Sunday, May 31, 2015

Man-eating lions of Tsavo return to strike terror into railway workers

Man-eating Lions of Tsavo
The Tsavo Man-Eaters on display in the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois.
The descendants of the Tsavo Man-Eaters lions have emerged from the African Bush to strike terror in workers replacing the Kenya-Uganda Railway.
In 1898, the notorious Tsavo Man-Eaters – a pair of lions with a taste for human flesh – killed dozens of Indian workers who built the British Kenya-Uganda Railway, before they were shot by a British colonial officer.
Now their descendants in Kenya are attacking workers laying the £2.5bn replacement of the rail line by the Chinese.

According to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), a ranger was attacked and badly injured by a lion earlier this week, whilst he was guarding an area near the construction of  the new railway line. The area was to be visited by the Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Earlier this year, KWS had urged workers building the new standard gauge railway to take extra care in the evening, so as to avoid being prey for Tsavo's lions.

KWS assistant director Robert Obrein was reported to have told workers in the area: "(The Company's) camp is in the area where the notorious man-eating lions that were responsible for the deaths of a number of workers who built the Kenya-Uganda railway in 1898 roamed. It is also near Tsavo River where other big cats such as cheetahs and leopards come to drink water."

Ghost and the Darkness

The Lions of Tsavo became famous in 1898 when a team of Indian builders were attacked by two lions while building a bridge over the River Tsavo.
The two lions went on a rampage for a number of months, and were estimated to have killed 135 workers.
The person in charge of the construction, Lt. Col. Patterson, finally killed the two lions in December 1898, a good ten months after they started their killing spree.

The lions' rampage lasted 10 months, and they were estimated to have killed 135 workers. Workers built barricades made of thorn fences to keep the man-eating lions out of their camps, but the big cats leapt over the barricades or dragged themselves – and the prey back out – through the thorns.
The person in charge of the construction, Lt. Col. Patterson, finally killed the two lions in December 1898.

The lions have featured in a number of films, the most notable being The Ghost And The Darkness, starring Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer.
Many theories have been put forward as to why the lions became man-eaters, including the burial customs of the Hindu workers who cremated their dead in the open, leaving the corpses to be scavenged by the lions.

Historians have also highlighted the ancient Arab slaving caravans that traversed the remote Tsavo region, dumping the dead where they fell as encouraging lions to eat human flesh.
African lions are estimated to attack around 70 humans per year in Tanzania, and kill up to 250 people a year. However, lions are relatively peaceful compared to hippos: despite their cuddly reputation hippopotamus kill nearly 3,000 people a year in Africa.


Kalifungwa cautions govt on lifting big cats hunting ban; ZAWA, govt lion population figures differ

ZAWA, govt lion population figures differ 

By Francis Lungu   |   Updated: 31 May,2015

THE Zambia Wildlife Authority has released lion and leopard population statistics which are contrary to the estimates announced by tourism minister Jean Kapata.

Lifting the ban on hunting of the big cats, Kapata last week said her ministry had done an aerial survey and established that the country had more than 4,000 lions and leopards were in excess of 8,000.

Kapata’s decision was, however, heavily opposed by conservationists, who said Zambia currently did not have proper data on wildlife statistics.

According to a statement released on Friday by ZAWA public relations officer Sakabilo Kalembwe, the authority indicated it was conscious of the fact that Zambia only had three big cat clusters in the Luangwa Valley, Kafue and Lower Zambezi ecological systems. “ZAWA is taking a cautionary approach to the lion population. It is currently estimated that in all the three clusters there are between 1,500 to 2,500 lions and about 4,000 leopards as the worst case scenario,” Kalembwe stated.
He stated that big cats were never counted in the same manner as antelope or other larger mammals. “Cats by nature are secretive and are not usually found in very large numbers like impalas or Zebras,” Kalembwe stated.

The authority stated that the estimates of the big cats were based on long term monitoring, and that different conservationists had given varying lion population estimates in Zambia depending on the extent of their observations.

ZAWA noted that Zambia was currently ranked highly in terms of its big cat population in the sub-region after Tanzania, South Africa and Botswana.

