Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Watch Wild Manul Kittens Playing in Mongolia

Manul kitten in Parken Zoo, Sweden

Written by Becky Ferreira

Contributor

Cute cat videos are widely known to be the foundational bedrock and unofficial currency of the internet. It takes an incredibly high rating on the adorability index for one to distinguish itself as a true classic, worthy of enshrinement in the annals of online feline fame.

Well, hold onto your butts, because the Siberian Times just posted footage of some manul kittens playing around in Mongolia. Captured by Bariushaa Munkhtsog, a wildlife biologist based at the Mongolian Academy of Sciences, the video is a rare window into the world of this elusive wild cat, also known as the Pallas’s cat, which is native to the steppes of central Eurasia.

 
Manul kittens in Mongolia. Video: Siberian Times/YouTube

With their puffy coats, stumpy legs, and flattened face, manul kittens look like ready-made Pixar characters. Their ears are short and set widely apart, giving them an almost Ewok-like quality. In contrast to the vertical slit-shaped pupils of most other cats, theirs are round and expressive. Though they only grow to the size of domestic cats, their thick fur coats—the densest in the feline family—beef them up a bit, both in size and in evident cuddliness.

All of these adaptations add up to a predator superbly suited to its mountain and grassland habitat. Manul cats can’t run very fast on their adorably squat legs, but they are skilled at ambushing small animals such as pikas, gerbils, voles, marmots, partridges, beetles, and grasshoppers that share their high altitude habitat.

Indeed, Manul cats are so practiced at patiently watching and waiting for their prey that they can apparently sense when they are, in turn, under surveillance. The below footage beautifully captures the moment a manul cat validates its hunch that a camera trap had been placed in front of its den in Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent, England.

The video proves that these cats are not only keen observers of their environment, but that they also have some impressive slapstick comedy chops.

 
This Manul cat is wise to our human tricks. Video: SCARCE WORLDWIDE/YouTube
 
Various species have been vaulted into online stardom in recent years, among them sloths, red pandas, and honey badgers. Given that it is essentially an ultra-expressive furball with a penchant for badass surprise attacks, the manul cat is no doubt poised to be next.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Lions in West and Central Africa apparently unique

Date:
August 11, 2016
Source:
Leiden, Universiteit
Summary:
Lions in West and Central Africa form a unique group, only distantly related to lions in East and Southern Africa, biologists have discovered.

Lions in West and Central Africa form a unique group, only distantly related to lions in East and Southern Africa. Biologists at Leiden University confirm this in an article published in Scientific Reports. Credit: © crazycolors / Fotolia

Lions in West and Central Africa form a unique group, only distantly related to lions in East and Southern Africa. Biologists at Leiden University confirm this in an article published in Scientific Reports.

Genetic data

In this study, the researchers gathered a genetic dataset of lion populations covering a total of 22 countries. This included samples from each remaining lion population in West and Central Africa, a region where lions and other wildlife are rapidly declining as a consequence of the increasing human population. The researchers managed to gather all the information by teaming up with other people in the field and local conservationists.

300,000 years ago

Based on the genetic data, it was estimated that the split between the two major groups that can be identified in the lion must have occurred 300,000 years ago. To explain what happened in their evolution, the researchers made a reconstruction of African climatological history. It seems that periodic expansions of the rain forest and the desert drove lions into isolated pockets of suitable habitat, where the different genetic lineages originated that can still be observed today.

Other mammals

This influenced not only the patterns we observe in the lion, but also in other large mammals such as giraffe, buffalo, hartebeest, cheetah and spotted hyena. A general pattern is emerging that shows that many large African savannah mammals show very similar arrangements, with unique lineages in West and Central Africa.

Reason for concern

The strong declines in wildlife populations in large parts of West and Central Africa are therefore a reason for major concern. The fact that this region seems to harbour a lot of unique genetic lineages makes conservation in the area extremely important. A delegation from Leiden University will participate in the IUCN World Conservation Congress in September 2016, and will lead a Side Event that aims to establish a Species Action Plan for West and Central Africa. The researchers hope that this will facilitate coordination and funding of projects in the region.

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Leiden, Universiteit. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. L. D. Bertola, H. Jongbloed, K. J. van der Gaag, P. de Knijff, N. Yamaguchi, H. Hooghiemstra, H. Bauer, P. Henschel, P. A. White, C. A. Driscoll, T. Tende, U. Ottosson, Y. Saidu, K. Vrieling, H. H. de Iongh. Phylogeographic Patterns in Africa and High Resolution Delineation of Genetic Clades in the Lion (Panthera leo). Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 30807 DOI: 10.1038/srep30807


Leiden, Universiteit. "Lions in West and Central Africa apparently unique." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 August 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160811120559.htm>.
 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Arizona’s Rosemont Mine Threatens Only U.S. Jaguar by @Defenders of Wildlife

What happens when a Canadian mining company wants to dig a huge open-pit copper mine on U.S. public land, right where the only jaguar in the U.S. lives? The government agency charged with protecting the animal gives it the thumbs up.

Wait – what?

That’s right. Hudbay Minerals’ Rosemont mine (slated for the scenic Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona’s biologically rich Mountain Empire) is a step closer to breaking ground, thanks to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The project encompasses a 9 ½ square mile open-pit mine, which would occupy up to 33% of the territory of the only known jaguar in the U.S., placing it and other endangered and threatened species at risk. Yet in its recent assessment of the project, FWS somehow concluded that the Rosemont Mine would not violate the Endangered Species Act (ESA). With that agency’s approval, the project is free to move forward to the next phase.

