Sunday, July 20, 2014

Your Daily Cat

Fighting Persian leopardsA disagreement

London Zoo's 'Zoo Lates' evenings have been criticized for 'threatening animal welfare'

  • By Mikey Smith
Tiger feat: One of the animals at London Zoo
A reveller 'threw beer on a tiger' and another wanted to 'fight a penguin' at a series of boozy Friday night parties at London Zoo.

The 'Zoo Lates' events, at which around 6,000 partygoers descend on the Zoo to "party with the animals" raise up to £800,000 a year to fund the zoo's work, according to The Guardian. But critics say the zoo is putting the welfare of animals at risk by allowing drinking and noisy crowds near the enclosures until 10pm.

London Zoo confirmed that a member of the public threw beer into the tiger enclosure, which hit a male tiger. Staff also had to intervene when a member of the public started to undress before trying to get in and swim in the penguin pool - but Zoo staff confirmed that they were stopped before they made it into the water.

One incident, which the Zoo could not verify but was allegedly witnessed by a Guardian reporter, saw an attendee approach a zookeeper to ask "which penguin can I fight" and another zookeeper told a colleague some people were getting "a bit touchy feely" with the baby penguins.

A spokesperson for London Zoo said: "The animals' welfare is the number one priority for (London Zoo operators) ZSL. We send out guidelines to people attending, and don't allow alcohol to be brought on site. "We have staff on site to make sure everyone has a good time," she continued, "but the animals come first."

The summer events, with tickets costing up to £35, are very popular and sell out well in advance.
Zoo Lates marketing describes the events as an "after-work start to the weekend with a difference [with] over 60,000 [people] partying with penguins, tigers and lions in the heart of central London."
Scientist and presenter of Channel 4's Embarrassing Bodies Dr James Logan, took to Twitter after he attended the event and was concerned at what he saw.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

After all the reported sightings and rumors, it's finally a fact: there ARE #bigcats in Pembrokeshire

  • By Rachael Misstear

The pride of six African lions, headed up by an adult male called Hugo, have just moved to Folly Farm

Folly Farm is now home to a pride of lions
It’s long been debated whether there are big cats in Pembrokeshire... but now we can say for certain: there are. A new pride of lions has just moved into Folly Farm Adventure Park and Zoo, where they will be left to settle in before being released into their two-acre enclosure.

The pride of six African lions is headed up by one adult male, Hugo, his mate, Luna, and their four cubs, Sola, Zahra, Alika, and Ebele, who the new lion keepers had the privilege of naming. Hugo is six years old and was born in Knowsley Safari Park in Merseyside before meeting his mate Luna at Longleat Safari Park. Five year old Luna was born in Blackpool Zoo and she gave birth to four cubs nine months ago while at Longleat.

 Hugo and his gang set off from Longleat Safari Park on Tuesday and are now settling well into their new Welsh home. Two members of the Longleat team stayed to help with the transition period and to provide a full handover to the new keepers.

Tim Morphew, zoo manager at Folly Farm, said: “It will take a while for the lions to completely settle in as the new enclosure doesn’t smell of lions yet, once they start exploring and marking their territory, they’ll feel right at home.”

The arrival of the pride marks the completion of a £500,000 project to build a purpose-built, state-of-the-art two-acre enclosure for the lions at Folly Farm. Rosie Badger the newly appointed lion keeper, said: “Everybody at Folly Farm was so emotional when the lions actually arrived; I actually shed a tear. After months of preparation, training and visits to Longleat it was so great to see Hugo and his family in our enclosure.

On the first night the lions were quite tired from their journey and they spent the first few hours slowly exploring their new den. They ate around 10 kilograms of raw beef for their first meal and the cubs cuddled up to Luna. “It was a good sign that they were prepared to eat within hours of arriving in Wales and we are hoping that they will be ready to meet the public from the third week of July.”

The new two acre lion enclosure is made up of four dens/bedrooms and visitors will be able to see the lions clearly in the house through large glass viewing windows. Visitors will be able to enjoy clear and unrestricted views of the lions from three vantage points surrounding the outside enclosure.

Alongside the lion house is an education centre, themed as a fully-equipped ranger’s hut, which will provide visitors with information on African lions and the work carried out by rangers in the wild to monitor and protect them.

There will also be real life footage of an African Savannah and audio to help place young animal lovers in the natural habitat of the lions and deliver conservation messages about the threats facing lions in the wild.


Wildcat project to avoid hybridization

A project to rid parts of Scotland of feral cats to protect the critically-endangered Scottish wildcat hs been a success.

Big cats have been spotted in Galloway over the years, leading experts to believe the species is a hybrid of the Scottish wildcat and feral cat. And now a project further north - which could have a knock-on effect across the country - has left a 250-square-mile region of West Highlands feral cat free, according to survey by pro-neutering Wildcat Haven project. After a decade of bad news for the Scottish wildcat, in which population estimates have plunged from thousands to less than 35, largely due to cross-mating with feral domestic cats, there is now real hope that the species can be saved from extinction.

The Wildcat Haven project in Ardnamurchan and Sunart in the West Highlands, established by the Scottish Wildcat Association to conserve the species by neutering away its primary threat, has announced that after five years of intensive planning, trials and fieldwork funded primarily by grants from US foundations, that the 250 square mile project region appears free of feral cats and feline diseases. “Cats of any kind are notoriously difficult to survey,” explains project chief scientific Advisor Dr Paul O’Donoghue, “however a summer survey turned up nothing and over the last six months we’ve really saturated the area with live traps, cameras, vets and ecologists, and had lots of people from the local community out looking as well. The only feral cats seen have already been neutered, which means the population should collapse naturally within the next couple of years. Once verified, this will be the first time feral cats have been removed from such a large mainland area anywhere in the world.”

