Thank you for 2016!

Following in the tradition of the past, I would like to take this time to thank the people and organizations which made 2016 an amazing photographic year!

People

In the beginning of the year, I worked a lot with the Santa Cruz Puma Project, which in fact was a continuation of working with them at the end of 2015. Having the privilege to photograph this stellar group of people was truly one I won’t ever forget. You have and continue to do amazing work for the pumas of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Thank you so much!

I’d like to thank you Chris Wilmers for being open to me photographing the project activities. For making photography a priority of the project, and for sharing your time with me! This project will lead to extensive conservation actions being done for pumas in sub-urban environments. Thank you for continuing to push forward with the project!

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Chris Wilmers, using telemetry to determine if box trap has been triggered, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Chris Wilmers, using telemetry to determine if box trap has been triggered, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Thank you Paul Houghtaling for dealing with the extra logistics of having me being on the team, for your patience, and for your conversations. For being one kick ass puma biologist! I will always cherish the hunts, the aerial tracking, and the den visits I got to share with you.

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Paul Houghtaling, tracking mountain lions from airplane using telemtry, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Livermore, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Paul Houghtaling, tracking mountain lions from airplane using telemtry, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Livermore, California

Justine Alyssa Smith, I owe you so many thank yous. You were the first one I had the pleasure of working with from the SCPP. Without you, I would have never worked on the project at all. Thank you for taking the time to show me kill sites, for being an amazing conservationist, and a kick-ass biologist! Thank you for being such an accommodating model. I can’t wait to see what your future holds!

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Justine Alyssa Smith, preparing anesthesia needle to sedate sub-adult male for collaring, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Justine Alyssa Smith, preparing anesthesia needle to sedate sub-adult male for collaring, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Thank you Max Allen for being such a hard core biologist. You put the biology first, and the amount of work you have accomplished is simply unbelievable. Thank you for sharing your research with me, I won’t ever forget it!

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Max Allen, holding six week old male cub, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Max Allen, holding six week old male cub, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Sean McCain, thank you so much for taking the initiative multiple times to invite me on project activities. For always being game to model a shot, and for your dedication to the project. No job was too dirty for you, and it is something I very much respect! Thank you also for the conversations with Justine, I very much appreciated the honesty.

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Sean McCain, setting up camera trap, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Sean McCain, setting up camera trap, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Thank you Chris Fust for allowing me to poke my camera in your face so willingly! One of my favorite moments will always be you singlehandedly pulling out 67M out of the box trap!

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Chris Fust, using telemetry to track mother and cubs, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Chris Fust, using telemetry to track mother and cubs, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz, Monterey Bay, California

I am so glad I was able to work with you, even for just a little bit Anna Nisi! I am so excited to see what exact project you choose and what your research career will turn into. Your kindness and generosity were more than apparent, even in just the two days we were able to be in the field together.

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Anna Nisi, using telemetry to track female, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) biologist, Anna Nisi, using telemetry to track female, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Troy Collinsworth. What a man you are. Thank you for all the rides, for the great conversations, for being such an amazing houndsman, and for sharing your trade with me. Your dogs are incredibly animals, and no-doubt a large part of it is due to you!

Houndsman, Troy Collinsworth, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Uvas Canyon County Park, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

Houndsman, Troy Collinsworth, Santa Cruz Puma Project, Uvas Canyon County Park, Santa Cruz Mountains, California

 

As did in 2015, last years spring took me back to the high Andes of Argentina, to continue the work on the Cat in Thin Air project, which highlights the Andean Mountain Cat. This project will continue for many more years, but I would like to thank the people who were directly helping me in the field this year, since it was no easy task.

Juan Reppucci, there aren’t enough good things I can say about you. Thank you for being such a dear friend. For always being willing to help, for amazing conversations, for just being a good person. I am truly lucky to know you and I am happy that we will get to continue working on this and other projects together! I am saddened that we are not living closer, but I very much cherish our online conversations!

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) biologist, Juan Reppucci, testing camera trap, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) biologist, Juan Reppucci, testing camera trap, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Cintia Tellaeche, you are just as amazing! Your kindness and your hard-coreness are remarkable. Your food dishes, especially your in-the-field pizzas, are beyond yummy, and your love for cats is beyond apparent!

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) biologist, Cintia Tellaeche, testing camera trap, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) biologist, Cintia Tellaeche, testing camera trap, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

You know those people who are just beyond nice, go out of their way to help others, and volunteer their time to help a cause they believe in? That’s Deanna and Michael Clifford! So honored to have met you both. It was a true privilege to get to spend the time in the mountains with you. Thank you for your positive attitudes, caring so much about wildlife, staying in touch, and being simply awesome people.

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationists Michael and Deanna Clifford, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationists Michael and Deanna Clifford, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina — great shirts by the way!

