HomeArticlesHéroes del PLANETA 2/3 – Heroes of the PLANET 2/3
Héroes del PLANETA 2/3 – Heroes of the PLANET 2/3
December 20, 2019
Dear friends, what do you think about the previous part of the interview? Please comment, ask. I love this topic!
As you’ve realized, it is fundamental for me and I think that we should all be greatly
interested because the lives of the other beings with whom we coexist
is a fundamental part of ours too. So let’s continue with this wonderful
interview with these two great heroes of our planet who, in the last interview, told us what moves them, what led them to dedicate their whole life, to give their body and soul to do what they do. And in this part of the interview
we have prepared other very interesting surprises too. So let’s listen, I hope you enjoy it. Females voice: This is the video-blog of Eduardo Osegueda on the YouTube channel of Fuerza Integral So you guys have worked in so many super important organizations around the world, very serious, very renowned, very trustworthy. What makes PANTHERA different to all of them? What would you say… why are you in PANTHERA right now and not in any other place? – -What makes Pantera different for me is that the Nature Conservation field has become now extremely professional; people are taught, they get their diploma, they are trained in various aspects of Nature Conservation. And many organizations have moved to Strategic Planning needed to do what needs to be done in various aspects of Nature Conservation, but they moved away from this connection with nature which is the emotional connection that we have, and knowing the species you are actually dealing with. Many organizations now are working on driver of extinction, on global issues, climate change, deforestation, trade, policies and so on and so forth. And because they’ve become very specialized, they are -to some extent- also part of the disconnection of these organizations with what we are actually trying to preserve. And for me when the choice was made to: am I interested to join PANTHERA?, the key thing was that knowing that within this organization half of the program people or even more than half, were actually biologists. They could tell me what a tiger needs, how a tiger behaved, or a jaguar, a puma, a small cat, a cheetah, a lion… and that’s very-very unique. The other thing that makes PANTHERA unique is that we are based and rooted in science. We need to understand what we want to conserve and not only superficially. A lion is a lion everywhere, but a lion is facing threats and issues which are very different if you talk about a lion in Botswana, than if you talk about a lion in West Africa…, same thing for jaguar. Knowing this intimately, what that jaguar is but how it will behave in different relation to different contexts is very-very important. And PANTHERA is one of the only organizations now who still has this body of knowledge, intellectual knowledge which allow us to define conservation strategies which are, at the same time rooted in science, but extremely pragmatic, and we can always link one to the other, because we know and we don’t rely on anyone else to actually understand what big cats or small cats need. And that’s very-very specific, it’s not common. Most of the large organizations have moved away from that. You hardly find a tiger specialist in most of the organizations we are dealing with or interacting with, or a jaguar specialist for that. PANTHERA has that. MOST OF THE PEOPLE WE HAVE ARE THE TOP SPECIALIST IN THEIR FIELD… – In the field with the animals and with the communities, the political and social and… – That’s it, so we are able to merge that. But we are always able to bring it back to the fundamental basic biology of the species we are dealing with. – That’s great, that’s great. Great answer Fred, thank you so much. You want to add anything to that Howard? No, I think that Fred described it perfectly. I mean I’ve been with PANTHERA for 10 years and the reason I stay and the reason I came to PANTHERA was this base, that this was a group of experts that were allowed to understand their animal first and then build from that science to build the conservation structure that we have and hopefully will continue to grow under Fred’s leadership because there’s so much to do so… We are going to grow, I know and there’s so much to do and – Absolutely! – Yeah, it’s a unique organization, it really is, it truly is, I really feel fortunate to be part of it so… – And this organization also, and that’s certainly something I want to reemphasize and I keep saying: never feel the need to justify why it is working on cats conservation. We don’t feel the need. What I say to the team, when I come: I don’t want us to spend months and years to prioritize which species we work on based on a number of very rational strategic decisions, based on the contribution of the species to human welfare or so and so. We made the choice that we are the organization dedicated to cat conservation. We don’t need to go further. But we should be the organization that works on all cat species, the big ones and the small cats, alike. And I don’t want to ask to spend more time to say that. People keep asking: Why do you want to conserve cats?, what is it that they bring? I mean, we made the choice, the organization made the choice years ago and that’s something I want to re-emphasize. We will stay working on cats, all cats The first week or so that I was appointed in PANTHERA I met the chief strategist of another organization which is very well known in nature conservation and they know my background.