Kalembwe further stated that the African Cats Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CSG IUCN) considered Zambia’s lion population to be medium with a stable population status trend.

According to ZAWA, from a global perspective, Zambia’s lion population could be hunted and trophies exported.

The authority stated that proceeds from the hunting would generate reasonable income for the country. “Hunting of big cats contributes to the local and the national economy through job creation, tourism, and ultimately income generated contributes significantly to conservation of wildlife resources,” Kalembwe stated.

He stated that only selected lions would be hunted. “Guidelines regulating lion hunting have been developed. These guidelines prescribe hunting of male lions aged six years and above and these lions should not be associated with any pride. This implies that these cats being hunted are old and are no longer breeding, thus have a diminished biological function,” said Kalembwe.



Kalifungwa cautions govt on lifting big cats hunting ban 

y Gift Chanda   |   Updated: 30 May,2015

By Gift Chanda   |   Updated: 30 May,2015

THE government is creating problems by lifting the ban on the hunting of lions and leopards without conducting a census, says former tourism minister Professor Patrick Kalifungwa.

Last week, tourism minister Jean Kapata lifted the ban on hunting lions and leopards, which was imposed following allegations of corruption in the awarding of government hunting concessions as well as depletion of prides and leaps.

Kapata said the move was based on fresh field assessments that estimated that there are 4,000 lions and 8,000 leopards in the country although sources within ZAWA say no census had been conducted in recent years.

Conservationists, who have condemned the lifting of the ban, revealed that the government’s figures were wrong as no census had been conducted.  “A census has to be done. When you do the census, you will know how to control what is available but if the census hasn’t been done, then it will be a problem for them,” Prof Kalifungwa said. “I don’t know if they have done any aerial surveys to see what the numbers are. If they haven’t, then it is a problem they are creating for themselves.”

Some of the problems that led to the ban included declining lion populations in some areas due to over-harvesting, hunting of underage lions and depletion of the lion habitats.

Prof Kalifungwa, the Vice-Chancellor of Livingstone International University of Tourism Excellence and Business Management (LIUTEBM), said it was also important that the allocation of the hunting concessions be properly reviewed. “There has to be a proper allocation because some people hunt for sport; others hunt for trophies,” he said. “I don’t know what the ministry has done in terms of allocation; whether they are allocating these licences based on the information which they have gotten from the field or just allocating.”  He called for transparency in the awarding of the government hunting concessions.

Prof Kalifungwa said the government must make sure that there are no complaints of corruption and only people that meet the required standards are given the concessions. “If there is no transparency in the licensing of the hunting blocs, then that is another problem,” he said. He said the best way to root out corruption in the awarding of the government hunting concessions was by involving all the stakeholders. “It cannot be done by a few people. We need to involve a lot of people,” said Prof Kalifungwa. “The people from ZAWA, tourism and even stakeholders in tourism, the communities; they all have to be incorporated so that the process is transparent. It shouldn’t be done just within the ministry. The outsiders need to be incorporated so that they have a voice and see what is being done.


Your Daily #Cat

A nice lynx portrait 
A nice lynx portrait by Tambako The Jaguar

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Friday, May 29, 2015

Your Daily #Cat

Profile of Ninja 

Profile of Ninja by Tambako The Jaguar

Mysteries of cat, human health revealed through microbiome

Meredith Knight | May 29, 2015 | Genetic Literacy Project

When I first read about the kittybiome project I will admit to being very skeptical. I know some truly cat-obsessed people, but hadn’t considered that they would take personal interest in their pet’s microbial colonization status. I also thought isn’t the cat-internet trope played out? They are everywhere talking about cheezburgers. I myself have three cats (by marriage), and while I do love them 60 percent of the time, the other 40 I consider them to be total Miltons.

But after some research, I think the cats might really have something to offer. They present the chance to study a mammal that lives near us and has experienced shifts in diet and living conditions alongside of us. But, at the same time, cats (at least domestic ones) have more easily controlled environments—they don’t leave the apartment— and their diet is easier to experimentally control than a humans.

