Monday, May 2, 2016

10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Cat Owner

Kathy Benjamin, Austin Thompson

Image credit: 
Erin McCarthy

Studies have shown that just watching cat videos on the internet can boost a person's energy and create positive emotions—so it's no surprise that actual cat ownership has a number of benefits. Here are a few.


If you're worried about your carbon footprint, it’s better to own a cat than a dog. A 2009 study found that the resources needed to feed a dog over the course of its life create the same eco-footprint as that of a Land Cruiser. Meanwhile, cats—which eat less in general and are more likely to eat fish than corn- or beef-flavored products—only have the approximate carbon footprint of a small hatchback.


Losing a loved one is incredibly painful, but one of the best ways of coping is to own a pet. Cats have been shown to help people get over their loss more quickly, and show less physical symptoms of pain, like crying. Despite the fact that they are only animals, cats serve as a social support during difficult times. People in mourning report talking to their pet to work out their feelings, since it is often easier to talk to something that won’t respond and can’t judge than to another human being.


If you’re a single guy and you can’t seem to get a date, get a cat! A British poll found that 82 percent of women agreed they are more attracted to men who like animals. And while having a dog will do wonders for your dating life, a whopping 90 percent of single women said that men who own a cat are “nicer” than other guys. Listing that you own a cat on your dating profile could do wonders for the number of responses you get—but remember, a cat is for life, not just until you find a partner.


A 2010 survey of British pet owners by the University of Bristol found that people who owned cats were more likely to have college degrees than their dog loving counterparts. In 2014, a researcher in Wisconsin surveyed 600 college students and found that cat owners were actually more intelligent as well. (But it's probably not the cat itself making the owner smarter: The researchers conducting the Bristol survey said that smarter people tend to work longer hours, and since cats require less attention than dogs, they are a better choice for the busy intellectual.)


Owning any pet is good for your heart. Cats in particular lower your stress level—possibly since they don’t require as much effort as dogs—and lower the amount of anxiety in your life. Petting a cat has a positive calming effect. One study found that over a 10-year period cat owners were 30 percent less likely to die of a heart attack or stroke than non-cat owners (although this might just be because cat owners are more relaxed and have lower stress in general).


The stereotype that dogs are more affectionate than cats is just that: a stereotype. In fact, it turns out that cats can be just as good companions as dogs, especially for women. An Austrian study conducted in 2003 found that having a cat in the house is the emotional equivalent of having a romantic partner. As well as initiating contact much of the time, studies have shown cats will remember kindness shown to them and return the favor later.
But cats really do have the upper hand in these relationships. After thousands of years of domestication, cats have learned how to make a half purr/half howl noise that sounds remarkably like a human baby’s cry. And since our brains are programmed to respond to our children’s distress, it is almost impossible to ignore what a cat wants when it demands it like that.


Your choice of pet reveals something about your personality. While dog lovers tend to be the life of the party, cat owners are quieter and more introverted. However, they score very highly when it comes to how trustworthy they are and how much they trust other people. Cat owners are also less manipulative and more modest.


Several studies and polls in the UK have found that people (especially women) prefer to sleep with their cats than with their partners, and they even report sleeping better with a cat than with a human. A recent study from the Mayo Clinic Center for Sleep Medicine indicates that they might be on to something: 41 percent of the people in that study indicated that they slept better because of their pet, while only 20 percent said that it led to disturbances.


Sadly, it’s too late for you, but if you have a child on the way, it might be time to get a cat. In 2002, the National Institutes of Health released a study that found children under a year old who were exposed to a cat were less likely to develop allergies—and not just pet allergies. According to Marshall Plaut, M.D., chief of the allergic mechanisms section at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “high pet exposure early in life appears to protect against not only pet allergy but also other types of common allergies, such as allergy to dust mites, ragweed, and grass.” And while the cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii is a threat to young children, experts say that by changing your cat’s litter box every day and keeping the animal indoors, you should be safe and allergy free!


Cats have a reputation of being aloof and not caring about their humans, but they have saved countless lives over the years. One cat in the United Kingdom warns her human when he’s about to have an epileptic seizure, while a cat in Montana woke up its two humans when a gas pipe started leaking. Firefighters told the couple that the house could easily have exploded if not for cat’s intervention.

One cat has even received the highest medal available to military animals. Simon the cat was onboard the HMS Amethyst, which was sailing up the Yangtze in 1949 when a shell hit the ship, killing several marines and severely injuring Simon. (The event marked the beginning of the 101 day siege of the ship, which would become known as the Yangtze Incident.) Simon was fixed up, and despite being injured, performed his ship duty and started catching the rats that were threatening the ship’s food supply, as well as providing moral support for the surviving sailors. Simon died not long after the ship returned to the UK, but he was posthumously awarded the UK’s Dickin Medal, recognized as the animal Victoria Cross, for “behaviour [of] the highest order, although the blast was capable of making a hole over a foot in diameter in a steel plate.”


Friday, April 29, 2016

Deadliest month ever for Florida panthers, with nine killed

April 29, 2016 

Almost all of the deaths took place on roads in Southwest Florida
Seven were confirmed males, likely young cats looking for new territory
Wildlife biologists estimate that between 90 and 180 panthers remain

This April will go down as the bloodiest month yet for the Florida panther.