My background is not a cat biologist I work in government, I work on any environmental issue from nuclear power infrastructure, fisheries, protected area you name it, so they knew my very wide interest and contribution and the first thing that person told me was, so now Fred that you’re in head of PANTHERA how long will PANTHERA still be working on cats? Because you need now to work on driver of extinction, on big global issues, on things like that, and he told me that within his own organization within the next two or three years he will foresee that there won’t be a single biologist in the organization – Wow – but they will have commodity specialist, water specialist, tariff people, people who are able to look at eco system servicing, and strategy conservation finances, all these big things and I really fought back and said, well that’s not what we are and that’s not what we want if anything, we will root PANTHERA even more in species conservation – That’s great.
– Because that is something we need. It’s not diminishing the importance of all these global issues, far from that but we have no time for these big issues to be addressed and if you don’t keep a level of understanding knowledge on the ground on the species, we run the issue, that, yeah we might solve climate change issue in the next 50 years but you won’t have a single polar bear left by then. You need to have people dedicated to preserving, conserving what is there now and for us it’s a time issue. We have five years for some of the species, not 50 years. When we talk of Tigers, we are not talking of population anymore, we are talking about individuals. 3,000 plus tiger, wild tiger in the world, most of the people think that there are still a lot, but we need to be in the front line, we need to be on the field, because one tiger lost is a huge loss for the population, we are impairing the capacity of the species as a species to actually rebound once obviously when we sort out the the main contextual big driver, so for us it’s really be there, on the ground in the front line and every individual counts so what we are doing is not saving the species, species can do that on their own. We are just gaining time and hopefully preserving them for long enough that they can rebound on their own, so we are basically the guardians of some of the ……. not us alone but with a lot of people. – Without our help those species would not be able to get to that rebound, because – Exactly because they are not enough there are very small numbers I mean, in some species I mean, Jaguar for example, we have more on tens of thousands of individuals so we have a little bit more time, little bit more option. For tigers we are down to yeah the 3,000 or 4,000 which is a very small number. If you take lion in West Africa, it’s even less than 300 – That’s crazy! – and a lot of species on small cats for example, we actually know nothing.
– Yeah – People have the feeling that we know everything about everywhere. There are a number of species that have never been photographed – Yes.
– We have no visual record of them, we don’t know where they are, even less a how many there – And we’re talking about wild cats, right? – – And we are talking about wild cats
– Yeah So yeah, tiger we know, lion we know, cheetah we know, but who knows in detail about the Margay, the flat headed cat the fishing cats, all these species that are very difficult to see? We are just starting there, so we need to let them time that’s all we do, this is time pushing the boundary, another five years, another ten years, and when I say that, when I talk to decision makers and things, we aren’t talking about hundred years – yeah – we are really talking for some species five to ten years horizon, – yes
– that’s all. – Yes, a lot of people think that it’s an exaggeration but that’s really the situation, right?. – Now – big cats around the world are in a very critical situation and we have the fortune as, inhabitants of the American Continent to have the species that is doing the best right now which is the Jaguar. The jaguar is endangered in Mexico, but we have large populations of Jaguars along the corridor that goes from Mexico to Argentina. But how endangered is the species?,
what are the main challenges that specific species is facing right now? – Yeah, well you’re right. We’re lucky that we’ve got a species that we’ve got fair numbers on. If you take the two most recent estimates for range-wide numbers and you take the average, it would be about a hundred thousand individuals in the wild, but as Fred is pointing out, you know, species die by a thousand cuts and that’s what’s happening right now with Jaguars. That is, what is key to Jaguar survival outside of the amazon basin, is connectivity. We now have something like 29 core populations and on top of that, is somewhere around 40 really critical corridors between those core populations, so every one of those corridors is threatened by human development, so our really, our goal right now number one, is to make sure that connectivity continues into the future, otherwise this five year horizon, we could see probably the sealing the death of at least half of those core populations, if we don’t maintain that connectivity in the next five years, because as soon as you isolate populations – this is one of the basics of of evolution and extinction is connectivity and core numbers of individuals. And with Jaguars, there’s a very good possibility, if we don’t act now, that we will isolate those populations and once you isolate those populations, you essentially seal their doom within the next 100 to 200 years. – Why is that? – Because of a genetic variation. – If you have a big park and you have many jaguars, but no connectivity with other genetic pools,
