National Geographic's Big Cat Week
is in full swing, and to honor the occasion, big cat wrangler Boone
Smith visited HuffPost Live with a precious baby tiger and lion.
the six-week old tiger looks pretty cute and cuddly at this moment,
Smith said this ball of fluff will grow up to be one of the largest cats
on earth. "Siberian tigers are the largest. Males can grow to be over 600 pounds. These guys are huge." he explained.
The cub's just beginning to evolve into the massive cat he'll go on to be. "He's
starting to be able to get around, a lot of strength and mobility,"
Smith said. "This is when they're at an age when they're super fun and
playful, just adorable to watch."
Serrano the mountain lion has been in residence at the Feline Conservation Center in Rosamond for two years.PicasaFeline Conservation Center
Face your fears, people always say. OK, easily done, provided the mountain lion, object of my near-phobic trepidation, remains safely behind what looks like a sturdy metal enclosure.
have driven well out of my way, to the dusty hinterlands of the high
desert north of Lancaster, just to confront what I fervently hope I’ll
never meet in the wilds of Auburn or any other trail in the Golden
State. I planned to stand face to face, go tooth and claw, with a cat
that, in less-controlled conditions, could have me for an afternoon
Really, I shouldn’t be nervous. Anna Houston, the kindly docent at the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound’s Feline Conservation Center,
tells me in soothing tones that “we have a great safety record, never
had any cats escape and never had any deaths or serious injuries or
stuff like that.”
Good to know, since it’s not just a mountain
lion (a breed so fierce, apparently, it also goes by the name puma or
cougar) among whom I’ll be strolling for the next hour. The FCC, a
nonprofit that opened its breeding facility doors several years ago for
fund-raising tours, also is home to other threatened big cats, such as
snow leopards, jaguars, black leopards, a lynx or two and numerous other
species with big, long teeth dripping with saliva.
Now I’m no ailurophobe
– though, to be honest, I’m a dog person, not a cat fancier – so nearly
all the 70 rare felines, from the tiny margay to the stoutest tiger,
don’t get my heart racing. But the facility’s lone mountain lion, that
guy freaks me a bit. Completely irrational, I know. But maybe I feel
vulnerable because I frequent trails in the foothills, which the lions
call home, and read with equal parts fascination and dread about
occasional sightings of the stealthy quadruped both in open space and,
as was the case a few months back in the Bay Area, at a strip mall.
This particular cat, which keepers named Serrano because it was found on a trail of the same name, came to the center in 2012 after it was captured skulking around Whiting Ranch in Orange County.
Department of Fish & Game officials determined that Serrano, then
less than 2 years old, was “not acting” like other young lions, so they
did not release him back to the wild.
“So he came to us,” Houston
said. “We’re not a rescue, per se, but if Fish & Wildlife or a vet
picks up an animal, we’ll take them in some cases. Mainly, though, we’re
a breeding facility. We’re trying to increase the genetic variation of
all of these endangered cats.”
She led me past spacious cages
housing Pallas cats of Central Asia, a black leopard from Thailand and
an amur leopard from Russia to a large enclosure that look a lot like
the area around the American River confluence.
There was a lush,
fragrant coniferous tree throwing ample shade. There were crushed
granite paths and dusty duff. There were debarked logs both flat on the
ground and propped on top of each other, an artificial “pond” about the
size of a hot tub with a small water fall, a granite bluff and a
fabricating “cave” for snoozing and, incongruously, a red rubber ball
you’d find on an elementary school playground. Says Houston: “We do what
we can to give them the environment they are used to.”
There was, however, no mountain lion.
did not make an immediate appearance. I, of course, figured he was
stalking me before choosing the most opportune time to pounce. (Have I
mentioned that I’m irrational?)
Houston laughed. “Serrano’s kind
of shy, especially during the day,” she said. “For the most part,
mountain lions stick to themselves. The reason we have ours was because
he was coming down and getting on the trails around people, which is not
normal behavior. So, in some situations like that, they don’t
(reintroduce) the (lions) back into (the wild). And some of the
situations are people who’d had them as pets when they were younger and
they got too big and out of control and so the people –”
Wait, people have mountain lions as pets? “Yes, really. That’s how we get many of our cats (of various species),” she said. “But, remember, we’re not a rescue.”
neighbors seemed much more outgoing. The North Chinese leopard and
black panther in adjoining cages strutted and sunned themselves,
occasionally leaping about boulders as if practicing parkour. Serrano?
Not even a fleeting glimpse. Houston didn’t even bother to try to lure
the lion out, as she did by playfully calling the names of cats in other
enclosures. A mountain lion, apparently, cannot be so easily cajoled.
of our cats are up and around most of the day, depending on how hot it
is,” she said. “Some are more aggressive. Some are nicer, but some have
been in captivity their whole lives so they have that connection with
Serrano’s been a resident here for two years – about half
his life. Houston said the cat hasn’t altered his stealthy mountain
lion ways, keeping to himself. These aren’t, apparently, the most social
Two visitors to the center, who identified
themselves only as Margo and Bruce, stopped by to take a gander and,
seeing no activity in Serrano’s lair, turned their attention across the
walkway to a jungle cat (Latin name: Felis chaus), found in Southeast Asia and looking like an extra tall and long domesticated house cat. “It’s kind of like the zoo here,” Margo said. “They never come out when you want them to.”
Bruce did his darnedest to lure the jungle cat, aptly named Pandora, out of her boxlike enclosure.
“C’mon sweet Pandora,” he said, voice raising two octaves. “C’mon good girl. C’mon out. You’re a good girl.”
said she and Bruce, who live in Tehachapi less than an hour away, drop
by often to visit the cats. They have, indeed, spotted Serrano and shrug
when I asked if he looked fierce. “Pandora is our favorite,” Margo said. “Just a beautiful cat.” Then
she whipped out her smartphone and clicked on a photo of her house cat,
a flamepoint Siamese that even a dog lover would find cute.
lovers make up most of center’s visitors, though you could hardly call
any of the feline inhabitants here cute and fluffy. More like sleek,
sinuous and sneaky.
