Saturday, December 20, 2014

Photographer captures amazing action images of #BigCats clashing at Thailand's #Tiger Temple sanctuary

  • Photographer and filmmaker Peter Adams captured tigers frolicking at the controversial Tiger Temple
  • The wildlife park is linked to the Theravada Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi in western Thailand 
  • While there are animal welfare concerns associated with the park, Adams was impressed with it 
Endangered Indochinese tigers fight and frolic in the water and between rocks, doing what comes naturally, in these impressive images from photographer and filmmaker Peter Adams taken at Thailand's controversial Tiger Temple.
The attraction has come under fire from animal welfare groups for the way their star attractions are treated, but Adams was nothing but impressed when he visited the park linked to the Theravada Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi in western Thailand.
And while tiger selfies are usually the order of the day, the 55-year-old from Gloucestershire wanted to capture the young tigers up to mischief rather than laying about for tourists. 
Endangered Indochinese tigers show their power and grace in the water at Thailand's Tiger Temple
Endangered Indochinese tigers show their power and grace in the water at Thailand's Tiger Temple
Tigers play - or fight - in the water at the sanctuary
Peter Adams took this series of images while there as a tourist
Peter Adams took this series of action images while at Tiger Temple as a tourist Tigers play - or fight - in the water at the sanctuary
The park is linked to the Theravada Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi in western Thailand.
The park is linked to the Theravada Buddhist temple in Kanchanaburi in western Thailand.
Adams, 55, of Gloucestershire, wanted to capture the young tigers up to mischief rather than laying about for tourists
Adams, 55, of Gloucestershire, wanted to capture the young tigers up to mischief rather than laying about for tourists
Adams, 55, of Gloucestershire, wanted to capture the young tigers up to mischief rather than laying about for tourists

'I spent a day visiting the temple as a normal tourist but was able to get incredibly close to the tigers,' Adams says. 'They were young and extremely playful, instigating some of the games with some of the monks who have brought them up, so they're used to human contact.'
Adams says he was able to get within touching distance of the tigers while they played together in their enclosures and watched them get showered and fed.
'It seemed incredible to me to get so close to these magnificent creatures, even to stroke them,' he says. 'It did feel slightly surreal taking these pictures being so close to something essentially wild and dangerous and to see their tremendous power as they run towards you.
'My instinct told me to back away, but my urge to get strong photographs was telling me to get closer.'
'There has been some controversy over the temple as there is with a lot of wildlife centres, however during my visit the tigers seemed very well treated and looked after.
'It was a magical experience.' 
One tiger surveys the area from the height of a rock, and prepares to pounce on its pals 
One tiger surveys the area from the height of a rock, and prepares to pounce on its pals
A tiger shows how tall it can be on two legs
Two tigers clash with their huge paws simultaneously catching each other on the face
A tiger shows how tall it can be on two legs while two others clash with their huge paws simultaneously catching each other on the face
Nowhere to go! This clash isn't going to end well for one tiger
The big cat with the higher ground strikes the other with its paw
Nowhere to go! This clash isn't going to end well for one tiger as the big cat with the higher ground strikes the other with its paw
Tiger Temple, which was founded in 1994, houses more than 100 tigers and visitors can bottle feed the cubs. 
In a review by Wild International based on a combination of animal welfare measures along with media coverage and compiled reviews, Tiger Temple received an 'unacceptable' rating of six out of a possible 50. 
They cite a Care for the Wild investigation in 2008 which 'exposed cruelty and other serious issues' but they say in recent years opinions on the attraction are divided. 
The Zoo Review score was boosted by positive appraisals from TripAdvisor and Google. 
'It is obvious that many people love the Tiger Temple as it gives them the chance to get close to the tigers. Many claim not to see evidence of mistreatment or cruelty,' says the review. 'However, focussing purely on animal welfare criteria, the Tiger Temple seems to deserve an Unacceptable rating, as the conditions of the tigers is of extreme concern.'

#Bigcat escape artist Rocky gets permanent home at zoo

Rocky the bobcat's owner, Ginny Fine, permanently surrendered the animal to Popcorn Park Zoo during a hearing at Stafford Municipal Court on Dec. 19, 2014. The Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
BEACH HAVEN WEST, N.J. — It's official! Rocky the hybrid bobcat, one the area's most elusive fugitives, will permanently reside at the Popcorn Park Zoo.
That was the outcome of a municipal court hearing Friday, at which the feline's owner, Ginny Fine, pleaded guilty to letting the animal run at large Oct. 21, marking one in a string of occurrences where Rocky escaped from her home in the Manahawkin section of the township in the course of the year.
Fine's attorney, Curtis Dowell, noted that when his client was last in court over the summer facing the same charge, she agreed to surrender Rocky if he ever escaped from her home again.
This time, Municipal Judge Damian Murray fined Fine $500, ordered her to pay $560 in restitution to the Popcorn Park Zoo for Rocky's room and board, and said she must relinquish ownership of Rocky to the zoo.

The bobcat hybrid has been at the zoo, run by the Associated Humane Societies, since his most recent escape from Fine's house almost two months ago. "Rocky is going to be a permanent resident of the Popcorn Zoo,'' Murray said, as Fine brushed away tears.

Rocky was suspected of being a purebred bobcat during his last escape but a DNA test in May revealed the feline's mother to be pure bobcat but was inconclusive on Rocky's father. If the DNA test had revealed that Rocky was pure bobcat — males can weigh as much as 40 pounds while male Maine coon cats can tip the scales at more like 25 pounds — Fine would not have been allowed to have him back.

In previous court proceedings, Murray said Rocky has gotten free at least six times in the past.

"This should be an end to the tortured history of this case,'' Murray said. "Some things are not meant to be. Rocky living in your household is one of them.''


Europe shows that humans and large predators can share the same landscape

December 19, 2014
ExpertAnswer, Sweden

The recovery of large carnivores in Europe is a great success for nature conservation. At one third of mainland Europe, at least one species of large carnivore is present, according to a new article. It is an excellent example that humans and carnivores can share the same landscape, say researchers.