what happens? – That’s right. If you, for instance, isolated the population of Jaguars in northern Sonora in Mexico, guaranteed all the models and in fact reality will show you those Jaguars will be gone in under 200 years, that’s essentially guaranteed because of genetic isolation, so our role is to make sure that, that population is connected to other populations and that’s what we work on, up and down the Jaguar corridor from Arizona to Argentina and part of that is protecting those core populations and now we’re trying to, within those core populations, get the protection they need. Many of these parks are paper parks, everybody agrees and now, through community development, through citizen science, through additional training of guards, those core populations, we hope we’re securing those. Then it’s that lifeblood that the corridor provides for survival that is so important. And that’s where conflict with humans is so important and in Latin America, probably number one on a day to day basis, is retaliatory killing of jaguars due to conflict primarily with livestock growers and the reality is and again, the good news is, that we have solutions. We now have almost a dozen solutions to livestock predation by jaguars and pumas, now it’s just basically a matter of trying to take that to scale and make sure that that livestock grower who’s in that critical corridor between this core population, that core population, has the tools and believe me, the people that we rarely come across, people who say: “yeah! I just want to kill them”.
They don’t.. What we find is, please give me the solution, because I really really don’t want to have to kill this Jaguar, they want that Jaguar in their backyard, because it enhances them, enhances their potential to even develop ecotourism but many of them understand that it enhances the human condition to have those species there, so the really, our biggest goal right now, is to take those solutions and move them as rapidly as we can within this 5 to 10 year horizon and I think we’ll be able to secure jaguars.
And a… a century ago, there were an estimated hundred thousand tigers in the wild – A century ago,
– Yeah – that’s my father and my mother’s age almost, – Yeah, there you go.
– almost, they are 90 so – a century, yeah, within a lifetime – Within a lifetime, yes
– within a extended human lifetime and that’s where we are with jaguars – There were as many tigers as now there are jaguars.
– That’s right, exactly, and now as Fred says, yeah 3,800 are in the wild, estimated in the wild. We’ve got to make sure that jaguars don’t become another tiger. And especially, when you look up and down Latin America in tiger range (laugh), jaguar range and you see the connection there is between jaguars and human society, from the Olmecs to the Incas, to the Mayas, there’s really a tie there and and just driving in Mexico City or San José, Costa Rica or Sao Pablo, Brazil, you see the images of jaguars everywhere, but often, people, as we’ve already talked about here today, people don’t understand that oh! there is a problem. And we’ve got to be able to educate people for that and understand that it is part of the culture and part of something that is a natural heritage that’s part of us, it’s really part of us, yeah!, so… – So the main threat to these biological corridors, is human development, so PANTHERA is about stopping development?, is about stopping human development? – Absolutely not, in fact we are we’re more about compatibility with development, whether it’s road building or we’re not trying to stop roads or dams or power lines or cattle ranchers we want it to be smart development, we know that we can go into a large ranch or a small ranch and we can look at it and say here’s your prescription, we’ll help you put this together, we have the solutions, but we’re not trying to stop any of that development. There are, you know, certain types of development I suppose we’d like to see minimized or compartmentalize, mining is a very difficult one in some places, but we have found, we now have three different studies, that would indicate that if you control road building, if you control the impact that the miners have on that forest, you can actually maintain that area in almost the same condition it was before, because really in most mining it’s it’s a very well-defined footprint, you just need to limit the impacts of that footprint, that’s an extreme example, but for places for cattle ranching which right now is a huge focus of ours, the answers are there, that we really do have solutions, so, it’s not about stopping human advancement, it’s about making sure it’s a little bit smarter – And some of these changes, for example, in jaguar range, cattle ranching is probably one of the best human land habitat, which is, if managed properly, along the line that Howard is mentioning, allow both, the activities: the cattle ranching,
