Monthly Wild Cat News
A Voice For The Wild Cats of the World
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/
Thirteen felid species are distributed over all three climatic zones in China. Felids are numerous and widespread in China, and hence the country bears an important responsibility to cat conservation.
China is a country with a long history of agriculture and forestry, both having had a great impact on wildlife survival. From ancient times, the distribution of cats in China has gradually shrunk, and over the country as a whole, habitat deterioration and destruction are common problems that have led to population declines. In relation to the protection of wildlife and habitats, the Chinese government has proclaimed some ordinances concerning wildlife protection since 1960, issued the Law of Wildlife Protection in 1988, and is now revising this law.
There were various complicated situations concerning the implementation of wildlife protection ordinances due to governmental and social attitudes and economic conditions from 1950 to mid-1980. At that time, governments at different levels had called for attacks on nature, promoting the over-use of woodlands and grasslands, and hunting fur animals etc, trying to solve the country’s economic difficulties and overcome poverty. This had serious effects on wildlife protection.
Wildlife resources in China belong to the forestry executive system, which is composed of the State Forestry Administration, the provincial Forestry Bureau and the County Forestry Bureau. Police departments are authorized to persecute and punish poaching, illegal hunting and illegal trade in wildlife.
The establishment of nature reserves is one of the most important ways to conserve wildlife. China’s nature reserves are divided into national, provincial and county level parks, manifesting different levels of importance of the protected areas. In general, the establishment of new protected areas starts at county level and is gradually promoted to provincial and national level. The different levels of protected areas are financially supported by the respective governments.
Source: CATnews Special Issue 5, Autumn 2010 Authors: Lu Jun, Hy Defu and Yang Liangliang
Next week: Status and Conservation of small and medium cats
The medium sized cats of China are the European lynx Lynx lynx and the clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa.
Lynx are widely distributed in northern China and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. At present the number and distribution of lynx countrywide remain unknown. Although lynx occur over a large area, there have been relatively strong human activities across their range, and so the species was ranked as a Class 1 protected species. At present we do not know how many natural reserves include lynx.
Clouded leopards occur almost all over southern China. At present the numbers of clouded leopards countywide, as well as their regional distribution, remain unknown. There are intensive social and economic activities in their range, and although it covers a large area, they exist in limited numbers so were ranked as a Class 1 protected species. Almost all reserves in middle and southern China are believed to host the clouded leopard as one of the main protected animals, but the exact number in these reserves remains unknown.
Because large cats such as tigers and leopards are so rare nowadays, their role in the ecosystem has been greatly weakened so medium sized cats can be a partial substitute for the big cats. Therefore the protection of medium sized cats becomes more important for maintaining healthy ecosystems.
Cats of small size include the Chinese mountain cat Felis bieti, the Asiatic wildcat Felis silvestris, the jungle cat Felis chaus, the manul or Pallas’ cat Otocolobus manul, the marbled cat Pardofelis marmorata, the Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temmincki, the leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis and the fishing cat Prionailurus viverrinus.
Traditionally, the main economic value of small cats was their fur. The main threats are habitat changes, and chemical poisons used for rodent control in agriculture, forestry and grassland. It is well known that small cats play a great role in rodent control and are indispensable in maintaining a well-sustained ecosystem, a function to which much more attention should be paid.
As of 2006, China has established natural reserves covering 15% of its total territory. Nevertheless, except in some areas where the number and occurrence of these species have been studied, knowledge of the accurate distribution and population size of each cat species is still suffering from a lack of scientific data.
Since 1995, China has conducted a wildlife survey for Class I and II protected species countrywide every ten years. However the method was not particularly appropriate for cat surveys, leaving gaps of knowledge about cats in each province. Meanwhile the local people still have a very limited awareness of conservation, and cats still suffer form occasional poaching activities. There are insufficient funds for protection and even less for regular monitoring of wild populations, both being necessary for the effective conservation and long term survival of cats. Cat species would also benefit from increased recognition from government, academia and local communities.
Source: CATnews Special Issue 5, Autumn 2010 Authors: Lu Jun, Hy Defu and Yang Liangliang
Next week: The only endemic cat species in China
This is the first in a series of articles on the wild cats of China. The IUCN Cat Specialist Group has released a special report, in conjunction with the Department of Wildlife Conservation, State Forestry Administration, China. Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting excerpts from that publication to give an overall picture of wild cat conservation in that country.