Not in any way less amazing is Amy Alexander. Though we only had a couple of days in the field together Amy, your great outlook on life was beyond apparent, and your dedication to wildlife palpable. Thank you for lending me the money for the cab, for getting the gang back together in California, and for being the great paced hiker that you are!

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist Amy Alexander, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist Amy Alexander, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Thank you Eliana Segura for your dedication to the Andean cats, for volunteering your time, for always having a smile on your face, and for putting up with my beyond-lack of spanish.

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist, Eliana Segura, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist, Eliana Segura, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Jorge Luiz, thank you so much for helping me with the camera traps, for carrying too much gear, for the bracelet you made me, and for your friendship, it is not something I take lightly!

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist, Jorge Luiz, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Andean Cat (Leopardus jacobita) conservationist, Jorge Luiz, Abra Granada, Andes, northwestern Argentina

Coming back to California, after the Andes, I was asked to photograph the research activities of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory. The threatened snowy plover researchers Karine Tokatlian and Ben Pearl were nice enough to let me join as they banded three adorable plover chicks. Thank you Karine for being so welcoming, for your dedication to the plovers, for volunteering your time for the photography, and for being such a willing model. Ben, the same applies to you! Thank you two for the conversations, and the two great days on the salt ponds! (SFBBO is having a fund-raising drive for their snowy plover work, please consider donation so Karine and Ben can continue their conservation work!)

Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) biologists, Karine Tokatlian and Ben Pearl, warming and banding chicks, Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, Union City, Bay Area, California

Snowy Plover (Charadrius nivosus) biologists, Karine Tokatlian and Ben Pearl, warming and banding chicks, Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, Union City, Bay Area, California

In the fall, I headed back to Kyrgyzstan to work along side Panthera’s powerhouse snow leopard team. It was a seven week long trip, and is one filled with conversations and experiences I will never ever forget. Living in close quarters for that amount of time either brings you together or breaks you apart. It was a true privilege to further strengthen relationships and make incredible new friendships.

First up is Shannon Kachel, who is the principal investigator of the snow leopard project in Kyrgyzstan. The adjectives to describe Shannon could be a page long, but some of the ones that stand out are determined, persistent, dedicated, intelligent, caring, understanding, hopeful, buff, fearless, academic, and a good friend. Thank you Shannon for allowing me to join the project one more time, for your patience, for your understanding, for really treasured conversations, for caring about snow leopards so deeply, and for doing things the right way. Miss you buddy! Also, you are too cool for a picture, so you get a video 🙂

Thank you Tanya Rosen for always being beyond supportive. For fighting for me to come back to Kyrgyzstan, for arranging so many of the logistics, and for your positive, well-rounded outlook on life!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Tanya Rosen, checking email in camp, Pikertyk, Tian Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Tanya Rosen, checking email in camp, Pikertyk, Tian Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Zair Kubanychbekov, thank you for your tireless efforts in saving snow leopards, for being a logistics guru, for the airport rides, for getting us unstuck, for your super positive outlook and for sharing your culture with me.

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Zair Kubanychbekov, trying to get car unstuck, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Zair Kubanychbekov, trying to get car unstuck, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Thank you Ric for the hilarious conversations, for showing me some self defense moves without breaking my whole body, for fighting through the pain of a broken finger, for sharing the beyond delicious snacks, and for your friendship!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Ric Berlinski, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Ric Berlinski, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

A big thank you to you as well John Ochsenreiter, for the interesting conversations, for your help setting up the camera traps, for bringing the salt and pepper shaker, for giving me your sleeping bag (it was much needed) and for killing it with M1.

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, John Ochsenreiter, Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, John Ochsenreiter, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Thank you Rahim Kulenbek (doing the fun task of checking the temperature of m2 in the below picture) for your help with the camera traps, the honest conversations, for bringing in all that dried Yak poop for the fire, and for some delicious Tuna pasta!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, reading PIT tag during collaring of male snow leopard, with veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, biologist, Rahim Kulenbek, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Shannon Kachel, reading PIT tag during collaring of male snow leopard, with veterinarian, Ric Berlinski, biologist, Rahim Kulenbek, and ranger, Urmat Solokov, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

David, we got to spend a lot of time together and I enjoyed all of it. Thank you for putting up with my weirdness, for always being game, for not making fun of me when I was lagging behind, for your help with the camera traps, for not killing me on one of your chosen routes, and for the great conversations!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, David Cooper, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, David Cooper, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Thank you Dan Dahlgren for proving that age is not a limiting factor, for helping set up camera traps, for sharing the stove, for bringing the popcorn which we enjoyed long past your departure, for staying in touch, and for caring so much about snow leopards!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Dan Dahlgren, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Dan Dahlgren, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Aaron Wising, thank you for the ranging conversations, for supporting Shannon and the whole project, for being willing to take a break every time I needed one, and for carrying the camera trap up to the highest place we ever put one in Kyrgyzstan!!

