Wildlife Vets International Update
The Amur Leopard Project underwent considerable progress and change during 2011. As in previous years, Dr John Lewis continued to act as veterinary consultant to the leopard project in the Russian Far East. The project is run by WCS-Russia and The Institute of Biology and Soil and the Zoological Society of London’s Amur Leopard Wildlife Health Programme (ALWHP). ALWHP seeks to identify potentially dangerous infectious diseases in prey species at proposed leopard reintroduction sites in the Russian Far East. As well as working out in Russia, a lot of work is done in the UK, and John Lewis is the veterinary advisor to all members of the Amur Leopard EEP (European Endangered Species Breeding Programme). Being at the heart of both in situ and ex situ conservation programmes for the Amur leopard, allows a uniquely integrated veterinary overview of the problems and potential solutions in the efforts to protect this species. Below is a review of the news and activities of Wildlife Vets International during 2011.
In 2010, an Amur leopard veterinary database was set up, since then the data of over 600 captive, and a few wild leopards, has now been entered into it. It is hoped by the end of this year, all data would have been entered. A welcomed development has been the established communication with the veterinary advisor for the North American breeding programme. This will now allow data to be added on all leopards who were born in Europe and then exported to the US and Canada. This database will be an invaluable resource for the future veterinary management of the Amur leopard.
A deep frozen centralised bank of biomaterials from wild and captive Amur leopards has also been set up. The bank contains serum, plasma, whole blood, hair, gland secretions, urine and other materials. These items will help facilitate the future research of this species.
2011’s field season ran from 24th September until the 15th November. This field season was characterised with warm weather; very unusual for that time of year. Temperatures never dropped below -10˚c and there was only a light dusting of snow. Despite hearing leopards from the camp, and finding footprints, scrapes and droppings on a ridge, no leopards were caught for radio-collaring. However, two healthy male tigers were caught and collared. This is an important capture, as one of the project’s objectives is to learn about how tigers interact with leopards in the same area. Blood samples were also taken and looked at from the tigers, as infectious diseases can easily be passed onto leopards. These diseases could easily have a serious impact on both populations. Three Asiatic Black bears were also caught. Although bears are not target species for catching, the presence of antibodies to specific infectious disease agents such as the canine distemper virus; a virus fatal to both tiger and leopards, would demonstrate that the disease is present in the area. Therefore the sampling of bears plays a very important role in the assessment of risks to Amur leopards.
The planned reintroduction of captive born Amur leopards into the Lazovsky Zapovednik nature reserve still lacks sufficient funding to go ahead in the immediate future. However, there has been substantial progress made at the Ussurisk Zapovednik nature reserve. In the south of the reserve, a centre has been built, designed to hold 2 breeding pairs of leopards. Leopards will be provided from the EEP once a few adjustments have been made to the holding facility, and details of the release plan have been received. The initial plan is to release 10 leopards onto the reserve.
For political and practical reasons, it is believed that the trapping and radio-collaring of leopards in the Russian Far East is very unlikely to be permitted for 2012, but this won’t be long term. However, this is no reason why WVI’s commitment to the conservation of Amur leopards and tigers should diminish. Activities in the UK will continue, support with all agencies involved in the reintroduction efforts will be maintained, and John Lewis, as requested by WCS-Russia, during this autumn will help out with tiger assessments and collaring in the Sikhote-Alin region. Perhaps more importantly, it is crucial for the future of these cats that development of local veterinary capacity continues. One objective for 2012 is to summarise all disease risk data that has been gathered over the past five years, and publish it so that the information will be available for anyone involved in Amur leopard conservation in the future.
Picture of John Lewis and the team with a caught tiger collaring and taking samples (c) WVI
Penguin Census Report from Peru
The Punta San Juan (PSJ) team had another busy year in 2012. An...
Project update on the 3 radio collared carnivores in Namibia
In the months following the release of a female cheetah and her...
Supported Projects for 2013
For 2013, Colchester Zoo’s charitable arm, Action for the Wild,...
Donation sent to Wae Wuul Project in Flores and review of activities in 2011
The Komodo dragon Varanus komodoensis is endemic to five islands...
Save Africa's Elephants - Help Ban the Thai Ivory Trade
Across the savannas and forests of Africa, tens of thousands of...