Based on a peninsula with a small land bridge, the area is protected by a large, heavily monitored and camera trapped buffer zone at a geographic bottleneck which feral cats cannot migrate past. Further surveys are being carried out and the local community asked to report any sightings, but now the project has its eyes firmly set on the next phase. “Our goal is to establish populations of genetically pure wildcats,” Explains Dr O’Donoghue, “We are determined not to settle for second best or to settle for a bunch of tabbies that bear a resemblance to wildcats. Protecting anything less than the pure Scottish wildcat will condemn the species to extinction. “The behaviour of feral cats and pure wildcats is very different, Scotland’s ecology needs the true wildcat and, outside of a wildlife park enclosure, this is the only place in the UK where they are safe from hybridisation.”

The project has drawn strong support locally, in an area with a remarkable diversity of wildlife where people are greatly concerned that any conservation efforts are carefully planned and rolled out. “This is a huge achievement for everyone involved,” commented Steve Piper, who founded the project with the SWA in 2008, “the project only really moved out of field trials a couple of years ago so this is very rapid progress on something many said was impossible; Wildcat Haven is easily five years ahead of the SNH action plan, they’re well aware of it but have chosen to ignore it; a practical, affordable, fully field tested way to save the genetically pure Scottish wildcat which has built the support of very diverse stakeholders; this is only future the Scottish wildcat has.”


Coweta County, GA: It’s illegal to shoot large cats

by Wes Mayer

  • Saturday, July 19, 2014

There is no such animal as a “black panther.” The animal most people think of when they hear “black panther” is either a melanistic jaguar, pictured, or a melanistic leopard. This photo was taken in 2006 at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Neb. 

It is unfortunate the most recent sighting of a large cat in Coweta County involved a fatal attack on a couple’s pet dog, but the public should keep in mind that shooting any large cat is a misdemeanor crime, say state officials. “[A Florida panther] is not a game animal,” said Ranger First Class Travis Sweat with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “You can’t hunt one, and there is no season for them. But we usually don’t have them up here.”

A Florida panther may have been the animal that attacked Josephine Young’s dog, Max, Tuesday morning near her Coweta County home. Around 6:30 a.m., Young was walking Max, her five-pound Miniature-Pinscher, on a trail near her home off Smokey Road south of Newnan when the wild animal attacked.

Young said the animal was a large, shiny, black cat with a long tail, maybe five to six feet in length, and it leapt through the air to jump on Max. The animal carried Max into the woods, possibly into a tree, and Young and her husband have not been able to find any evidence of their pet since.
Young called Coweta County Animal Control authorities, who notified the county’s game warden, and officials told her they believed it was most likely a coyote. Young disagreed and is confident it was a large cat, but exactly what kind of cat is still a mystery.

The only large cat native to North America is the cougar (Puma concolor), which has numerous subspecies throughout the Americas. The most common in the U.S. is the North American mountain lion (Puma concolor couguar), which lives west of Texas. However, there is one endangered subspecies that lives in the wild nearby – the Florida panther, which, contrary to its name, is also a cougar (Puma concolor coryi).

Only around 160 Florida panthers are believed to be living in the wild, and their main territory has been reduced to the southern tip of Florida, according to various websites. But in 2008, one was spotted by a Newnan man who was hunting deer in Troup County, and he shot and killed it.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, the man was sentenced in 2011 for violating the Endangered Species Act with the “take” – to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect or to attempt to engage in any such conduct – of an endangered animal. The maximum penalty for the “take” of an animal is one year imprisonment or up to $100,000 in fines.

The Newnan man who shot the Florida panther, however, was sentenced to two years of probation, during which he could not obtain a hunting license anywhere in the U.S., and he was fined $2,000.
Sweat and Jim Ozier, program manager of the Nongame Conservation Section with the Georgia DNR, both said authorities believed the killed Florida panther was in captivity during its lifetime – a few physical details, such as not having worn padding on its feet, stood out. However, it is still possible for Florida panthers to travel into Georgia considering they occasionally travel into middle Florida.

In either case, Florida panthers, like all other species of cougar, are always brown, and Young is certain the cat she saw was black. In fact, other Cowetans have reported seeing a large, black cat. Lauri Newsome said she and her husband were driving to church last Sunday morning, and on Minix Road near Fischer Road, they saw a large black animal walk across the road.“It was breathtaking how beautiful, black and shiny its coat was,” she said.

Newsome also described the animal as being very long, and it quickly appeared from the woods on one side of the road and disappeared into the brush on the opposite side. Another woman said she saw the same or similar animal around six weeks ago on Boy Scout Road while she was out for a walk. She said she saw it, from a distance, leap from the side of the road over the ditch and into the woods. She was hesitant to walk past where she saw the animal, but she had to in order to get home.

When most people think of a large black cat, they think of a “black panther,” but there is actually no such animal as a “black panther.” Instead, people are thinking of either a melanistic jaguar, which natively lives in South America, or a melanistic leopard, which lives in Africa.

Melanism is essentially the opposite of albinism, and is a condition where the body produces more melanin, causing the skin to turn black. A black jaguar is exactly the same as a spotted jaguar except for its skin and fur – about 6 percent of jaguars are black, and most black jaguars’ spots are still visible.