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Aaron Wirsing, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationist, Aaron Wirsing, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

And finally, but in no way least important, thank you to all the rangers (including Mukhtar, Ulan, Urmat, Joky, Askat, Mishka, Tepa, Tesha, Kamchibek, and Omurbek) for your help with the horses, for cooking, for helping us safely cross the river, and for ensuring the protection of snow leopards in Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve!!

Rangers Temirlan Baktygul, Urmat Solokov, Anne-lise Cabanat, Michel Gierst, Temirbek Jandrbaev listening to Ulan Abulgaziev playing the ukulele, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan relaxing in camp during evening, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Rangers Temirlan Baktygul, Urmat Solokov, Anne-lise Cabanat, Michel Gierst, Temirbek Jandrbaev listening to Ulan Abulgaziev playing the ukulele, Sarychat-Ertash Strict Nature Reserve, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

I hope I did not leave anyone out, please know that if I did, it’s my fault and I very much thank you as well (but do let me know and I’ll add you!). Thank you to all for making 2016 so amazing, filled with incredible experiences, memories, and friendships.

Organizations

I have been working with Panthera for over four years now and what a privilege it has been. Panthera is the leading feline conservation group in the world. Their work is incredibly far reaching and impactful. Thank you for your tireless push to save wild cats. You are making a huge difference. To the general public, please donate to them, if you are in any way interested in cat conservation. 100% of your donation will go directly into the field!

The Santa Cruz Puma Project is a juggernaut in the puma research world. The multi-faceted work they are doing in regards to the mountain lions of the Santa Cruz Mountains is incredible. Thank you for allowing me to be the project’s photographer for quite a few months, for your dedication to the research, and for engaging the public!

Santa Cruz Puma Project

 

The Andean Cat Alliance is a multinational and interdisciplinary network founded in 1999 by professionals from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru to develop coordinated actions for the conservation of the Andean cat and its habitat. They aspire to the conservation and long term maintenance of Andean cat populations and its habitat, in harmony with human populations. Having had the honor of getting to work with you, and now being a member of the alliance is something I deeply cherish. Thank you for your continued work on promoting the conservation of one of the world’s least known wild cats!

AndeanCatAlliance

The San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO) is dedicated to the conservation of birds and their habitats through science and outreach. Founded in 1981, the Bird Observatory has produced over 30 years of scientific information on local bird populations, working with both government agencies and partner organizations. Thank you for allowing me into your world, for your dedication to the birds of the bay area, and for fighting for what you believe in!

San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory

Thank you for 2015!

As is now tradition, I want to take this time to thank the people and organizations which made 2015 another fabulous photographic year!

People

I traveled to both Bolivia and Argentina to initiate the first phase of the Cat in Thin Air project to showcase the endangered Andean Mountain Cat with concrete goals to help its conservation. My first stop was in Bolivia where I met the amazing team of Juan Carlos Huaranca Ariste and Alejandra Rocio Torrez Tarqui. Together they have eighteen years of experience working on the Andean Cat. Juan Carlos focuses on the research aspect of the wild cat, while Alejandra leads the charge in doing the educational outreach in the region where the Andean Cat is present. Together, they are an unstoppable force, creating real conservation change for this cat. You can read more about them here.

Due to your help, Ale and Junca, we were able to get a picture of a Pampas Cat in the high Andes of Bolivia. Thank you. Thank you also for constantly being ok speaking english, for being patient with me, for helping with logistics, for allowing me a glimpse into your world, and for your friendship.

Juan Carlos Huaranca Ariste in the Altiplano, western Bolivia

Juan Carlos Huaranca Ariste in the Altiplano, western Bolivia

Alejandra Rocio Torrez Tarqui in the Altiplano, western Bolivia

Alejandra Rocio Torrez Tarqui in the Altiplano, western Bolivia

All the work that Ale and Junca are doing is overseen by Ma. Lilian Villalba. In fact, Lilian coordinates the research and conservation projects for all the Andean Cat Alliance projects within the four countries in which the Andean Cat lives. Additionally, she is also in charge of raising the capital needed for all of these activities. Finally, she had to deal with my logistics, including visiting two projects during a one month period. Thank you Lilian for your amazing strength and commitment to the Andean Cat. It needs a champion like you!

Ma. Lilian Villalba in La Paz, Bolivia

Ma. Lilian Villalba in La Paz, Bolivia

Thank you Don Mario Llusco for being an amazing guide through the labyrinth of the Bolivian altiplano. Thank you for helping me carry gear. Thank you for your smile.

Don Mario Llusco, western Bolivia

Don Mario Llusco, western Bolivia

Don Rodolfo Apaza Chuquimia, thank you for your sturdy driving, for the amazing home-cooked meal, and for allowing us to crash in your beautiful house.