Credit: Henrik Andrén, SLU

The recovery of large carnivores in Europe is a great success for nature conservation. At one third of mainland Europe, at least one species of large carnivore is present, according to an article in the scientific magazine Science that researchers from 26 countries have contributed to. It is an excellent example that humans and carnivores can share the same landscape, says main author Guillaume Chapron, from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

By the early 20th century, large carnivores had been exterminated from most of Europe, with just relict populations persisting. Now we have increasing or stable populations of brown bears, wolves, Eurasian lynx and wolverines, and they do not live in a remote wilderness but in a human-dominated landscape.

That is a great difference in comparison to the strategies being pursued in other parts of the world where carnivores are mainly protected in large national parks or wilderness areas, separated from people. If Europe had used that model we would hardly have any carnivores at all because there are not enough large areas of wilderness remaining. "This is a success story that builds on a good legislation, political stability, strong institutions and a favourable public opinion," says Guillaume Chapron, researcher at Grimsö Wildlife Station, Department of Ecology, at SLU. In addition, Europe's forests and wild herbivore populations are in far better shape today than they were 100 years ago.
The environmental movement in the 1970's and 1980's paved the way for the Council of Europe's Bern Convention and the EU's habitat directive legislation that has given these species the opportunity to recover. "The large carnivores are an example of species that have benefited from this pan-European legislation and that the Habitats Directive works," says Guillaume Chapron.
76 researchers have contributed to the article, among them five from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). They have compiled data and produced a distribution map for large carnivore map across most of Europe.
  • The brown bear is currently present in 22 countries. It is the most common large carnivore in Europe with 17,000 individuals that can be clustered into ten populations. All populations are relatively stable or slightly expanding, although a few remain critically small.
  • Wolves are the second most common species, about 12,000 individuals, with ten populations in 28 countries. Most of the populations are increasing, but a couple of populations seem to be decreasing. One Spanish population is on the brink to extinction.
  • Lynx are present in 23 countries, with 9,000 individuals. Most of the eleven populations are stable but some of them are decreasing.
  • Wolverine lives only in Sweden, Norway and Finland, in two populations with 1,250 individuals. Both populations are increasing.
Guillaume Chapron says that Europe can be an example for other parts of the world. "Europe has twice as many wolves as the USA (excluding Alaska) in spite of being half the size and more than twice as densely populated. Our experience illustrates the incredible ability that these species have to survive to the modern, human-dominated world."
Generally speaking people in Europe are positive to carnivores but the conflicts that caused the historical declines are still present, like predation on livestock. The most severe challenges for large carnivore conservation are in countries where large carnivores have previously been totally extirpated and where people have lost their adaptations to sharing the landscape with their wild neighbours. Furthermore, species like wolves have been coopted as powerful symbols for wider political and social tensions between rural and urban areas.

A variety of practices that reduce damage on livestock, like electric fences and livestock-guarding dogs, can facilitate co-existence. Furthermore there is a need for dialogue between stakeholders and cooperation between different sectors and different countries. It is crucial that these conflict issues are taken seriously to prevent a possible backlash against conservation in general.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by ExpertAnswer, Sweden. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. G. Chapron, P. Kaczensky, J. D. C. Linnell, M. von Arx, D. Huber, H. Andren, J. V. Lopez-Bao, M. Adamec, F. Alvares, O. Anders, L. Bal iauskas, V. Balys, P. Bed , F. Bego, J. C. Blanco, U. Breitenmoser, H. Broseth, L. Bufka, R. Bunikyte, P. Ciucci, A. Dutsov, T. Engleder, C. Fuxjager, C. Groff, K. Holmala, B. Hoxha, Y. Iliopoulos, O. Ionescu, J. Jeremi , K. Jerina, G. Kluth, F. Knauer, I. Kojola, I. Kos, M. Krofel, J. Kubala, S. Kunovac, J. Kusak, M. Kutal, O. Liberg, A. Maji , P. Mannil, R. Manz, E. Marboutin, F. Marucco, D. Melovski, K. Mersini, Y. Mertzanis, R. W. Mys ajek, S. Nowak, J. Odden, J. Ozolins, G. Palomero, M. Paunovi , J. Persson, H. Poto nik, P.-Y. Quenette, G. Rauer, I. Reinhardt, R. Rigg, A. Ryser, V. Salvatori, T. Skrbin ek, A. Stojanov, J. E. Swenson, L. Szemethy, A. Trajce, E. Tsingarska-Sedefcheva, M. Va a, R. Veeroja, P. Wabakken, M. Wolfl, S. Wolfl, F. Zimmermann, D. Zlatanova, L. Boitani. Recovery of large carnivores in Europe's modern human-dominated landscapes. Science, 2014; 346 (6216): 1517 DOI: 10.1126/science.1257553

ExpertAnswer, Sweden. "Europe shows that humans and large predators can share the same landscape." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2014. <>.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Your Daily Cat(s)

Sitting Villy 

Sitting Villy by Tambako The Jaguar

Villy coming to me 

Villy coming to me by Tambako The Jaguar

Mountain lion's DNA to be tested for origins

Kentucky wildlife officials on Wednesday said it could be weeks before they know whether the first confirmed mountain lion in the state since the Civil War is wild or had been living in captivity and either escaped or had been released.

They also insisted that they don't have a "shoot-on-sight" policy for mountain lions, which have been reclaiming lost territory in recent years and expanding their range from their stronghold in the western United States. "It will be a case-by-case situation," said Mark Marraccini, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Wildlife Resources. "The circumstances will speak for themselves."

Wildlife biologists and veterinarian Iga Stasiak on Tuesday conducted a necropsy on the mountain lion, which was shot Monday in Bourbon County after state wildlife officers deemed it a risk. Genetic material from the big cat will be sent out of state to a wildlife lab to see whether the animals DNA matches any wild populations. "They can determine the origin," said Marraccini, adding the investigation will take weeks to get answers.