There has never been a documented melanistic cougar or any subspecies, though, authorities say. Ozier said Florida panthers used to be widespread and lived in Georgia around 200 years ago, but even then, there were no recorded sightings of a black Florida panther.

So the big question is – Was a captive black jaguar or black leopard released by someone into the county? Or was this another Florida panther that appeared to be black? Or is this a never-before-seen black Florida panther? “I’m not going to say it’s not possible,” Sweat said, “and I am not a biologist, but from what I’ve been told a [black Florida panther] does not exist. If it did, it would be the rarest of the rare.”

Or is it another animal?

Young is adamant it was not a coyote, but coyotes are more common in Georgia and can be black. Sweat said coyotes are considered a nuisance animal and may be shot by anyone with a hunting license or if you are on your own property.

Sweat also clarified – if you are in fear for your own life from any animal, even an endangered species like a Florida panther, it is not illegal for you to defend yourself.

* * *
Note: if you have seen any large cats, black or brown, in Coweta County, especially if you have photographic evidence, please contact Times-Herald reporter Wes Mayer at or call 770-253-1576 during weekdays. Photos of tracks are also welcome, but please use some item, preferably a measuring device, to reference the size.


Your Daily #Cat

Posing leopard 
Lovely Leopard

Friday, July 18, 2014

Your Daily Cat

Nelson looking upNelson, the ocelot Leopardus pardalis

#BigCats and #wolves on display through Aug. 15 at Ponte Vedra Beach

Posted: July 18, 2014

The Cultural Center at Ponte Vedra Beach will display “Big Cats and Wolves,” featuring paintings by artist Diane Travis in the Scene Gallery, 50 Executive Way. The exhibit will run through Aug. 15.

A resident of St. Augustine, Travis is an accomplished artist with an art degree from the Pratt Institute. Travis has studied big cats in Kenya and is an experienced cartographer and draftsman. Her paintings are in New York, France, Hawaii and Florida. 

Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday–Friday. For information, call 280-0614.

There's Nothing Like A Lion Love

Morro Bay police receive reports of mountain lion sightings

Jul 16, 2014  by Charlie Misra
Three mountain lions have been spotted roaming around Morro Bay in just the last week and a half.

The latest sighting was Monday in the hills near the edge of town, but it was gone when police arrived.

Fish and Wildlife officials say the sightings are not related to the drought.

They say they haven't seen an increase in mountain lion sightings in urban areas.

But still, they say it's not uncommon to see them in San Luis Obispo County this time of year.

"The big cat was sitting about 12 feet behind the fence right there," said Morro Bay resident Bill Burke.

Last Monday morning, Burke was up early at his home, getting ready for his son's birthday.

"I was a little surprised because I just woke up," said Burke. "There it was! And we looked right in each other's eyes. Eye to eye contact. It was instant. It was gone. Out of here. I scared him probably as much as he spooked me."

Burke remembers the animal's imposing size.

He says it took just three to four leaps for it to reach the other side of the hill.

"When it left, the tail on it was at least five feet long," said Burke. "It was a huge puma, you know, tail."

This wasn't the first time he's seen one of the big cats near his property on Nutmeg Avenue.

He shot video back in 2003 when a mountain lion showed up in the hills above his house.

Burke says they don't come often, but the last cat he saw was the fifth he's had visit in the last 13 years.

"I think we gotta live with 'em," said Burke. "You know, it's like surfing with Great White sharks, you know. Lions on this side and Great Whites on that side. Haha."

Here a couple of tips if you see a mountain lion:

Make yourself appear as large as possible. Raise your arms and wave your raised arms slowly.
Make a lot of noise. Make any loud sound that can't be confused for a mountain lion's prey.

Act like a predator yourself by maintaining eye contact.

Slowly create distance between the mountain lion and yourself. Back slowly away to a spot that gives the mountain lion a path to get away, without turning away from the animal.

Protect yourself. If you're attacked, fight back. Protect your neck and throat area especially.

Fish and Wildlife game warden Todd Tognazzini says he's never seen a report of a person being attacked by a mountain lion in his 30 years working in both Monterey and San Luis Obispo counties

But people should still take proper precautions.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Panthera Celebrates Efforts Undertaken To Protect Wild Sumatran Tigers

Jakarta, Indonesia - On July 16th, 2014, Panthera
, the world's leading wild cat conservation organization, at their annual Tigers Forever meeting, recognized notable successes from numerous partners across tiger range in the fight to save wild tigers. Long-term conservation efforts in Indonesia to protect the endangered Sumatran tiger were celebrated, specifically those undertaken by the Artha Graha Peduli Foundation-Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation, the Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of Environment, the provincial government of Lampung, and the National Council on Climate Change.

Held in Jakarta, Panthera's CEO and world-renowned tiger scientist, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz
, led the awards ceremony congratulating Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation for the organization's long-term commitment to anti-poaching efforts. Preliminary data released last year indicated this site had the highest density of tigers ever recorded for the island of Sumatra, making it a shining example of successful tiger conservation from not just Sumatra, but from across the tiger's entire range.

Also recognized were the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry represented by Dr. Zulkifli Hasan, Dr. Balthasar Kambuaya of the Ministry of Environment, the provincial government of Lampung, and Prof Ir. Rachmat Witoelar, Executive Chairman of the National Council on Climate Change, for their commitment, political engagement and enactment of conservation-minded legislation.