Cats also have a number of diseases in common with people like Type 2 diabetes, thyroid disease and irritable bowel disorder according to microbiologist Holly Ganz who works on the Kittybiome project. Two of these conditions have been associated with microbial disruption, at least in humans. Cats also get some cancers like we do. Turns out that they’ve been doing science for a long time.

“The complete cat genome could improve understanding, and treatment, of the more than 250 diseases that afflict humans and cats in similar ways,” Nick Stockton wrote at Wired after the cat genome was sequenced last year.

Domestic cats migrated throughout human history alongside of us. And they’ve acclimated to new environments, like the couch, just like we have. Feral cats are an exception, but the Kittybiome is going to sequence them, too. They will also sequence some ‘big cats’ like cheetahs, lions and tigers. The dietary and living differences between the groups may track what we know of the difference between the microbiota colonizing human hunter gatherer populations and those living in the Western world. Most indoor cats eat processed kibble, which also reflects the diet of many people living in the West.

If the citizen scientists funding the kittybiome project are so inclined, some could potentially enroll their pets in ongoing studies where diet could be manipulated and changes in gut tracked. Although they may not like it, domestic cats eat the same thing for most meals. And its fairly easy to control how much. Human owners can hold some variables of cat life steady while they manipulate others and watch what comes out the other end, so to speak. It’s an experimental design dream.

As mentioned before, the cat genome is sequenced, so researchers can also investigate whether cats with certain genetic profiles are more likely to be colonized by specific bacteria or develop disease when the microbes shift.

A further plus for the cat model: kitties love getting the attention. It drives the dog mad.

Meredith Knight is a contributor to the human genetics section for Genetic Literacy Project and a freelance science and health writer in Austin, Texas. Follow her @meremereknight.


Meet the Verdugo Mountains' very own mountain lion: P-41

Zambia Big Cat hunting decision irreversible

Tourism and Arts Minister Jean Kapata has charged that Zambia will not bow down to pressure and reverse the decision to allow hunting of Big Cats.

Mrs Kapata said threats by international charity Lions Aid to report Zambia to the EU and the US for a possible ban of its tourism products are nonsensical.She said Zambia is a sovereign state that will make its own decisions in the best interest of its people.

Mrs Kapata said the decision is final and no amount of pressure from anyone will force the PF government to change its stance on the matter.

In an interview, Mrs Kapata wondered why people are putting pressure on Zambia when other countries have continued Big Cats hunting.

‘Zambia is a sovereign nation and our neighbouring nations have been doing Cat hunting and they are not talking about those countries. As Minister of Tourism, I know that those that are talking too much are the ones that lost the bid for hunting blocks and they have now gone to lobby NGOs so that hunting is stopped.I will not listen to such,’ she said.

She maintained that hunting of Big Cats has always been done in Zambia adding that the reason it was lifted was because there were no regulations.

‘Now we have the regulations, we are saying only hunt two and no hunting of young ones. So please, we are not going to be bow down to pressure from NGOs, we are doing it for the communities so that people can benefit from the resources.’

She said it is nonsensical to threaten that Zambian tourism products will be banned from the EU and US markets.

‘’Let them go ahead and report, that is all I can say, let them go ahead and petition us. We have nothing to do with that ourselves.’

She added, ‘We are not saying we are going to kill all Lions and Leopards. We did an aerial survey and we have more Lions and Leopards and we are only hunting those that are old that are out of the pride.’


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Your Daily #Cat

Pretty caracal! 

Pretty caracal! by Tambako The Jaguar

The lion that bit off more than it could chew

Cat forced to use hippo carcass as a life raft after crossing river in an attempt to eat it

  • The lion was filmed when it was forced to use a hippo carcass as a life raft
  • It fell off the carcass while snacking on it and the current dragged it away
  • But it managed to swim back on top of the carcass, where it sought refuge
A lion has been caught on camera using a hippo carcass as a makeshift life raft - after nearly drowning in an attempt to cross a swollen river to eat it.

Remarkable footage of the big cat struggling to stay afloat and seeking refuge on the bloated carcass was captured by two tourists visiting the Sabi River in Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Filmed by French tourists Denis and Valerie Wiest late last year, the lion was caught in a spot of bother after spying what it thought was a free lunch in the river. 