Over at the North Chinese leopard spot,
Maureen and Colin Marshall, of Rosamond, brought their 7-month-old son,
James, to see the big cats because, according to Maureen, “We have a cat
at home and he (James) likes to torment him.”
James, for the
record, hardly seemed fazed by the 160-pound spotted specimen with paws
as large as dinner plates. The couple pushed the stroller past Serrano’s
enclosure, saw no activity, kept moving. But I wasn’t yet ready to bail
on Serrano. I lingered and read the laminated plaque outside his lair.
“Deer are the most important part of the puma’s diet,” the poster read,
but, really, they’ll eat anything from beavers to rabbits, raccoons to
Next to that was a handsome photograph of Serrano,
regally sitting on his haunches. But I just kept fixating on his paws,
so big, so lethal. I left, eventually, having nary a peek at the
object of my mortal fear. Then I remembered what an acquaintance once
told me while on the Olmstead Trail in Cool: You might not have seen a mountain lion, but he’s seen you.”
Now there’s a comforting thought.
Call The Bee’s Sam McManis, (916) 321-1145. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcManis
EXOTIC FELINE BREEDING COMPOUND’S FELINE CONSERVATION CENTER
cougar kitten, approximately four weeks old, has made the journey from
central Idaho to Boston, where he will eventually make his new home at
Zoo New England’s Stone Zoo.
Pete Costello, Assistant Curator of
Stone Zoo, traveled to Idaho last week to pick up the male kitten and
bring him home to Massachusetts. The trip was made possible through
coordination with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, as well as
through the generosity of JetBlue, which provided the travel
arrangements and safety oversight.
“Given the challenges he has
faced in his first few weeks of life, we are thrilled to be able to
provide a home for this kitten. Our staff prepared for his arrival and
for the special care that this kitten will need during these early days.
An ambassador for his species, our guests will have the unique
opportunity to learn more about cougars as they watch him grow up,” said
John Linehan, Zoo New England President and CEO. “His journey to Boston
is the result of a truly collaborative effort. We are incredibly
grateful to JetBlue, whose team went above and beyond every step of the
way in assuring a smooth travel experience. In honor of all of their
support, the new kitten will be named Blue.”
a male kitten weighing 5 pounds, was found near Salmon, Idaho and taken
to a local veterinary clinic. The next day, the Idaho Department of
Fish and Game returned the kitten to the location where he was found in
the hopes that the mother was nearby. Following this attempt to reunite
the kitten with his mother, persons unknown found the kitten and it was
once again returned to the veterinary clinic. At that time, Idaho
Department of Fish and Game determined that the kitten could not be
returned back to the wild and that a permanent home would need to be
“This late-season kitten emphasizes the need to be
diligent about leaving wild babies alone. While the outcome is not what
was hoped for, it is the best situation for the kitten under the
circumstances,” said Dr. Mark Drew, Idaho Department of Fish and Game
for the kitten will require a lot of dedicated attention by the Zoo’s
skilled animal management and veterinary teams. Currently, the kitten is
being bottle fed every four to five hours throughout the day. He is
being cared for at the Zoo hospital, located at Franklin Park Zoo, for
at least the first 30 days. When he is big enough, he will move to his
new home at Stone Zoo. He is expected to make his debut in the cougar
exhibit within Treasures of the Sierra Madre in winter 2015.
of the largest of the wild cats in North America, the cougar is also
known as a panther, painter, mountain lion, puma and catamount. Although
the cougar’s United States range has diminished throughout the last
century, they still have the widest distribution of any land mammal in
the Western Hemisphere. They range from the Yukon in Canada through the
western portion of the United States and a small portion of the eastern
United States to Patagonia. Cougars are found in all habitats from
lowlands to mountainous regions and from deserts to tropical forests.
typically give birth between April and September to one to six kittens,
which are born with a spotted coat and blue eyes.
Learn more about cougars in Stone Zoo's Animals Section.
MAHENDRANAGAR, NOV 29 -
The census of Bengal tigers has begun in the Suklaphanta Wildlife
Reserve through camera trapping technology on Thursday. The
administration of the popular wildlife reserve, which is spread over an
area of 3,500 sq km, stated that they will be counting the tigers at the
reserve using the technology for a period of one month.
Stating that the counting of the elusive big cats will be conducted in
two phases spanning 15 days each, Bed Kumar Dhakal, chief conservation
officer at the Reserve said that unlike previous years when the
programme was conducted at conserved areas nationwide, the programme
will be conducted only in the wildlife reserves and national parks with
low tiger count this year. Dhakal further informed that the programme
will also be conducted in Parsa Wildlife Reserve and Banke National
Park. The programme is being conducted with active participation of the
National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), Reserve officials and
Nepal Army personnel deployed for the security of the Suklaphanta
According to Dhakal, the programme is conducted every year at conserved
areas with low tiger population to keep track of the elusive big cats.
During the tiger counting and monitoring conducted at the reserve last
year, 11-17 adult striped tigers were spotted. There were 27 stripped
tigers at the reserve during the first tiger counting and monitoring
conducted about one and a half decades ago. However, the number had been
decreasing ever since, falling down to an average of 6-8 coming into
the year 2008. An increase in their number had only been witnessed after
2011 when 10 tigers were found, which gradually increased to 17 last
Meanwhile, Hemant Yadav, coordinator of NTNC, Kanchanpur programme said
that training classes for participants in the tiger census had been
started since last Sunday. “A 22 member team will count the tigers with the help of 46 automated
cameras,” Yadav said, adding that camera trapping was the most effective
and reliable technology to keep a tab on tiger population in a given area.
The population of these majestic creatures—which is estimated to be
around 3200—has been decreasing by the year in all tiger habitats across
the world. Hence, the Tiger Range Countries (TRC) have started
conservation programmes to double the number of tigers left in the wild
According to the Department of National Park and Wildlife Conservation,
the number of striped tigers stood at 176 within various conserved
areas in Nepal until last year.