Wednesday, however, Marraccini was downplaying the possibility that the animal was wild. He said it appeared to be too healthy "to have walked here from Nebraska." But he also noted that Kentucky has a big deer population and a lot of potential suitable habitat.

The Courier-Journal on Tuesday reported that mountain lions have colonized in South Dakota, Nebraska and Missouri, having moved in from the West. There have also been sightings in Indiana.
Kentucky's investigation will include looking into where the animal might have lived in captivity, Marraccini said, declining to elaborate. If it turns out to be a wild cat, he said it would prompt a discussion within the agency about the potential management of such a top-line predator in the state.
While biologists would be excited about the potential, he said Kentucky residents would likely be very wary, noting that state residents were opposed to reintroduction of the red wolf, another predator, to the state in the 1980s.

Some Kentucky residents have had a hard time adjusting to the return of black bears, Marraccini said. It means they have to change old patterns, such as not leaving dog food on the porch. For now, he said, there is no policy on how field officers are to handle any mountain lion sightings, other than to give them the authority to do what is necessary for public safety. In this case, he said the animal was in a populated rural area within two miles of Paris, and the officer feared the cat could slip away into the night if it were not killed.

Wildlife advocates, however, have argued that mountain lions can be an important part of any ecosystem and that attacks on humans are very rare. In some states, they are also hunted.

The shooting was reminiscent of a similar action taken by Illinois wildlife officials in November 2013. That state had wiped out its mountain lion population by 1970, but when one showed up on a farm last year, game wardens quickly dispatched the animal as a threat. "When the (officer) arrived at the farm, he made contact with the farm owner's wife, who was in the house, and checked a horse barn and lot where the landowner's horses were located," Illinois Department of Natural Resources reported at the time. "The cougar was discovered in a concrete tunnel beneath a corn crib."

Mountain lions are the largest cats found in North America and can measure up to eight feet from nose to tail and weigh up to 180 pounds. Also known as cougars, pumas, panthers and catamounts, the cats are considered top-line predators other species rarely feed on them.


For Leopards in Iran and Iraq, Land Mines Are a Surprising Refuge

Land mines keep people out of the Persian leopard's last habitats, creating a conundrum—removing the hazards leaves the cats more vulnerable.

Leopard caught by camera trap, Panthera pardus, Kavir National Park, Iran
This Persian leopard was photographed by a camera trap in Kavir National Park, Iran. There are fewer than a thousand of the animals left in the wild. Photograph by Frans Lanting,

National Geographic
Peter Schwartzstein
for National Geographic
Published December 19, 2014
SULAYMANIYAH, Iraq—Few parts of the world look more hostile to big cats than the rugged wilderness that flanks the northern Iran-Iraq frontier.

Laced with land mines and roamed by packs of dedicated poachers, it's an environment seemingly calculated to imperil even the most fleet-footed animal. Yet this is the place the world's largest leopard calls home.
Once spread across the Caucasus region, Persian leopards now are relegated to this former war zone, along with a few isolated pockets of rural Iran. Here, hundreds of thousands of Iranian and Iraqi soldiers bludgeoned one another to death in some of the late 20th century's most brutal battles. Even today, border guards patrol the once fiercely contested high ground.
Map of Persian leopard range.