So far, nine of the endangered cats have died, all but one killed along Southwest Florida highways and roads. Seven were males, almost all of them at the young age when they start looking to establish their own territory. Altogether, 20 panthers have died this year, a number on track to outpace last year’s record-breaking 41 fatalities.

Why so many died, wildlife officials say, is simply a gory measure of their success. It’s not the best way to document that increase, but it’s still a fact we have to take into account. 
~~David Schindle, Florida panther coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The number also speaks to the increasing pressure from development on the wide-ranging panthers — particularly males, which each need a territory of about 200 square miles. In recent months, the notoriously shy cats have made some unusual appearances: In March, a panther was photographed sitting on the porch of an east Fort Myers house. Two weeks later, a visitor to the Corkscrew Swamp spooked a panther sitting on a boardwalk and videotaped it racing past her.

Wildlife biologists estimate that between 90 and 180 panthers remain. But what constitutes a healthy population number has been hotly debated in recent years. Ranchers and hunters have been pushing to scale back conservation, saying that panthers have maxed out South Florida. Conservationists, however, argue that more needs to be done to preserve shrinking habitat.

“It’s death by a thousand cuts where this is not sustainable in the long term in our view unless we modify where and how we develop,” said Jennifer Hecker, director of natural resource policy for the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. “We’re not saying everything has to be restored or maintained in pristine condition. We’re just asking those areas be retained as agriculture” that panthers use for habitat.
Panthers once roamed much of the Southeast United States. But by the 1990s, despite being included on the endangered species list in 1967, just 30 remained in Florida. To revive the population, eight female Texas cougars were released in 1995. The plan worked and numbers started climbing. A conservation goal was set to establish three separate populations of 240 panthers each in their historic range. At the same time, development continued to squeeze the cats’ habitat, leading to clashes between the cats and particularly ranchers.

Last year, at the urging of Commissioner Liesa Priddy, whose family owns a 9,000-acre ranch in panther territory for three generations, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission proposed scaling back the conservation plan to just one population.

After a five-hour public hearing, the commission dropped the plan. Two months later, Priddy was part of group of nine landowners who submitted plans for a sprawling project six times the size of Miami that would develop 45,000 acres in Collier County.

Schindle said his agency is now reviewing a habitat conservation plan for the project. This week, officials gave a preliminary presentation to the Collier County Commission, which is already prompting concerns from conservationists. “With road mortality being one of the leading causes of death, all the additional roadways needed for development would be an enormous impact,” Hecker said. “How are we going to continue to recover the species when right now mortality numbers are outpacing documented births?” she asked. “We have a plan here that is in direct conflict with the Florida Panther Recovery Plan.”

But property owners and hunters argue that with so little land available, the conservation goal is unrealistic and that biologists are not doing a good job of counting panthers. There are varying estimates of how many live in the wild.

90 to 180
The estimated number of panthers left in Florida
In January, a panther recovery team that has been meeting for years, which includes state and federal officials and conservationists, considered different methods of counting that gave varying results.

Longtime survey methods that rely on radio collars, tracks, captures and photos in 2014 put the number of cats at 138. But using traffic fatalities as an estimate, the population in 2012 was calculated at 269, with a margin of error between 143 and 509. Camera traps are also being used but haven’t yet been completed.

The team is also looking at better ways to manage roadkills, including targeting hotspots for wildlife crossings and more fences, Schindle said. Last year, at the urging of the Florida Wildlife Federation, the Florida Department of Transportation erected nine miles of 10-foot-high fence along Alligator Alley, one of the deadliest roads for panthers. But while some highways can be fenced, building neighborhoods is another story. Golden Gate Estates, a 100,000-acre-plus neighborhood of mixed residential and rural development in prime panther territory, remain a problem, said Elizabeth Fleming, a senior Florida representative for Defenders of Wildlife.

“It’s a shame that was built because it’s just sprawl and there is still green habitat in there, but it’s not a safe place for panthers to be moving around,” she said. “These panthers are just trying to find their own territory and do what panthers do. It’s just really tough.”


Yoga fail fails to impress cats (video)

Kittens Remake Season 5 of 'Game of Thrones' (video)

The umbrella effect of predator preservation: When you save a top predator, such as a big cat, you protect everything underneath it.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Thai government lets Tiger Temple keep its big cats after accepting proposal for them to be housed in a zoo

- but move is branded 'disgusting' by animal rights campaigners 

  • The zoo will be constructed over ten acres of land at famous Bangkok site
  • Last year temple threatened with closure as animals didn't have permits
  • Decision has been blasted by 'shocked and disgusted' wildlife foundation

The controversial Tiger Temple in Bangkok, Thailand could be allowed to keep its animals after it was granted permission to build a zoo, sparking outrage from a wildlife protection foundation.

The Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) has accepted plans put forward by Tiger Temple Limited for the construction of a private zoo, with the required licenses for the animals. 

Last year the temple, which brings in around £2million from visiting tourists, was threatened with closure after it was discovered that many of the animals there didn't have a permit.