The lion was seen chewing on the hippo carcass in the middle of the surging river in South Africa
The lion was seen chewing on the hippo carcass in the middle of the surging river in South Africa

But the slippery hippo remains saw the lion tumble into the swollen river head first
But the slippery hippo remains saw the lion tumble into the swollen river head first

The currently quickly started pulling it downstream and it began frantically paddling towards its only refuge
The currently quickly started pulling it downstream and it began frantically paddling towards its only refuge

The lion managed to reach the carcass once again and it climbed back on top of it to avoid the rushing water
The lion managed to reach the carcass once again and it climbed back on top of it to avoid the rushing water

Mr Wiest confirmed that after misjudging the strong current, the big cat ended up using his meal as refuge. He said: 'We were filming from the Lower Sabie camp bridge, just above where the dead hippo was lying.
'There were two male lions close by who spotted the animal in the river. One of the cats lay down on the road and waited, while the second ventured out towards the hippo. We watched in shock as the lion tried to pick a piece of the hippo, but the carcass was very slippery and the current was really strong. The poor lion fell in the water and looked really distressed as the current started to pull him away. However he was able to swim back to the hippo and ended up climbing on top until a car with rangers arrived.'

Project Survival Cat Haven’s jaguar cubs growing fast

Nacho and Libre are 7 months old and 65 pounds. They weighed a little more than a pound at birth on Nov. 3

Project Survival Cat Haven’s new additions, jaguar cubs Nacho and Libre, have reached 7 months old and 65 pounds. Nacho and Libre, both males, were born at the big-cat sanctuary in the foothills east of Fresno on Nov. 3, each weighing a little more than a pound. Their names come from the 2006 film “Nacho Libre” starring Jack Black — who happens to be a supporter of Cat Haven. Nacho is all-black; Libre is yellow-spotted.

Cat Haven in Dunlap opened in 1993 as home to several rare, endangered species of wild cats, including lions, tigers, leopards and cheetahs. Project Survival is dedicated to the preservation of the wild cats, specializing in education and engaging in both captive and range-country conservation.
Nacho and Libre are the 10th and 11th jaguars born at Cat Haven in the past four years — and the first litter since January 2014.  The mother is Juanita, age 9, and the father is Butch, age 191/2, one of the oldest breeding males in the United States. All-black jaguars are more rare. Only four of the 11 born at Cat Haven have been all-black.

Project Survival has given away six jaguars at Cat Haven to zoos with the stipulation they must work toward helping jaguars in the wild. Jaguars used to come up from northern Argentina in South America and through Central America and Mexico to California.

Dale Anderson, founder/executive director of Cat Haven, says the last jaguar in California was killed in 1860. “It’s an American cat,” Anderson says. “That’s why I like the jaguar. It’s my favorite cat.”

If you go
Project Survival Cat Haven: 38257 E. Kings Canyon Road, Dunlap, on Highway 180 heading east toward Kings Canyon National Park.
Hours: Gates open at 10 a.m. Tours run throughout the day. The last tour leaves at 4 p.m.
Admission: $10, ages 4-12 $7, ages 62-over $8.50. Group rates and memberships available.
Details: or (559) 338-3216.


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Your Daily #Cat

Two white tigers together! 

Two white tigers together! by Tambako The Jaguar

Why don’t dogs like cats? You asked Google – here’s the answer

Every day, millions of people ask Google some of life’s most difficult questions, big and small. In this series, our writers answer some of the most common queries
 ‘Enmity is far from inevitable, given the way that dogs and cats alike learn the difference between friend and foe.’
‘Enmity is far from inevitable, given the way that dogs and cats alike learn the difference between friend and foe.’ Photograph: Getty Images/Moment Open
Dogs don’t like cats? Maybe that should be “cats don’t like dogs”, since it’s usually the cat that ends up running away (not always, there are some wimpish dogs out there). But both statements are generally true: most cats don’t seem to have much time for dogs and dogs are usually happy to chase anything that is running away, whether that happens to be a cat or a squirrel. That’s not to say that a cat and dog can’t make friends, or become part of each other’s extended “family” – but they would have to work at it. Or rather, we (their owners) would.