Don Rodolfo Apaza Chuquimia, western Bolivia

Don Rodolfo Apaza Chuquimia, western Bolivia

From Bolivia, I went on to Argentina. There, I had the privilege of meeting a whole new group of simply amazing people. Juan Ignacio Reppucci, Cintia Tellaeche, Romina Matamala and Mauro Lucherini are all involved with the Andean Cat in one capacity or another. Juani and Cintia are the principal scientists of the ecological study they are conducting in Jujuy Province. They have been running up and down mountains to study this cat for a combined eighteen years. That’s a whole lot of miles and commitment. Romina is working to help the surrounding communities establish themselves as an ecotourism location, which will allow them to move away from mining as an income stream, which at the same time will help the Andean Cat re-establish habitat. Mauro oversees both of these projects and is constantly fundraising to make sure they can continue.

Juani and Cintia, thank you for sharing your time, for allowing me to always point a camera in your direction, for the amazing conversations, for your friendship, for your honesty, for your helpfulness, and for your pure hearts. Romina, thank you for being ok with my obnoxiousness, for being a great sport, for your amazing cooking, and for your friendship. Mauro, thank you for the logistical support, for answering my questions, and for your visit to California. To all of you, the Andean Cat picture because exists because of our teamwork. Thank you!

Juan Ignacio Reppucci in the high Andes of Argentina

Juan Ignacio Reppucci in the high Andes of Argentina

Cintia Tellaeche in the high Andes of Argentina

Cintia Tellaeche in the high Andes of Argentina

Romina Matamala in the high Andes of Argentina

Romina Matamala in the high Andes of Argentina

Mauro Lucherini, Jujuy Province, Argentina

Mauro Lucherini, Jujuy Province, Argentina

After South America, I traveled to Kyrgyzstan where I was sent to photograph Snow Leopards in the Tian Shan mountains. Now there is a very large team to thank for this project, so hang in there. Tanya Rosen Michel is the snow leopard program director for Panthera in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Talk about a demanding job. I admire you for your continuous push Tanya, more snow leopards exist because of you. Thank you also for all of your help in making the trip a reality, for honest conversations over delicious dinners, and for fighting for snow leopards in central Asia.

Tanya Rosen Michel, Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Tanya Rosen Michel, Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

The principal biologist of the project is Shannon Kachel, who is a PhD student at the University of Washington. He is in the process of placing satelitte collars on snow leopards to determine more about their ecology, especially how it relates to wolves. Having had the privilege to see what his work constitutes, all I can say is wow. Shannon, your persistence is admirable, your optimism is unwavering, your work ethic is constant. I am in true awe of you and I thank you for all of those things. Thank you also for your friendship, for heartfelt conversations, and for stopping in California to go herping!

Shannon Kachel, Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Shannon Kachel, Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Alongside Shannon was Khalil Karimov, a Tajik biologist who is getting his masters at the University of Vienna, in Austria. Khalil basically grew up in the mountains. He can tell you how long an Ibex’s horns are to within three centimeters (we tested this after collecting about twenty horns from already dead animals). He can spot a Marco Polo Sheep herd that is over 4 miles away. He runs up a 14,000 foot mountain as if it was childsplay. Khalil, simply put, you are amazing. Thank you for all of your help in the mountains, for helping carry gear, for camouflaging the sh*t out of the camera traps, for cooking up some mean dinners, for the brutally honest conversations, and most of all your friendship.

Khalil Karimov, Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Khalil Karimov, Tien Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan

Rana Bayrakcismith handles all of the logistics for all of the snow leopard projects that Panthera supports and runs in Asia. Even though she is primarily based in Seattle, I had the pleasure of meeting her in the field in Kyrgyzstan. Your love for cats (including domestics) is just awesome Rana. Thank you for our fun conversations, for nerding out on cats, and for answering all of my questions before the trip!!

Rana Bayrakcismith, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Rana Bayrakcismith, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

John Ochsenreiter is a vet mostly of your domestic dogs and kitties at home, but he was nice enough to volunteer his time in Kyrgyzstan to be in charge of anything medical related to the wildlife that could wonder into the traps. Thank you John for your commitment to the project! Thank you also for introducing me to more music and for cooking all that cream of wheat!

John Ochsenreiter, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

John Ochsenreiter, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Thank you Zairbek Kubanychbekov for playing chauffeur from and to the airport even though you had much better things to do. Thank you for caring about snow leopards and for your persistence in creating greater conservation change in Kyrgyzstan for snow leopards.

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationists, Tanya Rosen and Zair Kubanychbekov, and biologist, Khalil Karimov, making final project arrangments, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) conservationists, Tanya Rosen and Zair Kubanychbekov, and biologist, Khalil Karimov, making final project arrangements, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Ulan Toktosunov is an extremely skilled horseman and is a ranger in snow leopard country. Thank you Ulan, for letting me ride the horse “haircut”, for keeping me alive riding through the mountains, and for bringing us delicious food throughout the project.

Ulan Toktosunov, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Ulan Toktosunov, Tien Shan Mountains, eastern Kyrgyzstan

Thank you Munavvar Alidodov for being willing to converse in English and for fighting for snow leopards. The community based conservation you are involved in is not only protecting thousands of ungulates, it is in fact the reason those ungulate populations are expanding.

