Continuing the tradition of reviewing the year that has passed, here is my story of 2017. It tells of the projects, the excitement, the difficulties and everything else that happened during the year.
Waking up to the first day of 2017 I began the year with a breath of fresh air in the winter chill, and wrote: “I open the door and go outside to feel what 2017 is like. I take the air in. It smells fresh, new and unspoiled. I hear birds chirping in the ambience as the sun throws its first rays. There is an aura of potential in the wind.”
While I enjoy the optimism of said quote, the real life situation for conservation of the world’s biodiversity is less optimistic. More and more species – along with the genetic diversity in existing species – are disappearing. But then again, why not at least enjoy the ride?
For me, 2017 offered its fair share of adventures and personal challenges. Perhaps the greatest experience of the year was traveling back to Brazil to work with puma. In late March 2017, Programa Amigos da Onça managed to collar a female puma. The team had already spent more than 80 days in the field trying to collar jaguars and pumas. I was there with them in September and October of 2016, but we were without luck. So when they finally managed to collar Vitória in March, I quickly gathered my gear and flew back to Brazil in early April.
What I wanted to do hadn’t been tried before in Caatinga. I wanted to see if and how much this puma was predating on livestock. This is perhaps the main reason these cats are threatened in this environment. As livestock owners suffer losses, they (illegally) kill pumas and jaguars. While I’ve successfully used this method on Eurasiand lynx and brown bear in Sweden, there was great uncertainty as to how it would work in this environment in Brazil. Luckily Vitória kept not extremely far from passable roads and trails. Had it been further away then the logistics would have made it nearly impossible.
So after meeting up with the team in April, I began field work later on in the month and worked throughout May with gathering data in the field. It was the second most difficult field work I have done. Not only was the environment impossible to penetrate, with countless of thorny plants everywhere, it was also very warm and we had to wear thick clothing not to get ripped into pieces by the vegetation. Add to this that we had to bring all the water, food and other equipment we needed for sometimes up to several days of hiking.
Another unwelcomed addition to the experience was that a few weeks prior to me traveling to Brazil, I injured my left leg. Every step I took hurt a lot, and even more the more I walked, especially if I bent over. As you have probably figured, this was exactly what we did most of the time: hiking while bent over (not to get thorns in the eyes) in rough terrain. Hearing of my work in Brazil, people often tell me: “Wow! What an amazing experience!” Yeah, well, definitely an important project, but also very painful and difficult.
When I arrived home to Sweden in late May I felt like almost kissing the ground. I also decided I would do no more field work abroad for the coming six months. Working in Brazil was a humbling experience. It was difficult, but I am happy I did it.
Other experiences I had during the year was a short wildlife census in north-eastern Uppsala county in February. In March I spent one week teaching photography and carnivore tourism for a wildlife education in northern Värmland. In April, myself and Emil Nilsson of Biotopia spent a night at a bear hide in Gävleborg. We saw two brown bears during the night and later produced a podcast and an article from the visit. We were also seen in Upsala Nya Tidning during our quest to find lynx. Speaking of articles, I also wrote about snow leopards for Forskning & Framsteg and wolves in Germany for Våra Rovdjur. Interestingly, Germany now has more wolves than Sweden. We also ran a competition where you could win a snow leopard book, and had a small exhibition at Gottsundabiblioteket in Uppsala.
During the winter, Biotopia produced a few videos where I show how to identify tracks from Eurasian lynx, gray wolf and brown bear. Later on in the year, they also released three videos where I talk ten things that you probably didn’t know about lynx, wolf and bear, respectively. I also held a couple of guided tours for Biotopia doing snow tracking of lynx and wolf (there will be another couple of chances for this now in February 2018!).
Later on in the year, beginning in November, I would also go on to work at Biotopia as they have a carnivore theme running from November 2017 until February 2018. A lot of what I do there is talking large carnivores in Uppland and making carnivore pawprints in clay for the visitors. Besides talking carnivores at Biotopia, I also held another few other talks in 2017, among them for a conservation biology education at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and another at Uppsala University, talking carnivore conservation.
Beginning in December, I would begin with censusing Uppsala county for large carnivores for the County Board of Uppsala. It was good to get out into the field in Sweden again. I have missed snow. This work will continue throughout the winter.
So, that wraps up some of the things that happened during 2017. All in all, it has been an eventful year full of interesting experiences, both difficult, important and equal parts fun and thrilling. Let’s see what 2018 will have to offer!
Peace and love to all friends and everybody reading this! ❤ ❤ ❤