Puma field work in Brazil

Ananias looks out over an area that we are soon trekking into.

In the past few weeks I’ve been out in the field in Caatinga in eastern Brazil studying the diet of a female puma. This is the first time that puma has ever been studied in this biome.

What I’ve done is I have visited sites where she has stayed for a little bit of time in order to see what she has done there. Was she eating something or just resting? The most important thing I have been wanting to find out is how much does she prey on domestic animals. This is very important because there is a lot of poaching of jaguars and pumas since they do kill and eat livestock. But how common is it? Are the farmers exaggerating or is it a real problem? And what could be done to alleviate this conflict?

There are a lot of thorny plants in Caatinga.

The field work was very difficult due to the harch environment of Caatinga. The plants are thorny and the vegetation is thick. Many plants have fish-hook thorns that would rip a normal t-shirt into pieces in a matter of hours. Also, for each step you take, there is at least one plant there to trip you. When going off-track, we progressed about 500 meters per hour. Luckily, to my help was Ananias, a local who came to be my field assistant. With his help I could use the many trails that exist which helped a lot.

Here I am investigating a goat that has been eaten by puma.

Ananias and I trekked on average ten hours per day in sweltering temperatures in this rough environment visiting these cluster sites. The temperature where we worked averaged about 30-35 degrees C in daytime. Add to this the clothes necessary to protect against the vegetation and it soon becomes very warm.

This six-banded armadillo was eaten by puma.

Some of the interesting things about working in this environment is trying the local fruits that grow ever so seldom. Running in to a mango tree after trekking a long distance was a great experience and I think that I have never tasted mangoes that sweet. There have been a lot of other interesting fruits, too, which I can’t even pronounce the names of.

Ananias has found a site used by locals to illegally trap carnivores.

There have been a lot of interesting finds in this study. This is the first time ever that this species has been studied in this biome, making it a pioneering study. I will now get down to analyzing the results. Hopefully this will lead to us being more able to protect pumas and jaguars in this area in the future – so that we can have a green planet full of life.

The project has been done as a part of Programa Amigos da Onça.

 

This is “cocinha”, small coconuts that you can find every here and there. Crack the shell between two rocks and you can eat the small coconut inside.

My year 2015

2015 was the International Snow Leopard Year and we tried out best to promote the cat and the book.

2015 was the International Snow Leopard Year and we tried our best to promote the cat and the book.

2015 was a great year with many adventures in many countries, including Brazil, Chile, Croatia, United Kingdom and The Netherlands. I did field work, writing, lecturing and a lot more. Many species are going to go extinct soon and it is time that we start thinking of how to save our planet. My work primarily revolved around this issue. Here is an attempt to round up the year of 2015.

We (myself and Jan Fleischmann) released the snow leopard book in Swedish in October of 2014.  At the same time, 2015 was named the International Snow Leopard Year by the Bishkek Declaration, with the idea of bringing extra attention to the needs of this cat. We spent a large part of 2015 promoting the cat and the book. I appeared on Sweden’s national television programme “En bok, en författare”, talking about snow leopards. We held several lectures about snow leopards across the country and also had two photo exhibitions, in Rovdjurscentret De 5 Stora and Naturum Värmland. It was also great seeing the snow leopard book so well received with many positive reviews appearing throughout the year.

Looking at how much moose forage on trees in April, May and June.

I investigated how much moose forage on trees in April, May and June.

The big field season commenced on 30 March and I did field work with moose for nearly three months. This work spanned most of Sweden, from Halland in the south to Västerbotten in the north. I saw roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), moose (Alces alces), capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), wild boar (Sus scrofa), European viper (Vipera berus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), brown bear (Ursus arctos) and much more. It was a very cold census with temperatures between 3-7 degrees Celsius in May. I had one field day in the coldest place in Sweden, Börtnan, although by then it was already warmer. Working near Sweden’s alpine mountains (Skanderna), I climbed one of them late one night in June. Going up on an alpine mountain always give me such a feeling of freedom.

In between field work I went to London in the United Kingdom with my snow leopard co-author Jan. We attended the London Book Fair to discuss international publication of the snow leopard book. It was nice being back in London since I had not been there since 2009. Just as the last time I went there, I did not have much time exploring the city, though.

The medieval wall of Visby is for the most part intact.

The medieval wall of Visby is for the most part intact.

Following this intense period of field work I had two days off and then headed to Sweden’s largest island, Gotland. I was there to study rhetoric for two weeks. The main (and only) city in Gotland, Visby, is an ancient city with a medieval wall that was starting to be constructed more than 900 years ago. It is still surprisingly intact and the inner city is a UNESCO World Heritage.