Dr. Rabinowitz stated, "Tonight we shine a spotlight on the efforts of many who are on the frontlines protecting tigers across Asia, with a special focus on what's happening here in Indonesia, in Sumatra. The efforts of the Government of Indonesia, Artha Graha Peduli Foundation, and rangers and conservationists working in Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation, serve as a remarkable example of what can be achieved for tigers if there are sufficient resources, political will, and long-term commitment to ensuring that the key threats to tigers are stopped."

The Founder of Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation, Mr. Tomy Winata, stated, "The tiger conservation success that we see in Tambling is the result of many highly committed people who have worked tirelessly with us over the years. I would like to specifically acknowledge the continuous support of the Ministry of Forestry, Ministry of Environment, the provincial government of Lampung, and the National Council on Climate Change. In coordination with our patrols, the scientific training and monitoring with our partners at Panthera, and the government support for Tambling's tigers and the wider landscape of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, all of this is allowing Tambling to fulfill its conservation potential, offering tigers a refuge from the persecution these cats face in so many other parts of their range. This is an encouraging beginning for us all, and much more is yet to be done in protecting Indonesia's wildlife."

Active since 1996, Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation is a 450km2 privately managed concession in southern Sumatra. Today Tambling serves as a replicable model of success for tiger conservation in Indonesia and around the world due to its strict focus on training, outfitting and incentivizing law enforcement patrols and a zero tolerance policy towards poaching of tigers and their prey. Acknowledging the critical commitment of Tambling's law enforcement teams, the boots on the ground in protecting and growing Sumatra's tigers, Dr. Rabinowitz closed the ceremony by presenting Tiger Conservation Award Certificates to Tambling's outstanding rangers and congratulated them for their heroic efforts and for being true tiger conservation champions.

Along with poaching for the illegal wildlife market, tigers are largely threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation, conflict with local communities, and overhunting of prey species. Now in its ninth year, Panthera's Tigers Forever program
is specifically mitigating and eliminating the most pressing threats to protect the most viable, breeding tiger populations providing long-term refuge for this highly endangered species. Today, with a razor-sharp focus on law enforcement, cutting-edge technology, and measuring and monitoring of conservation activities and tiger and prey populations, Tigers Forever serves as one of the greatest hopes for securing a future for wild tigers. In partnership with NGOs, local communities, and governments, Tigers Forever is being implemented in 14 sites across 6 countries in Asia, with the goal of increasing tiger numbers at key sites by at least 50% over a 10-year period.

About Panthera
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to the conservation of wild cats and their ecosystems. Utilizing the expertise of the world's premier cat biologists, Panthera develops and implements global conservation strategies for the most imperiled large cats - tigers, lions, jaguars, snow leopards, cheetahs, cougars and leopards. Representing the most comprehensive effort of its kind, Panthera works in partnership with local and international NGOs, scientific institutions, local communities and governments around the globe.
Visit Panthera

About TWNC
Artha Graha Peduli ("AGP") runs the management and conservation of Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation ("Tambling"), a four hundred and fifty square kilometre (450 km2) concession in the south of Bukit Barisan National Park, Indonesia. This concession provides a permanent refuge for tigers and other wildlife, and represents a model for conservation leadership in Indonesia and around the world.
Visit Tambling Wildlife Nature Conservation

Cheetah cubs make debut at West Midlands Safari Park

  • By Brett Gibbons

Baby big cats are first born at Bewdley venue

These cuddly cheetah cubs made their first public appearance this week at West Midlands Safari Park
These cuddly cheetah cubs made their first public appearance this week at West Midlands Safari Park - and the baby big cats were spot-on for their army of admirers.

The terrific trio of two males and one female were born on March 23 to first-time mum Epezi and they are the first cheetahs born at the park, near Bewdley.

Named Cody, Cairo and Chloe, the 16-week-old cubs have made their first venture into the outside world and are exploring the caves and rocks of the park’s Cheetah Plains.

Lawrence Bates, West Midlands Safari Park head of carnivores, said, “These cubs really are double trouble plus one - for mum. “While they are still only babies they have already developed stalking skills and like to chase anything that moves. In the wild cheetahs are masters of the chase, they dash out from under cover and usually bring down their prey on the first attempt. Meal times are  not usually so dramatic, although they do have a starve day once a week to replicate conditions experienced in the wild.”

The world’s fastest animal species, cheetahs were first introduced to the park in 2008 and they have flourished in their surroundings.

A group of the big cats is known as a coalition of cheetahs - where have you heard that before?


Stop Big-Cat Breeding | Commentary by Tippi Hedren

Tippi Hedren | Thursday, Jul 17, 2014
The following is an open letter to Congress. The U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife held a hearing on the bill Wednesday.

3/1 Tippy10.JPG
The Captive Wildlife Safety Act, which passed unanimously and was signed into law by President Bush on December 19, 2003, is to stop the interstate traffic of big cats for sale as pets or for financial exploitation.  That bill was inspired by a prototype I brought to my U.S. Representative “Buck” McKeon.  The bill now before Congress, (H.R. 1998, S.1381) “Big Cats and Public Safely Protection Act”, I also brought to Rep. McKeon in 2007.  This bill is to stop the breeding of big cats (apex predators) to be sold as pets and/or used for financial exploitation.  It will be up for review in the Senate in the middle of this week, July 14-17, 2014, hopefully to be voted upon.

I’m urging you to support this bill. Not one more human adult, or child, should be maimed for life or killed by a big cat. Not one more big cat should be abused by being born in captivity under the misunderstanding that they will be a good pet, or be brutalized into doing tricks for our “entertainment.”