Rhino collared in Khata corridor
KATHMANDU: A sub-adult female rhino was fitted with a satellite collar
on Thursday and released into wild in Khata corridor that connects
Bardiya National Park in Nepal with Katerniaghat Wildlife Sanctuary in
India. Data retrieved from the satellite collar will provide key
insights to habitat use and movement patterns of rhinos along the
corridor. The collaring initiative was led by the Department of National
Parks and Wildlife Conservation(DoNPWC) and Department of Forests with
the support of WWF Nepal, National Trust for Nature Conservation, and
local communities. “This is the first time that we have selected a
corridor as a collaring site for rhinos,” said to Tika Ram Adhikary,
director general of the DoNPWC. “The corridors serve an important contiguous function in the Terai Arc
Landscape and with the help of this study we hope to gain from useful
insights in conservation that will benefit wildlife and people on both
sides of the trans-boundary landscape.”
Darren Millar AM says there has been a 'a flurry of sightings of big cats' in Conwy and Denbighshire
A flurry of big cat sightings should spark a Welsh Government investigation, according to a Tory AM.
Clwyd West AM Darren Millar has criticized the Welsh Government’s lack of action over big cat sightings in Conwy and Denbighshire.
the Senedd on Wednesday he asked Natural Resources Minister, Carl
Sargeant AM what research the Welsh Government is undertaking into
tigers, lions and pumas in Wales
Mr Millar said: “There has been a
flurry of sightings of big cats since the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of
1976 made it illegal to keep untamed pets. “Many owners of exotic cats such as pumas or lynx simply freed their animals into the countryside.
“It is worrying that despite there being a number of sightings across Wales, the Welsh Government is doing nothing about it.”
In 2011 there was fears big cats could have been responsible for slaughtering badgers and sheep in Snowdonia.
Farmers Dafydd and Pam Parry claimed to have seen the wild animals in the hills around their home near Beddgelert, Gwynedd.
Millar added: “There have been a number of sightings over the years of
big cats in the Welsh countryside, including in Conwy and Denbighshire,
with tracks having been found in the snow a few years back in the
Clocaenog Forest and a number of farmers having lost livestock
mysteriously which show signs of big cat type attacks. “I wonder
what research the Welsh Government may have commissioned on the subject
of big cats, and the threat that they might pose to native wildlife
Carl Sargeant said the Welsh Government has not commissioned any work on big cats. Danny
Bamping at the British Big Cat Society agreed with Mr Millar that more
needed to be done to investigate big cat sightings. He said: "I
certainly support this call. I've been investigating sights for 20 years
and some of the best evidence of big cats living and breeding in
Britain is in North Wales.
"There was a law-loophole in 1976
which saw potentially dangerous animals released into the wild and the
Welsh Government has the jurisdiction to look into it."
Four of the five feline species that fall under that umbrella are endangered or near threatened: snow leopards, jaguars, leopards and tigers. Lions, whose populations once numbered close to 200,000, have lost most of their historical range to farms and could face extinction by 2050. They face a slew of threats, from habitat loss and poaching, to retribution killings and the illegal pet trade.
For Boone Smith,
a fourth-generation big cat tracker who cut his teeth trapping mountain
lions in Idaho and star of Nat Geo WILD's upcoming show "Man v. Lion,"
the fight to save these species is an "uphill battle" that we still
have time to win. The Huffington Post spent time with Smith at a private game reserve
in South Africa earlier this month to learn about the threats lions and
other cats face as urban sprawl threatens to overtake all of the land
once ruled by the king of the jungle.
This interview has been edited for clarity and content.
You grew up collaring mountain lions, why are they doing so well compared to other cats?
in general have a lot of similarities, generalities that you can say
“ok, all cats do this, do that.” The difference that I see is that the
success for something like mountain lions versus African lions is maybe a
little bit of the ability to adapt. African lions have lost a lot of habitat...
and when you’re a big animal like that and you need a big space and you
don’t have that, conflict with humans is a little different. Whereas
mountain lions, we talk about mountain lions a little different as
living in deserts, jungles, the rockies and now we talk about urban
mountain lions and their ability to adapt and live in California.
are a little bit too big to go under the radar… and there’s that
confidence, almost an arrogance of “I’m this big and bad and I’m going
to do what I want.” Mountain lions aren’t like that, they’re secretive
and shy and they’re elusive, so some of it’s personality, and
differences in management, and that’s what makes it all great is that
it's unique everywhere you go, and the animals are unique.
What kind of response do you have when you're tracking? Fear? Respect?
always say “are you afraid,” and I say I’m always a little afraid, but I
do a good job of keeping my head about me and processing things, but
you have to show these animals a lot of respect. You think what the
lifecycle of a big cat is, if you don’t kill, you don’t eat, and you
die. So we’re talking about the best of the best in mother nature, and
this has been honed, evolutionarily over millions of years, they’re
really good at what they do, and you need to have a healthy respect for
Do you think most people have that sense of respect?
I guess it’s like anything, it’s what you’re used to, it’s time and experience and feeling comfortable.
many times I hear people say “if we just leave them alone, we came into
their world.” And I agree with that wholeheartedly, we did, we’ve
encroached. The idea that we just leave it alone and it’ll fix itself,
we have to take into account our effect, our footprint’s everywhere, we
have such an impact whether we want to or not. And we don’t acknowledge
that we are not collecting the best information. Acknowledging our screw
ups, but our successes, we can do a lot for a lot of species, and I
think we have a responsibility. Whether they were here first or not, we
have a responsibility to make sure that there’s wild places, that
there’s wild things there and that they can function in a natural
environment. We're kind of guardians in that way a little bit and if we
don't take that responsibility serious we’ve got great examples of how
that’s caused big problems and impacts on ecosystems, and when you lose
it, you don’t get it back.