but also the existence of jaguar. Replace a cattle ranch landscape in South America by palm oil plantation or corn or this type of habitat, this is far worse for the jaguar, so it’s really looking at the type of human activities or landscape, because the very few landscape on Earth which are not man-made or haven’t been really affected by man and to find this compromise and this solution to live together, so certainly PANTHERA is not up to transforming cattle ranching landscape, to something else which would actually will be much more detrimental for the jaguar. The same apply in some of the landscape in Africa or in Asia. So it’s really finding compromise, but again this compromise can only be found if we are pragmatic and we know what we are doing there and we need to be credible also with the rancher we engage with, we need to show that we understand also their issue, their hardship, their constrain and their challenges, so that we don’t come up with completely an alien perspective or with logic that they can’t really acknowledge with. If you have a dialogue, you need to be able to show that first you have the capacity to listen to the person you want to engage and to understand and know what this person is going through and then we bring what the jaguar is going through and its challenge and things. They can’t talk by themselves, we have to talk on behalf of the jaguar, but it is a dialogue and this dialogue is only relevant if people is confident that actually the people they are talking to understand what they have to say. And then this way, each time we do that, most of the time we find a common solution there. But it is a repetitive process, it takes time, – Another big challenge is part of the situation tigers are at now, is the Chinese demand for tiger parts, for the Traditional Chinese Medicine and this belief that, if they take parts of this powerful animal, those powers will be theirs and that’s a big part of why tigers are in such a critical situation right now. The Chinese black market, is starting to look at jaguars as the substitute for tigers now and and this is a hug-huge threat, am I right?
– Yes, I mean it is, but I want to say something there, I mean this idea of a traditional Chinese medicine, is at least for me, is is a non-starter. There is absolutely nothing traditional in the way now Chinese or other people are exploiting wildlife. There’s never been traditional, in any Chinese culture to use fang or claws of jaguar as pendant. There is nothing traditional in using bones of lions or tiger in medicine, these are more market-driven and I would say more, status driven the traditional, the traditional aspect is on a very few species. Traditionally Chinese medicine, never used Pangolin scale as part of their concoction or things. Now it’s become one of the main threats. One of the big threats, for example now on Asian elephant, is this blood bead that people are wearing around their neck, and that’s something totally new, two years ago, nobody have heard about that. But now you have elephants which are targeted, skinned and they take the little bit of skin which has blood vessel in that and put it into beads that people are wearing. Nothing traditional there. So we need to not fall into the trap, that because its traditional, then people have the right to actually continue this tradition. They have the right of their tradition, up to a point where this do not impair the survival of a species, – Of course
– it does not impair also the fact that all the population, all the society, did see this animal from a different eyes. When Chinese people are coming to jaguar range, to take off jaguar parts, because it’s part of their traditional culture, it is not part of the traditional culture of South American society, – How do we fight that?, how can… – I think there it’s, you fight it not from, I mean, you have a number of awareness work that needs to be done more, I would say, let’s talk about in South America, more about the the Society here, to say that you are being ripped off. You are being taken for granted, people are spoiling your national identity, your identity, so that’s not acceptable. We also need to deal with it as what it is. Some fringe of the population, and we don’t need the entire China to advocate for Chinese medicine, we are very often dealing with a few individuals. It’s not a mass market. It is a few individuals who are creating that, and you deal with it as what it is, a crime. And you target individual, and you target network, and you target activities which are illegal in nature or criminal in nature. I’ve got a first-hand experience of something… from my private life in the Middle East, where suddenly people realized that a lot of cheetah, were actually taken from Africa and traded to the Middle East. And the traditional approach that the Middle East or the country there are creating a market for cheetah, so we applied – the traditional international community applied the traditional ways of looking at that, looking at trade, looking at awareness, looking at making provision to restrict this trade and all these… but addressed at as nearly a country is thriving from cheetah. Being inside, we knew very well that the entire business was started through the interest from two people, only two people,