My qualification to ask for this support is: I have rescued and provided sanctuary for big cats born in the U.S. since 1972. I founded The Roar Foundation in 1983 to become the financial support arm for The Shambala Preserve and to educate the public against owning wild animals.  We have rescued and given lifetime care to over 250 exotic big cats over these years.  I also have been the sitting President of the American Sanctuary Association, an accrediting organization for wild animal facilities, as well as a wildlife placement organization, since 2000.

Description of a big cat: Apex predator, top of the food chain, one of four of the most dangerous animals in the world, whose job in the wild is to take out any animal who is sick, old or lame.  This instinct/gene manifests predatory behavior in captivity and threatens humans as well.  Example: Roy Horn, who had a stroke on stage, survived the attack by tiger “Montecore” only because the trainers standing off-stage, managed to get the cat off of him.  In Montecore’s mind, Roy was physically hurt and had to be “taken out”. In the human species, these kinds of dictates are referred to as psychopathic.  Our jails are filled with psychopaths who can, and will, harm or kill any being, with no sense of conscience or remorse.  These conscience and remorse instinct/genes are absent in the big cat predator as well.

In my studies of the big cat since 1972, and while living at Shambala alongside them since 1976, I have found them to be infinitely fascinating – and life threatening. Their physical beauty is magnificent and it is the combination of that and their relationships, their sense of humor, their affection towards each other, and sometimes toward us, that draws many of them to us.

But, their memories of a bad relationship with another animal or human, their possessiveness of objects, and always over food, are what can cause you to be caught in a serious situation.  They can, and will, kill you if those possessions are threatened.  I managed to live through those situations … the scars are fading, but not the memories.  I understand these magnificent beings way too well. They can never be trusted. They don’t care about us! They are, in point of fact, serial killers!

Those who we call “pets” live in our homes; we cuddle them, sleep with them, feed them well, play with them, call them family, playmates and friends. We are able to trust them.  They are from an entirely different genetic mindset than the predator. Don’t think of describing an exotic feline as a “pet”. Please, think again when voting to stop apex predators from being bred as a pet for exploitation. Stop the misinformation sent to the U.S. population that any exotic feline can, or will, be a ‘great pet.’

I thank you for giving your support, because you in our Government are the only hope we have of stopping this insanity. I pray you will pass this vitally important bill, “Big Cats and Public Safety Protection Act.”

Who of you would put your child, your grandchild, your wife, friend or yourself in harms way for a photo op with a “great cat”? Would you place a loaded pistol on your coffee table?

Since 2011, over 104 attacks by big cats on humans in the U.S. have occurred.
This responsibility lies with you.

Actress Tippi Hedren is president of The Roar Foundation, which operates the Shambala Preserve. She lives in Acton.


Your Daily Cat

Seriously lying Petra

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Your Daily Cat

Unsure cub approaching...

Does cat poop parasite play a role in curing cancer?

July 15, 2014
Norris Cotton Cancer Center Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center
From the litter box to the laboratory, a microscopic organism native to cats shows promise in treating cancer. Researchers’ mutated strain of T. gondii has been found to reprogram the natural power of the immune system to kill cells. Found worldwide, T. gondii affects about one-third of the world's population, 60 million of which are Americans.

Credit: © Africa Studio / Fotolia
Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a single-celled parasite that is happiest in a cat's intestines, but it can live in any warm blooded animal. Found worldwide, T. gondii affects about one-third of the world's population, 60 million of which are Americans. Most people have no symptoms, but some experience a flu-like illness. Those with suppressed immune systems, however, can develop a serious infection if they are unable to fend off T. gondii.

An Anti-Cancer Agent in Nature?
A healthy immune system responds vigorously to T. gondii in a manner that parallels how the immune system attacks a tumor. "We know biologically this parasite has figured out how to stimulate the exact immune responses you want to fight cancer," said David J. Bzik, PhD, professor of Microbiology and Immunology, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.

In response to T. gondii, the body produces natural killer cells and cytotoxic T cells. These cell types wage war against cancer cells. Cancer can shut down the body's defensive mechanisms, but introducing T. gondii into a tumor environment can jump start the immune system. "The biology of this organism is inherently different from other microbe-based immunotherapeutic strategies that typically just tickle immune cells from the outside," said Barbara Fox, senior research associate of Microbiology and Immunology. "By gaining preferential access to the inside of powerful innate immune cell types, our mutated strain of T. gondii reprograms the natural power of the immune system to clear tumor cells and cancer."

Engineering T. gondii as a Cancer Vaccine
Since it isn't safe to inject a cancer patient with live replicating strains of T. gondii, Bzik and Fox created "cps," an immunotherapeutic vaccine. Based on the parasite's biochemical pathways, they delete a Toxoplasma gene needed to make a building block of its genome and create a mutant parasite that can be grown in the laboratory but is unable to reproduce in animals or people. Cps is both nonreplicating and safe. Even when the host is immune deficient, cps still retains that unique biology that stimulates the ideal vaccine responses. "Aggressive cancers too often seem like fast moving train wrecks. Cps is the microscopic, but super strong, hero that catches the wayward trains, halts their progression, and shrinks them until they disappear," said Bzik.

Laboratory Success in Melanoma and Ovarian Cancers
Published laboratory studies from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth labs have tested the cps vaccine in extremely aggressive lethal mouse models of melanoma or ovarian cancer and found unprecedented high rates of cancer survival. "Cps stimulates amazingly effective immunotherapy against cancers, superior to anything seen before," said Bzik. "The ability of cps to communicate in different and unique ways with the cancer and special cells of the immune system breaks the control that cancer has leveraged over the immune system."

