Talk on snow leopards on 4 February in Karlstad

You will see a lot of pictures from different places in this talk.

I will hold a talk on snow leopards and the adventures with this cat on 4 February. The talk is at 18:00 in Naturum Värmland in Karlstad, western Sweden. The talk is in Swedish and costs 60 kr. It is open to the public and you are very welcome to come and listen!

Please click here for more information: http://www.mariebergsskogen.se/bildpuff/foredrag/

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!

Brown bear hunts moose calf

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The bear scouts the area after the moose calf has fled.

 Up in Gävleborg working, I have seen a brown bear (Ursus arctos) hunt a moose calf (Alces alces), dragging it into a spruce thicket.

The calf was screaming and its mother ran away at first, but then the calf managed to slip away from the bear’s grasp and walked away from the scene with its mother by its side.

The bear was seemingly frustrated about losing its catch and dashed around scouting the area for about two minutes before going back in to resume its daily rest.

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.

West coast expedition

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The cliffs around Smögen are beautifully flat. For many hours a grand lightning storm entertained us shooting lightning strikes all across the sky.

I have just gotten back from a three day expedition to the west coast in Sweden. I managed to catch a glimpse of a seal late one night and I snorkeled in the Atlantic Ocean trying out under-water photography. The waters were full of jellyfish and in particular the lion’s mane jellyfish, which is known to be the biggest jellyfish in the world. They are poisonous and I was only a few decimeters away from the dangerous tentacles while taking this picture.

Some years back, a national park, Kosterhavet, was set up to protect the only coral reef in Sweden. The reef has been under heavy pressure from large fishing boats ravaging the bottoms and killing the corals. The reef is far beneath the surface and is thus difficult to visit.

Now I am back home for a few days focusing on the work for the Swedish Society for Carnivore Conservation and other projects.

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The lion’s mane jellyfish is poisonous but seldom deadly. Its body can span two meters and some tentacles have been found to be 30 meters long.

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The area on the west coast of Sweden is rich in biodiversity. Seals, many species of birds, otters are frequently sighted here. Three weeks earlier a group of fisherment caught sight of ten orcas nearby here.

Last weekend I helped out building a carnivore-proof fence around the area of Tiveden National Park. This is much necessary as the wolf pack in the area have been sighted with five pups. Constructing carnivore-proof enclosures for domestic animals is one of the best ways of protecting carnivores and helping the people who might suffer economic losses and emotional headache from the presence of carnivores.

Expedition India Part 2 (pictures)

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Traveling from Goa to Gir via Ahmedabad

Continuing the five and a half week expedition we grab a local bus from Arambol to the city of Mapusa and another bus from there to the city of Thivim. We have a few hours of wait there before our train leaves and we say good bye to the former Portugese colony of Goa.

We head north, and this time we have 2AC seats/beds which are more luxurious than the Sleeper Class seats we have had before. The train takes us to the city of Ahmedabad where we change trains to go westwards into the state of Gujarat. We pass by Rajkot and get off at the city of Junagadh where we grab a more-than-usual overcrowded bus which takes us to Sasan Gir.

Sasan Gir is the entry port to Gir National Park, the home of the last remaining Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) in the wild. Earlier, you could find lion from Greece up to central India but they were killed off by humans and now only about 400 are left in the Gir Sanctuary. Spending two and a half days in Gir we are lucky enough to see a total of five lionesses of the subspecies. So far in India I have managed to see tiger, jungle cat and lion which is pretty good considering that I have only been one full day at Bandhavgarh and one and a half day of safaris in Gir.

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We saw five Asiatic lions in Gir National Park.

After having an early morning safari seeing various birds and crododiles we grab a three hour local train where we meet a very nice Gujarati family. I gave them some mints and in return I got peanut candy. We get off at the final stop and grab a rickshaw to the former Portugese island colony of Diu. Diu is an amazing shift from the normally overcrowded Indian cities. For the first time in India I see a clean street completely empty of people. The temperature is a good 20-25 degrees Celsius which is much more humane than Goa where we averaged 30-35 degrees Celsius. We visit the fort in Diu and stroll around on the streets looking at things and studying the different Portugese-inspired architecture. On the third day we have a nice bath in the Indian Ocean and practising some Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu on the beach.