The famous Tiger Temple in Thailand may now be able to keep its animals after the government accepted proposals to construct a zoo and grant licenses
The famous Tiger Temple in Thailand may now be able to keep its animals after the government accepted proposals to construct a zoo and grant licenses

Workers were told at the time that their 147 tigers must be handed over to the DNP.
The investigation was launched following multiple complaints of trafficking endangered species, illegally selling animals and possible mistreatment of the animals. Ten tigers are believed to have been removed from the temple this year. 
According to Coconuts Bangkok, the park's original zoo license expired in 2013.
The managing director of Tiger Temple Limited, Supitpong Phakjarung, told the Asian news-site: 'We will construct facilities for the zoo over 25 rai (ten acres) of land. Construction should be completed in six months.'

The site is a popular spot with tourists, who are encouraged to pet and pose with the tigers
The site is a popular spot with tourists, who are encouraged to pet and pose with the tigers

Last year the government said that the tigers would be moved out of the zoo as they didn't have licenses
Last year the government said that the tigers would be moved out of the zoo as they didn't have licenses

The Wildlife Friends Foundations Thailand (WFFT) have said the decision to grant the temple permission to construct a zoo has left them 'shocked and disgusted'
The Wildlife Friends Foundations Thailand (WFFT) have said the decision to grant the temple permission to construct a zoo has left them 'shocked and disgusted'

However the plans for the zoo have been blasted by the Wildlife Friends Foundations Thailand (WFFT), who wrote on their website that they were 'shocked and disgusted by this latest development of an ongoing sickening drama that has continued for so many years'.

The foundation states that 'numerous allegations of animal abuse and illegal wildlife trafficking by the Tiger Temple have been raised over the years since 2001'.  
The temple began keeping tigers in 2001 when it agreed to take care of seven Bengal tigers seized in a wildlife bust nearby.

It now houses 147 tigers and cubs.

Tourists who visit the temple are pictured petting the tigers and posing for close-ups with the creatures, while their donations help pay for the tigers' maintenance and improvements to the temple.

Florida zoo took 11 minutes to sedate tiger that mauled keeper

Medics finally reached dying employee 17 minutes after attack

BY Meg Wagner
Wednesday, April 27, 2016
It took a Florida zoo 11 minutes to tranquilize a tiger that attacked his zookeeper — meaning the medics couldn’t reach the dying “Tiger Whisperer” until 17 minutes after the vicious attack, records showed.   
Palm Beach Zoo tiger keeper Stacey Konwiser was mauled to death on April 15 after she went inside the tiger enclosure while the big cats still had access to it.
The Malayan tiger pounced at 1:55 p.m., records obtained by WPTV showed, but the big cat wasn’t sedated until 2:06 p.m. — and emergency responders couldn’t get to the dying zookeeper until 2:12 p.m., when the drugs finally knocked the creature out.
Someone called 911 seconds after the tiger attack, and West Palm Beach emergency dispatch teams arrived at the zoo gates at 2:01 p.m.
“Tiger is still not contained. We’re on the outer gates standing by for zoo personnel,” a paramedic said, according to emergency dispatch recordings.
* Florida Sun Sentinel Rights OUT * Bruce R. Bennett/

Palm Beach Zoo tiger keeper Stacey Konwiser was mauled to death by one of the big cats earlier this month.

A second wave of police officers got there two minutes later at 2:03 p.m.
But it wasn’t until 2:06 p.m. — 11 minutes after the tiger first attacked Konwiser — that the animal was hit with a tranquillizer dart.
“Animal has been tranquilized. We’re waiting for it to take effect before we’re going to enter,” a paramedic said at 2:06 p.m.
The drugs finally kicked in at 2:12 p.m., rendering the animal unconscious. Emergency crews finally reached Konwiser 17 minutes after she was mauled. The 38-year-old was rushed to a local hospital, where she died from a neck injury, officials said.

Konwiser, known as “the Tiger Whisperer,” was airlifted to a hospital, where she died.

The zoo has come under fire since the attack for its decision to sedate — and not shoot — the attacking animal. The facility had both tranquilizing darts and bullets.
Zoo officials said they picked sedation over shooting after they took guest safety, the possibility of bullet ricochet and the size of the enclosure into consideration.
“We stand by our decision to tranquilize the tiger involved in the incident,” the zoo said in a statement.
Last week, the zoo said Konwiser broke the facility’s safety policy when she went into the tiger enclosure while the big cats still had access to it. Zoo protocols forbid employees from entering the tigers’ habitat while the animals are inside of it.

Police officers enter the administration building at the Palm Beach Zoo after zookeeper Stacey Konwiser died while being attacked by a tiger earlier this month.

“The question is: why did a deeply talented and experienced Zookeeper, fully aware of the presence of a tiger and knowledgeable of our safety protocols, enter a tiger enclosure into which a tiger had access?” the zoo’s President and CEO Andrew Aiken asked in a statement.
Konwiser, known as the "Tiger Whisperer," worked at the zoo for three years.
Her husband, Jeremy Konwiser, is also an employee at the Florida animal facility. The two met while working at a California zoo, according to a biography posted on the Palm Beach Zoo’s Facebook page.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and several local agencies are investigating the Friday attack. The zoo is also conducting its own investigation.
“All of us share two common goals: to completely understand how this could ever happen and to assure everyone that this will never happen again,” zoo representatives said.


