A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
As a medium-sized cat in Iran, the caracal has been rarely studied in the wild. In some areas, the animal suffers from persecution by communities, particularly whenever they are seen near livestock.
Following several reports of caracal poaching in eastern country by local people, a rapid assessment of human-caracal interaction was implemented by the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) in Ark & Korang Protected Area, South Khorasan province which borders Afghanistan. Systematic inquiries with local shepherds indicated significantly higher depredation by wolves in the area; however, the caracal has been reported to be in charge in some cases within three main villages. Presently, obtained data are analyzed to present to the South Khorasan Department of Environment to indicate intensity of conflict and measures to reduce it. Meanwhile, local volunteers have been trained to find evidence of the caracal and to deploy camera traps.
With an area of around 300 km2, Ark & Korang Protected Area is a recently established protected area in eastern country which inhabits a variety of typical species, including carnivores. However, intensive conflict between people and communities has been reported to Iranian Department of Environment which is a natural consequence of heavy depletion of prey species, i.e. ungulates. Eastern Iran has been never properly surveyed for carnivores and presently, the Iranian Cheetah Society (ICS) has been launching three different projects to study the carnivores from north near Afghanistan border to south where is not far from Pakistan.
On Aug 5, 2012 the Berlin Zoo celebrated their first Rusty Spotted Cat births. The two healthy kittens, which likely weighed 2.0 – 2.7 ounces (60 – 77 g) each at birth, are now venturing out of the den to explore their habitat.
Rusty Spotted Cats (Prionailurus rubiginosus) are slightly smaller than Black Footed Cats and Kodkods and are the world’s smallest wild cats. Adult weights are estimated at 2.0 – 3.5 lbs (0.9 – 1.6 kg) as compared to the average overfed house cat which ranges from 5 – 20 lbs (2.3 – 9 kg)! They are closely related to the Fishing Cat and Leopard Cat with the main distinguishing feature being it’s tail which averages about 50% of head to body length and is unmarked. In the wild, births usually occur in the spring in a secluded den. The gestation period is approximately 67 days with a litter size of one to three kittens.
Rusty-Spotted cats are found exclusively in Sri Lanka and India. They are threatened by habitat loss due to the conversion of wild lands to farms. The Indian population is listed as CITES Appendix I and the Sri Lankan population as CITES Appendix II. There is some encouraging news from World Wildlife Fund camera trapping studies over the past few years which discovered Rusty Spotted Cats in the Terai Arc landscape which was a previously unknown distribution area.
Very few zoos display and breed this species so these kittens are a vital and important addition to the captive population. To see these cats in action watch the video of Rusty Spotted Cats from the Wildlife Heritage Foundation.
For more information on Rusty Spotted Cats and other small wild cats please visit the ISEC website at: http://www.wildcatconservation.org/
by Wanda Angermeyer
November 11’th is Remembrance Day in Canada and on that day we take a moment from our busy lives to honor the courageous men and women who have fallen protecting the rights and freedoms that we enjoy as Canadian citizens.
As I pause to reflect on the ultimate sacrifice these people made, it makes me think of the finality of death, especially when numerous deaths could mean the extinction of a species. When one thinks of extinct cat species most of us automatically think of the prehistoric saber-toothed cats. More recently extinct cat species include two lion sub-species (Cape & Barbary) and three tiger sub-species (Bali, Caspian & Javan). The Javan Tiger was only listed as extinct as recently as 1972!
In an effort to try to spotlight all of the world’s small wild cat species from time to time on our blog, the ISEC directors each have a list of 7 or more species to focus on. My list includes a couple of species listed as “least concern” and a few that are listed as “vulnerable” or “near threatened” on the IUCN Red List. I also have one species that was upgraded from “vulnerable” to “endangered” in 2008; the Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus).
The Fishing Cat, once locally common in some areas of eastern India and Bangladesh, has become increasingly difficult to locate throughout their range. The scarcity of recent records suggests that over the past decade, they have undergone a serious and significant population decline. Even in protected wetlands and former Fishing Cat study areas, researchers have been unable to document their presence.
Wetland destruction is the primary threat facing this species, as over 50% of Asian wetlands are under threat and disappearing. Other threats include pollution, hunting and indiscriminate trapping, snaring and poisoning are also taking a toll. A more recently recognized threat was identified in an ABC news report from April 24, 2012 which stated that Thailand shrimp farming is threatening the Fishing Cat. Biologist Namfon Cutter has been conducting research on this species for eight years and claims that the farms threaten the cats in two ways. First through the loss of habitat and also when local villagers kill the cats for preying on their livestock as an alternate food source. Unfortunately it is our consumption of shrimp here in North America that drives the Thailand shrimp farms economy.