China is a land of cats. Almost a third of the 37 living cat species worldwide occur in the People’s Republic of China. This richness is no surprise considering the size and diversity of the country. China stretches over 9.6 million square kilometres from the Turfan depression 154 metres below sea level to the peak of the Qomolangma at 8,848 metres. Ecological regions include tropical rainforest in the southeast to boreal forest in the north, grass steppe in the northeast to sand deserts in the west and high alpine zones in the southwest. And in all these distinct habitat types, we can find felid species.
For some species the Chinese part is the most significant of their global range. China is important for the conservation of the cats, and the cats are important for nature conservation in China because they are living symbols of China’s biological and ecological diversity.
But China is also the most populated country in the world, and the cats need to share all living space with many people who have, in the course of a very old culture, brought the use of nature to perfection. Today, China is the world’s fastest growing economy, and this brings new challenges, but also opportunities for the conservation of the indigenous fauna. Habitat destruction, the traditional consumptive use of cats, and the increasing fragmentation of the landscape through modern transport infrastructure are among the threats to the survival of wildlife in China.
But the fast development also brings opportunities: as a consequence of urbanization and rural exodus, some regions are experiencing habitat recovery. Vast reforestation programs help to restore the forest, new laws protect wildlife and their habitats.
Over 2,000 protected areas of various categories are today recognised in China, protecting 14-18% of the country’s land area. The increasing wealth of Chinese society not only provides more financial capacity for nature conservation projects, but it also boosts the interest of Chinese citizens in wildlife and nature conservation.
Source: CATnews Special Issue 5 Autumn 2010, Authors: Urs Breitenmoser, Wang Weisheng, Lu Jun and Eva Jutzeler
Next: Cats In China: Legal Status and Conservation
Many of our ISEC Canada members are keen photographers, and include both amateur and professional photogs. We are always happy to showcase wild cat photos on this blog, so if you have any pictures you would like to brag about, please email them to our office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ben Williams is one of our members in the UK, and a wildlife photographer. He sent us some gorgeous Clouded Leopard photos taken at The Cat Survival Trust. These small leopards live in dense rainforest, and he’s done a great job of making these cats look as though they’re strolling through their native habitat. (Click photo to enlarge.)
One of the things I find most fascinating about cats is that, while all members of the family have the same basic platform, you can see adaptations and variations among the individual species. To illustrate this, let’s compare the serval and the fishing cat.
Both are roughly the same size–the serval weighs between 7 and 18 Kg; the fishing cat, 5 to 16 Kg. They’re both around 60 cm long. They can easily be described as “medium sized cats,” but they clearly have different body types. They are also both nocturnal hunters.
The serval is a slender cat, with long legs and big ears. The ears allow them to hear their prey in the grasslands of Africa. The ears can rotate independent of each other.
Relative to body size, they have the longest legs of any species of cat. These legs allow them to reach down in burrows after rodents (as cat ambassador Cleo demonstrates). However, what servals most put their legs to use for is jumping. They can leap up to three-and-a-half meters in the air. Some have even pulled birds out of the sky.
To look at a fishing cat next to a serval, you’d see a stockier cat, with darker fur. The inner layer of their fur is dense, forming a waterproof layer.
Fishing cats are not jumpers, so they do not have the long legs. Unlike the serval (and, well, most any other cat), they are swimmers. Where the serval has a fairly short tail, the fishing cat has a long one, acting as a rudder. They have webbed feet to help move through the water. Fishing cats have semi-retractable claws (like a cheetah) that are curved like fishhooks to help, well, cat fish.
These are just a few examples of how different cats adapt to their environment. You can see many others, from the fur on the bottom of a sand cat’s foot to the mane of a lion.
Though herbal remedies may be gentler on the human body than Western pharmaceuticals, in many cases they pose an environmental impact. Some ancient Chinese remedies formerly incorporated ingredients taken from tigers and other endangered wildlife.
Since the China tiger trade ban in 1993, tigers have been officially banned from use in Chinese medicine. However, some commercial interests and tiger farms assert that tiger parts are necessary ingredients for Chinese medicine, and seek to re-open the tiger trade.