The Biggest Lion Airlift Ever to Send Dozens of Big Cats to Africa

They were rescued from South American circuses. 
(Photo: Mara 1/CC BY 2.0)

Thirty-three lions start new lives in South Africa, after an environmental group announced that they would be flying the lions to a sanctuary there Friday, having rescued the big cats from circuses in Peru and Colombia.
Many of them have injuries, or have been declawed, and at least one is missing an eye. But Animal Defenders International, the group behind the flight, said that, ultimately, there will be a happy ending.
The flight will be the biggest airlift of lions ever, according to the Guardian.
"These lions have endured hell on earth and now they are heading home to paradise," ADI's president Jan Creamer said in a statement.
The group was able to rescue the lions after both Peru and Colombia banned them from use in circuses, ADI said. They will be sent to a sanctuary north of Johannesburg, after their plane lands. 
Another ADI official told the Guardian that lions from South America had never before been taken to Africa.
"It's like a fairytale," he said.


Why Do Cats Act So Damn Weird?

Casey Chan

Why Do Cats Act So Damn Weird?

Dogs just want to love you but cats, well, what the hell do cats want? They have a mind of their own, they seemingly do whatever the hell they want, and their habits are just so weird. Why is that? According to Ted-Ed, it’s because how they developed as both a solitary predator that had to hunt and kill smaller prey for food and stealthy prey who had to hide from larger predators to survive. Their habits today, reflect both!
Being a predator is why they scratch things around your house (to sharpen claws) and why they hang out atop bookcases (their ancestors once looked down on their prey) but being prey explains why they hide in small places (to hide from bigger predators). It’s an interesting duality.


Camera traps capture first clear images of snow leopards mating in the wild

By Earth Touch 
April 26 2016 
Snow leopards are the sort of rare and elusive creatures that tend to grab our attention whenever they make an appearance. But the latest images of the cats, coming our way from the mountainous stretches of China's Tibetan Plateau, have conservationists really excited. For the first time ever, they say, cameras have clearly captured snow leopards mating in the wild.

Late in 2015, an area of around 300 square kilometers of prime leopard habitat in China's Qinghai Province was rigged with camera traps as part of a conservation project led by the Sanshui Conservation Centre (SCC). The SCC team trained local herders to install and manage the infrared cameras, hoping for clues about the cats' behaviour and the state of the local population.

When SCC staff retrieved the cameras in April this year, they found remarkable snapshots of a mating leopard pair among dozens of other images of the cats. All in all, the cameras managed to capture 126 photos of 13 leopards over a period of five months (scroll down for video).

With perhaps as few as 4,000 snow leopards (Panthera uncia) left in the wild, the future of this flagship species is uncertain at best, so evidence that the cats are breeding in this region of China is really good news, conservationists say.

Though snow leopards occupy some of the harshest and most remote habitats in Asia, they're still at risk from human activity. Livestock herding is impinging on their habitats and poachers hunt the leopards for their fur and body parts, which are highly valued in Asian traditional medicine. Human-wildlife conflict, even within protected areas, is intensifying.

Along with footage of leopards scent-marking the ground to attract mates, these new images of the cats' mating ritual are a strong clue that the population in this part of China, at least, is healthy and breeding.


L.A. seeks to protect 'wildlife corridor' in Santa Monica Mountains

Emily Alpert Reyes 
Los Angeles lawmakers voted Friday to draft a new law that would enshrine a “wildlife corridor” in the eastern Santa Monica Mountains, aiming to ensure that coyotes, bobcats and other wild animals are not cut off from stretches of their habitat by new homes or other development.

“We want to be certain that P-22” -- the famed Griffith Park mountain lion -- “can get around, meet P-23 and have P-24,” said City Councilman Paul Koretz, who championed the plan.

City staffers are now tasked with writing the new rules, which would bar Los Angeles from issuing building or grading permits in the area until the city is assured that construction plans will permanently ensure that wildlife can cross from one part of their habitat to another.

Wildlife corridor: In the April 23 California section, an article about a proposed wildlife corridor in the Santa Monica Mountains was accompanied by a photo caption that misidentified Seth Riley of the National Parks Service as Sean Riley. The caption also described the location near Malibu Creek State Park as an area preferred in 2014 for a wildlife corridor. That location is being considered for a wildlife crossing over the 101 Freeway; it is separate from the proposed Santa Monica Mountains corridor. —

The rules would also mandate deed restrictions to permanently protect those connections within wildlife habitat. And every new building project in the zone would have to undergo a “habitat connectivity” review. The proposed ordinance still must come back to the City Council for approval before it can become law.
Environmental and wildlife protection groups such as Citizens for Los Angeles Wildlife have pushed Los Angeles to adopt the plan, saying it will help maintain genetic variation in urban species that might otherwise become isolated, and will reduce conflict with humans by preventing animals from being confined in residential neighborhoods.