An Uncertain Future for El Jefe and our Hopes for U.S. Jaguars

This jaguar — named El Jefe, or Chief, by Arizonan school kids — has been repeatedly photographed during the last two years roaming the mountains where the mine is planned.
In a major understatement, FWS does acknowledge that the mine would likely “harass” El Jefe.

Under the ESA, harassment means any actions likely to injure wildlife by significantly disrupting behaviors like feeding or sheltering. It’s easy to see how Rosemont Mine will do just that. The mine would require massive earthmoving equipment, blasting, powerful lights around the clock, and millions of gallons of water siphoned from the area’s streams, ponds, and groundwater. Digging a giant hole in the middle of his territory would force El Jefe to move, which could be dangerous. Big cats often die in strange territory because it’s harder for them to find prey and to avoid people.

If the Service admits that the mine would force El Jefe out of his territory, how can it allow this project to move forward? Strangely enough, the agency simply doesn’t think that he is necessary. The Service’s position is that because there are jaguars in Mexico and Central and South America, El Jefe is superfluous. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

As the only jaguar living in the U.S., El Jefe represents a huge step forward for jaguar recovery in the U.S. Displacing him would be a massive setback, putting yet another roadblock in the way of someday having a healthy population of jaguars right here in the Southwest.

Rosemont Mine is a Critical Hit to Critical Habitat

Just two years ago, the Service determined what areas are “critical habitat” for jaguars — the lands that are essential to the conservation of that species, and that must be protected. The proposed site of the Rosemont Mine is part of that critical habitat, making it even harder to understand how the Service could approve such a project. According to the Service’s own assessment, the mine’s roads, lighting, noise, and other factors could harm as much as 78 square miles of jaguar critical habitat – far beyond the footprint of the mine itself.

The Service’s decision also gives the go ahead to harm other ESA-listed species by diminishing the water supply of those making their last stand in and near the Santa Rita Mountains. That list of creatures includes a number of southwestern icons, like the ocelot, native fishes, northern Sonoran garter snake, Chiricuahua leopard frog, western yellow-billed cuckoo and southwestern willow flycatcher. Studies done for the Service conclude that the mine’s water guzzling would lower the levels in nearby streams, and increase the number of days in which those streams go dry (an impact made even worse by climate change). Even after the mine closes and stops actively draining water from nearby sources, the water remaining in the pit would be poisonous because of acid and heavy metals. And as water evaporates from the pit, it will pull in more from the groundwater, continuing to steal water from local wildlife essentially forever.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Negotiates a Bad Deal for Wildlife

The Service rationalized its approval of this project by accepting the mining company’s offer to take certain measures to lessen the impacts it would have on wildlife. Measures like requiring its vehicles to drive slowly to avoid hitting jaguars or ocelots, or spending $1.25 million on enhancing and managing habitat. In all, the mining company plans to invest approximately $5 million in mitigating the impacts of its mine on wildlife — a drop in the bucket compared to projected after-tax income of $6.9 billion for the life of the mine. Yet this is what the Service agreed to, dropping a number of more effective (and more costly) actions the agency had initially proposed once it became clear the company would not agree to them.

What few mitigation measures survived into the final agreement are flawed. The mining company agreed to purchase and protect habitat on three ranches that together have roughly the same number of acres as the pit. But local conservationists who know these lands well say that the value of the replacement land comes nowhere near to matching what would be lost. Natural seeps and springs would be replaced by artificial ponds, for instance. And the mitigation lands would not replace loss of a major wildlife corridor likely used by jaguar and ocelot.

When done right, mitigation measures can be effective in helping to keep development projects from harming wildlife. But it’s clear that in this case, it simply isn’t being done right. The deal the Service struck with this mining company doesn’t benefit jaguars and other wildlife – it puts them in danger.
This deal may be good enough for the Service, but it isn’t for us. We are working with local groups like Save the Scenic Santa Ritas and the Patagonia Area Resource Alliance to stop mining projects like this one throughout the Mountain Empire. With the support of these allies and concerned wildlife activists like you, we can keep fighting to ensure that El Jefe continues to roam Arizona’s breathtakingly beautiful Mountain Empire.

World's Most Hardcore Cat Reappears After 10 Years

The blood-drinking badass has been eluding scientists

sand cat
Clément Bardot via Wikimedia Commons

The Arabian sand cat looking cute but deadly.

Don't be fooled by the adorableness. This little dude drinks the blood of his enemies.

The Arabian sand cat, Felis margarita harrisoni, is a mysterious and under studied animal. Until recently, its habits in the wild were only anecdotal tales. We know that the subspecies is well-equipped for its North African, Arabian and Central Asian desert habitats with protective hairs on its ears and paws, and has adapted to arid climates by getting its hydration by eating smaller creatures. But it hadn't been seen for about a decade.

In March 2015, Shakeel Ahmed, an assistant scientist at Abu Dhabi's Environment Agency, set out to photograph the elusive sand cat. His team set up 5 camera traps with cat food over 278 nights between March and December, and ended up collecting data on three individual sand cats: Two female and one male. A majority of the photos were triggered in the pre-dawn hours, and during full moons. The findings were published in the European Journal of Wildlife Research.

The team hopes that these new insights into the sand cat's wild life will help the threatened species' conservation efforts. In the meantime, rock on, sand cat.