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Munavvar Alidodov, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Snow Leopard (Panthera uncia) biologist, Munavvar Alidodov, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

After Kyrgyzstan came Costa Rica, where I worked with the Coastal Jaguar Conservation team, photographing you guessed it, jaguars that live on the coast. The team is led by biologists Stephanny Arroyo-Arce and Ian Thomson. These two have been studying the Jaguars of Tortuguero National Park since 2012 and have published multiple scientific papers about the unique ecological processes that go on there. Most importantly, I have never met two people so caring about animal welfare. These two will not compromise the welfare of their study animals, period. It is something I deeply respect about them.

Stephanny, your work ethic is second to none, your need for cleaning even more so :), and your love for Jaguars unquestionable. Thank you for your consistent dedication to these amazing animals. Thank you for allowing me to be part of the project, for always being willing to have your picture taken, for helping with the camera traps, for the great conversations, for caring, and for your friendship.

Jaguar (Panthera onca) biologist, Stephanny Arroyo-Arce, Coastal Jaguar Conservation Project, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Jaguar (Panthera onca) biologist, Stephanny Arroyo-Arce, Coastal Jaguar Conservation Project, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Ian, your humor and sarcasm are hilarious, and often needed in the heat of Tortuguero. Your dedication is as strong as Stephanny’s, and that’s saying something. Your knife and machete skills are inspiring, and your photography is stunning and jealousy inducing. Thank you for amazing conversations, for lending me the CF card, for clearing the crap out of the plants near the camera traps, and for your friendship.

Jaguar (Panthera onca) biologist, Ian Thomson, Coastal Jaguar Conservation Project, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Jaguar (Panthera onca) biologist, Ian Thomson, Coastal Jaguar Conservation Project, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Thank you Eleonore Hachemen, for allowing me to take your picture and for your work with Jaguars. Taking down data can be tedious, but you obviously work hard at it and it will make a difference for the long term survival of the big cats.

Jaguar (Panthera onca) biologist, Eleonore Hachemen, Coastal Jaguar Conservation Project, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Jaguar (Panthera onca) biologist, Eleonore Hachemen, Coastal Jaguar Conservation Project, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Thank you Jizel Miles for your very hard work you did on the project. Stephanny and Ian were quite proud of your work, and it was obvious why. I know you have moved on to caracals and leopards now, but all wild cats thank you for your dedication towards them. Also, a huge thank you for only turning your back sometimes when I aimed the camera at you :).

Jizel Miles, Eleonore Hachemen, Ian Thomson, and Eleonore Hachemen, Coastal Jaguar Conservation Project, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Jizel Miles, Eleonore Hachemen, Ian Thomson, and Eleonore Hachemen, Coastal Jaguar Conservation Project, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Finally, thank you to Jorge Avella for the boat rides to and from the national park and keeping all the gear dry along the way!

Jorge Avella driving down channel, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

Jorge Avella driving down channel, Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica

I am currently working a lot with the mountain lion biologists from the Santa Cruz Puma Project, and they too deserve their thank yous. Since the work continues though, I will thank them properly next year. Thank you to all of you for making 2015 not only a success, but a year filled with great memories!

Organizations

Like  the last two years, I would like to thank the cat conservation organization Panthera. Their wild cat conservation efforts is simply unrivaled. The scope at which they work is seemingly overwhelming, yet they constantly are accomplishing conservation change all around the world. It is a true honor to have had the privilege to work together last year (and as always, I very much look forward to working together in the new year!). Please keep doing what you are doing; cats and people all over the world are thankful for it. To the general public, please donate to them, if you are in any way interested in cat conservation. 100% of your donation will go directly into the field!

Panthera Logo

 

The Andean Cat Alliance is a multinational and interdisciplinary network founded in 1999 by professionals from Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Peru to develop coordinated actions for the conservation of the Andean cat and its habitat. They aspire to the conservation and long term maintenance of Andean cat populations and its habitat, in harmony with human populations. Thank you for allowing me to work with you and for continuously pushing conservation for the Andean Cat. Doing so on a shoestring budget makes it even more impressive!

 

AndeanCatAlliance

 

The Coastal Jaguar Conservation project was started in 2012 and aims to monitor the populations of jaguars and their prey species on the Caribbean of Costa Rica. In particular, it’s focus is on researching the unique behavior of jaguars predating on nesting sea turtles. Thank you for allowing me to work with you guys. I know having me join is a lot of extra work and I really appreciated how you never made me feel like a burden. Thank you for your work on these amazingly unique Jaguars, they will continue to need champions like you!

CoastalJaguarConservation

Thank you for 2014!

In my profession it is often simply impossible to get the picture without the help of other people. To follow up on the Reviewing the 2014 Photographic Year post, I would like to thank those amazing people and organizations who made it possible for 2014 to be such an awesome year.