Joe Edmiston, executive director of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, said some Angelenos might ask: “Will this stop development? Will this impose undue burdens on developers?”

But Edmiston said those problems haven’t occurred in other places around the country where wildlife corridors have been created. Instead, “developers have to move over a little bit so that the animals in fact can have their pathways,” Edmiston said.

For instance, Koretz said the proposed rules might require someone to leave a small stretch on the edge of their property open rather than fencing off the entire property, to allow animals to pass.
“These are relatively modest changes to the planning code that will make a massive difference to the health of our bobcats and mountain lions and raccoons and other animals,” Koretz said.

Neighborhood groups that represent areas such as the Hollywood Hills, Mar Vista and Studio City, have also thrown their support to the idea.

The new zone is slated to cover Los Angeles hillsides between Griffith Park and the 405 Freeway. City officials are also exploring the feasibility of imposing similar requirements in a broader area that includes the mountains encircling the San Fernando Valley.


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Simon's Cat Logic - Let Me In, Let Me Out! (video)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mongolia To Create New Protected Area for Snow Leopards

Press Release, April 14, 2016 – Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia / Seattle, WA

Mongolia’s Parliament declares Tost a State Protected Area. The mountain range is home to a stable, breeding population of snow leopards.

A new dawn in Tost. Photo by SLCF Mongolia/SLT
A new dawn in Tost. Photo by SLCF Mongolia/SLT

The Great Ikh Hural, Mongolia’s parliament, has approved a proposal to turn the Tost Mountains, a prime snow leopard habitat in the country’s South Gobi province, into a Nature Reserve, one of four categories of State Protected Areas under Mongolian law. Under this designation, only traditional economic activities such as livestock grazing that aren’t harmful to nature will be allowed, while mining, construction, and hunting will be prohibited.
The Snow Leopard Trust would like to express its gratitude and appreciation to the Mongolian parliament, and in particular to Members of Parliament Erdenchimeg Luvsan and Oyungerel Tsedevdamba, who led a Parliamentary delegation with 5 fellow members who championed the proposal.
We would like to congratulate the local government at Gurvantes and the provincial government of South Gobi – and most of all Tost’s local communities, who have championed the idea of protecting this important snow leopard habitat for many years.

One of the largest protected habitats in the world

“This is a huge step forward for the protection of the endangered snow leopard in this part of its range”, says Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science & Conservation Director. “This Nature Reserve will be a bridge between two existing Protected Areas, the Great Gobi and the Gobi Gurvansaikhan National Park. The resulting landscape will be one of the world’s largest continuous protected snow leopard habitats.”
Under Mongolian law, the government will now appoint a working group, consisting of members of several relevant government agencies and public sector partners, to work out the specifics of the new National Park, including its precise boundaries. The Government has 60 days to complete this task.
A map of Mongolia, showing the proposed area for Tost Nature Reserve (red) and existing Protected Areas (dark grey).
A map of Mongolia, showing the proposed area for Tost Nature Reserve (red) and existing Protected Areas (dark grey).
“Within the 8163 square kilometers that are being considered for the National Park, there are currently around 12 licenses for mining exploration, and 2 active mining sites”, says Bayarjargal Agvantseeren, the leader of Mongolia’s Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation and Director of SLT’s Mongolia Program.
As mining activities won’t be permitted within the park boundaries, the working group now has to come up with a solution for the land affected by mining licenses. The licenses can either be revoked, in which case the companies holding them would be compensated, or the licensed land be kept out of the National Park. To protect the ecological integrity of the area, it would be important to revoke licenses that fall inside the boundary.

Site of the most comprehensive snow leopard study to date

Tost is the site of the world’s most comprehensive long-term snow leopard research study, being conducted by the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation, Snow Leopard Trust, and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences since 2008. The conservation organization Panthera was also a partner in the study until 2012.
In this study, scientists have so far tracked 20 snow leopards with GPS satellite collars, gaining unprecedented insights into the behavior and ecology of these cats, and monitoring wild snow leopard cubs in their dens for the first time ever.

Lasya, one of the female snow leopards we've been tracking
A total of 20 snow leopardshave been tracked with a GPS collar in the long-term study in Tost to date.
Remote-sensor camera data collected over a span of five years has shown Tost’s snow leopard population to be stable and reproducing, with at least 12 adult cats using the area at any given time.

A win that was years in the making

Given the importance of this ecosystem both to the endangered snow leopard and the local pastoral community, the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation and local people began making efforts for its protection in 2008. In 2010, the community achieved a major breakthrough, as both the provincial and central governments agreed to give Tost and Tosonbumba the status of a Local Protected Area. This offered some level of protection from further expansions of mining in the area, but could not guarantee the ecosystem’s long-term future.
Our team recognized this early on, and began working with the local community and leadership toward achieving State Protected Area status in 2012. Now, 4 years, this collective effort has paid off, and Tost should remain a safe haven for snow leopards.