[H/T New Scientist]

source

Cat scat: Research examines food habits of snow leopards

Date:
August 4, 2016
Source:
University of Delaware
Summary:
A new study finds researchers may have been missing the mark on the diet of endangered snow leopards. The findings suggest the leopards have been consuming larger, not smaller, species, and underscores the importance of verifying, through DNA testing, what endangered species need to survive.

Snow leopard (stock image).
Credit: © oakdalecat / Fotolia
 
In order to create effective conservation programs to help protect and conserve populations of endangered snow leopards, whose estimated population is between 4,500-7,500 in the wild, University of Delaware researchers are studying their scat to try and understand what the large cats are eating.

While studying snow leopard scat is one of the least invasive ways to look at what the animals are eating and gauge their food preferences, according to a new UD study it may not always be the most accurate. Researchers found that past food-habit studies on snow leopards could have been biased by the inclusion of non-target species in fecal analysis, potentially misinforming managers about the prey requirements that allow snow leopard populations to succeed.

The research was led by Sarah Weiskopf, who recently received her master's degree from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and who did the work as part of her undergraduate senior thesis; Kyle McCarthy, assistant professor of wildlife ecology; and Shannon Kachel, a graduate student who works with McCarthy. The findings were published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin.

As a result of non-target species possibly being included in past research studies, it has been thought that snow leopards -- who lack an abundance of natural prey -- consume great numbers of small mammals such as marmots, hares and pika, as well as wild ungulates, which are larger hooved animals such as ibex.

While estimates of the amount of small mammals snow leopards consume may have been overstated, the importance of large ungulate populations to the snow leopard's diets may have been understated, as this study suggests stable snow leopard populations are possibly more reliant upon large ungulate prey than previously understood.

"We've got this concept of what snow leopard scat looks like and where it can be found, so we think we can go out and collect it. A lot of old studies on what snow leopards eat are based on just that, collections that people have done in the wild," said McCarthy. "When we started doing genetics on snow leopard feces to try and get at a different question, which was individual identification of snow leopards, we started realizing that a lot of what we picked up and thought was snow leopard scat was not."

Weiskopf explained that a big problem with collecting and identifying scat in the field is that researchers mostly rely on morphological characteristics such as shape, size or associated signs of snow leopards, and since scat from different species can look similar, this can lead to misrepresented population estimates and errors in reporting what the snow leopards are actually eating.

"This can affect conservation plans because if snow leopards are eating more large ungulates, we need to make sure we're maintaining those large ungulate populations. Otherwise, a population of snow leopards might not survive because there's not enough prey, or they may start eating more domestic livestock, which can cause problems with local human populations. That could result in people going out and killing snow leopards in retribution," said Weiskopf.

The researchers wanted to look at the problem in a blind fashion, comparing their data sets of what they believed to be snow leopards and what those supposed snow leopards ate with a data set of snow leopard scat that was confirmed through genetic analysis to be from actual snow leopards.

"That's what we consider the bias in our food habit studies and that was the ultimate goal of Sarah's project -- to find out how far off we may have been in the past with what snow leopards eat and then ultimately refining our understanding of what they eat," said McCarthy.

The researchers analyzed 199 suspected snow leopard scat samples collected from two study sites in Tajikistan during the summer of 2012 and 56 scats collected from two study sites in Kyrgyzstan between June and December of 2005.

Overall, only 36.1 percent of collected scats thought to be from snow leopards were confirmed as snow leopard. The snow leopard samples were most often confused with red fox scat, which comprised 39.6 percent of collected samples.

"We don't want to overstate our results because this was just one study, but we did notice that if we were using the blind approach, we definitely had a lot more small mammal occurrence in those scats.

When we used genetics to pre-screen the scat and find out which ones were actually snow leopard, there were many fewer small mammals in those scats," said McCarthy, who added that many of the small mammals consumed in the original blind data set were much more associated with red fox.

"It's a little bit of conjecture, but our thought is that a lot of food habit studies that have not been able to verify that their scat is actually from the species that they're studying probably do have this bias soaking in from other species," said McCarthy.

To determine what the snow leopards were actually eating, the researchers pulled hairs found in the samples and studied them on slides treated with nail polish.

"We looked at the whole hair under the microscope to see the medulla, which is the inner part of the hair. Then we pulled the hair off to look at the impression that was left in the nail polish to see the pattern on the outer part of the hair," said Weiskopf.

All hairs have a different scale pattern on them and the researchers could tell the individual species based on the scale pattern or the characteristics of the medulla.

The research was funded by a National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competative Research (EPSCoR) grant and the state of Delaware as well as the International Snow Leopard Trust, Kumtor Operating Company, Panthera Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of Delaware. The original item was written by Adam Thomas. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. Sarah R. Weiskopf, Shannon M. Kachel, Kyle P. McCarthy. What are snow leopards really eating? Identifying bias in food-habit studies. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 2016; 40 (2): 233 DOI: 10.1002/wsb.640


University of Delaware. "Cat scat: Research examines food habits of snow leopards." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 August 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/08/160804153137.htm>.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Guess what? Nobody knows how many snow leopards there are

July 25, 2016

Earlier this month, various media outlets reported that snow leopards ‘may be more common than thought’. The articles were quoting a recently published book (1) on these endangered cats, in which a group of authors make the claim that the snow leopard population could be much higher than prevailing estimates suggest. We wish this were the case. Unfortunately, there is no reliable scientific evidence for this claim, and it is misleading and potentially damaging to conservation efforts.