San Francisco’s American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM), working with the World Wildlife Fund, has developed a public outreach initiative on endangered species used in traditional Chinese medicine, and represents an important conservation milestone. Their collaboration has sent a strong message to the world: the established Chinese medicine communities – in China and abroad – want to uphold the Tiger Trade Ban, and they do not need these gravely endangered cats to save lives.
The partnership began in 1998, when the college first collaborated between the conservation community and traditional Chines medicine practitioners. ACTCM’s efforts have also involved the U.S Fish and Wildlife Fund, the World Bank, and the council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM). Just last year ACTCM played a key role in CCAOM’s passage of a resolution calling for the end of the use of tiger parts in any remedies, as well as a commitment of finding ways too ensure greater sustainability of Chinese herbal medicine.
Source: IUCN/SSC Cat News Spring 2011
Animals in need and endangered species around the world will benefit from more than $1 million in grants awarded this year by the nonprofit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. Since its creation eight years ago, the Fund has granted more than $8 million to protect wildlife and wild places like big cats in Africa.
The Fund approved grants to more than 100 wildlife protection projects, such as those that benefit big cats, including programs to reintroduce endangered cheetahs to the African wild.
“From big cats to penguins, these species are in dire need of help. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens work to educate and inspire guests to care about the plight of these animals, and these grants from the Fund support our conservation partners working in the field,” said Brad Andrews, president and executive director of the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund and chief zoological officer for SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. “Together, we can make a world of difference for these extraordinary species that share our world.”
Highlights of the more than 100 projects and organizations include Big Cats in Big Trouble.
The big cats of the world are disappearing. There are fewer than 12,000 cheetahs throughout Africa and less than half the number of lions that were there only 50 years ago. The Fund is supporting seven conservation organizations around the world that work to stop the decline of big cats and identify conservation strategies for their future.
* The Dell Cheetah Centre is researching and identifying ways to reintroduce South African cheetahs to the wild.
* The Cheetah Conservation Fund provides field training of cheetah-scat detection dogs to help protect livestock from cheetah predation and educates local youth in Namibia, Africa to learn the importance of cheetahs in their eco-systems and culture.
* Cheetah Outreach is implementing an educational program created to raise awareness of the threats cheetahs face in the wild.
* Cheetah Conservation Botswana is developing methods for assessing cheetah and wild dog populations in the Kalahari region of Botswana, Africa.
* World Wildlife Fund is working to save the critically endangered Sumatran Tiger.
* Ewaso Lion Project is investigating the factors affecting the population dynamics of lions in and around local reserves in northern Kenya.
* WildiZe Foundation addresses the numerous underlying causes for the lion’s decline and involves local communities to reduce conflicts leading to the demise of these animals.
An Amur leopard named Darla, a member of one of the most rare cat species in the world, gave birth in the Tallinn Zoo during the early morning hours of April 14.
One of the two male cubs was stillborn, but the other so far appears to be in healthy condition, the zoo has announced.
The occasion marks the third litter for Darla, who made history in 2007 when she produced the first Amur leopards ever born in captivity.
Zoologist Aleksei Turovski was quoted as saying that the Amur leopard is currently the most rare predatory animal on the planet, with no more than 50 existing in the wild.
Tallinn Zoo officials say that the public will be able to visit the cub in about two and a half months, when it is able to walk and has had its vaccinations.
Viewers will see that the dead cub has not been removed from the nest. Zoo representatives said that disturbing the mother at this stage is too dangerous, as she may harm the living cub.
In the meantime, the leopards can be viewed live on the zoo’s webcam.
A year after two orphaned clouded leopard cubs were successfully hand-raised and released in the forests along the Indo-Bhutan boundary, two more cubs of these rare felines have been admitted for rehabilitation at the Centre for Wildlife Rehabilitation and Conservation (CWRC) Transit Home in Kokrajhar.
The cubs, a male and a female, less than a month-old, were found earlier this month by locals in Chirang, Bodoland. Forest Department officials assisted by a local NGO New Horizon admitted the cubs to the Transit Home run by IFAW-WTI (International Fund for Animal Welfare – Wildlife Trust of India) with the support of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC).
“Locals pick up young animals found alone, often out of goodwill but end up displacing them. This is quite unfortunate. Our first priority with these cubs was to try and find the mother and reunite them,” said Dr NVK Ashraf, Chief Veterinarian, WTI.