and contribute to the preservation of this iconic cat. Tiger lovers posting selfies of their experience, unaware their encounter was anything but good for the animals. Social selfies and other publicity was encouraged to highlight the tourism hotspot as memorable experience that funds the care and conservation of an endangered species—in reality though, well-intentioned tourists were actually supporting a heinous trade in tiger cubs and parts.

Thankfully this story is not an accurate representation of wildlife tourism, on the whole the industry empowers communities to protect and preserve endangered animals and habitat.

The message… you can have a unique encounter that contributes to a broader effort in the preservation of wildlife.

Better still, this kind of connection ticks all of the boxes. It connects us with an expanded view of the world, an experience with personal value and global impact—we become part of a bigger world, and a lasting legacy!

So how do you save the world one holiday at a time?

Environmental graduate Jessie Panazzolo believes we can achieve global conservation through an informed perspective on travel. Her brainchild Heroic Tourism, is defined as the art of saving the world whilst travelling. Offering accountability and a reliable reference for choosing ethical encounters, with the intentions of education and good decision making influencing a few saved animals and ecosystems here and there.

These days it seems like every cool holiday activity is just down right bad, but here is the good news, there are still loads of ethical holiday activities you can do for an even better experience for you and the animals. Let’s take a look at some of the alternatives:

Whale and dolphin watching tours

Supporting your local whale or dolphin watching tour is so much better than visiting Seaworld because not only do you get to support small local businesses, but you also get the thrill of spotting wild cetaceans in their natural habitat. Some dolphin tours will even let you swim with the dolphins in a more ethical manner by letting you swim beside or behind the tour boat and allowing the wild dolphins to come as close or as far from you as they want.

Safari’s and guided walks

If you think nothing can compare to riding an elephant, try seeing herds of wild elephants in the savannahs of Africa or from viewing platforms in the forests of Asia. Not only elephants, but visiting national and safari parks allows you to see a whole new world of animals in their natural habitat but close enough to get a good look at. The best part about guided walks is that you can tailor them to your interests and in very interested groups, it is more likely that tour guides would be willing to show you animals that other disinterested groups wouldn’t get to see. Not only are these experiences exciting for you, they also support the conservation of the world’s most threatened species by protecting their habitat so tourists such as yourself can keep having more amazing experiences.

Adventure tourism

White water rafting, zip lining, sky diving, paragliding! These are all amazingly fun and exhilarating things to do in nature that cause no harm to any animals. What better way to experience how a bird sees the forest than to go zip lining through the canopy or sky diving, where free falling through the sky definitely gives you a bird’s eye view! What better way to explore a river than to get wet and zoom down its rapids? Be the fish, be the bird, be whatever you want to be and have an amazing time outdoors.
Get out and explore!

In most places you can visit, there are usually places that are safe enough to wander about yourself, whether it be hiking or exploring coast lines there are always lots of critters to be found. Snorkelling is completely free and accessible in many coastal locations as long as you have a snorkel and some fins and allows you to see a wide range of marine critters such as fish, turtles, sea stars and crabs. If the water isn’t for you, just looking around rock pools on the shore will find you many crabs, shell fish and if you’re lucky maybe pools with sea stars and sea cucumbers waiting to be discovered. If the coast isn’t for you, grab some shoes and head out through a forest track and witness the diverse bird life that is waiting for you in every country, the hidden insect gems and feel the amazing sensation of just discovering a mammal scurrying about. This is the cheapest and wildly accessible option for tourism and allows you to even become a tourist in your own back yard!

And no! You don’t have to give up selfies!

Selfies with elephants and tigers right next to you may be bad for the animals and promoting unethical tourism, however you don’t have to give up selfies for good. There are many wild animals who are more than willing to give you an amazing photo if you are respectful of them, there are fish and turtles happy to swim beside you in the water and I have been known to take a selfie with a peacock perched behind me. Forcing an animal to be disrupted for your picture is obviously not ideal, but if the animal is not being affected in any way by the photo then just go for it! Selfie away!

So these are the top tips for having the best and most ethical holiday possible. Just remember, finding wild animals might not be as easy as paying to see them in captivity, but it is definitely 100 times more rewarding, especially when you know you are protecting them rather than hurting them. It’s never too late to make the change, to be a hero. Save the world on your next holiday!

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