Coming home from Gotland I had six days off until the next trip. This time I flew to Croatia to attend the symposium Animal Populations – World Resources and Animal Welfare by UFAW. It was well organized, highly interesting and I can recommend anyone going to this symposium.

Visiting my friends' animal shelter in western Croatia I befriended many of their dogs. Luna (pictured) is one of the most amazing dogs that I have met.

Visiting my friends’ animal shelter in western Croatia I befriended many of their dogs. Luna (pictured) is one of the loveliest dogs that I have met.

After the symposium was over I went to Istria in western Croatia to visit my friend Mae who runs a shelter for homeless animals. The situation for animals is not good in Croatia and Mae, together with her husband Benny, help save dogs and cats on a daily basis with very limited resources. All in all, Croatia is a beautiful country and the people are very friendly. I hope that I can return there.

As a treat I had scheduled a full day in Amsterdam in The Netherlands on the way home. I spent the day strolling the various canals of the city and trying out a good vegetarian restaurant with international theme. Amsterdam is a beautiful city, although I was a bit tired from all the long travels.

Rio de Janeiro is a spectarular city. In the background is Ipanema beach, which is around the corner to Copacobana.

Vania showed me around in Rio de Janeiro, which is a spectacular city.

Coming home by the end of July I had been out almost contiuously for nearly four months. I was in dire need of doing nothing for a while and it was good to disconnect. I lead a group of nature students doing an otter census in Värmland in September. This census, which we have done annually since 2002, is a nice treat. Me and Jan Fleischmann also participated in the Gothenburg Book Fair which is the largest in Sweden, holding several talks there. Meanwhile, I was preparing for the next expedition: South America.

I arrived in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil on 7 October. It is a beautiful city with high hills and a big nature reserve inside the actual city. The beaches are internationally famous (Ipanema and Copacabana) and the Jesus statue is another symbol of the city which is widely recognized. I enjoyed Rio a lot and together with newfound friends attended the first vegan fair of the city, out by the beach in Niteroi. There were a lot of good things to try there there. I only wish I had been hungrier.

The jaguar is one of the most amzing animals in the world.

The jaguar is one of the most amazing animals in the world.

Next up was the Pantanal – the world’s biggest floodland – where I stayed for several weeks. I visited a jaguar project there and met several interesting people. I also saw jaguar, ocelot and puma in the wild. In between visits to the Pantanal I also visited a jaguar conservation project in north-eastern Brazil, run by Claudia Campos and her team. She was kind enough to show me the whole area for almost a week, which was really interesting and a very  nice experience. The people living in this region are among the poorest in Brazil but also some of the nicest people that I have ever met. You can read the full story on my Brazil experience here.

Towers of the Paine, along with lake Nordenskjöld, in Torres del Paine National Park.

Towers of the Paine, along with lake Nordenskjöld, in Torres del Paine National Park.

Onwards from Brazil I traveled to Santiago in Chile. I met with my friends Patricia, Christian and Sandra who work in Chile. Santiago is a busy city and the amazing Andes are visible just beyond the cityscape. Me and Sandra soon flew down to Punta Arenas in southernmost Chile. Sandra would start working with whales there a week after. Punta Arenas is the furthest south that I have ever been in the world and it was really a nice experience. One day I went to the Torres del Paine national park. Although the guide I had with me was a bit peculiar, the trip offered beautiful sights of the grand landscape. The park should definitely be experienced by foot, though, and not by minibus with a few stops here and there.

As a finale to the trip, I went back up to Santiago and together with Patricia, Christian and their friend Filip trekked up on some very nice peaks in the Andes just outside of Santiago. Feeling the fresh air and seeing the larger mountains further away was a very nice feeling. As always, being on top of a mountain is a special feeling. Read the full story on Chile here.

Hiking up to the peak of La Carpa in the Andes by the end of November.

Hiking up to the peak of La Carpa in the Andes by the end of November.

After a 32 hour journey from Santiago, I arrived home in Uppsala on 4 December. Mostly preparing for future projects in the remainder of December, the year came to a perfect close after a year that was filled with adventures, breathtaking animals and amazing people.

Thank you for making 2015 such an awesome year!

Expedition South America – Part 1 – The jaguar

Rio de Janeiro is a spectarular city. In the background is Ipanema beach, which is around the corner to Copacobana.