Snow leopards live across a vast and often inaccessible mountain territory. Some individual cats use home ranges that can be several hundred square kilometers large, while others are reported to use just a few dozen square kilometers. These factors make it extremely challenging to reliably count and monitor snow leopard populations. In fact, only about 1.5% of the total snow leopard range has been surveyed with reliable, internationally accepted methods such as intensive camera studies or genetic analysis of feces, and available population estimates vary accordingly. Currently, most experts assume a number between 3920 and 7500 – conscious of the fact that it’s essentially a guesstimate.

And yet, authors of this recent book chapter present new figures of up to 8,745 cats – and they claim that those numbers represent just ’44% of their range’; of course suggesting that the number across the total range may actually be significantly higher still. How is that possible, when a mere 1.5% of the total range surveyed has been surveyed using acceptable abundance estimation methods?
To arrive at these numbers, the authors have summed up regional estimates from various, in some cases unspecified sources – many of them dating back to an assessment that was done in 2008.

Most of these regional estimates are themselves not much more than educated guesses – as even the authors themselves say. For instance, ‘habitat quality’ is used as one of the indicators behind the estimate for Pakistan’s Central Karakoram area, while for certain parts of China, ‘questionnaires’ and ‘informed estimates’ provide the baseline data, according to the authors.

Other regional estimates are derived from so-called sign surveys – studies where researchers count snow leopard scat or other signs such as scrape marks within a relatively small area, and then extrapolate population numbers in a larger landscape from these findings.

Scrape marks can be a sign of snow leopard presence - but they don't make a good basis for population estimates.
Scrape marks can be a sign of snow leopard presence – but they don’t make a good basis for population estimates.

While these studies can be valuable to determine if a species uses a certain area, scientists have long agreed that they are not very useful to estimate population numbers. The Snow Leopard Network has, in fact, long rejected studies or proposals that try to estimate snow leopard abundance from their signs.

In contrast, only a very small fraction of the studies used to arrive at this new, significantly higher global estimate is based on scientifically sound methods such as camera trapping or genetic analysis of feces.

In short, just like previous numbers, these population figures are once again simply guesstimates – and there is nothing in them that would suggest they’d be any more accurate than the prevailing ones.

In fact, there is a possibility that the prevailing estimates may just as likely be too high. Recent, scientifically population surveys based on camera trapping and fecal genetics in Pakistan and Nepal, for instance, suggest that the actual snow leopard populations in these countries may be significantly lower than we thought. It would be premature to take these results as evidence of a much lower population overall, but they’re certainly cause for concern.

snow leopard in Pakistan
Recent data from Pakistan suggests that there may well be fewer snow leopards in the country than previously estimated.

What about the ’44% of the cats’ range’? By claiming that their population estimate of up to 8,745 snow leopards is for less than half of their global habitat, the authors imply that the real numbers may in fact be up to twice as high. This is highly misleading.

In fact, the area covered by the authors’ estimate is larger than all of the confirmed and probable snow leopard habitat combined – in other words, it contains all the areas we know or strongly suspect the cats occur in.

The remaining 56% of the range in their calculation represents what is referred to as ‘possible’ snow leopard habitat – areas that have all the ecological features the cats need, but haven’t been confirmed to actually have any snow leopards. Some of these areas almost certainly do, and others probably don’t. Even if the estimates for the 44% of the range the authors present were scientifically convincing (which they are not), it wouldn’t do to simply assume that these other, largely unexplored areas will all have roughly the same average snow leopard densities as some of the more well-studied habitats.

The snow leopard range, according to the GSLEP program. Less than 1.5% of the blue area has been surveyed for snow leopards with scientifically sound methods
The snow leopard range, according to the GSLEP program. Less than 1.5% of the blue area has been surveyed for snow leopards with scientifically sound methods

We welcome any attempts to come up with a more accurate, scientifically valid estimate of the world’s snow leopard population – but they have to follow the standards and best practices of science. Otherwise, results can be misleading and even detrimental to the species, as they will lead to a sense of complacency and a weakened resolve to protect this endangered cat – while in reality its situation remains precarious.

Let’s not engage in numbers games, but instead make every effort to scale up research and conservation efforts for this endangered cat!
__________________
(1) McCarthy, T., Mallon, D., Sanderson, E.W., Zahler, P. and Fisher, K.: Chapter 3: What is a Snow Leopard? Biogeography and Status Overview. In: Nyhuis, P.J., McCarthy, T., and Mallon, D. (Eds.): Biodiversity of the World: Conservation from Genes to Landscapes. 1st Edition. Snow Leopards. Elsevier Press, 2016, p. 22-42.

source

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wolves, big cats are running out of things to eat

Most of the world's largest carnivores are in decline. 

By Brooks Hays   |   Aug. 3, 2016
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Poaching, hunting and habitat loss remain threats to the planet's largest predators, but new research shows the common threat is the global depletion of prey. Screenshot courtesy of Bryan Orford/YouTube
EUGENE, Ore., Aug. 3 (UPI) -- A new study has identified the driving force behind the worsening plight of large predators -- the loss of prey species around the world.

In 2014, researchers at Oregon State University found 24 of the planet's 31 largest carnivores -- including bears, cougars, dingoes, lions, lynxes, sea otters and wolves -- are in decline.

More recently, William J. Ripple, an ecologist at Oregon State, set out to identify what factors were most predictive of predator decline. There were the usual suspects: hunting, poaching and habitat loss.

But Ripple and his research partners identified a simpler -- and perhaps a more obvious -- driving factor: the global depletion of prey. Scientists looked at the preferred prey species of the 17 largest land predators, and found most face shrinking menus.

