Friday, August 19, 2005

You Can't Be Coldblooded

An interview with Ullas Karanth in the NYT:
Q. Have you ever gotten emotionally involved with the animals you were observing?

A. Objective scientists aren't supposed to, but I have. During the early 1990's, I was putting radio collars on tigers and leopards at Nagarahole reserve in southern India and then tracking their behavior.

With time, this one leopard got really quite habituated to me. For two years, I'd follow him at night. I had a little laboratory in the middle of the forest, and this leopard used to come around at midnight frequently and I'd hear his call.

Even half asleep, I'd turn on my receiver and when I'd pick up his signals, I felt, oh, O.K., there's my leopard. But one morning, his signal read as if he was lying inactive somewhere in the forest and I really got worried.

When I finally located him, he was strung up like a lynching victim. The leopard had walked into a snare some poacher had set up for deer. Yes, I know, leopards have high mortality rates, and I'm not supposed to feel emotion. But when this happens to a creature you know, you can't be coldblooded.

Incidents like this happen every day and their toll on animal life is cumulative. The killers are usually local people trying to get some protein.