People

I first traveled to Uganda to try and photograph the African Golden Cat (this was my second try as this species was also my goal in Gabon last year). In Uganda I teamed up with David Mills who has been studying these elusive cats for the last four years. David and Laila Bhaa-el-din (from Gabon), are the experts on this species. For most information that is known about this felid, either of the two had a hand in attaining it. David is currently finishing up his PhD looking at thousands of camera trap images along with other data to determine the ecology about the Golden Cat in the eastern part of its range.

We were able to get two series of pictures of two different grey morphed African Golden Cats, all due to you, David. Thank you also David for your generosity, your willingness to help, not letting me be killed by that charging elephant, but most importantly your friendship! (Also for all of your help with setting up camera traps in Scotland!!!)

African Golden Cat (Profelis aurata aurata) researcher, David Mills, placing camera trap on tree, Kibale National Park, western Uganda

African Golden Cat (Profelis aurata aurata) researcher, David Mills, placing camera trap on tree, Kibale National Park, western Uganda

Alongside David, was Sam Isoke. Sam has been conducting wildlife research in Uganda for over two decades. He has also been assisting David since the start and knows as much as there is to know about the African Golden Cat. While I was there, Sam was even afflicted with a bout of Malaria. Unwavering, after a few days rest, he was right back in the jungle!

Thank you Sam for guiding me through the forest, helping me set up camera traps, your amazing cooking, and the great conversations.

African Golden Cat (Profelis aurata aurata) researcher, Sam Isoke, stepping between buttress roots in rainforest, Kibale National Park, western Uganda

African Golden Cat (Profelis aurata aurata) researcher, Sam Isoke, stepping between buttress roots in rainforest, Kibale National Park, western Uganda

I had the privilege of joining an anti-poaching team for two days as they looked for illegal activity in the forest. Both John Okwilo and Godfrey Nyesiga are extraordinary men as they head into the jungle every day, possibly risking their lives to protect the forest and the animals that live within it. During the two days I was with them, they found numerous examples of illegal logging activity and they removed both a neck and a foot snare, directly saving the lives of at least two animals.

Thank you John and Godfrey for allowing me to join you, but more importantly for the great conservation work you are doing in Kibale National Park!

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Anti-poaching snare removal team member, John Okwilo, Kibale National Park, western Uganda

Anti-poaching snare removal team member, Godfrey Nyesiga, Kibale National Park, western Uganda

Anti-poaching snare removal team member, Godfrey Nyesiga, Kibale National Park, western Uganda

A very heartfelt thank you also to Florence, who washed my extremely dirty clothes and ironed all of them to ensure that all potential Mango Fly eggs that may have been laid on them were killed. Thank you Florence for your smile, your help, and your beautiful fabric!

Florence, Kibale National Park, Uganda

Florence, Kibale National Park, Uganda

Francis, thank you for getting me and all of my gear safely in and out of the field. Thank you for your patience, your help, and your willingness to answer all of my questions!

Francis driving, Uganda

Francis driving, Uganda

Due to the help of Michelle Anne, I was able to go into a local classroom to photograph the educational outreach programs that David initiated and that Michelle manages and impliments. These lessons teach the children about the nearby forest, what animals live in them, and why those animals are important. It’s incredibly important information that most of these children would never otherwise receive. Thank you Michelle for your continued persistence to the cause and for sharing your work with me.

Michelle Anne in elementary school classroom, western Uganda

Michelle Anne in elementary school classroom, western Uganda

After Uganda came Scotland, where I was looking for the Scottish Wildcat. Kerry Kilshaw has been studying these small cats in the eastern part of the country for quite a while there. She finished her data collection last year and is now in the process of writing up her dissertation. She has helped the government on multiple occasions to answer the questions about Scotland’s largest carnivore. The Scottish Wildcat has a much better chance at survival with Kerry’s knowledge and research.

Thank you Kerry for all of your generous help as the Scottish Wild cat picture exists because of you, for helping with the organization, and for driving all the way to meet me, all while taking care of a toddler!

Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia) biologist, Kerry Kilshaw, Scotland, United Kingdom

Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris grampia) biologist, Kerry Kilshaw, Scotland, United Kingdom

And finally, I would like to thank my fiance Kailani, because of her, we went abroad (since she was doing her PhD research), which meant that I was able to spend time in France, Spain, England, Wales, and Australia. Being with you is always the most fun and all the adventures we have together mean the most to me. Thank you for being so supportive and for caring so much about what I treasure. I love you.