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Your Daily #Cat

Mojak walking 

Mojak walking by Tambako The Jaguar

FL keeper broke rules before tiger killed her, zoo says

(CNN)A keeper killed by a tiger at a Florida zoo this month broke the rules when she entered the big cat's enclosure, zoo officials said.
Stacey Konwiser, 38, died April 15 after a 13-year-old male Malayan tiger delivered a fatal neck injury inside a secured portion of the tiger area.
But questions still remain about the circumstances surrounding the death of the lead tiger keeper at the Palm Beach Zoo.
The day of the attack, the zoo's public relations manager said Konwiser had "absolutely" not done anything out of the ordinary when she entered the area where tigers eat and sleep.
"This was part of a daily procedure that takes place, this was something that was done every single day. She was efficient and proficient in doing this task and an unfortunate situation occurred," said Naki Carter.
But in a statement released Friday, a week after her death, Andrew Aiken, the zoo's president and chief executive, said Konwiser had violated zoo policy.
She "entered that same portion of the night house after it was clearly designated as accessible by a tiger," said Aiken.
"Under Palm Beach Zoo policy, zoo employees are never allowed to enter a tiger enclosure to which the animal has access."

Her death was "no mystery"

"There is absolutely no mystery as to how Stacey Konwiser died," according to a statement posted in a new FAQ section on the Palm Beach Zoo's website.
"The question is: why did a deeply talented and experienced Zookeeper, fully aware of the presence of a tiger and knowledgeable of our safety protocols, enter a tiger enclosure into which a tiger had access?" it said.
The statement also clarified that although the night house has video surveillance cameras, they were not recording at the time, and are only activated when the zoo has newborn tiger cubs.
"Why or how this could possibly occur is the subject of five ongoing investigations, including our own," said Aiken in his statement.
The zoo said the afternoon that Konwiser entered the enclosure, she was alone, which is in compliance with the nationalized standards from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.
CNN's attempts to reach the zoo for further comments were not immediately successful.

'Tiger may have looked at her like a ball of a yarn'

Dave Salmoni, a large predator expert and TV host for Animal Planet, said "there is no way to ever guarantee that a cat won't kill you."
"Almost never would you allow a keeper to have access to a dangerous predator ... If she's given these keys then she has a history of perfect gate-locking procedure," he added.
Konwiser had worked at the zoo for three years and according to zoo officials was "very experienced" with tigers.
Stacey Konwiser with her husband, Jeremy Konwiser.
Salmoni said no matter the relationship between Konwiser and the tiger, once she entered that enclosure, "if this was something unusual, the tiger would have looked at her like a ball of yarn to play with."
"Once she started to struggle or moved quickly, that tiger's primal hunter instinct would have then come into play," he said.

Threats against tiger

The rare tiger, one of four at the facility, is held in a contained area where the animals are fed and sleep.
The male tiger was tranquilized after the attack and remains at the facility. Zoo officials have declined to provide information on the tiger, including its name.
"Identifying the animal only serves to stigmatize and potentially places the tiger in harm's way," the zoo said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. It said it has received threats against the animal.
Zoo officials have said the tiger was off-exhibit at the time and no guests saw what happened.

Recent attacks by big cats in captivity

In January, a keeper was severely injured at an Australian zoo founded by the late wildlife conservationist Steve Irwin.
Last September, a keeper was attacked and killed by a Sumatran tiger at a zoo in Hamilton, New Zealand.
In June 2015, police shot and killed a white tiger that killed a man in Tbilisi, Georgia, after severe flooding allowed hundreds of wild animals to escape the city zoo.
In 2013, a 24-year-old woman working at a Northern California animal sanctuary was mauled and killed by a lion.
In 2007, an escaped Siberian tiger attacked and killed one zoo patron and injured two others in a cafe at the San Francisco Zoo.
In 2003, a white tiger attacked Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy during a performance in Las Vegas. The tiger lunged at Horn's neck about halfway through the show and dragged him off stage as audience members watched.

Outwitting poachers with AI

A century ago, more than 60,000 tigers roamed the wild. Today, the worldwide estimate has dwindled to around 3,200. Poaching is one of the main drivers of this precipitous drop. Whether killed for skins, medicine or trophy hunting, humans have pushed tigers to near-extinction. The same applies to other large animal species like elephants and rhinoceros that play unique and crucial roles in the ecosystems where they live.

Human patrols serve as the most direct form of protection of endangered animals, especially in large national parks. However, protection agencies have limited resources for patrols.

With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Army Research Office, researchers are using artificial intelligence (AI) and game theory to solve poaching, illegal logging and other problems worldwide, in collaboration with researchers and conservationists in the U.S., Singapore, Netherlands and Malaysia.

“In most parks, ranger patrols are poorly planned, reactive rather than pro-active, and habitual,” according to Fei Fang, a Ph.D. candidate in the computer science department at the University of Southern California (USC).

Fang is part of an NSF-funded team at USC led by Milind Tambe, professor of computer science and industrial and systems engineering and director of the Teamcore Research Group on Agents and Multiagent Systems.

Their research builds on the idea of “green security games” — the application of game theory to wildlife protection. Game theory uses mathematical and computer models of conflict and cooperation between rational decision-makers to predict the behavior of adversaries and plan optimal approaches for containment. The Coast Guard and Transportation Security Administration have used similar methods developed by Tambe and others to protect airports and waterways.