"It's a simple concept but it just hasn't had the same level of emphasis," Ripple told National Geographic. "We found that just 7 percent of prey ranges overlapped with protected areas."

The latest evidence, detailed in the journal Royal Society Open Science, builds on previous findings that show larger predators are more vulnerable to prey declines than smaller ones.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Study says cougars, wolves save human lives


Don JenkinsCapital Press
Published on July 29, 2016
A cougar watches over its prey. A new study by university researchers found cougars prevent traffic fatalities by reducing deer populations.
Courtesy of Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, Brian Kertson
A cougar watches over its prey. A new study by university researchers found cougars prevent traffic fatalities by reducing deer populations.




A new study by university scientists seeks to foster rural acceptance of large carnivores by showing that cougars save lives by reducing the number of deadly collisions between vehicles and deer.

Researchers affiliated with colleges in Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Alberta, Canada, compared data from 19 states in the East, South and Midwest. The scientists concluded that recolonizing cougars in those states would thin deer populations and prevent five traffic fatalities and more than 700 injuries a year.

One of the lead researchers, Laura Prugh of the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Services, told a university publication that the authors hoped to “help people become more accepting of living” with large carnivores.

Efforts to reach Prugh and the study’s lead author, University of Idaho professor Sophie Gilbert, were unsuccessful.

The study acknowledges that reintroducing predators, such as cougars and wolves, is a “highly polarizing” issue and that ranchers, hunters and rural residents “bear the brunt of the costs.”
Conservation efforts, however, depend on large carnivores thriving outside protected wildernesses, according to the study.

“Societal acceptance of large carnivores living in proximity to humans is therefore a critical yet daunting conservation goal,” the study states.

“Public perceptions of carnivores may become more positive knowing that these predators reduce their odds of crashing into an ungulate.”

Central Washington rancher Keith Kreps said he hasn’t seen benefits from what he says are an increasing number of cougars around his cattle in Klickitat County.

He said he lost about 18 calves to the big cats last summer and two more were injured. He said he fears a human will be attacked.

“They’re trying to convince John Q. Public that the cats are beneficial. I don’t feel they’re beneficial to our area. They’re detrimental,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’ve never wanted to see all the cougars gone, but they’re too thick,” Kreps said. “The deer are gone, and they’ve started in on my cattle.”

According to the study, efforts to control deer by other means, including hunting, have had limited success. “Recolonization by large carnivores could provide an efficient solution to the problem of deer overabundance,” the study states.

Mark Pidgeon, president of the Hunters Heritage Council in Washington, said hunters could thin deer herds if given a chance.

“The obvious solution here is to have more hunter harvests,” he said. “One of the reasons the number of hunters is going down is because people don’t feel they have the opportunity.”

Pidgeon warned that using a species to suppress another could have unintended environmental consequences.

“An ecosystem needs to be managed as a whole,” he said. “The eradication of predators would not be good either.”

The chances of a motorist hitting a deer or elk are one-in-169 nationwide, but vary greatly by state, with collisions most likely to happen in West Virginia, Montana, Iowa, Pennsylvania and South Dakota, according to an estimate by the insurance company State Farm.

The Washington State Patrol annually receives more than 1,100 reports of vehicles colliding with wildlife, mostly deer and elk. On average, the collisions cause two deaths and 1,190 injuries, according to the Washington Department of Transportation.

Many collisions apparently go unreported. Highway workers pick up about 3,500 deer and elk carcasses each year, according to the transportation department.

The study was published by Conservation Letters, an online journal of the Society for Conservation Biology. The paper is titled, “Socioeconomic benefits of large carnivore recolonization through reduced wildlife-vehicle collisions.”

source

Concerted action needed to save large mammals: Study

DECCAN CHRONICLE.
Published Jul 29, 2016

Group of 43 conservation scientists and other experts are calling for a coordinated global plan to protect the world’s ‘megafauna’.
 
The species, such as elephants, rhinos, gorillas, and big cats are now threatened  with extinction (Representational Image)
 The species, such as elephants, rhinos, gorillas, and big cats are now threatened with extinction (Representational Image)
 
Bengaluru: A new study by over 43 scientists under the banner of the ‘Wildlife Conservation Society India Program’, warns of the imminent extinction of the world’s largest mammals if there is no worldwide strategy or a coordinated global plan to prevent the world's megafauna from sliding into oblivion.

A team of conservation biologists is calling for a worldwide strategy to prevent the unthinkable: the extinction of the world’s largest mammals. In a public declaration published in the journal BioScience, a group of 43 conservation scientists and other experts are calling for a coordinated global plan to protect the world’s ‘megafauna’.

Among the threats cited by the group as drivers of this mass extinction are illegal hunting, deforestation, habitat loss, the expansion of agriculture and livestock into wildlife areas, and the growth of human populations.

The team has worked on the study to examine population trends of many species, including many of the most well-known, charismatic species such as elephants, rhinos, gorillas, and big cats that are now threatened with extinction.

Approximately 59% of the world’s biggest mammalian carnivore species -- including the tiger -- and 60 per cent of the largest herbivores are now listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species,  since they are threatened with extinction.

  “Perhaps the biggest threat for many species is direct hunting, driven by a demand for meat, pets, and body parts for traditional medicines and ornaments,” Dr. Elizabeth Bennett, WCS’s Vice President of Species Conservation stated.

