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23 juillet 2018 1 23 /07 /juillet /2018 07:53

CE QU'IL FALLAIT CONFIRMER (on ne connaît jamais vraiment les gens...).

Les requins baleines étudiés aux Maldives ont une espérance de vie beaucoup plus importante que ce qui était officiellement estimé jusqu'alors : ils peuvent atteindre 130 ans (ce qui n'a VRAIMENT rien d'étonnant, et ce qui n'augure toujours en rien -ou en pas grand chose- de leur espérance de vie réelle)...

Ces animaux sont également beaucoup plus grands que ce que l'on supposait. Ils atteignent 20m (61,7 pieds anglais) EN MOYENNE, ce qui signifie que certains individus peuvent atteindre des tailles sensiblement supérieures... Nova Southeastern University.

Cameron T. Perry, Joana Figueiredo, Jeremy J. Vaudo, James Hancock, Richard Rees, Mahmood Shivji. Comparing length-measurement methods and estimating growth parameters of free-swimming whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) near the South Ari Atoll, Maldives. Marine and Freshwater Research, 2018 (published on July 9th).


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21 juillet 2018 6 21 /07 /juillet /2018 07:19

Ceci fait suite à "Vers la croisée des chemins" mis en ligne le 26 novembre 2017.

Dans "The Hindu" de ce jour, Aathira Perinchery s'interroge sur la complexité et les limites du recensement des populations tigréennes en Inde effectué cette année, à travers l'exemple des opérations dans la réserve à tigres d'Anamalai (Tamil Nadu, Inde méridionale).

Elle avait intitulé son article "Ground zero Tamil Nadu. Counting the tiger : on India's fourth national tiger census".


Quelques heures plus tard, son nom avait disparu, le titre se réduisait à "Counting the tiger" et l'article était passé sous la rubrique "Opinion"...


Ce recensement, certes le plus vaste et le plus élaboré jamais effectué, ne sera vraisemblablement pas beaucoup plus efficace que les précédents quant à sa capacité de rendre compte d'une certaine véracité démographique, pas plus que de l'orientation réelle de la dynamique de celle-ci. La publication des "résultats" en janvier prochain sera très vraisemblablement, une nouvelle fois, le simple affichage d'un chiffrage "politique" sans rapport avec la réalité. Mais il est bien connu que, faute de comprendre pour savoir, on décide pour pouvoir...

Andhra Pradesh, Etat frontalier au Nord du Tamil Nadu. District de Prakasam.

... forest guard R. Ayyappan bends beside a tree. He is monitoring a small camera strapped to the tree trunk three feet from the ground. The camera faces the forest trail. As Karthik clambers into its view, we wait for a red light to blink. That would be the sign that the special heat sensing and movement sensing remotely activated camera is ready to take pictures — of people, deer, or tigers.

“No, the light isn’t coming on,” says Karthik. “We need to lower the camera some more to ‘catch’ the tigers.” Both Karthik and Ayyappan adjust the forest green metal box that houses the camera. They are on their weekly routine of checking the eight pairs of cameras installed in their 358-hectare beat (a park’s smallest administrative unit) in the ATR.

This year, almost 15,000 pairs of camera ‘traps’ are being placed across protected areas and reserve forests in 18 States — all to count the elusive national animal. Photographs of the big cats and indirect tiger signs will contribute to the fourth All India Tiger Estimation, undertaken to ascertain India’s current tiger population. But scientists will arrive at the final number only by the first quarter of 2019, for the process is lengthy, the science complex, and the implementation of the exercise challenging.

“India’s tiger census is easily the largest such effort of its kind across the globe,” says Debabrata Swain, former Member Secretary of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

The quadrennial survey will cover almost 4,00,000 sq km of tiger habitats in India. This time, the almost 500-day-long process began in December 2017 across different parts of the country. Designed by scientists at the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), it involves four distinct phases. In the first phase, forest department personnel such as Ayyappan and Karthik tramped through the tiger habitats in their beats for a week, recording signs of large cats (such as scats or pugmarks). This provides information on the number of tiger signs seen every kilometre, which is later used to supplement camera trap data and predict tiger numbers in larger areas where such cameras cannot be used.