Kailani photographing, Sierra de Andujar Natural Park, Sierra de Andujar, Sierra Morena, Andalusia, Spain

Kailani photographing, Sierra de Andujar Natural Park, Sierra de Andujar, Sierra Morena, Andalusia, Spain

Organizations

Like last year, I would like to thank (my gratitude is really beyond words) the cat conservation organization Panthera. Their continued efforts in saving wild cats is immediately apparent and it is a true honor to have had the privilege to work together last year (and as always, I very much look forward to working together in the new year!). Please keep doing what you are doing; cats and people all over the world are thankful for it. To the general public, please donate to them, if you are in any way interested in cat conservation. 100% of your donation will go directly into the field!Panthera_Logo_wider

 

WildCRU, an Oxford based research unit, who often partners with Panthera, conducts carnivore research all over the world. Many of the researchers I have worked with in the past, including last year are associated with them. WildCRU also allowed me to photograph their Badger work this last year, for which I am very grateful. Please check out their website for more information.

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Bornean Bay Cat

Screenshot of Bay Cat story of LIveScience

Screenshot of Bay Cat story on LiveScience

Some of you may have read the Live Science article about the Bay Cat photo that was published last week. If not, you can check it out here. I am really excited that the photograph was published by a media outlet with such a large readership. It even made the front page of yahoo!! Even more importantly, I am ecstatic because the Bay Cat is getting more attention. As an endangered feline it needs all the help it can get.

I do want to elaborate on the article — they have word limits, I do not :). I wanted to discuss the tremendous importance of working with the biologists studying this wild cat to make a photograph of this incredibly elusive feline.

But first some background…

As always before an assignment, I read as much about the Bay Cat before I went into the field. The research allows me to put myself in a better position to either encounter the animal or place the camera traps in the right locations.

As soon as I started reading about this cat, I knew that getting a photograph of it was going to be tough. There was so little known about it. In fact, by 2004 only 12 specimens had ever been found, and direct sightings (known to the outside world) could be counted on one hand. Nothing, besides educated guesses, is known about their predation, social organization, reproduction, and development.

And this isn’t even the case just on a global level, but even on Borneo, which the Bay Cat is endemic to (only found there). Less than 30 percent of people that live in the rainforest who were interviewed in a study could identify the Bay Cat.

The percentage of people able to name the species of Borneo's wild cat - Copyright and All Permission belong to Andrew Hearn

The percentage of people able to name the species of Borneo’s wild cat (Ross et al. 2010)

I left for Sabah, the most northern Malaysian state in Borneo, in February with high hopes and expectations (what can I say, being naive and optimistic is just the way I am). I would have five weeks to get the first ever high resolution picture of a wild Bay Cat. Luckily for me, I would not have to go at this endeavor alone, nor would I have ever had any chance of success without the help of Andrew Hearn and his team.

Andy is the expert on felids in Borneo. He knows everything there is to know about the five species of cats found on the island. In fact, most of the stuff I had read about the species was written by Andy. He has been doing his PhD research on the wild cats here for the last seven years and has seen all of them in person. Like I said, Andy is THE expert.

Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) researcher Andrew Hearn checking camera trap, Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) researcher Andrew Hearn checking camera trap, Kinabatangan River, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Andy had gotten one or two pictures of the Bay Cat in some of his previous research sites, but none of the cats ever showed up at the same camera set twice. There seemed to be no predictable behavior for this animal. Not a good thing when you only have four digital SLR camera traps and a huge rainforest to put them in. Then, the luck seemed to change our way, at Andy’s latest research site he had gotten four pictures of the same cat at the same camera location. We knew where we had to place our cameras.

Two of them went right along the cats travel path, another 60 feet down the trail and another near a nice buttress root — I figured we may as well go for a pretty picture 🙂

After three weeks we checked the cameras. Besides finding the cameras covered with mold (due to the extreme humidity) there were no cats on the cameras. A very disappointing start, but at least we had gotten a few pictures of the Malay Civet (Viverra tangalunga).

Malayan Civet (Viverra tangalunga) in lowland rainforest at night, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Malayan Civet (Viverra tangalunga) in lowland rainforest at night, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

My confidence diminished, my optimism grew slim. A nice punch in the face came when Andy pulled the pictures of this research cameras, next to my SLR camera traps, showing how the Bay Cat had used a different trail this time walking right by my set-up, but also avoiding the camera further down the trail.

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I could hear myself saying “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it”. This wasn’t the time to give up. We had the cameras in great locations, we just had to hope the cat would return before I had to leave.

Five weeks had almost passed and I was leaving in a few days. We hiked up the hill to check and pack up the cameras. Still, no Bay Cat, but at least we were able to get photographs of both the Marbled Cat and Sunda Clouded Leopard.

Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata marmorata) in lowland rainforest, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Marbled Cat (Pardofelis marmorata marmorata) in lowland rainforest, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Bornean Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi borneensis) male in lowland rainforest at night, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Bornean Clouded Leopard (Neofelis diardi borneensis) male in lowland rainforest at night, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

I returned home excited for having pictures of these species but also disappointed for not having gotten a picture of the Bay Cat. I felt like the ship had sailed on that opportunity. Little did I know that I would return to Borneo to work with Andy once again a few months later. Returning in November we once again placed the cameras in or near areas where Andy had gotten a Bay Cat photograph before using his research trail cameras. This had to be the time, it just had to.