“Only a massive commitment from the international community will stop this.” Species at risk include elephants that provide a suite of vital ecosystem services as ecological engineers, dispersing seeds and nutrients across vast areas.

The loss of elephants worldwide to poachers is well-known and is the focus of extensive efforts to shut down ivory trade, but the study authors point out that many species are at risk from similar threats but are so poorly known that effective conservation efforts to save them are difficult.

“With simultaneous loss of wildlife habitat and expansion of human populations and agriculture, negative interactions between people and wildlife are bound to arise,” said WCS India Scientist Dr. Varun R. Goswami, who is  also a co-author on the study.

Friday, July 29, 2016

It’s International Tiger Day — here is everything you ever wanted to know about these stunning, wild cats

11290353413_e597804dae_oChristopher Kray/Flickr

Today is International Tiger Day, a day to celebrate these majestic, endangered wild cats that are renowned for their beautiful coats and black stripes.
These elusive, solitary Asian creatures have long inspired awe. They are the national animal of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and South Korea. Every year, travelers flock to such places as Ranthambore and Bandhavgarh National Parks in India  just for a chance of spotting one of these creatures in their natural habitat. And yet, tigers are highly endangered and are listed on the IUCN red list,
Business Insider spoke with Ullas Karanth, Director for Asia at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and tiger researcher, to learn more about these beautiful big cats and the threats they face today. Here are some of the most interesting things that we learned.

Tigers are strictly an Asian species. Tiger fossils were discovered in China suggest that the species could be over two million years old.

Today, tigers are the largest of the big cats in the world, weighing up to 660 pounds. They can get up to 10 feet in length — with their tails alone measuring three feet. Tigers are also incredible jumpers, able to pounce at least 10 meters (approximately 32 feet).

Able to live in a variety of forest and grassland environments,”tigers are versatile,” said Karanth. “They can live in temperatures ranging from -35 degrees Celsius in Russia to 48 degrees Celsius in India [and] they can adapt to annual rainfall as low as 600mm to as high as 8000mm.”

Able to live in a variety of forest and grassland environments,”tigers are versatile,” said Karanth. “They can live in temperatures ranging from -35 degrees Celsius in Russia to 48 degrees Celsius in India [and] they can adapt to annual rainfall as low as 600mm to as high as 8000mm.”
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Unlike most cats, tigers like water and they are good swimmers. As a result, they are often seen cooling off in rivers, streams, and pools.

Unlike most cats, tigers like water and they are good swimmers. As a result, they are often seen cooling off in rivers, streams, and pools.
(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Tigers are fierce predators, able to take down prey twice their size. “They usually hunt and eat wild pigs, deer, wild cattle, elephant calves, and antelope,” said Karanth. “They sometimes eat fish, but that is not their main food, and [they] have been known to kill crocodiles and seals that they find on shore or on beaches.”

Tigers are fierce predators, able to take down prey twice their size. “They usually hunt and eat wild pigs, deer, wild cattle, elephant calves, and antelope,” said Karanth. “They sometimes eat fish, but that is not their main food, and [they] have been known to kill crocodiles and seals that they find on shore or on beaches.”
(AP Photo/ Deepak Sharma)

Cubs are born in litters of three to four, and they start hunting when they are just one year old. They remain with their mothers until they are two.

Cubs are born in litters of three to four, and they start hunting when they are just one year old. They remain with their mothers until they are two.
REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin
Source: Defenders of Wildlife

Tigers are mostly nocturnal and hunt their prey at night. Due to a retinal adaptation called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back into the retina, their night vision is about six times better than the vision of humans. They also have more rods (which see shapes) in their eyes than cones (which see color) allowing them to better detect the movement of their prey in darkness.

Tigers are mostly nocturnal and hunt their prey at night. Due to a retinal adaptation called the tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back into the retina, their night vision is about six times better than the vision of humans. They also have more rods (which see shapes) in their eyes than cones (which see color) allowing them to better detect the movement of their prey in darkness.
(AP Photo/ Deepak Sharma)
Source: National Geographic

They have five different types of whiskers on their face and body that are used for picking up movement and vibrations to help the tiger navigate in darkness, detect danger, and hunt.

Their beautiful coats help camouflage them when they are in their habitat. “They are gorgeous and striking when displayed in zoos, but in the forests they blend into the bushes and the stripes break [up] their outline,” Karanth explained. “Their main prey-species do not have color vision so the brilliant coloration is not what the prey sees.”

Tigers have stripe patterns that are unique to each individual cat — just like human fingerprints. Their stripes are also imprinted on their skins.

White tigers are bengal tigers that have a rare gene mutation, which is only found in about 1 in every 10,000 tigers. These white cats are also more prone to a condition called strabismus, which means they have crossed eyes.

White tigers are bengal tigers that have a rare gene mutation, which is only found in about 1 in every 10,000 tigers. These white cats are also more prone to a condition called strabismus, which means they have crossed eyes.
REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin
Source: National Geographic

A tiger's roar is so loud that it can be heard from over two miles away and it can reach up to 114 decibels, which is about loud as a jet airplane taking off according to Scientific American.

A tiger's roar is so loud that it can be heard from over two miles away and it can reach up to 114 decibels, which is about loud as a jet airplane taking off according to Scientific American.
REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger
Sources: Smithsonian Magazine, Scientific American

“Contrary to popular view, most tigers are terrified of humans and shy away from them,” Karanth said. “They view humans not as prey, but as feared enemies to avoid.” Still, tigers have killed more humans than any other wild animal, but often these attacks are provoked or the man-eating tigers are old and injured, unable physically to hunt their normal prey.