But through it all the leopard has endured, and oddly enough, the region's violent past has contributed to its survival. As part of the decade-long conflict, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and his Iranian counterparts planted an estimated 20 million to 30 million land mines in the 1980s. Two decades after the last of the big minefields were laid, the explosives continue to maim and kill local residents.
But the mines also have become accidental protection for the leopards, discouraging poachers from entering certain areas.
And now interest in clearing the land mines throws into sharp relief the conflict between human and wildlife interests. Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdistan region is developing swiftly, and along with that comes hot pursuit of oil and gas deposits—many of which lie in leopard-heavy highlands—to fuel its likely bid for independence.
Conservation efforts have struggled to gain traction in large swaths of the Middle East. As in many developing regions, the welfare of the environment is a distant consideration amid economic peril and political flux. But the emergence of the Islamic State jihadist group, which now controls swathes of Syria and Iraq and which was recently camped on Iran's doorstep, has pushed the plight of the Persian leopard even further from local decision-makers' thoughts.
That's why the region's conservationists now find themselves in the not-so-comfortable position of opposing some land-mine clearance efforts. Clearing the way for people to return to those areas could put the leopards back at humans' mercy, they say. (Read about how Mozambique is clearing land mines.) "Environmentally speaking, mines are great, because they keep people out," said Azzam Alwash, head of the conservation group Nature Iraq.
Hunters at Bay
Ahmed Kurdi holds court in his brother's roadside restaurant outside the Iraqi city Sulaymaniyah, commonly known by its Kurdish name Slemani. His squat build and soft hands seem ill-suited to making stiff climbs in the Zagros Mountains, but Kurdi is an experienced marksman who is keen to tell stories of hunting leopards. "My cousin and I were hunting goats near his village in Iran when we saw this big animal moving slowly high up on the rocks," Kurdi said, mimicking his shooting motion. "It was a long way away, but it was a challenge that I couldn't resist."
The market for leopard pelts has mostly dried up, but there's still a certain cachet associated with ensnaring such an exotic creature. As a result, the harsh penalties attached to killing leopards haven't done much to dissuade determined trophy hunters.
The land mines, though, do a good job of keeping people off certain peaks, and these have become the leopards' favorite haunts. "A lot of the animals now stay up in the high mountains where all the land mines are. We can't really go there, so we can't really hunt," Kurdi said in explaining his reluctant decision to hang up his rifle.
Not that leopards are entirely immune themselves to the hazards of land mines. They're nimble, spend much of their time in trees or on rocks, and are light enough when their weight is spread over four legs not to trigger anti-tank mines, which typically are activated by payloads of more than 176 pounds (80 kilograms).
But at least two are thought to have been killed by triggering the prongs and tripwires of the region's ubiquitous Italian-made V69 antipersonnel mines. A video has also surfaced in which a leopard appears to have bled to death after losing a leg while navigating an explosive-laden mountain pass.
Mine Protection
It might seem extraordinary that deadly devices have contributed to the Persian leopard's continued presence in the Zagros Mountains, but the prospects of the region's animal life have always been intimately wrapped up with the fortunes of the local people.
Hunters aside, Alwash fears the swift degradation of the leopards' habitats if mine removal frees up land for development around Sulaymaniyah and other small cities—which continue to expand, suggesting his worries are well-founded.
A mountain that was de-mined near Iraq's Lake Dukan a few years ago was promptly appropriated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the dominant local political party, and then fenced off and zoned for construction.
Some Iraqis don't even wait for the "all clear" before traipsing through mine-ridden terrain. "Every day we have to stop operations because people are driving animals through the minefields," said Chris Bull, a project manager at Sterling Global Operations, which, like most mine clearance organizations in Iraqi Kurdistan, is funded by international energy companies pursuing new oil and gas reserves.
In the late 1980s, the Iraqi government accelerated its eventual destruction of over 4,000 Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. In doing so, Saddam Hussein inadvertently boosted the animal population by reducing the number of people living in the mountains and warding off resident hunters.
A few years later, however, many of these rural families came streaming home after the United States imposed a no-fly zone over northern Iraq—which pushed back government forces—and the mountains' wildlife suffered as a consequence, according to local environmentalists.
Spotted in Iran
In Iran, things have panned out a little differently for both big cats and the local people who have settled among them.
The Persian leopard population is significantly bigger here, earning the cat a far more prominent place in local mythology than in neighboring Iraq. "It was a symbol of power and courage in ancient Persia," said Amirhossein Khaleghi, a co-founder of Iran's Persian Leopard Project. The leopard's skin, he says, was used as a flag by several imperial dynasties.
This folkloric significance hasn't made leopards' lives any easier, though. Iran's roads are notoriously perilous—according to the World Health Organization, the country has one of the highest rates of traffic deaths in the world, with more than 20,000 people killed on the roads each year—and an increasing number of leopards have been killed while cutting across traffic. Others find themselves trapped without food by impassable highways.
More threatening still is pervasive overhunting and the increasingly combative stance of farmers fearful of losing sheep and cattle to the predator. "Beyond the nature reserves, the amount of prey is declining due to rampant poaching," said Arash Ghoddousi, Khaleghi's partner in establishing Iran's Persian Leopard Project, who is studying how poachers and leopards battle for the same quarry.
"Leopards are having to go nearer villages to hunt prey, and this has brought them into conflict with livestock farmers, who use poison or kill the animal with a rifle," Ghoddousi said.
In both Iran and Iraq, it's forest rangers who are charged with protecting the leopard and pursuing those who hunt it, and despite the challenges they've performed relatively well in penalizing illegal hunters and chasing down bazaar vendors who market leopard pelts.
But the experiences of a small Iraqi forest police checkpoint perched high above the town of Qaradagh in northern Iraq illustrate the complications of safeguarding local wildlife.
Whenever the ten-strong company hears gunshots, they're supposed to fan out and patrol the surrounding hills, but the limited fuel allowance for their lone pickup truck means they seldom venture much beyond their post.
Fortunately for nearby leopards and their prey, they're rarely called upon nowadays. "The hunting pressure is decreasing. We haven't seen leopard trails since July," said Araz, the unit commander, whose four shoulder stripes mark his nine years of service in the force.
But he and his men are furious at the leniency the dominant local politician, Sheikh al-Jaffar, a former minister in the Kurdish Regional Government, or KRG, has shown to those caught hunting illegal game. Anyone spotted with a hunting rifle in a nature reserve is immediately disarmed and turned over to the local magistrate, but the frequency with which they reappear in the mountains has left the forest patrol disenchanted.
Their colleagues across the border suffer from equally debilitating restrictions. The Iranian government issues a limited number of hunting licenses every year, but many villagers supplement their meager diets with meat from the mountains, which has sparked a fierce conflict between the locals and law enforcement officials. The same dispute is seen the world over, but far from empowering these wardens with significant clout to combat those who threaten protected species, officials have hamstrung them with an unforgiving legal framework. "Rangers are allowed to carry weapons, but if a ranger accidently kills a poacher, he will go through a long court experience, and probably go to prison and maybe get executed," Ghoddousi said.
Political Animal
The Persian leopard is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Calculating just how endangered the Persian leopard has become is intensely tricky, though. There are no official counts, and independent efforts to tally numbers have been continually stumped by thieves stealing the necessary equipment. The best estimates gathered by the IUCN put the total number of leopards at somewhere around a thousand, with the majority in Iran.
All ten of the camera traps Nature Iraq uses to photograph and identify leopards have been stolen, as have 24 of the 80 devices the Persian Leopard Project set up around Iran's Golestan National Park.
Both the Persian Leopard Project and Panthera, a big-cat conservation group, have nevertheless hit upon similar estimates. They place the total Persian leopard population in the 500-800 range, but fear a further reduction in numbers as its habitat shrinks.
And then there's the regional flux. The Islamic State jihadist group has lost momentum in recent weeks, as American-led air strikes weaken its assaults on some cities, but they're still running amok across parts of Iraq. Affording leopards additional protections now, while also devoting resources to publicize the cat's plight, would likely smack of misplaced priorities.
But from a leopard's perspective, some good might have come from the Middle East's turmoil. Every year, the KRG devotes some humanitarian funds toward de-mining patches of land that are of no interest to energy firms—notably leopard-heavy highlands.
This year's allowance has been diverted to the Kurdish peshmerga forces to bolster their efforts to repel the Islamic State. "Political tensions with southern Iraq as well as the ongoing fighting seem to have slowed the release of further minefields for clearance," says Bull, the mine clearance manager.
The leopards may yet remain hidden in their minefields.
Both Iranian and Iraqi Kurdish authorities have talked of opening more nature reserves, but there's also every reason to believe the leopard could follow the Persian lion and tiger into extinction.
Officials have shown little appetite to slow energy companies' growth into leopard habitats, and 95 percent of the KRG's economy is derived from oil and gas. Young Iranians appear to be waking up to their extraordinary array of wildlife, but hunting is so firmly rooted in the rural bastions where the government gains much of its support that it seems unlikely it will clamp down too hard on this traditional pursuit.