Myself and Vania on a hill in Rio de Janeiro.The city is spectacular. In the background is Ipanema beach, which is around the corner to Copacobana.

Brazil! A huge country, with variation to match, both in terms of people, culture and, of course, nature. Most people associate Brazil with rain forest, football and Rio de Janeiro, but let me tell you: There is much more to it. For the past month, I have traveled Brazil to learn more about the elusive jaguar (Panthera onca).

Arriving in what many consider the pearl of Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, I am shown around by Vania – a specialist in otters and a native of Rio. The city is most famous for its Copacabana beach, Jesus the Redeemer statue and Carnival. We explore the city, climb a hill at one of the favelas, visit a tranquil island in the bay of Rio and also attend the first ever vegan festival in Niterói. The landscape around Rio is spectacular making it one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Maria working with the cowboys moving cattle at Xarae's ranch, during the jaguar-cattle study.

Maria working with the cowboys moving cattle at Xarae’s ranch, during the jaguar-cattle study.

After exploring Rio for four days I travel to Campo Grande in the state of Mato Grosso de Sul. I soon make my way to Miranda which is on the southern border to the Pantanal – the world’s largest wetland. There I meet with Maria who is doing a master study on the cattle-jaguar conflict, and her Brazilian friend Luciana. Together we go to Xarae’s fazenda where I spend three days seeing the project.

While Xarae’s is mainly a cattle farm, it is also a place where tourists come to see wildlife. Many fazendas have started to develop tourism as a second source income, and the Pantanal happens to be the best place in Brazil to view wildlife. This wildlife and eco-tourism is a great way to preserve nature and wildlife, that might otherwise be removed in favor of cattle.

Edimison takes me out on Rio Miranda for two hours around sunset.

Edimison takes me out on Rio Miranda for two hours around sunset.

After Xaraes, I spend a few days in the nice little city of Miranda. One night I ask a man called Edimison, who lives just by Rio Miranda, if I can rent a boat from him. He takes me out on the river for a couple of hours around sunset. I also go out the next day for an hour. You see a lot of birds on these rivers and it is well worth it.

Meanwhile, Maria tells me that she found a dead jaguar by the road north of Buraco das Piranhas. It was most likely poisoned and had died that morning. This happens since jaguars sometimes kill livestock like cattle – especially calves – and farmers sometimes retaliate by poisoning the carcasses.

The next day I travel to Campo Grande to meet with Rafael Hoogesteijn. He is a specialist on jaguars and especially the conflict between cattle ranchers and jaguars. Rafael knows this situation very well as he has worked with cattle farms for many years and also with jaguars. We speak a lot about the situation of the jaguar and what can be done to ease the conflict.

A puma prowls the edge of the forest.

A puma prowls the edge of the forest.

Fazenda San Fransisco is one of the biggest tourist pousadas in the southern Pantanal. Many tourists take the opportunity to go there since it is easy to get to after a visit to Bonito (one of the natural pearls of Brazil). On a one day excursion to San Fransisco I see both ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and puma (Puma concolor) in the same night. Especially puma is difficult to see here so it is a great observation. I also see giant anteater, march deer and, of course, a lot of caimans.

From the fazenda I get back to Miranda and grab a bus to Campo Grande. I then take an eleven hour bus up north to the city of Cuiabá, which is on the northern edge of the Pantanal in the state of Mato Grosso (not to be confused with Mato Grosso do Sul).

There I take a bus down to the much smaller city of Poconé. I spend a few days in Poconé seeing the city. The next morning I head back up to Cuiabá for the next stop on my itinerary.

Claudia speaks with a local who is worried about illegal logging of trees, just outside of Boqueirão da Onça.

Claudia speaks with a local who is worried about illegal logging of trees, just outside of Boqueirão da Onça.

Caatinga in the north-eastern parts of the country is the driest biome in Brazil, and one of the poorest. While there are jaguars in the area, the populations are fragmented and quite small, due to the extensive hunting of the 20th century.

I arrive in Petrolina in the middle of the night and on the next day meet up with Claudia Campos from the organization Pro Carnivoros. Claudia has worked in the area on and off for nearly ten years, focusing on jaguar and puma. She is working to establish a national park called Boqueirão da Onça to protect one of the last remaining jaguar populations in an area that is rich in variation and comparably untouched by man. Boqueirão da Onça, which is a mountainous area of more than 8 000 square kilometers, has no cell phone reception, and many of the small settlements only got electricity two months ago.