“Contrary to popular view, most tigers are terrified of humans and shy away from them,” Karanth said. “They view humans not as prey, but as feared enemies to avoid.” Still, tigers have killed more humans than any other wild animal, but often these attacks are provoked or the man-eating tigers are old and injured, unable physically to hunt their normal prey.
(AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

Historically, their range extended from Turkey through South and Southeast Asia, but now they are found only in South and Southeast Asia, China, and the Russian Far East. The largest populations are found in India. “In the last 200 years, their range has shrunk by 93%,” Karanth said.

Historically, their range extended from Turkey through South and Southeast Asia, but now they are found only in South and Southeast Asia, China, and the Russian Far East. The largest populations are found in India. “In the last 200 years, their range has shrunk by 93%,” Karanth said.
AP Photo/ Deepak Sharma

According to Karanth, tigers are endangered today for three main reasons: Their prey have been over-hunted, they are poached for their fur and body parts (which are used in traditional medicine), and their habitats have been degraded and fragmented due to farming, logging, industrial development, and other forms of human encroachment.

According to Karanth, tigers are endangered today for three main reasons: Their prey have been over-hunted, they are poached for their fur and body parts (which are used in traditional medicine), and their habitats have been degraded and fragmented due to farming, logging, industrial development, and other forms of human encroachment.
China Photos/Getty Images

But there is some good news: After a century of constant decline, the number of wild tigers is finally rising, thanks to successful conservation efforts by governments and non-governmental organizations around the world, according to a report by the WWF and the Global Tiger Forum released earlier this year.

The latest population estimate is at 3,890 tigers in the wild, up from an estimated 3,200 in 2010.

The latest population estimate is at 3,890 tigers in the wild, up from an estimated 3,200 in 2010.
AP Photo/ Mustafa Quraishi, File
Source: WWF  

“I believe tigers will survive and increase [their numbers], something that seemed impossible 50 years ago,” Karanth said.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Has the mystery of the Beast of Dartmoor finally been solved?

Owner of missing lynx zoo admits they released pumas into the wild in the 1980s 

  • Sightings of big cats were rubbished by police and animal experts
  • But admission of released pumas backs up theory behind the 'Beast'
  • It's believed two generations lived on moors before dying from the cold 
Pumas were once released into the wild by the same zoo who recently lost a lynx, the current owner admitted today. Over the years dozens of sightings of mysterious big cats in the West Country gave rise to the legend of the Beast of Dartmoor. Police and animal experts historically rubbished the claims despite the beliefs of locals.


Over the years dozens of sightings of mysterious big cats in the West Country gave rise to the legend of the Beast of Dartmoor. Police and animal experts historically rubbished the claims (file image of a puma)

But now, after the escape of Flaviu the lynx from Dartmoor Zoo two weeks ago, owner Benjamin Mee has revealed that wild big cats did roam the area for over 30 years.
He confirmed a pack of pumas were 'released' from the zoo during the 1980s.
They lived on the surrounding land, terrorising farmers and their livestock while feeding on scraps of rubbish in the village.
Ben claims he even said he saw one of the beasts prowling the village himself when he bought the zoo ten years ago.
He said: 'Puma were released in the Sparkwell area in the 1980s and there were many sightings of puma in this area up until 2010.
'I even saw one when I first came here in 2006.
'They used to come out into the village. I saw one by a crossing.
'The farmers don't want the publicity and wouldn't tell you this if you asked but there were a lot of animals lost to the pumas during those years.'
It wasn't until the winter of 2010 - the coldest for years - that Ben believes the pumas were wiped out and there have been no reported sightings since.

Owner Benjamin Mee has revealed that wild big cats did roam the Dartmoor area for over 30 years. He confirmed a pack of pumas were 'released' from the zoo during the 1980s
Owner Benjamin Mee has revealed that wild big cats did roam the Dartmoor area for over 30 years. He confirmed a pack of pumas were 'released' from the zoo during the 1980s

He added: 'I think two whole generations of pumas managed to live on the moor until the winter of 2010.
'When the weather got so cold, they all died.'
Since Ben made his claims, Herman Welch, 75, of Plymouth, Devon, has come forward to claim he was nearly mowed down by a 'black panther' near the zoo in 2004.
He claims he reported the incident to Dartmoor Zoo and the authorities at the time - but no-one believed him.
He said: 'I was driving on my way to Sparkwell when this thing jumped out right in front of me, less than six feet away.

The big cats revelation comes as the search for Flaviu (pictured) enters its second week. The search team have repositioned larger humane traps to catch the two-year-old Carpathian
The big cats revelation comes as the search for Flaviu (pictured) enters its second week. The search team have repositioned larger humane traps to catch the two-year-old Carpathian


'It stopped and looked right at me and then ran off into the woods.
'I stayed for a while and was hoping somebody would have been driving behind me, but no-one was around.
'I got to the golf course and I said 'I've just seen a bloody panther jump in front of me' and my friends just laughed and said 'Hermann, don't be daft.'
'No-one believed me. They said 'if a panther was roaming around here, Hermann, half the town would be out looking for it.'

The big cats revelation comes as the search for Flaviu enters its second week.
The search team have repositioned larger humane traps to catch the two-year-old Carpathian and a recording of its mother has now been broadcast across the moor in an attempt to locate the animal.
A public appeal has also been launched by the zoo for camera equipment to help keep tabs on the missing lynx around the clock. 