Ahmed Kurdi, the retired hunter, offers an optimistic, if wishful, prognosis. "The leopard is very strong," he said. "They're incredible animals. We couldn't kill them all even if we wanted to."


Ocelots live in super densities on Barro Colorado Island

Jeremy Hance
December 18, 2014

An ocelot in Colombia. Photo by: Brodie Ferguson.
An ocelot in Colombia. Photo by: Brodie Ferguson.

By comparing camera trapping findings with genetic samples taken from feces, biologists have determined that the density of ocelots on Barro Colorado Island in Panama is the highest yet recorded. There are over three ocelots per every two square kilometers (0.77 square miles) on the island, according to a new study published in open-access journal of Tropical Conservation Science.

"Even our density estimates based on minimum number known alive...are 1.6 times greater than the densest ocelot population previously reported from the northwestern Amazon of Peru," the researchers write.

Overall, the study estimated a density between 1.59-1.74 ocelots per square kilometer. Meaning, the island—which covers 15.43 square kilometers-could house between 24 and 27 ocelots. One of the most studied forests in the tropics, Barro Colorado Island is a nature reserve that was created when the Chagres River was damned in 1914.

But, why so many ocelots on the island? The scientists put forward a number of theories: ocelot density might be so high due to high prey availability, the difficult of moving off the island (which involves swimming across a man made lake), and the high level of protection on the island from poaching.

the Muenster yellow-toothed cavy
Ocelot using latrine on Barro Colorado Island caught on camera traps. In order to collect ocelot feces, the researchers had to find and then regularly visit the cats' communal latrines. Photo by: Rodgers et al.

But it could also be due to a general lack of top predators on the island, such as as jaguars (Panthera onca) and pumas (Puma concolor). Known as mesopredator release, this process means that when top predators largely disappear, medium-sized predators, i.e. the ocelots, see a sudden boost in populations, due to decreased competition and less harassment from the top felines.

Jaguars and pumas occasionally visit the island by swimming across the lake, but appear to stay on the island only temporarily. It's likely the island is too small for these big cats.

Although the study recorded the remarkable ocelot density on the island, it was actually conducted to test how reliable estimating density is from genetic information collected from feces compared to camera trapping. The biologists found that both methods produce similar results when using the modeling software, DENSITY, a finding that makes collecting scat a possible viable option for estimating densities of other animals.

"We think that our ability to estimate similar densities from noninvasive genetics and camera trapping...lends further support to noninvasive genetics as a viable method," the authors write.

Ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), a medium-sized cat, ranges from Argentina north to the very southern U.S., including sightings in Texas and Arizona. The cat is listed as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, yet remains imperiled by habitat destruction, the pet trade, and killing—often illegally—for its coat or as revenge for attacks on poultry.

Citation: source 

Turpentine Creek aiming for new vet clinic

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Izzy has a problem -- she's limping on her front right paw. While this could be caused by several things, in this case the problem is a bone fragment left behind from when she was de-clawed. While declawing of big cats is now illegal in Arkansas, many of the cats at Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge had their claws surgically amputated when young before rescue and now suffer the ill effects of that.
"It's probably the most common problem these tigers suffer," says Dr. Anne Brenneke, who has made these visits to Turpentine Creek for four years.

Even when done "properly," declawing is a barbaric practice that involves removing the tiger's toe at the first joint. This surgery leads to spinal arthritis and other difficulties as the big cat ages, due to its having to walk differently than it was meant to.

When done wrong, declawing causes even worse problems. 

While Dr. Brenneke has tended to every type of animal in her career -- monkeys, camels, snakes, and parrots, as well as domestic animals and even a possum or two -- she says, as she digs around in the paw of a sedated 400-pound tiger, that Turpentine Creek offers her most exotic patients. 

The refuge is in the midst of fund-raising for a new on-site veterinary clinic, a space set up where the visiting vet can tend to the big cats in ways now that require transporting the animals to the other side of Berryville -- more complex surgeries, for example. "It would certainly make life a lot easier for us and the cats too," says Dr. Brenneke. "For one thing, a lot of the cats hate the trailer, and it would be so much easier if they didn't have to be transported. It would also be easier to keep things sterile, and we could do the X-rays right away on-site. We could sedate the cats using gas rather than injecting, which is safer for both us and the cats. And since the clinic area would include recovery holding pens, the animals could be kept in out of the bad weather while they get over their surgeries." 

The new facility will even have a sleeping area so that personnel can stay near the cats if necessary while they are recovering. 

Turpentine Creek has currently reached $165,460 of its goal of $305,000 for the veterinary clinic building. To donate to the the new clinic, go to Paypal at

Plight of the Wild #Tigers

A working still from The Forgotten Tigers (above); Krishnendu Bose A working still from The Forgotten Tigers 
Written by Sankhayan Ghosh | Mumbai | Posted: December 19, 2014 
In Krishnendu Bose’s documentary The Forgotten Tigers, Kahkashan Naseem, the District Forest Officer of Ramnagar — which lies about 51 kilometres away from the well known tiger reserve Jim Corbett National Park in Uttarakhand — says, “The Corbett tigers fall under ‘Above Poverty Line’ and the tigers outside it, ‘Below Poverty Line’.” This statement encapsulates the story of the film that ventures into an uncharted territory. The magnificent beasts have been featured in many coffee table books and films, but those are the big cats living inside protected tiger reserves. Bose’s film is about the tigers outside the gated boundaries of Kanha or Pench, where they roam around the fringes of villages and towns.