The field teams also note signs of prey and the area’s dominant vegetation. With many tiger habitats bordering villages and towns, human disturbance in the region is noted too, for it can play a role in tiger distribution. In the ATR, for instance, tea and coffee plantations completely surround some of the reserve’s lush evergreen forest patches.

“Estate workers have seen tigers walk this way sometimes,” says Karthik, pointing to the wide forest trail that skirts a coffee plantation further ahead. “We saw tiger scat here during the sign survey too.”

During the sign survey, Karthik, Ayyappan and other forest guards in the ATR identified numerous such locations where camera traps had the maximum chances of obtaining tiger photographs. From these, ATR’s in-house biologist Arumugam Rathinasamy shortlisted around 480 locations, distributed across the reserve’s three ‘blocks’ of roughly 300 sq km each. He had to take into account factors such as the distance between camera traps, which plays a crucial role in obtaining precise tiger numbers.

“Direct tiger sightings are very rare here,” says Ayyappan, as he checks whether the camera’s batteries are still working. “Though we can infer tiger presence from pugmarks or scats, camera traps give us undeniable proof that there are tigers in our beat.”

The photographs, however, are not to confirm tiger presence alone. Each tiger has a unique stripe pattern. By comparing them, either visually or using a software, scientists can identify individual tigers. The total number of tigers caught on such camera traps is the minimum number of tigers in the region. In the ATR (which is a medium-density tiger landscape), the last census showed a minimum count of 20. This number, however, is not an estimate of the tiger population in the area. Cameras may not capture every single tiger either because some of them may not have walked that way or the cameras may have malfunctioned when they did.

To account for these eventualities, and also for methodological reasons, scientists study the number of times a specific tiger was captured on camera, as well as the number of times the cameras recaptured the same tiger again. This method, which also factors in the locations of the camera traps to estimate the population size, is known as ‘spatially explicit capture recapture’ (SECR).

Once camera-trapping wraps up across the country, all the teams will compile their data and send it to the WII and the NTCA for scientific data analysis. Then, in a process known as index calibration, the tiger numbers obtained from the more accurate camera-trapping exercises in different reserve forests will be integrated with coarser information from sign surveys and other data that cover larger areas. This will provide an estimate for the entire country.

Though the survey this time follows roughly the same methods as before, there are three major changes, says Vaibhav C. Mathur, Assistant Inspector General, NTCA. First, a majority of the States and reserves will use M-STrIPES, a mobile-based application, to collect data on the field. (The ATR, however, is not using it this time).

Second, to obtain more precise estimates of the tiger numbers, the area in which a single pair of camera traps is deployed (called a ‘grid’, usually measuring four sq km) has been decreased to two sq km. This means that more cameras are being used this time, making the current survey more intensive.

“With this, we also hope to obtain information about smaller fauna through the same camera traps so that we can work out which areas they occupy,” he says. “It would be possible to see how their ranges overlap with those of the tiger, which can strengthen the ecological tenet of using tigers as an umbrella species. Estimates of smaller fauna may require further refinement, which can be tried in the future.”

And the third change, he adds, is that for the first time ever, India will be conducting the census along with the three other tiger-range countries — Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh. Representatives from these countries have completed their training in India.

“We have come a long way from Project Tiger to the NTCA,” says V. Ganesh, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director of ATR, commenting on the changes in tiger monitoring and conservation over the decades.

Camera-trapping to estimate animal numbers is a tool that will work only if the exercise is conducted with absolute meticulousness. Carelessness — be it an incorrect placement of cameras or sloppy data analysis — can inflate or underestimate India’s tiger numbers, a statistic followed closely by wildlife enthusiasts across the world.


According to the WII and NTCA, India’s tiger population has been observed to increase at a rate of around 5.8% per year since 2006. The estimation in 2014 pegged tiger numbers at 2,226. The same year, the news that global tiger numbers grew from 3,200 in 2010 to 3,890 in 2014 caused much cheer.

But when conservation body Panthera Foundation’s Abishek Harihar and his colleagues studied the camera-trapping methods used in India and Nepal in 2010 and 2014, they claimed that the increase in the tiger estimates could have been just a by-product of changes in the survey methods, such as deployment of more camera traps and changes in analytical methods. They found that in India alone, the increase in tiger numbers corresponded with a 538% increase in the number of camera traps deployed, resulting in a 144% increase in the number of tigers photographed. The 2014 surveys were conducted in 32 additional locations, which in itself could have contributed to the rise in numbers, they said.