We take a local bus to the city of Veraval. In Veraval we grab a train back to Ahmedabad and on from there far north to Haridwar and then on to Rishikesh. The whole journey takes two full days.

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Josefine by the fort in the former Portugese colony of Diu.

Rishikesh is known to be the yoga center of the world and even the Beatles came here to an ashram. The city is located at the foot of the Himalayas with the holy river Ganges running dividing it in two. The temperature is chilly and nights are cold. I am happy that I brought my long underpants from back home. One day we bathe in a waterfall and walk up a steep high mountain to have a great view over the rivendell.

On the fourth day we grab a local bus which takes us to the small village of Chilla which is the entry port of Rajaji National Park. We have a very cold afternoon safari in the national park seeing Asiatic elephant, several kingfishers, vultures and many other animals. Our hopes were to see the elusive leopard but, alas, we were not so fortunate. Catching another local bus we get to Haridwar and spend four hours at a restaurant drinking tea and playing cards before our train arrives that will take us back to Delhi.

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Rishikesh is known to be one of the yoga centers of the world and is beautifully placed at the foot of the Himalayas.

Coming back to Paharganj in Delhi, where our five and a half week journey started, is an odd feeling. Having learned so much about the country, its religions, its people, its culture and how everything works (and not works), we feel like experienced backpackers carrying more than the items we have purchased in our rucksacks.

In the last two days in Delhi we, by chance, come across the oldest Jain temple in Delhi. Taking our shoes off and making sure we carry no animal products, we enter the temple. Jainism is a fascinating religion which is strongly anti-violence and for equal treatmens of all animals. The followers are all pure vegetarian meaning that not only do they skip meat but they do also not eat egg. Some followers promote veganism. We meet a very nice couple at the temple and they show us around in even the most inner parts including the meditation room and a bird hospital in the temple where they save birds that have been injured in Delhi’s immelse traffic and by the countless ceiling fans in buildings. Everywhere in India you see a lot of swastikas, the infamous symbol used by Nazi Germany almost a century ago, but in India this symbol has a much more peaceful meaning, and Jainism uses the symbol as their “logotype”.

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We spotted a sambar deer in Rajaji National Park.

One day we visit the amazing Lotus Temple – Bahai House of Worship. The Bahai Faith is a new world religion which sees all the religious messangers as part of the same great whole so in the Lotus Temple all religions are allowed. We also pay visits to the Red Fort and stroll around in the amazing bazaars in Old Delhi, where some shops are only large enough to barely fit one person.

India is everything and much more. It is intense. The smell of incense, urine, cow dung, food and spices mix with the constant sounds of cars, rickshaws, bicycles, people talking, chatting, screaming, selling things and dogs barking and howling. There are people in just about any corner of the street you look and you are lucky if you can cross the street without being hit by anything in the first few days. At first glimpse all the food served has the traditional masala curry but after a while you start seeing all the small food stands which sell food that you could never have imagined existed.

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Jonatan by the Lotus Temple – Bahai House of Worship in Delhi.

The majority of the population is vegetarian and seeing meat in the menus of restaurants is a rare sight. Being vegetarian in India comes without saying because you would think twice about eating any of the meat being served anyway. Being vegan in India is a little bit more tricky because a lot of food comes with milk, cheese (paneer) or butter (ghee). Most people in cities speak English to some degree but sometimes it is very difficult explaining that you do not want animal products in your food.

All in all, traveling India has been an amazing experience.

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This is the Jain temple that we visited in Delhi and we were lucky to be shown around throughout the temple and its bird hospital.

To top it all off, we stayed at one full day, between airplanes, in the richest country in the world – Qatar, and its capital Doha. Strolling around huge skyscrapers and unnecessarily large four-by-fours and Porches could not have produced a larger contrast. The entire country is based around oil and gas money and in one mall there is both an ice hockey rink and a large amusement park – inside the mall building!

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Paharganj in Delhi is situated just next to New Delhi railway station and you need not walk more than ten meters to encounter the first guest house. Beware of the many scammers here.

It feels good to be back in the cold winter of Sweden where the white snow lightens up the every-day life.