“These account for about 30-50 per cent of the total tiger population of the country,” says Bose, whose 52-minute film goes on to make a larger statement about the dark side of India’s wildlife conservation policy. After the tiger population alarmingly dropped in 2005 at the Sariska and Panna tiger reserve, the measures taken by the government and policymakers ensured a surge in the number of tigers. But the tiger conservation strategy has proved to be myopic, says Bose, a wildlife and conservation filmmaker who has produced many award-winning documentaries.

As the forest areas have reduced, brought upon by rapid spread of urbanisation, and the number of tigers increased, the big cats have spilled over to outside protected tiger reserves. The increasing number of man-animal conflicts, killing of cattle and livestock and the reports of the tigers killed on railway tracks and roads, are a result of that.  “The State has a Western way of looking at wildlife conservation, where you lock a certain area into a gated sanctuary with animals inside and humans living outside. That is suited for USA and Africa where they have vast stretches of forest land,” the Delhi-based filmmaker explains, “India is a patchwork of forest and habitation and we need to look at our policies in an indigenous way where deer, lions, tigers and rural folk peacefully co-exist.”

The Forgotten Tigers shows such stories that validate the argument. One such is of a village near Pench, Maharashtra, where an elderly man says that they don’t disturb tigers since they protect their farmlands from being harmed by pests and other mammals.  The film was filmed for about nine months in Pilibhit, Lansdowne area of Uttarakhand, Western Ghats of Karnataka, Tadopa Tiger Reserve and Chandrapur, Maharashtra, Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh. Bose is in talks with Doordarshan for a telecast of his film next month.


New record set for panthers killed on roads by #Defenders of Wildlife

Florida panther, ©Connie Bransilver/USFWS
In November, a young male Florida panther became the 20th of these endangered cats to be killed while crossing roads in the state in 2014. Sadly, that breaks the all-time record set in 2012 of 19 panthers.

Once roaming throughout the southeastern United States, today the estimated population of Florida panthers ranges from 100 to 180 adults. These animals are restricted to less than 5 percent of their historical range in south Florida after persecution from early settlers and subsequent habitat loss drove them to near extinction. There is good habitat for panthers further north, but losing this many to vehicles is keeping them from getting there.

Florida panther, © Glen Stacell

Although the Florida panther population has grown in recent years, habitat loss and fragmentation remains the greatest threat – and roads criss-crossing otherwise good habitat is a big part of that.
As the panther population increases while more people move into panther habitat, more of these big cats are being killed on roads. And it’s a problem that could only get worse if we don’t start addressing it now. The economy is getting better, which means permits for new development and road expansions are on the rise. Florida needs to do a better job of planning how it uses its land and where it puts roads. We especially want to focus on adding more wildlife crossings where panthers are known to travel.

Defenders weighs in on the planning process for new projects, advocating for wildlife crossings and working to put a stop to poorly-planned projects that would be too damaging to panther habitat. We work to put signs and Roadside Animal Detection Systems in place to alert drivers to watch out for panthers in the area, looking for designs and technology that are innovative, cost effective, and suited to the conditions at each site. We’re also trying to improve incentive programs for landowners so that more Florida residents can help protect and restore panther habitat.

With a few more weeks before year’s end, we are hoping we have seen the last Florida panther death of 2014. In the coming year, we’ll be working hard to ensure that funding raised by Florida’s water and land conservation amendment (approved in November by 75% of voters) will be spent to protect important habitat blocks and connections to give panthers more room to roam.

**Update: We are very sad to report that just this evening we have been notified of the 21st and 22nd Florida panthers killed by  vehicles – a 4-year-old male and a 3-year-old male. **

Elizabeth Fleming is the Senior Florida Representative at Defenders of Wildlife


Lynx take lunch breaks

December 18, 2014
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Whether a lynx hunts by day or by night and how active it is overall depend primarily on the behavior of the wild cat's most important prey and its individual traits - lighting conditions, on the other hand, do not play a major role in its basic behavioral patterns. This is the key finding of a new study in which scientists fitted GPS collars and motion sensors on 38 free-ranging lynx.

The scientists fitted GPS collars and motion sensors on 38 free-ranging lynx for the study.
Credit: Image courtesy of Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
An international research team recorded and analyzed the activity patterns of 38 wild cats over the course of months Whether a lynx hunts by day or by night and how active it is overall depend primarily on the behavior of the wild cat's most important prey and its individual traits -- lighting conditions, on the other hand, do not play a major role in its basic behavioral patterns. This is the key finding of a study published in the journal PLOS ONE by an international research team led by forest scientist Dr. Marco Heurich.
The scientists fitted GPS collars and motion sensors on 38 free-ranging lynx for the study. Since the study sites were located across a wide latitudinal range from Central Europe to northern Scandinavia, the length of days and nights varied greatly between them. The team recorded and analyzed the activity patterns of the wild cats on a total of more than 11,000 days. The results reveal that lynx in more southerly regions are most active at dawn and dusk and that they move more by night than by day. They take their longest break in the middle of the day, and this break is extended as daylight duration increases. However, the cats exhibit this basic behavioral pattern independently of lighting conditions: "Lynx keep to a 24-hour rhythm with an active and a resting phase even on the polar day and the polar night," reports Heurich.

What the study found to be more important for explaining the wild cats' activity patterns are their individual traits: Young lynx are more active than adult lynx, and male adults are more active than female adults. In addition, they move more in spring and summer than in fall and winter, and the farther north they live, the larger the territory they cover -- and this of course results in higher activity. Lynx adapt their hunting schedule to the behavior of their prey. In polar regions, the height of their activity at dusk is less pronounced. This corresponds to the behavioral pattern of reindeer, which exhibit a steady movement profile outside of their sleeping phases.. In Central Europe, by contrast, the team found a maximum amount of activity at dusk -- in lynx as well as in deer. "The findings of this study make an important contribution to our understanding of the habits of predatory animals in our landscape," says Heurich. "They also show that human activities in the areas included in the study do not have a general influence on the activity pattern of the animals."