What needs to be done to stop the downward trend?
wants a magic bullet, a fix-it-all, one thing that if we do this it
will solve the problem, and it doesn’t exist. I think we really need to
look at big picture things, education is so important, and that doesn’t
fix problems, but when people are educated about it they are more likely
to make compromises.
Why should we all work towards saving big cats?
cats are important because with them comes big wild places. Being able
to go into the wild and be somewhere where you are not the top of the
food chain, I think it really, it makes you alive. When I go to the wild
places it’s a spiritual thing, it renews you it fires you up. I’m not
saying we go there and get scared and be afraid that everything’s going
to eat us and we’re going to die, but certainly I think it does
something for us spiritually.
I think that’s good for us, because
we lose touch of that. I love not being at the top of the food chain. It
keeps you alive. You have to focus differently, you’re not glued to
that phone, you’re looking up, you’re smelling these different things. I
think it lets us reconnect with nature.
Nat Geo WILD's fifth-annual Big Cat Week starts Friday, Nov. 28 and runs through Dec. 3. Tune in Friday to watch Boone Smith in "Man v. Lion" at 9 p.m. EST and again on Tuesday, Dec. 2 at 10 p.m.
THE birth of three white lion cubs takes the wild white lion population to the grand total of 13 in the whole world.
THEY are some of the rarest, most beautiful – and most vulnerable – creatures on the face of the earth. Three white lion cubs have been born to a white mother in the only place in the world where white lions are found. Their birth takes the total global wild white lion population to 13, with only six of them born outside captivity.
Wildlife rangers and conservationists are overjoyed by the new arrivals. But they also know they are in deadly danger, mainly because of twisted humans who pay huge prices to shoot wild lions for fun.
They hope the world will help them keep the cubs alive.
babies were born in the Greater Timbavati region of South Africa, where
the lion population have a unique gene which means a few of them are
born snow white. It’s the first case known to science of a white lion
mother giving birth to white cubs.
Game ranger Chad Cocking, 31, was first to spot the youngsters. He said: “We rounded a bit of vegetation and there in front of us were six lions, and two of the lionesses were white. “When I put my binoculars on, my smile got even bigger – if that was possible. There, nursing from their white mother, were three white cubs and their tawny sibling.”
Scott Ramsay took these amazing shots of the cubs and their mum two
weeks later. He said: “They are hypnotic creatures. “One of the white lionesses has piercing blue eyes to go with her white coat. She was supremely photogenic.” Former model Linda Tucker, who has dedicated her life to saving white lions, is thrilled with the new cubs.
They take the total number of living white lions born in the wild to six. Linda’s Global White Lion Protection Trust rescued the other seven from captivity. Linda said: “The birth of these cubs is fantastic news. It brings huge hope.”
But as she celebrated, she warned of the real threat the cubs
face from the callousness of rich hunters and those who profit from
their so-called sport. White lions are the ultimate trophy for rich men who will pay £100,000 for the chance to defy the law and kill one. Timbavati
lions often fall victim to the grotesque practice of “canned hunting”,
where poachers steal male cubs, raise them, then let them loose in
fenced areas for foreigners to shoot. And cubs left behind are not safe
Hunters also operate in the wild, killing males. And if
the leader of a pride is shot, his place will be taken by a younger male
who will kill all the cubs he has not sired himself. Linda said the cubs’ mother herself survived after her pride’s leading male was killed and another took over. And she warned that the last litter of white cubs, born in 2006, died soon after hunters killed their father.
Linda said: “The survival of these cubs, and the future of white lions in the wild, is in jeopardy if trophy hunting continues.”
the lioness, whose teeth were filed by an owner, was rescued and
recuperated at the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre. Online sales to the UAE of
big cats appear to have fallen. Delores Johnson / The National
Of the 144 advertisements for rare wildlife discovered
by the survey in the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait, the largest number –
122 was in the UAE. Ten ads were discovered in
Bahrain, seven in Kuwait and five in Qatar. The UAE also had the largest
number of websites hosting such trade at 14. The
website with the largest number of wildlife ads was
www.souq.dubaimoon.com where 85 ads were discovered during the survey
period. Ten adds were discovered on www.halaluae.com, and four on www.dubaiclassified.com.
DUBAI // Online sales of endangered wild animals appear to be decreasing in the UAE, an international survey has found. The
International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) survey investigated
trading through 280 open-source websites in 16 countries, including the
While animals and animal parts worth an estimated Dh1.48
million were being traded online in the UAE, activity seems to have
decreased as a result of an intensified government response to the
problem, said Dr Elsayed Mohamed, regional director for the Middle East
and North Africa at Ifaw. There were 122 advertisements about the
sale of wild animals and animal parts on UAE sites over the survey
period, March 10 to April 20 this year. In a similar study carried out
in 2012, 796 advertisements were discovered.
Dr Mohamed said in 2012 the Ministry of Environment and Water removed some adverts and blocked some websites. The
Government also issued ministerial resolution number 346 for 2012
banning the personal and commercial import of wild animals.
122 latest ads, 120 concerned the sale of live animals, mostly exotic
birds. There were eight ads for the sale of primates, four for large
cats and birds of prey, and three for antelopes.
Among the UAE ads was one for the sale of a live cheetah priced at US$18,000 (Dh66,114).
Big cats are sought after by people – some of whom keep them as pets without being able to care for them properly.
Many end up at shelters such as the Abu Dhabi Wildlife Centre.
For the first time, the survey team discovered many ads for rare animals that were found to be fraudulent. “Here
in the UAE, many ads related to the UAE were just a scam,” said Dr
Mohamed. “This is one of the surprises we found this year. In 2012, we
did not notice this.”
Besides the UAE, online trading in Kuwait,
Bahrain, and Qatar was also investigated. Altogether, there were 144
ads, offering 245 specimens. An additional 704 advertisements were found to be fraudulent.
survey did not focus on what is known as the dark net – online sites
accessible only to registered users. Social media and forums where
wildlife was offered, were also not reviewed.