The phrase “fight like cat and dog” must have some truth in it. It’s certainly been in common use for more than a century, and may be much older than that. Nowadays it’s rare to see an actual cat and an actual dog engage in anything more than a brief skirmish – so how did the phrase ever become established?

Like so many aphorisms, it’s something of an anachronism. Even as recently as the 19th century, dogs and especially cats were not looked after as well as they are today. Both were allowed to roam the streets, and in considerable numbers, since there was little check on the rate at which they reproduced (apart from the grim sack/river tradition).
Competition over scarce scraps of food would have led to frequent fights. A dispute between two dogs is often resolved without actual fighting, since dogs have inherited a sophisticated set of signals from their pack-dwelling ancestor, the wolf, that enables them to signal their intention to back down if they consider their opponent too fearsome. Cats, being descended from solitary predators with little need to communicate face-to-face, lack such abilities, and are generally much more circumspect than dogs when they’re deciding whether or not to join an affray. Evolution has not provided either species with any capacity to communicate with one another, so close-combat fighting is more or less inevitable when neither is prepared to run.

Their styles of fighting are also completely different – cats prefer to use their sharp claws (kept that way by being pulled back into sheaths when not required), whereas dogs, who continually blunt their claws by using them for traction when running, persistently try to bring their teeth and powerful jaws into play. Both like to intimidate their opponent vocally, by barking (dog), yowling, hissing and spitting (cat) and growling (both). As a result, once a fight between the two has started, they are often long drawn-out, noisy affairs that can attract a lot of attention.
Mummy of a cat circa 1st century AD.
Mummy of a cat circa 1st century AD. Photograph: Alamy
So are cats and dogs natural enemies? Well, they probably were once. In terms of their relationship with mankind, cats are the interlopers. Dogs were originally domesticated by our hunter-gatherer ancestors, at least 15,000 years ago, possibly longer. Whether they were “man’s best friend” in those early days is anybody’s guess, but by the time cats came along they were playing a big part in our lives, hunting alongside us, guarding our houses, herding our flocks, even keeping us warm at night.
Cats first started hanging around our houses about 10,000 years ago, but that was pure opportunism:

at that point in (pre)history, our habit of storing food had led to the emergence of the house mouse as a serious pest. There’s little evidence for humans actually liking cats (apart from, presumably, appreciating the benefits of a mouse-free granary) for another 4,000 years, when the ancient Egyptians began to leave tangible evidence of their affection, for example, by providing elaborate burials, complete with a symbolic bowl of milk, for favoured pet cats. Prior to that, dogs would have had the upper hand for thousands of years, cared for by their owners to an extent that very few cats would have enjoyed.

No level playing field for cats, then, but what would its consequences have been? First of all, competition for edible trash might have been rather one-sided, with dogs having the upper hand when there were people about. Cats would have had to rely on their natural agility to stay out of trouble, as I witnessed when I was studying feral cats in a Turkish village. One year, the cats were everywhere, making a good living from cajoling scraps from gullible tourists (myself included). The next year, a pack of dogs was roaming the streets, and the cats seemed to have vanished – or so I thought until I was able to survey the village from high up, and saw that the cats had simply moved up on to the mainly flat roofs, and were presumably venturing down to scavenge for food at night, when the dogs were asleep.

More seriously (and skip this bit if you’re of a sensitive disposition), dogs would have presented a significant risk to kittens. Mother cats have to leave their nests to go hunting, and a starving dog is not fussy about what it eats. Cats would therefore have done their best not just to hide their kittens as securely as possible, but also to instil as much fear as possible into the neighbourhood dogs.
Thus cats and dogs carry a grim evolutionary backstory, one that even today they have not entirely shaken off. Dogs still chase cats, and given the right motivation, cats will turn and try to fight them off.
The good news is that such enmity is far from inevitable, given the way that dogs and cats alike learn the difference between friend and foe. This is part – and possibly no more than a side-effect – of the way that domestication has changed the way their brains develop. Puppy and kitten alike go through what’s called a “socialisation period”, when they learn not only who their mothers are, and how to behave towards other members of their own species, but also that humans are not to be feared. It’s only lack of (gentle) contact with people during the formative first couple of months of their lives that drives feral cats (and dogs) to develop a life-long distrust of humans.