Again things proved difficult. The rain was unrelenting making set-up quit difficult. “Just got to get on with it” is something Andy would always say when he encountered a difficult situation and I admire that about him, but it is also something I have tried taking to heart for myself. Even with the rains, difficult terrain, fire ants, leeches, horse flies, we just had to get on with it. Finally, after six days, all the cameras were in place.

Then, Andy and Gilmore Bolongon (Andy’s former research assistant and now a masters student) had to return to their principal research location on the Kinabatanagan River. I would meet up with them in ten days, right after doing the first camera check.

Arriving at the first camera after an exhausting first part of the hike I was hopeful, yet cautious. Scrolling through the pictures, reality struck, no Bay Cat picture.

Two more cameras await three more miles up the mountain. Not knowing what pictures await me up there is both a driving force, and a barrier. It would almost be easier not knowing if there was a Bay Cat picture, then knowing for sure that there were none. I am way too curious of a person not to know, so I kept hiking.

I arrived at the second camera, only feet from the third camera. Again, no Bay Cat picture.

The third camera didn’t hold much promise due to its proximity with the unsuccessful second camera trap. It was located on a very faint game trail off of the main trail. My hopes were low. The scream I let out once I saw what was on the camera must have scared all the animals away in a two mile radius. If that didn’t do it, the dance I did after that would have. I was exhilarated. As soon as I could, I let Andy and Gil know. This Bay Cat picture exists because of the teamwork between all three of us.

Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) gray morph male in lowland rainforest, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) gray morph male in lowland rainforest, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia

Andy has eighty camera set-ups in this research site (160 in total, but there are always two per site to get both sides of the animal). Without them we would have had no clue where a good spot would have been to get the high-resolution picture. Even more importantly, with all of Andy’s research there will finally be some light shed on the biology of the wild cats here.

His research is looking at population size, density, habitat preference, habitat use, and prey base. With this information, it will be possible to draw up a conservation plan to protect this endangered species, as well as the other felids on Borneo. You can read more about his incredibly important (and fascinating might I say!!!) research here: http://borneanwildcat.blogspot.com/

Panthera, the world’s leading cat conservation organization, is partially funding Andy’s research. By donating to them you are directly helping them implement steps into conserving our wild feline friends. If you have a chance visit their webpage.

 

References:

Hearn, A., Sanderson, J., Ross, J., Wilting, A. & Sunarto, S. 2008b. Pardofelis badia. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.1. <www.iucnredlist.org>.
Ross et al 2010. Framework for Bornean wild cat action plan
Sunquist, M., Sunquist, F. 2002. Wild cats of the World, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 48–51

 

Bad News for West African Lions

A male lion in Pendjari National Park during Panthera's survey of the W-Arly-PendjariComplex, located in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger – 2012Credit: Philipp Henschel/Panthera

A male lion in Pendjari National Park during Panthera’s survey of the W-Arly-PendjariComplex, located in Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger – 2012 Credit: Philipp Henschel/Panthera

Survey

Felid biologist Phillip Henschel’s paper was just published after conducting six years of thorough presence and absence surveys of Lions in West Africa. The results are bleak. West African Lions are only found in five countries with a total population of less then 5oo individuals. More specifically of those 500, less than 250 mature individuals exist. This would categorize them as critically endangered if they were considered their own species.

Before the study took place, 21 protected areas within western Africa were said to have lions. Once Phil showed up, he realized most of these areas were paper parks. This means a park on the map, with no infrastructure or on the ground staff. The presence surveys of these fake parks showed they were devoid of lions. In fact, he only found signs of their presence in one area in Senegal, two areas in Nigeria, and in a larger protected spanning Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.

Lion status in West African protected areas within lion range

Lion status in West African protected areas within lion range

Having less than 20 mature lions in three out of the four areas does not bode well for those populations to survive in the long term. Moreover, these areas are not anywhere near each other which prevents possible movement from one population to another.

It was recently determined through DNA studies that West African Lions are very different from their East and South African cousins. They are far more related to the extinct Barbary Lion, that occupied northern Africa, and the Asiatic Lions holding on in India. This study at least provides the conclusive evidence of their dire situation. Fro here, conservationist can make informed decisions on the next steps.

Next Steps

The greatest need is providing protection for the remaining animals. The West African Lion only has a chance if governments receive financial aid to increase enforcements within the park. And by increasing the infrastructure in the parks. The cat conservation organization Panthera is leading that charge. You can donate to them here.

Dr. Henschel trains park rangers in lion survey techniques -- Yankari Game Reserve, Nigeria Credit: Gilbert Nyanganji/WCS Nigeria

Dr. Henschel trains park rangers in lion survey techniques — Yankari Game Reserve, Nigeria Credit: Gilbert Nyanganji/WCS Nigeria

If you would to to read the full scientific paper, click here here.