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Marco Heurich, Anton Hilger, Helmut Küchenhoff, Henrik Andrén, Luděk Bufka, Miha Krofel, Jenny Mattisson, John Odden, Jens Persson, Geir R. Rauset, Krzysztof Schmidt, John D. C. Linnell. Activity Patterns of Eurasian Lynx Are Modulated by Light Regime and Individual Traits over a Wide Latitudinal Range. PLoS ONE, 2014; 9 (12): e114143 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0114143

Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg. "Lynx take lunch breaks." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 December 2014. <>.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Your Daily Cat

Snuggling tiger couple 
Snuggling tiger couple by Tambako The Jaguar

Q&A: Mountain lions in North America

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - With the ability leap up to 15 feet up in a tree and sprint up to speeds of 50 miles per hour, mountain lions are North America's largest member of the cat family.

The National Park Service says mountain lions are also known as cougars, pumas, panthers, yellow cats, and catamounts. While they once roamed throughout North America, their range today is mostly limited to the twelve westernmost states in the U.S. and Florida.

The big cats can be 30 inches in height at the shoulder and approximately 8 feet long from nose to tail when they become adults.

They generally weigh between 75 and 175 pounds.

Mountain lions can survive in a variety of habitats, including high mountains, deserts, and swamps. Human activity has encouraged Mountain Lions to retreat to the rugged terrain that remains largely uninhabited by humans. Mountain Lion habitat must provide an adequate prey base as well as cover for hunting.

A mountain lion’s vision is one of its most important tools in hunting. The National Park Service says its large eyes and retinas give mountain lions strong night vision. Hunting skills are improved by the lions extremely sensitive hearing.

Other key traits of mountain lions from the National Park Service: ambush hunters; consume 20 to 30 pounds of meat in one meal; bury the remains of their prey after eating; roam in areas of 25 to 785 square miles; and mating season is generally December through March.


Tiger rescued by Uppingham businessman starts new life in big cats' sanctuary in US

By AlanThompson  |  Posted: December 17, 2014
Phevos takes a cat-nap during his mammoth journey
Phevos takes a cat-nap during his mammoth journey

An Uppingham businessman has completed a 12,000-mile, 10-day mission to re-home a tiger from a Greek zoo in a purpose-built sanctuary for big cats in the US. David Barnes first came across Phevos in 2001 when he helped place him with Athena, a female companion in a zoo in Trikala after the Greek authorities seized the two tigers from a travelling Italian circus. But following Greece’s financial crisis, the condition of the zoo deteriorated and in March this year, following Athena’s death after an untreated wound became infected, Phevos was left alone in his enclosure.

David, 62, raised £12,500 through donations - including £1,000 from animal welfare campaigns supporter Joanna Lumley - to fly Phevos, a 15-year-old, 570lb tiger to the Lions, Tigers and Bear Sanctuary in Alpine, near San Diego. Mr Barnes, who used to work for the Animal Welfare Fund in Greece, has re-homed dozens of exotic animals in the past 20 years.

Back at work at Uppingham Sports and Books yesterday(16) he said:“Everything went well and he’s settled in really well, they love him to bits, he’s so placid. “He has to go into quarantine for 30 days when vets will carry out a series of checks, including X-rays to see if there is anything they can do for his hip dysplasia. “He’s a big tiger, the biggest they’ve got, he’s just so laid back, they can’t believe it.” He added:“When we arrived at the airport there were television cameras and reporters and a lorry on the tarmac. British Airways were fantastic and as a memento they gave me a drawing of a tiger’s head signed by all the crew. He’s eating well - 30lbs of meat at a time, he’s been eating chicken, turkey and beef. He had two whole chickens and a turkey for a snack yesterday. His enclosure is being finished, it looks great, it has under-floor heating, a pool, everything.”

He added: “Phevos is the latest in a long line of animals I’ve moved - he just happens to be the biggest one. It’s fantastic he’s over there, it’s hard to believe it’s done and dusted and he’s there. I’m planning to go out again next year, I’d love to go and see him in his proper enclosure. There is no doubt in my minds it’s the best thing that ever happened to him.”

David has now launched a second fund raising page to rescue other animals in need. He added: “The sad story of Phevos and the tragic death of his mate Athena is now coming to a happy end as he starts a new life, but there are still many other exotic animals in dire situations that need help. “I have three others at the same Greek zoo that need to come out. Monkeys are still being kept in cramped and unsuitable conditions and a vet friend in Thessaloniki is struggling to save injured dolphins, seals and turtles.”


Argentine zoo allows visitors to enter #bigcats' enclosures

Visitors to Argentina's Lujan Zoo are being allowed to enter the enclosures where lions and tigers are kept, and pictures taken of people petting the big cats have created a controversy and prompted warnings from Buenos Aires province officials.

"Since 1998, regulations prohibit the public from coming into close contact with wild animals," Buenos Aires province Undersecretary of Agriculture Leonardo Mascitelly told Efe.

The Lujan Zoo, located 70 kilometers (43 miles) west of the city of Buenos Aires, has been the subject of reports in the past for allowing visitors into the big felines' areas, and pictures of humans posing with tigers and lions have been posted on social networks.

The latest reports, Mascitelli said, could lead to "fines or closure" of the animal park.

The zoo's operators said the lions and tigers were "domesticated" and were not dangerous.

Animal rights activists have alleged repeatedly that at the Lujan Zoo captive animals are mistreated.

In 2012, a pony bit a 4-year-old girl at the Lujan Zoo. Two years earlier, a 7-year-old boy was attacked by a bear he was trying to feed at the Ezeiza Zoo, also located in Buenos Aires province.


To avoid multiple threats, leopards have to be crafty cats

Where there are people, expect to find few leopards. That’s because the apex predator suffers from hunting for their pelts, from habitat loss and fragmentation, and from retaliatory killings due to real or imagined losses of human or livestock lives. Similarly, where there are tigers, expect to find few leopards. In this case, it’s because the two big cats compete for the same prey, and in most cases the tigers are socially dominant to the leopards.