The report, titled Wanted – Dead or Alive, Exposing Online Wildlife Trade, discovered that 33,006 rare animals and animal parts were traded via about 9,482 advertisements in the 16 countries covered.
The value of the animals and products advertised was put at a minimum of US$10.7 million.
The channel's annual feature is interesting and a visual treat, with a caged observer among lions as one of the highlights
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Big cats always end up being a tiny bit less mysterious after Nat Geo Wild’s Big Cat Week, and in a sense that’s too bad.
But a solid week of film showing lions, tigers, cheetahs, cougars,
jaguars, leopards and their kin prowling through the wild never lessens
This year’s series kicks off with Nat Geo regular Boone Smith getting
as up close and personal as one would ever want to get with lions.
In a maneuver that parallels underwater divers who study great white
sharks from inside steel cages the sharks are trying to devour, Smith
camps out in a cage in the heart of lion country.
Since we’re seeing his report, we can figure that he didn’t end up as a
feline snack. Still, the power of lion paws is impressive from where
Smith is crouching.
This being the Nat Geo family, the footage here is great, while the
narrators explain what it all means. Breaking down the biomechanics of a
cheetah’s sprint wouldn’t carry a whole show, but it creates an
interesting side note.
Smith’s findings include the role of male lions in the hunt, which some
big-cat shows suggest is to lie around and wait for the females to come
back with fdinner. Not so, it turns out. The males kill some of it
Another new episode here focuses on a female leopard working to protect
her cubs in their first months of life. The challenge of her mission is
underscored by the fact that she lost her cubs to predators the
It’s not all Darwinism, though. Big Cat Week is also fun — as long as the cage holds.
India’s second city is home to an estimated 20 million people ... and
21 leopards. The 250,000 residents with homes inside the boundary of
Sanjay Gandhi national park must find a way to live with their big-cat
Elizabeth Soumya in Mumbai
Hawa hawa oh hawa … a 90s Hindi hit blares from the radio in
Kusum’s mud house. “I play music till 1am every day,” says the elderly
lady. She says she is not much of a music fan - but her loud playlist
keeps the leopards away. Meanwhile, just down the road, 35-year-old
Dilip Changverlekar recently renovated the house where his family has
lived for generations. He added tin sheets to the roof and walls to make
it difficult for leopards to climb.
Mumbai is India’s richest city and home to a human population of
around 20 million, but it also contains one of the largest protected
urban forests in the world. The Sanjay Gandhi national park (SGNP)
spans 104 sq km - the size of 30 Central Parks - and is home to more
than 1,000 species of plants and animals. Here in Chuna, a tribal hamlet
of 40 houses inside the park’s boundary, seeing a leopard is not a
scandal but a routine, and residents receive a visit from the big cats
several times a week.
In 2012 a forest camera-trap
counted as many as 21 leopards in the park, and footage of the big cats
in the slums, residential complexes and schools of urban Mumbai has
shaped what many think of SGNP’s leopards. It has also given the
impression that the creatures are entering the city more often than ever
before. But are there really more leopards?
The leopards were here long before millions of people turned Mumbai
(which once had a sizeable population of tigers, too) into a bustling
megacity. The park’s peripheral areas have never been so densely
populated, and Vidya Athreya, India’s leading expert on leopard-human
conflict, thinks this has led to the increase in sightings.
“Eye shine” is the easiest way to spot the cats, who have a tapetum lucidum
structure at the back of each eye that reflects light back and helps
them see more clearly in the dark. “People used to go to bed earlier,
and there weren’t so many vehicles or so many lights,” says Athreya.
The presence of leopards living alongside humans is a case of two
highly adaptable species sharing space, says Athreya, who calls the
animals “living ghosts” for their ability to be elusive.
The very idea that the leopard shouldn’t live near humans is a completely urban construct, he says. “If you got to rural India, people know leopards have always been around. The adivasi [ethnic and tribal groups of India] have always lived with them and see the animal as part of their cultural identity.”
The leopards come close to human settlements looking for food, says
SGNP wildlife researcher and conservationist Krishna Tiwari. Around 90%
of their diet consists of dogs, rodents and wild boar, with stray dogs -
attracted by the garbage dumped on the edge of the park - accounting
Mumbai’s leopards have generally coexisted peacefully with their
human neighbours. But a spate of attacks a decade ago reinforced the
notion of them as bloodthirsty man-eaters. Of the 176 reported attacks
between 1991 to 2013, 84 occurred between 2002 and 2004. Nine people
were killed by leopards in the month of June 2004 alone.
During this period, leopards rescued from other parts of Maharashtra
state were being released in the SGNP. The authorities though the park
would be a haven for leopards, but instead the relocated cats were
forced to fight for territory and food. “What we ended up having in the
park was stressed-out predators,” says Athreya. “Highly territorial
animals who were displaced and had to find food in an unfamiliar place.”
After the relocations stopped in 2006, the number of attacks
decreased dramatically and there were no fatalities or injuries from
leopard attacks in the Mumbai suburbs from 2009-11. Yet, since November
2011 there have been six fatalities; the last three deaths were all
reported in Aarey Milk Colony, to the south of the SGNP. The most recent
was in October 2013, when a seven-year-old boy was killed.
Tiwari, who grew up in a residential building just outside the SGNP,
has worked in the park for almost two decades. The encroachment of the
city today is unparalleled, he says. Illegal settlements - including nagars (settlements by non-indigenous people), padas
(tribal settlements) and high-rise buildings - continue to swell in and
around the park. More than 54 illegal settlements and two villages -
with a combined population in excess of 250,000 - are inside the park
With this encroachment of the city into the park, Athreya fears that
conflict with humans is the prime threat to Mumbai’s leopard population.
How people living around the park deal with the presence of these
animals will determine the future for the big cats.
