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.

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Puma study to begin

Vitória received her collar in late March. On the photo from left to right: field assistant Neto, veterinarian Gediendson Araujo, field assistant Ismael and project leader Dr. Claudia Campos. In the front row is the newest member of Programa Amigos da Onça: Vitória.

After a third and long field campaign of 45 days (!), Programa Amigos da Onça in Brazil has amazingly managed to collar a puma. This has taken a long time and the team has had to endure difficult field conditions. In total, the team has spent more than 90 days in the field in three field campaigns spanning September 2016 until now.

So, in the last days of March, a beautiful female puma named Vitória has received a GPS-collar. The name is suitable, as it means “victory”.

As a result of this success, I have now traveled to Brazil where I am currently in Petrolina preparing for field work. I am very happy that my part of the project can now get going. In the coming weeks, I will be investigating Vitória’s diet by visiting kill-sites to see her predation on wild animals and domestic animals. This will give us highly valuable information which will help us save the puma and jaguar in this area.

As a hint on the importance of the project: We can already see that Vitória has passed a farm, where the owner found tracks in the sand and, as a result, put out traps to catch her. This is unfortunately very common and shows how imperative it is to help alleviate the conflict between herders and the large carnivores. Hopefully, this is what the Program can now do.

 

Once again, I wish to thank everybody that has donated to the crowdfunding project! If it wasn’t for you then these next steps would not be possible.

You can read more on the Facebook page of Programa Amigos da Onça (in Portuguese but please use translate), and please click Like there to follow the work.

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!