It seems like a bleak and tragic future for these amazing little swimming cats but there is some good news. Working with government officials, researchers have had the Fishing Cat made part of the provincial natural resources protection policy, and an extensive public awareness conservation campaign is underway. There has also been some success with captive reproduction of this species. Some of the institutions that celebrated Fishing Cat births this year were the Newquay Zoo in the UK, the National Zoo in Washington and Curraghs Wildlife Park.
Perhaps in the future we will see captive bred Fishing Cats released back in to their natural habitat. For now, I intend to do my part by making an informed decision when purchasing frozen shrimp and checking the country of origin on the package. Hopefully we do not have to ”Paws” to Remember the Fishing Cat as an extinct species in the future.
(Don’t forget to go to our web site for more information on Fishing Cats and other small wild cats.)
Photos of the kittens born at the National Zoo in May of 2012.
Camera traps have captured the first-ever photographic evidence of Pallas’s cat in Bhutan’s Wangchuck Centennial Park (WCP), WWF and Government of Bhutan scientists confirmed. The species, which is listed as near threatened, has never before been documented in the region.
The WCP is located in the central north part of the country. To the east, it is adjacent to Bomdeling Wildlife Sanctuary, and to the west it is adjacent to the Jigme Dorji National Park. In the south it is bordered by continuous biological corridor.
Pallas’s cat, also known as manul, is defined by a strikingly flat head with high-set eyes and low-set ears that enable it to peer over rocky ledges in search of prey. The cat is threatened by poaching for its fur and fat and organs for medicinal value.
“This is an exciting and remarkable discovery that proves that the Pallas’s cat exists in the Eastern Himalayas,” said Rinjan Shrestha, Conservation Scientist with WWF, who headed the survey team. “This probably indicates a relatively undisturbed habitat, which gives us hope, not only for the Pallas’s cat, but also the snow leopard, Tibetan wolf and other threatened species that inhabit the region.”
Their habitats are used as seasonal grazing grounds for yaks from late-spring to mid-autumn and are also visited by people collecting cordyceps, a fungus that is prized for its medicinal properties.
The cameras were placed from late November 2011 to early June 2012 as a part of the Department of Forests and Park Services’ and WWF’s survey of snow leopard abundance in the park. The cat was first found on January 17, 2012, then on February 19, April 1 and April 18. In one close-up photograph, the cat appears to be sneaking into the bottom right hand corner of the picture, staring directly into the camera.
Pallas’s cats possess behavioral traits that help them survive even in the cold deserts of Central Asia. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed Pallas’s cat as “Near Threatened” because their populations are declining globally and they are disappearing from some areas such as the Caspian Sea region and Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.
Pallas’s Cat Photo © WWF-Bhutan
Yes, I know we don’t normally feature the biggest cat species on this blog. However, last spring the Siberian Tiger population at the Calgary Zoo increased by three. Local Calgary photographer Daniel Arndt was just in the right spot at the right time, and captured these photos of mum and cubs in their pool. We had to share.
by Pat Bumstead
It’s amazing how much coverage a zoo can get with a kitten video. Any kitten video is popular, but when you have four of the most adorable little bundles of Felidae at once, it bounces around the internet on an endless loop.
No one can argue with the cute factor of these little Sand Cats, but there are couple of items mentioned in the script that should be corrected.
The first, and one that has bugged me forever, is the media’s free and easy use of the word ‘extinct’. To say an animal is extinct in Israel grates on my nerves – extinct is extinct folks, as in dinosaurs and dodos. The word refers to a species that is “no longer in existence” – period. Sand cats are found throughout the Middle East and northern Africa, so their population is far from extinct. They aren’t even listed as an endangered species.
The correct word, which the press seems totally unaware of, is “extirpated”, which means they used to live there but now they don’t. I know I’m beating my head against the wall on this issue, but couldn’t miss a chance for the soap box.
The other incorrect item is that the sand cat is the only wild cat species that lives in the desert. This is not true – caracals, wildcats and leopards also live in true desert of the Middle East and Africa. One of the smallest wild cat species in the world, the black-footed cat, lives in the deserts of South Africa.
If you’ve possibly missed the cuteness-fest of the last couple of weeks, here they are again.
It’s mating season for Eurasian lynx in northern Dinaric Mountains in Slovenia. Video shows monitoring of lynx prey remains – red deer calf – shared by a pair of lynx (radiocollared female named “Maja” and an unknown male). Lynx are usually solitary, but pair stays together for about a week during mating. They were returning for several days until carcass was completely consumed. To hear lynx calling turn on your speakers. Monitoring was done as part of research at Biotechnical faculty at University of Ljubljana.
Video copyright Miha Krofel
Police and customs heads from 13 Asian countries agreed today to tighten controls and improve cross-border cooperation to curb the illegal smuggling of tigers and other critically endangered species. The accord came at the conclusion of the two-day international “Heads of Police and Customs Seminar on Tiger Crime”, which brought together top Police and Customs Officers from countries that still have tigers living in the wild.