“This research is a step in demonstrating that AI can have a really significant positive impact on society and allow us to assist humanity in solving some of the major challenges we face,” Tambe said.

PAWS puts the claws in anti-poaching

The team presented papers describing how they use their methods to improve the success of human patrols around the world at the AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence in February.

The researchers first created an AI-driven application called PAWS (Protection Assistant for Wildlife Security) in 2013 and tested the application in Uganda and Malaysia in 2014. Pilot implementations of PAWS revealed some limitations, but also led to significant improvements.

PAWS uses data on past patrols and evidence of poaching. As it receives more data, the system “learns” and improves its patrol planning. Already, the system has led to more observations of poacher activities per kilometer.

Its key technical advance lies in its ability to incorporate complex terrain information, including the topography of protected areas. That results in practical patrol routes that minimize elevation changes, saving time and energy. Moreover, the system can also take into account the natural transit paths that have the most animal traffic – and thus the most poaching – creating a “street map” for patrols.
“We need to provide actual patrol routes that can be practically followed,” Fang said. “These routes need to go back to a base camp and the patrols can’t be too long. We list all possible patrol routes and then determine which is most effective.”

The application also randomizes patrols to avoid falling into predictable patterns. “If the poachers observe that patrols go to some areas more often than others, then the poachers place their snares elsewhere,” Fang said.

Since 2015, two non-governmental organizations, Panthera and Rimbat, have used PAWS to protect forests in Malaysia. The research won the Innovative Applications of Artificial Intelligence award for deployed application, as one of the best AI applications with measurable benefits.

The team recently combined PAWS with a new tool called CAPTURE (Comprehensive Anti-Poaching Tool with Temporal and Observation Uncertainty Reasoning) that predicts attacking probability even more accurately.

In addition to helping patrols find poachers, the tools may assist them with intercepting trafficked wildlife products and other high-risk cargo, adding another layer to wildlife protection. The researchers are in conversations with wildlife authorities in Uganda to deploy the system later this year. They will present their findings at the 15th International Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems (AAMAS 2016) in May. “There is an urgent need to protect the natural resources and wildlife on our beautiful planet, and we computer scientists can help in various ways,” Fang said. “Our work on PAWS addresses one facet of the problem, improving the efficiency of patrols to combat poaching.”


Clouded Leopard Cubs Are a Triple Threat of Cuteness


Clouded Leopard triplets were born March 30 at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. They are under the 24-hour care of keepers who feed them seven times a day and see to all of their other needs.

They squeak. They crawl a bit--sometimes over each other. They huddle together closely, looking like a big ball of spotted fur with legs and tails sticking out. They eagerly eat their special formula. And they sleep…a lot!

“Hand-rearing of these endangered exotic cats is an established practice that’s critical for their well-being as cubs and their later participation in the Species Survival Plan program for Clouded Leopards”, said staff biologist Andy Goldfarb.

Goldfarb has spent three decades caring for and raising endangered cats, and is known internationally as an expert in raising Clouded Leopards.

The cubs each weighed around 13 ounces, or just about three-quarters of a pound, at their first checkup. It’s still too early to tell their genders for certain, and they have yet to be named. The zoo will issue a news release and post to its Facebook page when details are available on how the public can help name the cubs.



Photo Credits: Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

No date has been determined for their public debut, but zoological staff members expect the triplets’ feeds will be viewable in the Cats of the Canopy exhibit Cub Den by the end of April. “These cubs are particularly valuable to the Species Survival Plan managed breeding program because the genetics of their mother, Sang Dao, are not represented in the population. That increases genetic diversity among the Clouded Leopards in North America,” Goldfarb said.

Sang Dao came to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium three years ago from Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Kansas. The cubs’ father, Tien, was born at Point Defiance Zoo three years ago. They are first-time parents.

The species is under significant pressure in the wild from encroachment and destruction of its habitat, as well as poaching.

The cats, which live in the forests and trees of Southeast Asia, are elusive, and it’s difficult to know how many remain in the wild. “These cats are very rare,” Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium General Curator Karen Goodrowe Beck said. “We hope visitors to the zoo will connect with them and be inspired to take action to help save their species in the wild.”

Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium long has been a leader in Clouded Leopard conservation. Both Goodrowe Beck and Goldfarb, supported by The Zoo Society’s Dr. Holly Reed Wildlife. Conservation Fund, have worked with zookeepers in Thailand on improving ways to breed and rear Clouded Leopards. Goodrowe Beck holds a Ph.D. in reproductive biology.

Having a robust population of Clouded Leopards in zoos allows scientists to study the species’ behavior, physiology and medical conditions. That’s not possible in the wild, Goodrowe Beck said. But the information gained may one day help scientists develop conservation strategies for helping the species in the wild.

Maintaining Clouded Leopard populations in zoos allows animals like Sang Dao and Tien – and their cubs – to inspire people to take action on behalf of wildlife and wild places. The Point Defiance Zoo’s “Paws for the Cause” program, meanwhile, helps consumers understand the link between some foods they eat, products they use and the deforestation of animal habitat half a world away.