Ask a Vet: Why does my cat have a droopy tummy?


Claudia who has been at at Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter since March 2015
A cat at Newcastle Dog and Cat Shelter

Q: We got Daisy, a two-year-old female cat, from a rescue centre who didn’t know much about her life before coming to them. Daisy has a very droopy tummy, it’s quite close to the floor. She isn’t overweight and everything else about her is fine apart from her stomach hanging. Is this because of her having kittens early in life or could it be something worse?
Sarah Willis, North Shields

Vet Rory Thomson, from St. Clair Veterinary Care, in Blyth
Vet Rory Thomson, from St. Clair Veterinary Care, in Blyth
A: Many cats have this sagging abdominal skin known as the primordial pouch. It is more prominent in some cat breeds, such as the Bengal, so genetics influence the shape and size of it. Environmental factors such as excess fat storage and loss of skin elasticity as the cat ages can also affect the appearance, making the pouch sag lower.

Fighting cats often kick their opponents abdomen with their hind legs and this extra layer of skin provides some protection against injury. The extra skin also allows more flexibility and freedom of movement when a cat is running and jumping.

If you look at some of the big cats, you will notice they also have this layer of sagging skin. One theory is that this saggy skin enables the stomach to stretch in the wild ancestors of our domestic cat as they consume larger, more irregular meals.

As long as this droopy tummy just feels like excessive skin with no lumps or bumps and is not causing any pain or discomfort, it is unlikely to be anything to worry about. If, however, the whole abdomen is drooping it is worth getting it checked out by a vet as abdominal distension would be more concerning. It may reduce in size with good nutrition and exercise as this may help tighten some of the excess skin while promoting loss of excessive fat.

Please note that advice in this section is for general guidance, and if your pet is very unwell you should contact your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible as this advice does not replace the need for a clinical examination of your pet.

source 

Happy Birthday to Ernest Hemingway, with Love from His Many-Toed Cats

Ask not for whom the cat purrs; it purrs for thee.
 
07/21/2016 
 
American Stock Archive via Getty Images
American novelist and journalist Ernest Hemingway (1899 - 1961) with his pet cat, circa 1950.
A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings, but a cat does not. attributed to Ernest Hemingway
Only one author in America is known for his sparse prose, Nobel-Prize-winning work, long-held spot in the Western canon and ... the generations of six-toed cats living in his former home on the southernmost spot of Florida. Yes, Ernest Hemingway’s legacy includes a bevy of polydactyl (read: having more toes than average) felines who roam around the Key West home the author lived in from 1931-40.

Looking at photos of the house, one can almost hear the creaking of the wood floors and the click-clack of Hemingway’s typewriter (which one among his reported Royal, Underwood and Corona models is up to your imagination) and feel the muggy Florida heat. What visitors don’t have to imagine are the cats that lived with Hemingway on this property: They’re still there, and all are said to have descended from one original polydactyl. 
Joe Raedle via Getty Images
Cat toes attached to a fluffy orange cat in the bedroom of the Ernest Hemingway home in 2001.
Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum curator Dave Gonzalez told The Huffington Post that a local captain — “respected as the very best shipwreck and salvage captain on the east coast” — who liked to chat with Hemingway on the nearby docks gave the author a kitten from his six-toed cat named Snowball. The female cat’s name? Snowball Jr. 

A 2012 New York Times article mentioned that to sailors, many-toed cats bring extra luck, which is much-needed for those on the sea. Many of the cats mentioned in the article have famous names: Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, and Humphrey Bogart, among others. 
MCT via Getty Images
Cat toes accompanying Spencer Tracy (the cat) to the cat fountain, a urinal Hemingway dragged 
home from his favorite Key West saloon in the 1930s.
Gonzalez said that the cats, which are only allowed to openly roam the grounds during operating hours, have some favorite spots: the bed in the house’s master bedroom and the living room sofa. “Today, they are the true residents of the Hemingway Home,” he wrote in an email.

In honor of Hemingway’s 117th birthday on July 21, please enjoy these irresistible photos of fuzzy cat toes, accompanied by some choice quotes from the author himself. When you’re done, why not make a cocktail and pick up your high school copy of The Old Man and the Sea or the travel-worn A Moveable Feast that accompanied you on your trip to Paris? Papa would approve.  
KAREN BLEIER via Getty Images
Cat toes checking out the grounds at the Ernest Hemingway home in Key West, Florida.
KAREN BLEIER via Getty Images
Cat toes make the perfect headrest for a sleepy cat at Hemingway’s former home in 2013.
Visions of America via Getty Images
Cat toes. No filter needed.
Georges DeKeerle via Getty Images
Have cat toes, will dangle cat toes.
No animal has more liberty than the cat, but it buries the mess it makes. The cat is the best anarchist. “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” Ernest Hemingway
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Cat toes, seen here in 1968, are pretty good at getting important business work done.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Memorials for beloved cats and their accompanying cat toes.
ASSOCIATED PRESS
A wooden house to safely shelter cat toes from the storm. 
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Charlie Chaplin, seen here, has six toes on each paw, not seen here.
One cat just leads to another. Ernest Hemingway, letter from Finca Vigia, Cuba, to his first wife, Elizabeth Hadley Richardson (1943)
Coast-to-Coast via Getty Images
No patio set is complete without a few good cat toes.
James L Amos via Getty Images
Both descendants of Hemingway’s original cats, a big cat teaches a little cat the art of having many toes. 
 
 
source