In space-deprived Mumbai, any open land attracts a premium, and the
wall around the national park is “for people to stay out, not for
leopards to stay in,” Tiwari says. “Real estate ads sell ‘nature’ as if
the park is their private property. People want to live close to nature,
but don’t want to live with the leopards that come with it.”
He now limits his conflict awareness to those living in informal
settlements, such as tribal hamlets and slums. “If you are in a building
there’s no need to worry,” he says. “All attacks on humans have
happened in [slum] areas, except one in Powai.”
In settlements that lack toilets or electricity, 80% of the leopard
attacks happen when people go out to answer nature’s call after dark.
Chandunushay Jadhav lives in Aarey Milk Colony, where a record high
number of leopards attacks have been recorded, including the most recent
death. But Jadhav says there are more important things to worry about
than leopard attacks: “Don’t tell us to be scared of the leopard, give
us facilities,” says the 64-year-old, who sleeps in a doorless structure
on his farm where three leopards are regular visitors. “I am not
afraid, I don’t even have electricity. Don’t tease it, don’t disturb it
and it won’t attack you.”
Jadhav knows that leopards have roamed the area for generations and
doesn’t think the creatures will disappear anytime soon. In the old
times, the cats had enough space in the jungle and ample prey, so “why
are we making towers where the leopards are? The leopards will visit
Mumbai again and again because this is where they live,” he says. “It is
really their home.”
Posted by Andrew Howley of National Geographic Society in Explorers Journal
November 25, 2014
During the Ice Age, enormous saber-toothed cats took down huge prey
across the New World. Today, while the long, lank mountain lion holds on
in North America, the muscle-bound jaguar is the top of the food chain
in the south.
Still, despite being able to sneak up on a caiman and take it down
with a single bite (as seen in the video below), like other big cats
around the world these legendary beasts face huge threats to their
survival in the form of vast habitat loss and extensive hunting.
The map above shows just how little of their home continents jaguars continue to prowl. Explore the interactive version
to discover the key corridors that connect these pockets and allow the
flow of genes that keeps the overall jaguar population diverse, healthy,
and fit for adaptation and survival.
Explore the World of Big Cats for Yourself
Now, as part of Big Cat Week on Nat Geo Wild you
can join the conversation about conservation, and learn more about big
cats from the experts who study them and work for their protection on December 3 at 1pm ET in a live video chat via Google+ Hangouts.
Hosting the event will be Luke Dollar, director of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative
and the scientist explaining the predator’s behavior in the “Jaguar vs.
Caiman” video below, one of National Geographic’s most popular videos
of all 2014.
Weighing in from 100 to 250 lbs (45 to 113 kg) and stretching up to
six feet (two meters) not counting the tail, jaguars are the third
biggest of the big cats (tigers and lions being the top two).
While at first glance the spots on their coats may be confused with those of leopards or even cheetahs, the stocky body, slightly arched back, Schwarzenegger-like muscles, and rounded head make the living jaguar unmistakable on sight.
Honored (or feared), the jaguar has been a powerful presence in the
thoughts and beliefs of native cultures for millennia. Now as hunting
and development have whittled away its range and population, the once
unassailable predator is largely at the mercy of humans who have at
times viewed their gods in its image.
How to Participate in the Hangout
You can help us Cause an Uproar for
big cats, and get answers to your burning questions about jaguars,
other wild felines, and their world by taking part in our Google+ Hangout. Submit your questions by posting a question on Google+ or Twitter using #bigcats or commenting directly on this blog post.
Hollywood Production Company, Big Machine denies that military footage in their upcoming reality television special is real
(PRWEB) November 24, 2014
The producers of Future Cat, a special for Nat Geo Wild, have released
this statement regarding unauthorized footage that has been circulating
on various internet sites:
"It has come to our attention that leaked footage from our show has
been mischaracterized by several organizations on the internet as
classified footage that is evidence of a Defense Department program to
create a militarized robot that looks and moves like a big cat. This
footage is not classified and was not acquired illicitly, as has been
implied by several members of these conspiracy sites," said Moriah Muse,
an Executive Producer with the show.
"The photo real footage is computer generated and was created by our
design and animation team for the express purpose of education and
entertainment. If is completely coincidental if the footage resembles
an actual project."
"Our footage is a synthesis of the predictions of robotics experts,
big cat experts and military strategists. It is not based on any
military program that we're aware of. It was meant as an exercise in
appreciating what we have to learn from big cats and how that can be
applied to human ingenuity."
The producers have promised to make available images that show the
process and creation of this footage once the program airs on November
30. The show says it is unable to share the footage before that time
due to contractual restrictions.
"We hope that we'll be able to put these rumors to rest and get back
to the business of focusing on the importance of preserving big cats and
appreciating them for the majestic animals they are. We also don't
want this to detract from all of the legitimate robotics research that
we also feature in our show."
FUTURE CAT airs November 30, 2014 at 9PM on Nat Geo WILD.
Additional information and press inquiries can be directed to info(at)bigmachine(dot)net
A big cat or Fen Tiger sighting near Girton from 1998
Bea Bea the dog, missing in Red Lodge
Big cat spotted in Derbyshire
A big cat or Fen Tiger sighting near Girton from 1998
A pet owner hunting for a lost dog fears it could have been savaged in a brutal attack – by two wild pumas. Sam Hammond was looking for her friend's black Labrador
cross Bea Bea when she spotted the two cat-like beasts running through a
field. She said she heard a yelping 15 minutes after the sighting and fears the dog may have been attacked by the cats. The dog has still not been found.
Sam reported the sighting in Red Lodge to the police the same day and is convinced the mystery animals were puma cubs. She said: "I was searching for my friend's dog and thought I'll just try this field where there was a farmer. "I got halfway across and turned around and the farmer had
left. I started walking back and I then looked to my left and saw these
two cats at the edge of the field. The cats were focusing on where they were walking. I think they were on the scent of something. I just ran and just thought I need to get as far away as
possible. I was really freaked out. There were two of them. "I'm 100
per cent certain there were two and 100 per cent that they were big
cats. I am so shaken up by it, even when I talk about it now."