Though officials claim that the total area of approximately 4 lakh sq km that will be camera-trapped for the current census will not change, the availability of more camera traps could result in new locations being added to the exercise this time, too. For instance, the ATR (which has nearly 75 more camera traps this season) has finished its camera-trapping exercise and lent its camera traps to five surrounding forest divisions — Theni, Dindigul, Srivilliputhur, and the Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary— where camera-trapping will be conducted for the first time. This means that for the current census, about 3,000 sq km more is being camera-trapped around the ATR alone than was done in 2014.

“If more new areas are included as part of the current survey, it would be important to ensure that valid comparisons are made in terms of the sampling frame, analytical methods, and other issues that we raised in our paper late last year,” says Harihar. Government officials, however, claim to have incorporated all these aspects into their inferences.

That’s not true, says Karanth, who has been critical of the methods and analysis used. The present method of analysis does not address the inherently huge variations in the relationship between the chances of capturing tigers on camera and seeing its signs on the field. This renders the index-calibration method — which is how reliable estimates of tiger numbers derived from small areas are extrapolated to wider regions — invalid, he says. “The results of the national surveys of 2006, 2010 and 2014 do not make biological sense in the light of what we now know about how tiger populations function.”

Identifying this as a potential problem in obtaining accurate tiger estimates, Karanth and his colleagues examined the statistical models that generated these tiger numbers in a study in 2015.

“Our study found that integrating the two methods — which is what the index calibration exercise of the current census tries to do — is often a futile exercise that could be generating inaccurate tiger estimates for India,” says Arjun Gopalaswamy, its lead author and visiting scientist at Indian Statistical Institute’s (ISI) Bengaluru Centre. “Based on this mathematical finding and India’s tiger estimation results, the urgent and simplest first step is to re-analyse India’s tiger census data of the last three surveys to figure out whether India’s tiger numbers are rising or declining. Repeating the same mistakes will not help,” adds Gopalaswamy.

Just as the pugmark census was replaced with a more robust camera trap system, there is an urgent need to update existing data analysis methods with new techniques to make the exercise more precise and reliable, say scientists.

Another study published last year by scientists at the ISI developed a new model using a refined statistical technique that helps to better integrate the data obtained from the two different methods — camera-trapping and sign surveys — to count tigers on a large scale. If implemented, this could reduce the inaccuracies in India’s tiger estimates. Other countries are already adopting some of these new approaches and moving away from index-based approaches. For instance, the central African nation of Gabon is adopting some of the new capture-recapture methods to count its forest elephants, says Gopalaswamy, who is on the Gabon Technical Unit formed to implement this census technique. “Uganda is also encouraging new approaches for its lion census,” he adds. Existing methods would also need to be implemented more strictly, feel others. The methods described in detail in the tiger estimation’s Phase IV protocol (which entails annual camera-trapping to ensure that important tiger populations, such as those in tiger reserves, are monitored continuously) are crucial to capture the huge natural variations in tiger population densities, says Karanth. “However, this protocol has been merged and diluted with Phase III in the current survey.”

If implemented properly, the intensive Phase IV surveys can give a lot more information than just numbers, says Gopalaswamy. While it could mean more work for ground personnel like Ayyappan and Karthik in the ATR, they would be able to generate better data with these surveys.

“Obtaining vague total numbers isn’t too useful scientifically. It’s the other information that we get — births, deaths, movement, sex ratios — that tell us more about tiger population dynamics,” says Gopalaswamy. According to Karanth, conservationists should not be satisfied with “substandard methods”, given the crores of rupees and the massive effort that go into the census.

Back in the Anamalais though, Karthik and Ayyapan are oblivious to these debates. The camera-trapping season in their reserve has come to an end. All the additional work that entails a ‘tiger census year’ is done for now. They are back to the duties that keep them busy round the clock — from fighting the occasional forest fire to patrolling the forest trails every single day.