We purchase the food we needed for the week and head out in the morning. The drive to the edge of the area takes about two hours from Petrolina. We meet up with our field guide, Neto, who lives just outside of the proposed national park. Neto knows the area inside out. His wife prepares lunch for us and then we pack up all things into the pickup truck and go west – straight into the proposed national park.

This is one of the carnivore-proof night pens that Claudia's team has helped to build.

This is one of the carnivore-proof night pens that Claudia’s team has helped to build.

We travel on bumpy and rocky dirt roads where a normal car would not get through. We spend the next five days visiting people, seeing the few areas where there is still water, seeing a place where a farmer experienced jaguar predation on his cattle, and also find pugmarks of both puma and ocelot, but no jaguar. We also visit a few of the jaguar-proof night pens that Claudia and her team has constructed together with the farmers. These pens are great for both farmers, who will get fewer losses, for the goats who will stay safer, and the jaguars, who will experience less risk of being poached or poisoned.

Boqueirão da Onça is a beautifully dry area with a lot of mountains and cliffs. Once the rains begin, usually no later than January, the area goes from whitish grey into a bloom. Still, even in the dry season, a lot of plants persist and there are also valleys which are green year around. Seeing the area was a good experience and the people there are among the friendliest that I have ever met.

Back in Petrolina I then fly to Sao Paulo where I take a 27 hour bus back up to Cuiabá. About 16 hours in, a man sitting in the seat in front of me is arrested by the police for smuggling drugs, which he hid inside the seats while the other passengers were out having lunch.

In Cuiabá I meet with my snow leopard book colleague Jan Fleischmann, who has just spent a bit of time in Porto Jofre seeing jaguars. We take a bus down to Poconé and from there hire a taxi to take us to Porto Jofre. At the entrance we are met by Roger at Hotel Pantanal North, where we will stay for a few days. Porto Jofre is possibly the best place in the world to spot for jaguars, especially around September and October. We spend four days criss-crossing the various rivers and tributaries on boat, searching.

Once the sun has set this jaguar male goes into the forest and we head back home for the night.

Once the sun has set this jaguar male goes into the forest and we head back home for the night.

The jaguar is a beautifully spotted cat – the largest in the Americas. At the first look one usually think it resembles a leopard. Its life history, though, is more similar to that of the tiger.

On the side of the river, a female jaguar is with her cub. It is 33 degrees Celsius and sunny, and the two jaguars slowly walk alongside the edge of the river, sometimes stopping to clean each other. The female shows affectionate maternal love toward its cub. In seeing this, I am thinking that it must be difficult to hate or dislike these cats. They are truly awe-inspiring.

In the end, we observed no less than seven jaguars in these four days. I am thrilled to have seen this beautiful carnivore in the wild – a place where I hope that it will be allowed to continue to live. This also marks the end of the first part of my trip to South America, which continues in a few hours to another country, where part two begins.

I wish to thank all the kind and warm people that I have met during this month.

Muito obrigado, Brasil!

Snow leopard book Facebook page

We have created a Facebook page for the snow leopard book, due in the fall of 2014.  On the Facebook page you can read more on our work with the book as we will update it with our progress. Jan has just, for instance, come home from northern India seeing several snow leopards and getting really good pictures!

Please follow this link to come to the Facebook page on the book: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sn%C3%B6leopard/721503767871043

The book will first be published in Swedish with an English version hopefully coming later.

My year 2013

I saw the Asiatic elephant in Rajaji National Park in January.

I saw the Asiatic elephant in Rajaji National Park in January.

The year of 2013 was particularly eventful. Here is the story of some of the expeditions that I undertook and some of the work that I did in the past year.

On New Years Day 2013 I woke up in Sasan Gir near Gir National Park in India and had a morning tour seeing crocodiles and a lot of birds. I had, just the day before, spotted five Asiatic lionesses in the same national park. The expedition in India continued to the former Portuguese colony of Diu and then on to Rishikesh, Rajaji National Park and New Delhi after which it was time to get on an airplane to head back home – but there was one more stop along the way.

Qatar is the richest country in the world.

Qatar is the richest country in the world.

Qatar – the richest country in the world when measured as gross domestic product per capita – was the last step in the five and a half week expedition to Asia. I spent roughly twelve hours strolling the streets, mosques and skyscrapers of a nation built mostly on oil money.

I started working for the Swedish Carnivore Association as the regional coordinator from February. I work with supporting the organization’s regional forces in trying to save the large carnivores in Sweden. In my job I helped out to build a carnivore-proof enclosure for sheep, organized a lecture with a prominent ethologist where I also acted host of the event, organized many meetings, participated in events, writing newsletters and much more.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg in France.