Sam met up with her friend and told her what happened. But when they continued their search, they heard a dog bark and then "a dog cry out in pain". And it is not the first time Sam has spotted a big cat in Suffolk. In 1996 she believes she spotted a black panther near Long
Melford in Suffolk and later on found a "massive footprint" in the
village. Sam said: "I never thought I'd see anything like it again. The fact I saw two cats when I have already seen one just scared me. The fact I saw two this time has really affected me
because I was in the middle of a field with them. They could have got me
in a second."
Suffolk Police have confirmed they have received a report of the sighting of the cats on November 12. A spokeswoman from the force said: "It is rare that we
receive these types of calls in the county, but if someone does believe
they have seen a big cat they can contact police. "If there is immediate danger we will respond but often the sighting will be referred to other agencies such as the RSPCA."
The incident comes two months after a man reported a big
cat sighting in Mildenhall Woods, just three miles from the spot where
Sam says she saw them in Red Lodge.
A large "cat like" creature was spotted through trees in
Thetford Road in Mildenhall on September 1, and it was also reported
that a "deer carcass stripped to the bone" was found not far from the
same spot of the last sighting in Mildenhall Woods just a few days
John Berrett of Barton Mills spotted the cat and said he
had "no doubt" that it was a wild creature, adding that in his 70 years,
he had only seen something like that "on TV or in the zoo".
Sam Hammond and Bea Bea's owner are still hoping that the
dog is alive and will continue their search for Bea Bea around the local
Mississippi was once home to panthers, there have been no confirmed
sightings in more than 100 years. But the recent killing of a big cat in
Arkansas could indicate they intend to return.
On Nov. 8, a hunter in Bradley County shot and killed a mountain lion. It was only about 80 miles away from Greenville.
to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Myron Means, the cat was a
healthy, 148-pound adult male measuring 7 feet, 3 inches from nose to
tail and showed no signs of ever being captive. He was truly a wild
While that cat is dead, Means, AGFC’s Large Carnivore Coordinator, said there are more where he came from. “I
know we have documented five sightings in the last five years,” Means
said. “Missouri has seen the same thing over the past 15 years. They’ve
seen a gradual increase in sightings. Maybe they’re starting to
establish home ranges. Maybe that’s happening in Arkansas as well.”
to Means, male mountain lions are known to wander farther than females.
Much like black bears, young males tend to strike out on their own. But
with a steady, though slow, increase in confirmed sightings, Means said
it is just a matter of time before the females catch up. “I expect to see more sightings in the future,” Means said. “Five to 10 years down the road, we may have a breeding population. It
may be two years, who knows? ... All it takes is for one female to move
in. Really, at this point, it’s just a matter of time before the
animals establish home ranges.”
Mississippi is in the path and has suitable habitat. The first hurdle is the state line. “He’s
still got to traverse the Mississippi River, but cats do swim,” Richard
Rummel, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ Exotic
Species Program director, said.
Even though cats can cross rivers, setting up shop in Mississippi may take a while. “I
think it’s going to be years before we have a breeding population,”
Rummel said. “That’s way down the line. Males and females have to show
up and they have to find each other.”
Another obstacle the cats face in their journey to find new territory is man.
said the shooting of the Bradley County mountain lion was the first
recorded killing in Arkansas since 1975. The hunter involved claimed he
felt threatened and was not charged with any wrongdoing. If an animal is considered a threat to someone, a person can legally kill it, Means said.
the hunter was not charged with wrongdoing, comments on AGFC’s Facebook
page indicated some were skeptical about him actually being in any
danger. “You’ve got a large carnivore with a lot of negative
folklore associated with it,” Means said. “I really hope it doesn’t open
a can of worms where a bunch of trigger-happy guys start shooting them. If you’re going to claim self defense, it better be a good reason.”
In Mississippi, Rummel said it better be a really good reason.
is in the historic range of the Florida panther, which varies little
from the mountain lion, as it is called in western states. But unlike
its western cousin, the Florida panther is endangered and federally
protected. According to Dave Onorato, a research scientist with
Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s Florida Panther Project, there
are only 100 to 180 Florida panthers.
Because we are within the
panthers’ historic range, Rummel said the intentional killing of a big
cat in Mississippi will be treated as the killing of an endangered
species. “You can expect a visit from federal and state officials
who will thoroughly investigate,” Rummel said. He also noted that the
mere presence of a panther does not constitute an immediate threat.
If a panther is encountered, Rummel had some advice. “You want to avoid eye contact,” Rummel said. “Back away. Wave your arms. Wave a jacket or shirt. Whatever you do, don’t turn and run. That could trigger a predator response.”
Corbin Hiar, E&E reporter
As part of its broader effort to protect jaguars in the Southwest,
the Fish and Wildlife Service is using more than $200,000 from the
Department of Homeland Security to fund two opinion surveys -- a novel
approach to species recovery that FWS officials believe could help
improve future programs aimed at conserving imperiled predators.
DHS's Customs and Border Protection -- the program's unusual
benefactor -- didn't agree to fund the surveys because the endangered
jaguars pose a threat to national security. Quite the opposite: Citizens
living along the U.S.-Mexico border and the federal agency charged with
policing that boundary pose some of the biggest challenges to
re-establishing the wild cats in this country. "The primary threat to jaguars is human hunting, poaching and
poisonings," FWS spokesman Jeff Humphrey said. To reduce those dangers,
he said, "we need to understand people's attitudes toward jaguar
With that goal in mind, the service has proposed surveys that will
gauge attitudes of cattle ranchers and others in southern Arizona and
southwestern New Mexico -- the areas of the United States where jaguars
are occasionally sighted (Greenwire, Dec. 21, 2012). Public outreach efforts like these, Humphrey acknowledged, "are not common."