Actualisation au 27 juillet. Le discours officiel, bien sur les rails et droit dans ses bottes, se poursuit et monte en puissance dans la perspective de l'annonce des résultats du recensement en janvier 2019. A l'avant veille du "Tiger Day" (29 juillet), le Ministre de l'Environnement du Gouvernement fédéral de Narendra Modi, Harsh Vardan, a donné une première indication (connue de tous, les autorités ayant déjà annoncé il y a plusieurs mois que le nombre de grands félins lancéolés serait officiellement, cette année, supérieur à 3000...) selon laquelle les tigres étaient plus nombreux sur le territoire indien (en tout cas dans les chiffres...) et que l'objectif était de doubler leur population d'ici la première moitié des années 2020*. Voir le détail dans The Times of India, PTI.


* Cet objectif a été fixé en 2010 au Sommet de St Petersbourg, pour l'horizon 2022. En 2010, le nombre officiel de tigres sauvages indiens était de 1711. Si, en Janvier 2019, on annonce entre 3400 et 3500 tigres, on pourra sortir tambours et trompettes, l'objectif ayant été atteint avec 4 ans d'avance... Alors que 15 ans plus tard, leur nombre aura été diminué par 3... 

Rappelons simplement qu'une politique avisée des populations d'ongulés sauvages sur le territoire indien tel qu'il est permettrait la présence de 10 000 tigres sauvages...


Voir aussi "La forêt des 10 000" mis en ligne le 12 janvier 2017.



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21 juillet 2018 6 21 /07 /juillet /2018 07:05

Ceci fait suite à "Nature et culture..." mis en ligne hier.

Dans l'ouest de l'Inde, un continuum tigréen devrait être officialisé prochainement entre les états du Karnataka et de Goa par la création d'une réserve dans le second comme prolongement de celle de Kali, en zone frontalière du premier. Cette fois, il a été pris soin (en tout cas officiellement) d'éviter de perturber les communautés humaines environnantes, les zones choisies étant déjà pratiquement vides d'habitations et d'activités...  The Times of India, ce jour. TNN.


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20 juillet 2018 5 20 /07 /juillet /2018 04:59

Contrairement aux russes, dont la politique de protection du Tigre de l'Amour permet aux Udeghes et Nanaïs de retrouver pour beaucoup, solidifier pour certains, leur culture du Tigre, et aux Russes de s'en bâtir une, le Projet Tigre indien est, depuis son origine en 1972, basé sur la séparation des félins et des humains, au détriment des seconds. Ceci détruit les cultures ancestrales du tigre des myriades de communautés forestières présentes sur le territoire indien, et va à l'encontre du but officiellement recherché : une créature détestée en tant que symbole de l'oppression du pouvoir (arrachement à sa terre par déménagement forcé) n'a guère de chance de survie à moyen terme. Voir "Vers la croisée des chemins" mis en ligne le 26 novembre 2017, pour le détail et l'explication des perspectives d'aujourd'hui aux années 2030.


Dans l'Odisha, après l'arrivée de 2 tigres en provenance du Madhya Pradesh, on demande aux gens de ne pas avoir peur alors qu'on les a méthodiquement déshabitués à la cohabitation, et on transfère 75 villageois dans un nouvel habitat ("à leur demande" bien sûr). 

The Times of India, hier. Hemanta Pradhan, TNN.  


The Telegraph, hier. Sibdas Kundu. 


Et au Madhya Pradesh, les policiers du Commissariat de Mandla ont fait décorer les murs de leur établissement avec des représentations des grands félins et des slogans favorables à leur protection... The Times of India, hier. TNN.


Dans l'expectative, les autorités du Madhya Pradesh suspendent le transfert additionnel initialement prévu de quatre tigres vers l'Odisha. The Times of India, ce jour. P. Naveen, TNN.




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14 juillet 2018 6 14 /07 /juillet /2018 07:30

Demain 15 juillet, se tiendra pour la première fois le festival du "Jour du Leopard du Caucase", à l'image du "Jour du tigre de l'Amour" qui se tient chaque année fin septembre. A cette occasion, sera présenté un livre sur le léopard qui rejoindra les bibliothèques des écoles de la région. Seront également à disposition : une brochure expliquant quelle attitude adopter en cas de rencontre avec l'animal selon les circonstances, et un numéro de téléphone pour signaler sa présence et permettre ainsi un suivi plus précis. Voir le détail et les photos dans WWF Russie, hier.