Hosted by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC), and organised by INTERPOL, in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the World Customs Organization (WCO), and with the technical and financial support from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Secretariat and the World Bank, the Tiger Seminar objective was for participants to agree on a robust set of law enforcement-based solutions to protect tigers and other rare and highly threatened species.
“The tale of the Tiger is not simply about conservation, it is also about crime,” said Mr. Yury Fedotov, UNODC Executive Director. “It concerns transnational organized crime, high profits, widespread corruption, money laundering, fraud, counterfeiting, and violence.”
The Tiger Seminar brought together 26 delegates from 13 tiger range countries as well as senior representatives from ICCWC members and key partner organisations operating in the field of tiger conservation and wildlife crime. A critical Tiger Seminar activity was to raise awareness among Police and Customs authorities of the impact wildlife trafficking has on wild tigers.
“We must take immediate and urgent action to save these magnificent animals from extinction,” said Mr. Kunio Mikuriya, WCO Secretary General. “The global Customs community is firmly committed to working closely with its partners to stop criminal trafficking in endangered species and other environment sensitive goods, by ensuring more vigilant and effective border enforcement among a range of measures.”
Environmental crime is a serious international problem with a detrimental impact on the global economy and security. Criminals violate national and international laws through increasingly sophisticated techniques and highly organised networks. Their activities directly affect human health, and threaten the environment and global biodiversity.
“Our efforts to fight tiger crime must not just result in seizures – they must result in prosecutions, convictions and strong penalties to stop the flow of contraband,” said Mr. John E. Scanlon, CITES Secretary-General. “If we get the enforcement system right for the tiger, we will help save countless other species together with their ecosystems.”
Tiger conservation experts presented an up-to-date situation analysis of wild tiger conservation threats, particularly worldwide and Asian trans-national organized crime links to wildlife crimes, including the trade in tigers and tiger parts.
“Wildlife and other environmental criminals too often operate in remote areas with impunity, evading detection, and circumventing full prosecution under the law,” said Mr. Keshav Varma, Program Director, World Bank Global Tiger Initiative. “The World Bank and Global Tiger Initiative fully support the resolve of the police and customs officials from tiger range countries to collaborate on intelligence. We applaud efforts to intensify pressure on the organizers of criminal networks and corrupt officials who shield them.”
Working with environmental crime experts, participating tiger-range country police and customs senior officials agreed on cross-border action points, opportunities and cooperation strategies, after discussing national priorities, challenges, and reviewing best practices.
“This important seminar has highlighted the environmental crime challenges facing senior law enforcement officers and the need for enhanced international cooperation.,” said Mr. Jean-Michel Louboutin, INTERPOL Executive Director of Police Services. “Criminals cannot prosper from abusing our shared natural heritage.”
Tiger Seminar attendees discussed the need to develop a coordinated response to combat tiger crime.
“We need to work collectively through our respective environmental programmes,” said INTERPOL’s Mr. Jean-Michel Louboutin. “In this context, the INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore will from 2014 provide a key platform to fight environmental crimes in the 21st century.”
The Seminar also recognised INTERPOL’s Project Predator, which aims to develop the effectiveness of law enforcement agencies and form National Environmental Security Task Forces.
“If we lose an emblematic species like the Tiger, mankind will be acknowledging that it is prepared to lose any animal on the planet. This must not be allowed to happen.” said Mr. Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of UNODC. “By our actions, we must show that we have the capacity, the ability and the commitment to protect other species living on this planet.”
Sometimes you just have to shake your head (or bang in on the table) about the way things work in the world.
A couple of years ago, the government of India announced an ambitious plan to reintroduce cheetahs to India. Cheetahs there had been been hunted to extinction centuries ago, and tiger numbers in that country continue to plummet. The plan sharply divided the wild cat conservation community, but is apparently going ahead. See our previous posts on the subject here and here.
Over the course of the reintroduction, or translocation as the plan should be called, 60 cheetahs will be moved from Africa to three sites in India.
One of the sites choosen is the Kuno Palpur wildlife sanctuary in Madhya Predesh. This also the site that the government has chosen for the translocation of Asiatic lions from Gujurat. The sanctuary already contains tigers and leopards.
In Africa, lions and leopards are direct threats to the cheetah population, killing and eating cubs whenever they find them. Tigers can now be added to the list of predators on cheetahs.
The idea of moving cheetahs to India was bad enough in the first place, a politically motivated plan with more thought towards publicity than cheetah survival. Now they choose to move them into an area where they’re putting lions, snuggling them in next to the existing tigers and leopards.
India also has six small cat species – caracal, jungle cat, Asian wildcat, leopard cat, clouded leopard and rusty-spotted cat – the latter two very endangered. Has anyone thought about looking after the conservation of the cats they’ve already got, before adding the already endangered cheetah to the mix?
You can read more on the Indian cheetah reintroduction here. Let us know what you think of the whole idea.