A Promising Future for a Personalized Cancer Vaccine
This new weapon against cancer could even be tailored to the individual patient. "In translating cps therapy to the clinic, we imagine cps will be introduced into cells isolated from the patient. Then Trojan Horse cells harboring cps will be given back to the patient as an immunotherapeutic cancer vaccine to generate the ideal immune responses necessary to eradicate their cancer cells and to also provide life-long immunity against any future recurrence of that cancer," said Bzik.
Fox and Bzik say a lot more study is needed before cps leaves the laboratory. They are trying to understand how and why it works so well by examining its molecular targets and mechanisms.
"Cancer immunotherapy using cps holds incredible promise for creating beneficial new cancer treatments and cancer vaccines," said Bzik.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Norris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Norris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. "Does cat poop parasite play a role in curing cancer?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 July 2014. <>.

Yogie cats seized; owners cited

Yogie and Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary: Meet Gomez, 14, and Putty Tat, 16, two tigers living at Yogie and Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary in Frierson, Louisiana.
Yogie and Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary in Frierson, Louisiana.
Tim Mills, founder of Yogie and Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary walks away from Moses after walking the facility recently in Frierson, Louisiana. Moses, 8, recently had a stroke and lost vision in his right eye.

Tim Mills, founder of Yogie and Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary walks away from Moses after walking the facility recently in Frierson, Louisiana. Moses, 8, recently had a stroke and lost vision in his right eye. / Jim Hudelson/The Times 
Who’s at Yogie and Friends
Here’s a list of the sanctuary’s inhabitants and when they were born:
Batman (lion), March 2002
Boo Boo (lioness), December 1999
Boudreaux (cougar), 1995
Gomez (tiger), June 2000
Mongo (serval), November 1999
Moses (lion), Feb 2006
Noodles (serval), May 2001
Putty Tat (tiger), September 1998
Samson (tiger), July 1995
Speedy (serval), January 2001
Taz (bobcat), June 2001
Tigger (black leopard), August 2001
Yogie, (tiger), May 2000
The sanctuary is located at 128 Fob Lane in Frierson. Call (318) 795-0455 for more information.

FRIERSON — The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries has seized – on paper only – the nine large cats inhabited at Yogie & Friends Exotic Cat Sanctuary and cited the owners for having the animals without a permit.

The action caught Executive Director Jenny Senier and founder and board member Tim Mills by surprise since both thought improvements to the facility had met or at least partially met recommended upgrades from a 2009 compliance visit. Senier admits some of the items on the check list were not complete – such as building concrete dens for the big cats – but half are finished. And that’s an accomplishment in itself, she said, since Yogie does not have paid staff and solely relies upon donated funds and the availability of volunteers. “We thought we were doing fine,” Senier said.
Instead, the list of noncompliance issues appeared to get lengthier. “We are trying, but we need the public’s help if we are going to get through this,” Senier said.

She fears if LDWF inspectors are not satisfied by the Sept. 3 court date then there’s a chance the big cats will be relocated. “Moving them away from here will kill them. Our cats are old. They’ve been here 14 years now. They were all rescued before that. Moving them somewhere will stress them so much they will die. We fear for the lives of our animals now,” she added.

Maria Davidson, head of the LDWF Fur and Refuge Division in Baton Rouge, led the inspection team with another inspector and attorney in tow. Also accompanying them were three armed enforcement agents. Davidson did not respond to a message left at headquarters Tuesday morning seeking comment.

Capt. Richie McCarthy, of the Region 1 office in Minden, did not go to Yogie & Friends Monday but was somewhat familiar with the situation. He verified a ticket was issued and the cats were seized on paper. “It’s been going on some time, and it just the got to point you’ve got to do something,” McCarthy said.

The citation, he said, puts the facility on notice that the guidelines have not been made. And seizing the cats means none can be moved or sold until a resolution is reached in court. But that doesn’t mean LDWF is assuming responsibility for feeding and care of the animals in the meantime. “That is something you run into. If there is no facility in the state to take them, and obviously we don’t have a place to keep them, the only other option is to seize them and take them out of state,” McCarthy said, adding that’s not the optimal move since the issue could get settled by the court hearing, resulting in a judge ordering the return of the animals. “When you go to moving them you stress them and that’s not what we want to happen.”

Still, the goal is to make sure the surrounding public is safe and laws are followed he said. “I don’t know how this will turn out but I wish them the best. … We’re not haters. We’re animal lovers. That’s why we do this,” McCarthy said.

State Sen. Sherri Smith Buffington was contacted about the situation and is making inquiries concerning the inspection to determine if there is any information she can pass along to Senier and Mills.

Senier is still baffled about the citation – possession of animals without a permit – because Yogie & Friends has not been able to obtain a permit from LDWF except for the bobcat and servals. The tigers, lions and leopard are licensed through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has considered the facility a Class C exhibitor in good standing since 2000.

A change in 2006 of a Louisiana law regulating the importation and private ownership of exotic cats put LWDF in the picture. A subsequent inspection pointed out needed upgrades at Yogie, including extending the height of the perimeter and interior fences and providing more secure shelter such as concrete or cinderblock dens.

None of the animals have been harmed during inclement weather and there have been no escapes or incidents, Senier said.