The program also provides shoppers with tips on choosing products with deforestation-free palm oil and ways to get engaged by urging companies to make wildlife friendly choices in the raw materials they buy. Palm oil, used in a wide variety of goods from candy to shampoo and body lotion to laundry soap, is derived from the oil palm tree. And some palm oil production results in wholesale destruction of the habitat on which Clouded Leopards, Orangutans, Tigers, Tapirs and other animals depend.

To learn more about this and how to take action, go to:

To learn more about Clouded Leopards, go to: and

Tacoma zookeepers founded the nonprofit Clouded Leopard Project 15 years ago ( The group works closely with the Zoo and The Zoo Society in fundraising efforts for conservation projects.

More adorable pics, below the fold!









Clouded Leopard mom, Sang Dao:



Gay Pride? Famous Male Lions Just Hugging

By Taylor Kubota, Live Science Contributor   |   April 21, 2016 

Long-maned male lions mount each other in Botswana
This male-on-male behavior, seen in this pair in Botswana, is common in lions and is not proof of gay partnership in these animals, a lion expert says.
Credit: Nicole Cambré

The Internet was buzzing this week with interest over images that appear to show two male lions engaging in homosexual behavior.

The photos and videos, shot by photographer Nicole Cambré in Botswana in March, feature two long-maned lions looking very cuddly. At one point, one lion mounts and humps the other.

By their social media posts and online comments, people seemed fascinated and elated to see what looked like same-sex behavior in these beloved wild cats. But these "gay" lions are not gay.

"It's affectionate, and it's kind of reinforcing the dominant status of the one that's doing the humping," Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, told Live Science. "You see that in monkeys all the time, and it doesn't make the newspapers that there are homosexual monkeys out there."

The male-on-male behavior, Packer said, is fairly common in lions and many other species, and should not be considered proof of homosexual partnerships in animals. [10 Gay Animals in the Wild]
Lion coalitions

Although these photos don't show animals breaking any barriers, the pictures are still windows into an important, intimate relationship for lions, Packer said. Male lions are up against serious competition when it comes to finding females. This prompts them to team up in groups of two or three, called coalitions, to work together and win mates. Not only are coalitions vital to the lions' reproductive success, but from what scientists can tell, these relationships are also meaningful and involve caring, Packer said.

"It's really scary being a lone male lion out there, and he might find a companion," said Packer. "And when you see two solitary males who've lived in fear who suddenly now have a companion, they're so happy. It's amazing. They're so affectionate to each other." They are, however, not sexual partners, he added.

Packer compared male-male mounting to dogs humping a leg. They are making a point with the behavior. In the case of the lions, the behavior represents a mix of affection and re-establishment of the pecking order. In this pair, the dark-maned male is the dominant member of the partnership over the blonde male, Packer said.

A long-maned male lion mounts another male lion in Botswana.
A long-maned male lion mounts another male lion in Botswana.
Credit: Nicole Cambré

It was obvious that the lions were not participating in any type of penetrative act, Packer said. Lions, he said, ejaculate very quickly after entering a female and let out a characteristic yowl at the moment of ejaculation. These lions seemed to be humping longer than is typical in a sexual act, he said. Beyond that, he said he found nothing noteworthy about the "viral" images.

Lion sex
As for the possibility put forth by National Geographic that one of these lions was, in fact, female, Packer said that idea was ill-conceived. To his eye, the lions are both clearly male, as evidenced by body size, head size and the presence of male genitalia when viewed from behind, he said.

The male lions in Botswana take a nap.
The male lions in Botswana take a nap.
Credit: Nicole Cambré

In email interview with Live Science, photographer Cambré said she shares this belief, citing her videos as almost certain proof that both lions are male.

The idea that a female lion could have a mane comes from previous reports of one or two maned lions lacking male genitalia that were spotted some years ago in Botswana. Manes require substantial testosterone in order to grow, said Packer, who noted he has seen males unable to grow manes but never a female who had one. This possibility has piqued his interest, though, and he has planned a meeting with the man who commented in the National Geographic piece about the evidence for maned lionesses, he said.

Cambré noted that the, even if the maned females from previous reports do exist, they were seen in an area far from where her photos and videos were taken. "As far as I am aware the maned females were seen near Mombo on Chief's island in Moremi Game Reserve in the Okavango delta," said Cambré."The Kwando concession is in the north in the Kwando-Linyanti wetlands so there is some distance between the two so it is not really the same area." The distance between those two areas seems to be about 100 miles.

She added that the Kwando safari guides have reported sightings of male lions that may have crossed into the area from Namibia, one of which has a light mane and is collared, like the blonde-maned male in the images. Cambré has reached out to the Kwando Carnivore Project in Namibia to see if they collared this lion and have any further information about it.

Whether wild animals can be gay depends on how a person defines that term. Doting male-male bonding that can include sexual activities and attempts by males to mate with anything that might be mate-able (including other males) has been seen in many species, including several types of primates and insects. Researchers have also observed that some birds establish long-term same-sex pairings.


Tigers Forever (video)

Apr 21, 2016
A short documentary that looks at Islam and the environment with a focus on the Malayan tiger with a special appearance by HRH Sultan Mizan, the Sultan of Terengganu.