– which were actually benefiting – which were actually, wealthy individuals, but they were convinced that it will be fantastic for their status or whatever you call it, to reinstate the tradition of hunting gazelle or hare with cheetah. So they wanted cheetah. And to train them, you need young ones, so they put a price tag on it and they got a few and because they are wealthy, completely disconnected, the price tag they gave is tremendous for the people who can provide that, so the overall trade started with that and then it become free willing. People heard that somebody, a prince wanted cheetah, paid a lot of money and so maybe I can get some also, and then I can find new clients and so on and so forth. So the answer we do need again to be targeted to the problem and for that we need to know exactly what is the problem, but some of these trade issue or, yeah, they are a criminal network. – Were you able to stop that? We stopped it, but in the traditional way: once we knew where it was coming from, we had the father or the elder of the tribe, talking to the younger one and say: you have to stop. You are putting bad name on our tribe, on our family name, on our country, you are shaming us, this is not how I raised you,
– Fascinating! – you have to stop that! But this is not something you are going to put in the newspaper, this is not something you will debate in an international convention and all these kind of things. If you do that, people start to: well now I am attacked in my family, my nation… They fight back and you actually not solve the problem. So that aspect was solved, but it takes 5-10 years, for all the chain of supply to know that there is no demand anymore, so stop capturing young cheetah in East Africa. Stop sending them, because nobody is buying them, there is no market, but it still… now we still live with that five ten years after, but yeah, we can solve that! – So you have many successful programs where wildcats have not only stabilized as a population, but also thrived, can you mention some of them? – Yeah! I mean, I will leave Howard on the jaguar, because he knows best and on puma, but certainly in all places we’ve been working on tiger, with our strategy called “Tigers Forever” which is basically taking and selecting sites, where we have depleted population, but high potential of recovery, if we do the right thing and mostly in tiger range is conflict resolution and a better law enforcement, we’ve seen tiger numbers increasing, so we create basically, safe zone and I say these populations of cats or most of the wild animals, are actually fairly resilient, as soon as you lessen the pressure they recover… there. They recover at the speed that their biology allows them to recover, so some are slow breeding, some are faster breeding, but tiger are resilient and give them the space, give them the time, give them the safety, and they will find a way out. So we have in all our sites, documented increase from 20, 22 tigers to 30, 35 in one site, but in five years, which is quite fast there. So we know that it is working and it’s not rocket science. You have a protected area equipped, provide the right resources to the people in the front line and enforce the law, don’t invent new law, just enforce the one you already have. Control poaching, remove the snares, remove the incentive for the local population to… to snare those animals and also deal with the criminal network, who are operating in those landscapes. So we have a lot of activity on crime wildlife crime, intelligence gathering and all these kind of things. And on jaguar and puma ranges we have also. – Yeah now there’s, at least within jaguar range, there’s a couple dozen very good examples of, you know… As scientists we like to get the numbers and monitor them and luckily we’ve now developed a very effective camera trap and we work with a species that has spots that essentially are like fingerprints, so we can identify individuals, so we have very good data on the stability of populations, where we have implemented these kinds of conservations actions, so I hope, we do this interview two years from now, I hope we have hundreds of examples like that and I think we will. – And many of them in Mexico. – And many of them in Mexico. Right now I think the best example is the Pantanal, where we went, we found a place where there were jaguars, one of the highest densities, but they were being killed constantly, I mean, we literally heard of scores of jaguars within a year or two, that were being killed as a retaliatory killing, but we took control of a ranch or two in the area, we then talked to the other ranchers, so they stopped the hunting of jaguars and a couple of other things like
no ranch dogs and things… Suddenly, jaguars were visible and that’s what has developed ecotourism for jaguars and we were able to show the ranchers how to use these anti predation techniques so, in that particular situation we’ve seen, not only, did ranchers not have to kill them just because they were killing their cattle and we solved that, but there was now a positive value on that jaguar. And thus it’s one of those models I hope we can duplicate over and over and over in places like Mexico and every place of jaguar range. – Absolutely! Very well. Another dose of transcendent and important reality but there is much we can do and this is the time to do it, we will talk about that later. Do not miss, very soon, the third and last part of this wonderful interview that these great men had the generosity of sharing with us. Blessings and see you soon. Thank you very much. Females voice: This is the video-blog of Eduardo Osegueda on the YouTube channel of Fuerza Integral