It’s quite straightforward to hijack this process so that a dog is included in a kitten’s list of good company, and vice versa for a puppy. You’ll need a dog-friendly cat for the latter, or a cat-friendly dog for the former. Simply being around the other species, with no unpleasant consequences, during the sensitive period (4-8 weeks for kittens, 5-12 weeks for puppies) is usually enough. I’ve kept dogs and cats together all my life without there being any adverse consequences for either, and some have become best friends – I’ll never forget the sight of two kittens, brother and sister, jockeying for position to snuggle up against my labrador.

Unfortunately, once a cat has decided that it hates dogs, or a dog has come to enjoy chasing every cat it sees (ex-racing greyhounds especially), these habits are going to take a lot of very patient training to reverse.

For more information, see here
Stele depicting a fight between a dog and a cat in 510BC, from the Kerameikos necropolis in Athens, Greece. Photograph: G Nimatallah/De Agostini/Getty Images 

Say No to Killing the Big Cats-HH

UPND's Hakainde Hichilema
UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema
United Party for National Development (UPND) President Hakainde Hichilema has said that the first step in creating a viable and sustainable tourism industry in Zambia is protecting the wildlife and preserving natural resources.

Mr Hichilema in his weekly policy issue said that allowing licensed killing of lions and leopards will deny future generations the opportunity to see these species.

He noted that government has also not addressed the issues raised by then Minister of Tourism Sylvia Masebo at the time he banned the hunting of lions such as corruption.
Below is the full policy issue

Say No to Killing the Big Cats

Last week, Hon. Jean Kapata, the Minister of Tourism and Arts, made an announcement that her Government had lifted the ban on hunting of lions and leopards. This is a direct reversal of their January 2013 position when they introduced the ban.

The move has understandably sparked concern because the ban was introduced for a reason; namely to protect our wildlife and the diminishing populations of big cats. The reversal is the latest sign of the desperation of the PF Government to try and cover gaps in the fiscal position that have resulted from its own poor planning and budgeting. It is also another classic reversal of one of their own policies.

These are endangered species of wild cats that are on the brink of extinction. Government figures claim we are privileged host to approximately 4,000 lions and 8,000 leopards. However, even these numbers are hard to substantiate if you compare them with a 2012 study conducted by researchers from Duke University using high-resolution imagery.

The study found 4 lions in the Liuwa Plains, less than 50 in Sioma Ngwezi, 386 in the Kafue National Park, less than 50 in Nsumbu and 575 in the Luangwa area sharing borders with Malawi. This translates to about 1,100 lions in the whole country, 3,000 less than the official figure. Numbers for these cats used to be much higher.

There are several reasons for the decline. They range from poaching, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, to ill-advised government decisions such as the one Hon. Kapata has just made. But let us for a minute suppose the figures the Government is giving us are correct. Does that justify government-licensed killing of these animals? Is there a study that has been conducted that these animals need cropping? Have the issues that were raised by Hon. Sylvia Masebo, the Minister of Tourism and Arts at the time the ban was introduced, been addressed? The answer to all these questions is ‘NO’.

In 2013, the PF Government made a decision to ban the killing of the big cats. The reasons they stated then were that the killing of these animals was not benefitting local tourism. At the time we were doing this, Botswana also banned the hunting of the big cats, a decision that was applauded by most conservationists.

It was proved that Zambia and its southern neighbour make more money from photographers that follow these animals, than from hunters. It is not rocket science to know that a lion or leopard can be shot by a camera a million times, while it just needs one shot from a gun and it will be dead.

There is great value in promoting tourism using our God-given comparative advantage. Any decision to mortgage our wildlife for immediate financial gain is short-sighted. Our emerging tourism sector is one of our greatest hopes for the future of our nation and, if properly managed, could create thousands of good quality jobs and earn this country billions of dollars. In the Seychelles, 15 % of the formal workforce is directly employed by the tourism industry.