Yogie & Friends closed its doors to public visits in June to fall within its goal of serving as a sanctuary for the aging cats. Senier and Mills had wanted LDWF to certify the site as a sanctuary under the law change; however, it couldn’t because of a moratorium on applications.

Plus, said Senier, “it would cost millions to do.” So, Yogie & Friends, upon Davidson’s advice, applied to LDWF as a zoo not accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. “But we were told to use the AZA standards.”

Those standards, said Senier, lack specific direction for facilities such as Yogie. “There are no housing standards except for inside exhibits. We don’t have that. We built the cinderblock dens for the size we thought would work for the individual cats. We may not be that esthetic but the cats are well cared for and are safe.”

She added, “But if this what we have to do then we want to be compliant. We are going to need the public’s help with skilled labor to address the fencing and the rest of the dens. And with donations to buy materials.”


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Your Daily Cat

Nice profile of Nelson Nelson the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis)

Founder of Central California #BigCat park appeals state orders brought by volunteer's death

FRESNO, California — The operator of an animal park in Central California said Monday he's appealing orders to increase security more than a year after a volunteer was killed there by a lion.
Dale Anderson, founder of Cat Haven in the foothill community of Dunlap east of Fresno, said that the state's Division of Occupational Safety and Health wants him to put locks on more cage doors, have workers pair up and arm them with pepper spray.

Anderson said he has worked around large cats for 23 years and fears these safety measures were created by state officials who lack his experience and may put workers in greater danger. More locks would not add safety if the rules aren't followed, and working in pairs creates complacency, he said, adding that keepers may shoot pepper spray into their own faces. "They're turning around and trying to tell me how to put my procedures together," Anderson said. "Where is this coming from?"

On March 6, 2013, 24-year-old intern Dianna Hanson of Seattle died when a 550-pound lion named Cous Cous escaped from a partially closed feeding cage, breaking her neck. Officials shot and killed the lion when it couldn't be coaxed away from the body.

Anderson said local, state and federal officials cleared Cat Haven of any wrong in the death, calling it an unfortunate accident. CalOSHA spokesman Peter Melton said in a statement that his department is focused on protecting workers, including those around exotic animals. The state's attorneys have offered to negotiate with Cat Haven, but the park hasn't responded, Melton said.

Cat Haven remains open to the public and is home to 31 cats from a dozen species of all sizes.


The Very Real War To Save #BigCats

By Vicki Croke

For Alan Rabinowitz, the concept of the “battle to save wild cats” is growing less and less metaphorical by the minute. In this time of unprecedented poaching and wildlife trafficking, the big cat biologist and president of the conservation group Panthera is leading what he says is nothing short of a global “counter terrorism” campaign.

Alan Rabinowitz
Alan Rabinowitz, co-founder and CEO of Panthera. (Steve Winter / Panthera)

So, last month, when he received an astonishing pledge of $80 million over ten years, to save tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, and other cats, he considered it just the start of a larger war chest. Former military personnel have been hired, guards will be trained, and the latest surveillance technology applied.

The combative approach may seem out of character for Rabinowitz. After all, he’s best known for silently trailing jaguars or tigers in their native habitat, for writing memoirs as sensitive as they are scientific, and for persuading the officials of various governments, dictators among them, to set aside land for conservation.

But Rabinowitz has always been a fighter. And in two new memoirs (one for children, one for adults coming out in Sept.) and in appearances on shows like “The Colbert Report,” he has made clear that his fight for big cats is personal. It’s a mission with deep roots entwined with his breathtakingly painful childhood.

A tiger in Bandhavgarh National Park, India. (Panthera)
tiger tree India-Panthera

Rabinowitz suffered from a debilitating stutter—one so severe that he was ostracized, labeled mentally disabled, and could only think of himself as “broken.” Mostly, he kept to himself at school, but his father taught him how to box and he didn’t back away from brawls. He found solace in the small pets (a hamster, gerbil, turtle, chameleon, and garter snake) he kept home in New York, and also with one particular caged jaguar at the Bronx Zoo.

He discovered he could talk to animals, that with them, he could speak without stuttering. They always made him feel better—especially that captive jaguar. While the other big cats in the zoo paced near the bars, the jaguar stayed back, removed. Except when Rabinowitz whispered to him. Then, most often he would approach. Rabinowitz felt he had something in common with this huge, powerful cat: they were both prisoners. And he made a vow, the true meaning of which, he says, he didn’t even understand himself:
“I promised him that if I ever found my voice one day, I would try to help him, I would try to be his voice. I didn’t know what I was promising, all I knew is that it came from deep inside and that I had to do it.”
It may not have been a linear path, but after Rabinowitz learned how to control his stutter, he went on to study jaguars in Belize, and to establish the first sanctuary there for the species. He spent nearly 30 years as the executive director of science and exploration at the Wildlife Conservation Society, before co-founding and acting as CEO for Panthera. Along the way, he’s researched tigers, clouded leopards, Asiatic leopards, Sumatran rhinos, bears, and leopard cats, among others. Besides Belize, his work has resulted in protected areas and reserves being established in Taiwan and Myanmar. And he’s also discovered a new species—the primitive leaf deer.

Camera trap photo reveals a jaguar slipping through a fence. (Steve Winter /Panthera)

Cam trap jaguar-Steve Winter

“It might be a cliché to say it, but Alan Rabinowitz has been an inspiration to many of the people who are struggling to save today’s endangered wildlife and wild places,” says Tony Vecchio, executive director of the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, and an ardent conservationist himself. “Many of us were finding our way in the ’80s when he published ‘Jaguar.’ We got to see a thoughtful, dedicated, passionate human being overcoming great obstacles to make a difference for wildlife. Since then he has done nothing but accelerate the pace of his work. So, from where I sit, there’s a bar out there that has been set by Alan, a bar that he continually raises. Just what we all need as we fight the good fight.”