Actualisation au 27 juillet. L'Ossétie du Nord Alanie vient d'accueillir dans un de ses espaces naturels (la réserve naturelle Alania) un couple de léopards (le mâle "Elbrus" et la femelle "Vague"), qui vient renforcer la petite population de grands félins de la région. Ils ont été lâchés ce jour aux environs de Vladikavkaz. Voir le détail et la vidéo dans WWF Russie.



Actualisation au 2 août. L'Ossétie du Nord accueille aussi des bisons sauvages. WWF Russie.



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13 juillet 2018 5 13 /07 /juillet /2018 07:22

Pour la première fois depuis un demi - siècle, une baleine bleue a été tuée par des baleiniers islandais, puis découpée pour être exportée au Japon pour la consommation de sa viande. Tuer un rorqual bleu est illégal même pour les pays ne tenant pas compte du moratoire de la pêche commerciale sur les cétacés signé en 1987. Les islandais ont repris, cette année, la chasse au rorqual commun, et affirment que l'animal tué est un hybride entre les deux espèces (le cinquième découvert, selon eux, depuis 2014). Considérant qu'il n'est pas possible de le différencier d'un rorqual commun avant l'avoir tué, ils préviennent que ceci pourrait se reproduire... Mail Online, hier. Nic White.


Metro, hier. Jen Mills.


Actualisation au 20 juillet. Les membres du "Marine and freshwater Institute" de Reykjavik, font valoir, dans un rapport rendu le 19 juillet, après étude génétique, que l'animal était bien un hybride, et donc non protégé... Jakarta Post, AFP.


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12 juillet 2018 4 12 /07 /juillet /2018 05:51

Les Romains ont peut être chassé les baleines franches et grises de Méditerranée jusqu'à extinction, 1000 ans avant la pêche basque dans le Golfe de Biscaye.  Ces deux espèces, que l'on supposait avoir toujours été absentes de cet espace marin* y étaient, semble t-il, non seulement présentes mais prospères, y fréquentaient assidûment les côtes, et en avaient fait une nurserie. Voir le détail du CR dans Smithsonian.com, hier. Jason Daley.


Voir le détail de l'étude elle - même dans "The Royal society Publishing", hier, 285 (1882).


Voir aussi le commentaire du "Japan Times", hier, sur ce sujet.

The results “provide an ecological basis to the hypothesis of a forgotten Roman whaling industry,” the team wrote.


Les Romains étaient de grands gastronomes, friands de cervelles de faisans, de langues de flamants (les fameux "phoenicoptères" de Flaubert dans Salammbô), et appréciaient peut être particulièrement la viande de baleine, comme le fait observer Jason Daley. Par ailleurs, Anne Bernet, dans "Les Gladiateurs" (Perrin 2002), constate que les "jeux" du Colisée ont progressivement épuisé une partie de la grande faune sauvage capturée pour la réalisation de ceux-ci. Strabon (Anthologie Palatine, VII, 626), salue ces chasses romaines qui ont "libéré l'Afrique des lions".

* Du fait de leur extinction précoce, mais aussi, et probablement surtout, de présupposés culturels sur l'absence d'industrie baleinière chez les Romains, la présence des baleines grises et des baleines franches noires en Méditerranée a été oblitérée par la mémoire collective de façon tout aussi radicale que celle des tigres eurosibériens en Europe orientale au Moyen-Âge...

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11 juillet 2018 3 11 /07 /juillet /2018 07:57

CETTE PEUR QUI RÔDE. Les habitants du village de Koto Tuo (district de Riau, Sumatra) redoutent l'arrivée de tigres après la découverte d'empreintes dans une plantation de caoutchouc à immédiate proximité. 

Les membres de l'équipe "Réponse rapide", mandatés par l'Agence de Conservation des Ressources naturelles de Riau ont étudié les empreintes découvertes mardi.

The Jakarta Post, hier. Rizal Harahap.


Selon eux, les empreintes ont été faites il y a plusieurs jours. Il est difficile de déterminer, pour l'heure, s'il s'agit bien de tigres, et quel est leur nombre. Certains habitants du village ayant observé les différences de taille et de conformation des empreintes, n'excluent pas qu'il y ait pu avoir jusqu'à six tigres présents dans le secteur. The Jakarta Post, hier. Rizal Harahap;


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11 juillet 2018 3 11 /07 /juillet /2018 05:24

Un empilement de vertèbres dans le village.