Despite the odds stacked against them, leopards are actually quite widespread, ranging from Africa up through the Middle East and into southern and Southeast Asia. So how do leopards manage to eke out their existence when they’re forced to contend with competition from other cats and a mix of aggression and habitat loss from humans? New research from National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center researcher Neil Carter and colleagues suggests that leopards employ different strategies to deal with the different sorts of threats posted by humans and by tigers.

The study took place in Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, which contains leopards and tigers as well as a veritable buffet of prey species on which the cats regularly dine: spotted deer, muntjac, hog deer, sambar deer, gaur (also known as Indian bison), and wild boar.

Carter collected his data primarily by using camera traps in the dry seasons of 2010 and 2011, deployed both within the park and within a forested area just outside the park in the “buffer zone” between the park and human settlements.

Over the two-year study period, Carter’s camera picked up 107 leopards. In 2010, that comprised a total of thirteen individuals, and in 2011 he detected seventeen individuals. Many of those photographed in 2011 were not photographed the year before; only three inside the park and one outside the park were detected both years. Within the park, tigers were detected far more frequently; outside the park, they were only slightly more common. But the most common animals on his camera were people. In fact, people were between 3 and 4.4 times more common than prey animals across the two-year study period.

What Carter wanted to see was where and when the leopards were detected, relative to tigers and people. What they found was that the leopards were avoiding the tigers in space. That is, they were spending their time in places unlikely to be frequented by tigers. By contrast, people – both on foot and in vehicles – did not displace leopards in space, bur rather in time. The leopards were more likely to be active during the parts of the day when people were least likely to be active – at night. Faced with two different threats, the leopards have come up with a unique solution to each problem.

Previous research had suggested that tigers and leopards coexist by dividing up the day rather than dividing up space. It could be, Carter argues, that the presence of people forces the cats to segregate spatially rather than what could be a more natural temporal segregation. Previous research had also suggested that leopards try to spatially segregate themselves from humans, rather than doing so in time. Here too, Carter found the opposite pattern.

It could be that spatial segregation is a response to a high poaching pressure; in Chitwan, the likelihood of poaching is quite low. In fact, Carter never saw a human carrying a firearm on his camera trap images, outside of military personnel who were there as a deterrent to wildlife crime. Indeed, studies of other carnivores in landscapes frequented by humans – brown bears, coyotes, bobcats, and African lions – suggest that the presence of humans pushes those predators towards a more nocturnal lifestyle as well.

Together, the study underscores two important aspects of predator conservation. The first is that leopards appear highly adaptive. That they can respond to two different threats in two different ways suggests they are quite flexible in ensuring their own survival.

Second, it demonstrates that groups of predators in different locations have different needs. It is becoming increasingly clear that very little can be said about the conservation of a given species that applies equally to all populations. The leopards of Chitwan live with a unique constellation of variables: coexistence with tigers, lots of tourists and locals, low poaching pressure, and plenty of prey. Each of those variables combines to produce the temporal and spatial patterns observed by Carter and his colleagues.

The strategies necessary to protect leopards in a setting like Chitwan would be very different from those needed in places with reduced competition from other predators, or with less prey available, or with increased prejudice from humans. Just as the leopards require multiple strategies to deal with multiple problems on an extremely localized scale, so too does conservation. 

– Jason G. Goldman | 12 December 2014

Source: Neil Carter, Micah Jasney, Bhim Gurung, & Jianguo Liu (2015). Impacts of people and tigers on leopard spatiotemporal activity patterns in a global biodiversity hotspot, Global Ecology and Conservation, 3 149-162. DOI:

Header image: Tiger via Guillermo Fdez/Flickr; Leopard via Tambako/Flickr.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Your Daily Cat (Think Siberian)

Lying in delight! 
Lying in delight! by Tambako The Jaguar
She was nicely posing! 
She was nicely posing! by Tambako The Jaguar 

Exotic Big Cat Meets it's End in Canada

By Brian Stallard
Dec 16, 2014
If you're a pet lover with a tender heart you may want to look away. An escaped exotic African cat was unfortunately struck by a vehicle last Sunday night near Otter Point, Canada. The animal had been keeping locals on edge after it was spotted in the Sook area earlier this weekend, as it was far larger than your average house cat. (Photo : Flicrk: Sonja Pauen) 
If you're a pet lover with a tender heart you may want to look away. An escaped exotic African cat was unfortunately struck by a vehicle last Sunday night near Otter Point, Canada. The animal had been keeping locals on edge after it was spotted in the Sook area earlier this weekend, as it was far larger than your average house cat.

That's because the cat in question was a relatively large serval cat - a rare breed of mid-sized African feline that boasts a name that is actually derived from a conjuncture of the Portuguese words for "wolf" and "deer."

And the name is no mistake. The serval is an exceptionally unusual big cat. Smaller than a tiger or leopard, the serval is still much larger than your average house cat, growing up to 3 feet long and more than 2 feet tall. The slender and graceful animal boasts a small, tabby-like face and big ears, with its long and powerful legs supporting an up to 40-pound body.

However, compared to most big cats, the serval is considered a calm and easily domesticated animal, with many exotic animal breeders specializing in rearing and training these cats to make stunning (and expensive, at about $8,000) house cats.

The savannah cat, a cross between smaller domestic felines and the serval, is much more common, but it's not illegal to own one of the original African predators in many parts of Canada. "These are pets - they're very friendly and affectionate cats," Doug Nelson, a Nanaimo cat breeder told the Times Colonist on Monday. "They're a non-aggressive cat, but that changes if they're out and they're scared and they're threatened."

However, according to Don Brown, chief bylaw officer with the Capital Regional District, the serval who unfortunately met its end on a busy road was declawed. "Kinda shocking when it jumped out in front of the truck!" Peter Henry, the Sook resident who hit the poor animal said on social media before reporting the incident, according to The Province.
Nelson suspects that the deceased cat was the same serval that the SPCA had to retrieve back in August, when it escaped from its home and had to be tracked for several weeks. The breeder added that he sells all his cats with a tracking collar, but these kind of tragedies can still happen if an owner is careless.