In a way, Rabinowitz’s work is just beginning. Panthera is the leading conservation group concentrating on big cats, and Rabinowitz says the $80 million pledge, made just weeks ago, is “a good start.” He’s not being facetious. The goal for the campaign is $200 million, and even that might need boosting. Rabinowitz says the reality is that it may take something like a billion dollars to get the job done.

The job involves understanding the biology, behavior, and needs of wild cats; protecting them from poachers; and securing habitat for them around the world—especially by establishing wildlife “corridors,” which link populations of wild animals so they can avoid inbreeding.

A  leopard in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. (Burrard-Lucas Photography)

Burrard-Lucas leopard Zambia

Rabinowitz is thinking big and thinking long term. “We’re talking about saving tigers and jaguars and lions and cheetahs and leopards from extinction over their entire range,” Rabinowitz says. “Conservation suffers terribly in my opinion from people and organizations NOT operating at the proper scale. Hunting, poaching, wildlife trafficking—that’s all happening on a global scale.” But conservation efforts often respond in small, localized ways. “That’s why we’re not winning the battle,” he says.

There are fewer than 3,200 tigers in the wild (100 years ago, that figure was probably 100,000), living in less than seven percent of their historic range. The world’s remaining 30,000 lions have lost 80 percent of their historic range. Cheetahs’ numbers are down to less than 10,000, and they have vanished from 25 countries where they used to roam.

A pride of lions in Zambia’s South Luangwa
National Park. (Burrard-Lucas Photography)
Burrard-Lucas-Zambia pride1

Rabinowitz makes the case for big cats, not just for their sake, which for many of us is argument enough, but also for the environment as a whole. Cats need so much territory that when you save them, you save the wilderness itself.

That has appeal for people who might not be considered traditional conservation donors. Rabinowitz has prided himself in going outside the usual circles looking for backers. And, according to Forbes, Panthera’s co-founder, Thomas Kaplan, a billionaire mining investor, pays all administrative costs for the organization so that all contributions go straight to conservation.

Rabinowitz’s funders for this latest initiative include Kaplan and his wife Daphne Recanati Kaplan; the crown prince of Abu Dhabi; the CEO of a Hong Kong investment company, and a businessman in India.

An Amur tiger in a photo by Pathera’s Senior Tiger
Program Director, Dr. John Goodrich.
A stunning Amur tiger, taken by Panthera’s Senior Tiger Program Director, Dr. John Goodrich – See more at:
A stunning Amur tiger, taken by Panthera’s Senior Tiger Program Director, Dr. John Goodrich – See more at:
Amur tiger-Panthera

The vision is to save these cats across their entire range. For tigers especially, that’s broad brush conservation. Their habitat is dotted across 11 countries, from India to Russia. And Rabinowitz, who was once that little boy wanting to free a caged jaguar, now is interested in saving enough land so that all these species are not held in the isolated pockets of wild that he calls “megazoos.”

“We want to help the tiger throughout its whole range,” he says, “in all the countries where it still exists, in some places where maybe it can be brought back, and in high priority sites, use funding to enhance law enforcement.” In the past, he says, that was accomplished by helping governments hire more guards or by providing better pay. Today, Rabinowitz says,
“Just getting boots on the ground is never going to stem the bleeding that’s occurring in these areas when things like tiger bone and elephant ivory and rhino horn become so valuable, and the areas where they are protected are so large.”
His hope is that better technology—hidden cameras monitoring wild animals the way traffic cams watch drivers, may be one good weapon.n“We’re scaling up in order to put cameras in the forest not just to take pictures of animals and be able to identify and count animals but to take pictures of people. Cameras that don’t flash, where the people won’t even know where the camera is or when their picture is taken until there’s a knock on their door or until law enforcement arrives in their village.”

Life has changed drastically for Alan Rabinowitz—he was once a city kid tormented by others and filled with self-loathing. Today, he is a superstar of the conservation world. But in many ways, things haven’t changed. He is still a fighter who won’t be bullied, and his mission now is the same as it was when he whispered to that jaguar in the Bronx Zoo.n“I never forgot that promise,” he says.


Sunday, July 13, 2014

This #Cat Worked Really Hard To Get Into His Hammock

Practice makes purrfect.

Timo struggled early on with his hammock.

This Cat
                Worked Really Hard To Get Into His Hammock

Timo tried getting a running start, but that technique didn’t really pan out either.

This Cat
                Worked Really Hard To Get Into His Hammock

An aerial approach, perhaps? Not so much.

This Cat
                Worked Really Hard To Get Into His Hammock

Poor buddy couldn’t even share his comfy space with his pals!

This Cat
                Worked Really Hard To Get Into His Hammock

But then one day, after months of training, Timo did it!

This Cat
                Worked Really Hard To Get Into His Hammock

Time to get pampered and relax to the max!

This Cat
                    Worked Really Hard To Get Into His Hammock

Now take a break, Timo! You’ve earned it.

                        Cat Worked Really Hard To Get Into His Hammock

Ahhhh, this is the life.

This Cat Worked Really Hard To Get Into
                            His Hammock

Thanks to a dear friend, Paul, for sharing this masterpiece!

Your Daily Cat

 And thank you, Tambako, for this gorgeous image