Cette année, depuis le mois de mai, et jusqu'en octobre, les pêcheurs de la mer de Savu perpétuent leur chasse traditionnelle, dans la zone ou le grand cachalot "balafré comme un iceberg" Timor Jack affronta les baleiniers anglais au début des années 1800 ("Une arche, un sillage" mis en ligne le 2 avril 2017).  Ils pratiquent cette activité depuis le 16ème siècle au moins... Hakai Magazine, hier. Article détaillé et Photos de Claudio Sieber. 


La "Seamen's Bethel" d'Asie du Sud. Lors de l'office, le prêtre rend hommage aux pêcheurs victimes de leur activité - dans Melville, des plaques commémoratives recouvraient les murs de la chapelle-.


Cet animal, blessé lors de la chasse, s'était échappé. Il a été retrouvé mort sur la côte une semaine après. Selon les années, la saison permet la capture de 0 à 40 cachalots.






Récupération manuelle de l'huile


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7 juillet 2018 6 07 /07 /juillet /2018 07:22

Six braconniers vietnamiens (dont 2 vietnamiennes) ont été arrêtés en Malaisie, avec leur butin (peaux, griffes, cornes, viande d'ours, panthère longibande , python, antilopes serow, tigres...).

Concernant les tigres de Malaisie, trois d'entre eux avaient été abattus par les braconniers dans les forêts de Pahang*, dont un tigreau...

 Free Malaysia Today, hier.


* Les tigres malais sauvages vivent principalement dans les forêts de Pahang, Perak, Kelantan et Terengganu. Des micropopulations sont par ailleurs dispersées dans les jungles d'autres Etats de la péninsule malaise. Ils sont peut être les plus aquatiques des Panthera tigris.


Voir l'actualisation au 9 juillet sur Mongabay, avec détails et illustrations additionnels.


FAITS DE GUERRE. Les braconniers vietnamiens se rendent en Malaisie, leur faune étant appauvrie et leur population tigréenne en particulier étant relictuelle. Voici quelques éléments sur des interactions entre tigres d'Asie du Sud-Est et soldats américains lors de la guerre du Vietnam.


While we all know that Vietnam was a very unusual war, I doubt that many people would believe that Vietnam's tiger population was a beneficiary. But during the Vietnam wars, it was claimed that tiger populations and tiger attacks increased dramatically due to the many unburied bodies. After all, tigers are known scavengers that feed at old kills, whether their own or not. There were also many tiger sightings by U.S. troops.

One of the most unusual tiger stories to arise was the case of the 3rd Recon Battalion Marine who survived a tiger attack while on patrol in Quang Tri Province in 1968, near where a Marine had allegedly* been killed by a tiger in November 1967. The 400 pound man-eating tiger attacked swiftly and silently, and the first warning the six-man patrol had was screaming from one of the four sleeping Marines. Startled while feeding on the man by the other Marines, the tiger started dragging its prey away before it was killed. The lucky victim was medivaced suffering lacerations and bites on the neck.

In another incident in 1969, a Marine in an ambush position in dense bush felt a tug on his leg and saw a large shape in the black night. After radioing in movement around them and despite being 100% alert, the tiger stealthily returned and grabbed another patrol member before being blown away by five excited Marines. Their buddy was released just slightly the worse for wear. According to SOP, they relocated their ambush, taking the dead 400 pound tiger with them so that they could extract it the next day. Alas, the monsoon meant that choppers couldn't get up that day, so their focus shifted to preserving the corpse before it started rotting. Fortunately, one of the fellows in the rear radioed that tannic acid, used for curing hides, was contained in urine. The next day, a very smelly carcass made it back to base still in shape for photographs.

Around the third week of May 1970, two weeks after the LZ Betty perimeter was penetrated by enemy soldiers in two places, Frenchy Lagimoniere and two other soldiers of B Company, 1st Battalion (Mechanized), 50th Infantry were assigned to pull night guard duty on Bunker 4. They manned the bunker at around 6 p.m., checked their ammunition, did their prep work and settled in for the night. At around 11 p.m., Frenchy was pulling duty and heard some noise coming from out in front of the bunker. He alerted the others and searched carefully through the starlight scope to find the source.