The ranchers' survey, which is expected to cost the federal
government $150,361, was approved by the White House on Aug. 7. It is
being conducted by the University of Arizona and will examine 228
landowners' knowledge of jaguars and interest in taking part in efforts
to protect them.
White House's Office of Management and Budget is reviewing a similar
$64,699 knowledge and attitude survey of 200 residents. If it is
approved, the Harris Environmental Group, a small consulting firm in
Tucson, Ariz., will seek out 100 responses from household
representatives, 60 from private-sector workers, and 40 from state,
local and tribal government officials.
Funding for these innovative studies is left over from a $50 million
deal that DHS signed in the waning days of the George W. Bush
administration with the Department of the Interior, which oversees FWS.
Then-Customs Commissioner W. Ralph Basham entered into the agreement --
amid considerable public pressure -- after former DHS Secretary Michael
Chertoff invoked a series of congressionally authorized exemptions to
environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act in order to speed
construction of border fencing (Land Letter, Jan. 22, 2009).
The deal included an account of proposals to protect rare plants and
animals harmed by the new border security measures, Customs and Border
Protection spokeswoman Erlinda Byrd explained in an email. Interior
"provided CBP with a list of proposed 'conservation actions,' which are
projects that DOI identified as the most effective in addressing impacts
from fence construction," she said.
"CBP and DOI mutually agreed that the mitigation funds would be made
available to fund conservation actions in 'increments' over several
fiscal years," she added. "The jaguar study is among the conservation
actions that have been funded by CBP."
Survey worries green group
The agencies' agreement specifically set aside $2.035 million for
jaguar monitoring, conservation and recovery, according to a project
description worksheet provided to Greenwire. That pool of money
was used to address the research needs of scientists working for FWS,
who first called for a survey of ranchers in early 2012. "Results of
this study will be used to inform the implementation of future recovery
actions in the U.S.," the scientists wrote in their jaguar recovery outline, an interim document FWS officials are relying on while they assemble a full recovery plan.
The outline also notes that DHS's border security construction could
harm the endangered cats. "Fences designed to prevent the passage of
humans across the border also prevent passage of jaguars," the
scientists wrote. "Because jaguars in Arizona and New Mexico are believed to be part
of a population centered in northern Mexico, impeding jaguar movement
from Mexico to the U.S. would likely adversely affect the presence and
persistence of jaguars in the U.S.," they said.
Even though Mexico is home to only about 500 of the estimated 10,000
jaguars left in the wild, the cats actually evolved in North America.
By the mid-1950s, though, habitat loss and hunting had decimated the
population of jaguars living in the U.S.
The muscular, brownish-yellow animals, which have fur marked by
flowerlike patterns of black spots, are the biggest cats native to the
Americas. They can grow up to 8 feet long from nose to tail and weigh as
much as 300 pounds -- only lions and tigers are larger.
CBP agents' pursuit of people attempting to avoid barriers along the
border might have adverse impacts on these wild cats, the outline
added. "Fences may cause an increase in illegal traffic and subsequent
law enforcement activities in areas where no fence exists. This activity
may limit jaguar movement across the border and result in general
disturbance to jaguars and degradation of their habitat."
The DHS settlement has also funded about 10 different jaguar-related
contracts for things like a big cats photo-monitoring program, a study
of the effects of roadways on jaguars and other wild cats, and some
feline genetics research, Humphrey said.
But the use of public surveys before the agency has issued a formal
recovery plan for the jaguar has some environmentalists worried. "We certainly don't believe that people's attitudes should determine
whether recovery takes place or not," said Michael Robinson, a
conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity, an
activist group that's frequently at odds with FWS.
Earlier this year, CBD litigation forced the service to designate
760,000 acres of land along the border as "critical habitat" for the
March 5). That means federal agencies now have to consult with FWS on
actions they carry out, fund or authorize within that area to ensure
those activities won't destroy or degrade the land's usefulness for the
CBD celebrated that decision but is still critical of FWS's broader
effort. "Sadly, the Fish and Wildlife Service has not been very
affirmative and proactive in developing a recovery plan for the jaguar,"
Robinson added, noting that the cat was originally placed on the
international endangered species list in 1972 -- even before the passage
of the Endangered Species Act. "So we're very interested in exactly how
the results would come to specific actions that would need to be taken
to recover the jaguar."
Humphrey suggested environmentalists have nothing to worry about. He
predicted that the draft recovery plan would likely be released "this
coming year," before the surveys could be completed and taken into
consideration. "Is there information that could come from this survey that could
help inform the recovery plan?" he asked, before answering the question.
"Under the current timelines, probably not."
Regardless, FWS believes the surveys will still be of great value to the wild cat's long-term recovery effort. "This information is pretty important because the jaguar is pretty
controversial," said Mary Anderson, an FWS border mitigation
coordinator. "There's a lot of concern by the public regarding the presence of
jaguars in their area, and we're just trying to find out what those
concerns are so that we can educate the public."
For instance, she said, if people don't realize that jaguars mainly
eat deer and javelinas, then that fact could "lessen concerns of the
public regarding the threat of jaguars to humans." Ultimately, Anderson said, "recovery of endangered species also
includes a public component. If we don't get public buy-in, it's
Getting widespread support for conservation efforts is easier with some endangered species than others, Humphrey noted. As a result, "there are a number of species that are more socially
benign where doing this sort of study would not be appropriate," he
said. "However, for something that has a broad range and stigma, such as
a predator or a jaguar, it'd be very helpful for us to understand
people's attitudes toward the animal as well as toward its
The main question these surveys -- and potentially future ones based
on them -- will try to address, the FWS spokesman said, is "for a
species whose primary threat has been poaching, how is it that you can
affect social change to reduce that threat?"
Even though results from the jaguar surveys are many months away,
other predator conservation efforts are already considering public
polling as a way to answer that question. For example, a critical
outside review of the red wolf recovery program recommended a survey of
residents to learn more about their attitudes toward wolf conservation
and to rebuild trust with the community in the wolves' recovery area (E&ENews PM, Nov. 20).