The European Parliament in Strasbourg in France.

Many years prior, I did learn how to use ice skates and 2013 was the year when I re-learned how to use them. I also developed my skills with the snowboard and started training Brazilian jiu-jitsu a little bit again after a long hiatus.

In April I traveled to Finland to explore its capital, Helsinki, for a day. Although it was rather cold the trip was a very nice experience.

Starting out with field work in early May, I scanned the forests for trees that have been eaten by moose for Svensk Naturförvaltning AB. This job took me through the counties of Värmland, Örebro, Södermanland, Stockholm and Dalarna.

I visited the Swedish Riksdag to learn more about the political game.

I visited the Swedish Riksdag to learn more about the political game.

I traveled to Germany and France at the end of August and early September visiting the cities of Freiburg, Strasbourg and Berlin. Freiburg is known for its environmental initiatives while Strasbourg is home to the European Parliament and in Berlin I saw one of the strongest men in the world – a vegan; Patrik Baboumian – score a world record lifting and walking ten meters with a yoke weighing 555 kg.

A tradition in the fall is censusing otters and in September I set out with a team looking for tracks of the acrobatic aquatic animal. I was interviewed by both Värmlands folkblad and Nya Wermlandstidningen regarding the census. We found quite a lot of scats which is a good sign of that the otter is slowly but surely returning.

The International Snow Leopard Conservation Forum was hosted by the president of Kyrgyzstan.

The International Snow Leopard Conservation Forum in Kyrgyzstan marked what could be a new era in snow leopard conservation.

Together with a class from my old school I visited the Swedish Riksdag (parliament) to learn more about how the political processes work.

Late in October I traveled to Kyrgyzstan to participate in the International Snow Leopard Conservation Forum. The forum was hosted by the president of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev. I also hiked up in Ala Archa National Park for one day and explored the capital of Bishkek. On the way back from Kyrgyzstan I had a full day in Istanbul in Turkey, exploring large parts of the city.

I have held five talks on carnivore conservation in 2013, in Uddevalla, Kristinehamn, Borås, Höör and Stöllet.

Fishes at Universeum in Gothenburg by the end of the year.

Fishes at Universeum in Gothenburg by the end of the year.

For the carnivore magazine Våra Rovdjur I wrote an article about the Asiatic lion after my meeting with the species in Gir National Park and also an article on the Iberian wolf based on an interview with researcher José Lopez and the snow leopard conservation forum that I participated in along with an interview of Brad Rutherford, director of Snow Leopard Trust.

Late in December I visited Universeum in Gothenburg and had a very nice and calm New Year’s Eve with fire and a clear night sky in the countryside of Skåne.

Kyrgyzstan and the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum

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Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and lies just next to the vast Tien Shan mountain range.

On 19 to 26 October I traveled to central Asia to the country of Kyrgyzstan to participate in the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum.

Leaders from all twelve snow leopard range countries agreed to a declaration to save the species from extinction. The seminar was hosted by the president of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev in cooperation with organizations such as the World Bank, Snow Leopard Trust, Snow Leopard Conservancy, WWF, NABU and others.

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One of many seminars and discussions at the Global Snow Leopard Conservation Forum discussing the conservation of the big cat.

The country delegations agreed on the final draft and the agreement was signed on 23 October. Along with the declaration, the countries also agreed on an action plan, the Global Snow Leopard and Ecosystem Protection Plan, which deals with specific plans on how the goal is to be reached.

After the forum I spent a full day in Ala Archa National Park. It is beautifully situated in the Tien Shan mountain range.

On my way back from Kyrgyzstan I stopped by in Istanbul in Turkey for a full day exploring the city. Situated just in between the Sea of Marmara and the Black sea, it is the connecting point between Asia and Europe. Exploring Istanbul was very nice although the city’s vast tourism industry takes a bit of the charm away from it.

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I spent a full day walking around in Ala Archa National Park which is situated just 40 kilometers south of Bishkek. Some peaks reach to nearly 5 000 meters above sea level.

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I am next to one of the signs of the forum.

Sverre Sjölander lecture in Uppsala

Sverre Sjölander Uppsala

Click the picture to come to the Facebook event.

On Tuesday 1 October Svenska Rovdjursföreningen (the Swedish Carnivore Association) arranges a lecture with well-known zoologist Sverre Sjölander in Uppsala. The question that Sverre Sjölander looks to answer is “Who owns the wild animals?”. The lecture is in Swedish and free of cost. Come to see me there.