He remembered that night, "As I was looking for whatever made the noise a dark blur flashed in front of my lens followed by a white blur. This happened a couple of times while I was trying to get a fix on what was going on. Then I caught sight of a lizard about 6 feet long trying to scurry away from something. As I looked to my right, I saw a tiger crouched down lying in the elephant grass. Every time the lizard would move the tiger would pounce on it and slap it around like a toy animal. This happened over and over again. I pointed this out to the other guys on the bunker and we took turns watching. During the half hour this went on, others from the greenline also observed the tiger. Then it was gone." 

It's a shame that the tiger hadn't come by a few weeks earlier while the NVA were sneaking up and played "cat and mouse" with Charlie.

Rick Leland of B Company now picks up the story. "A day or two later, we were on patrol in our APCs in a area of fairly heavy woods and underbrush about 25 kilometers outside of LZ Betty. Late in the afternoon our LT saw something up ahead of us and told as all to stop. I remember seeing a flash of orange and we all agreed that it was a tiger! Man, we were excited and we thought and talked about it all the rest of the day.

"That night we set out a mechanic ambush. Late that night we heard it go off, so next morning we hurried out but all we saw was a blood trail. The LT and our platoon sergeant agreed we should stick around. We patrolled in the area that day and then set out another ambush close to the last one. Well, that night we heard it go off again so the next morning one APC went out to investigate. They radioed back and said we would not believe what they had! It was the tiger, which had walked into the trip wire and been killed outright! 

"Soon the word spread and we had a bunch of choppers carrying Brass and other higher ups flying in all morning long. We all took pictures and then hauled the tiger off on an APC." Frenchy added, "Everybody in the world wanted to take a picture of that cat."

John (The Mole) Williams, a B Company APC driver in the field at the time, added, "After the tiger was killed in a night claymore trip wire ambush, we wanted to take it back to base on the APC, but they made us take it off the track. By the time we got to camp dragging it with a cable or rope, all we had left was a tiger tail to talk about." 

Rick observed, "I was excited and sad at the same time to see such a beautiful animal dead. It left me thinking that nothing escapes war. When I got back to States my Mother had one of the pictures blown up and I have it on my wall today."

We started using mechanical ambushes and thought they were great because we could set out a half dozen Claymore Mines on a trail and rig them to fire all at once. We could easily go somewhere and set up a night position and wait.  If there was an explosion that night we could go back the next day and recover the bodies of the enemy. I can remember one night we had set out some mechanical ambushes and set up that night and waited for something to happen. Well it did! We heard an explosion in the distance and knew we had bagged something, either a VC or an animal. The next morning the platoon got up and we went out to the ambush site and found the body of a dead VC. The platoon Leader, 1st Lt. James MacQueen, and myself decided to set up another mechanical ambush around the body hoping to catch any of the dead VCs unit who might come to recover the body. We set up close by.

We heard another  explosion early in the morning and waited for the sun to come up. When we went in to check out the kill zone we found the body of a very large beautiful tiger! He must have decided to drag off the body of the dead VC for a snack, but he set off the ambush. There wasn´t much damage to the pelt and it looked as though the concussion from the six Claymore Mines killed him. We put him on the front of the track behind the trimvane as you see from the pictures. We had planned to take him back with us and have a rug made out of the pelt and hang it in the club.

Well, by about 10 A.M. he started getting pretty "ripe" and we did not have anyone that could dress him out, or wanted to. Just as I was considering dumping him a chopper started circling over us while we were on the move and the pilot called on our frequency and asked me if that was a tiger on the front of the APC. I told him it was and he asked me what we were going to do with it. I told him what we had planned to do with it but that it was starting to get pretty ripe. He asked me what we wanted for it and I told him he could have it for 15 cases of beer to be delivered when we got back to Phan Thiet. We made the deal and we secured an LZ and he came in and got the tiger. When we got back to the Company Area we had the 15 cases of beer waiting for us! 

"Bravo les gars! Vous l'avez bien gagnée, votre caisse de bière". Colonel Killgore, in "Apocalypse Now", F.F. Coppola, 1978.

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