The contribution to that country’s GDP from tourism is about 50%. Mauritius, earned $1.35 billion form tourism in 2013 and nearer home, 12% of the $36 billion GDP in Botswana comes from tourism. The potential to grow our tourism industry is great. What we lack is political will and a realization that tourism could actually earn us more money than the mines. A lot more of our people could participate in a tourism-led economy because unlike mining, it requires less specialized personnel and equipment.

These big cats attract tourists into Zambia in addition to the spectacular and magnificent Victoria Falls. A tourist’s concern when choosing a destination is value for money. Value for money means a tourist who pays the same airfare to country X as they would to come to Zambia will look at what they can get from both countries.

This is the advantage Zambia has; we possess unique attractions such as wildlife in its natural habitat, which you cannot find elsewhere. Lions, elephants, leopards, cheetahs and other animals contribute to that uniqueness. These are the animals Hon. Kapata wants dead.

The first step in creating a viable and sustainable tourism industry in Zambia is protecting our wildlife and preserving our natural resources. If we allow the proposal from Hon. Jean Kapata of licensing killing of our game to go ahead we have to ask ourselves what will our children and grandchildren think of us when their only opportunity to see lions and leopards will be on video and pictures?

Posterity is less of a problem, the question is why these drastic measures and change of heart? The reason is simple: this Government is broke, they are scrounging for money from anywhere to meet their obligations after having borrowed heavily.

Hon. Kapata wants us to believe that the Ministry of Tourism and Arts developed a mechanism that will help identify frail and elderly animals to be killed, that is laughable. She represents a government that fails to do stock taking for drugs in hospitals meant for humans, how will they effectively monitor the vast areas in the wilderness and determine which animals to kill? How are they going to guarantee that poachers with fake hunting licenses will not abuse the system?
What about the corruption that Hon. Masebo mentioned when she banned the hunting in 2013? Has the legal framework been amended? These are questions Hon. Kapata needs to answer.

It is our belief that the animals in the game park belong to all Zambians. As such, the benefits accrued from revenue generated from proper game management should be spread to all Zambians, living and yet to be born. We also place great value on the potential for opening the tourism sector up to create much need jobs and revenues.

When in government, the UPND will, among other things:
1. Encourage wildlife conservation. The aim of this will be to protect animals and their habitat for posterity. One of the ways to discourage poaching is to offer people alternative livelihoods, as has been done by COMACO who have effectively addressed the issue of poaching in South Luangwa.
2. Open up the tourism sector as a priority, through a combination of regulatory reforms, tax incentives and training initiatives, such as reduced or zero-rated VAT.
3. Review visa requirements so as to encourage more tourist arrivals. We have prohibitive and unpredictable visa requirements for tourists in this country and that discourages patronage.
4. Enhance training and research in ecosystems. Our training institutions are not very diverse in as far as the environment is concerned.
5. Incentivize institutions of higher learning that will teach degree courses in Tourism and Hospitality. Zambians are known for being very hospitable people; all we need now is to convert our natural gift into a vocation and business advantage.

Compatriots, let us protect that which God has given us. We know that PF has borrowed heavily and they barely have breathing space.
They are desperate for get money from any possible source, this is the reason they are going after poor tenants with their withholding tax, lifting bans even without addressing the cause of the ban in the first place, because they want to lay their hands on every Ngwee before they can take a revised budget to parliament.
The truth of the matter is that the Zambian Government is broke, not because there is no money in the country but because of mismanagement.

Hakainde Hichilema
UPND President
“Together, we can”


China set to open border with Far East to allow rare big cats to move freely

By The Siberian Times reporter
27 May 2015
Plans to remove barbed wire from migration route would allow safe passage and help boost numbers of tigers and leopards.

'In nature there are no borders and predators do not have passports, so it is not in our power to tell tigers when to go to China or come back.' Picture: Phoenix foundation 

China is planning to relax controls at the state border at Primorsky Krai in the Far East to allow the free movement of rare Siberian tigers and Amur leopards.

With more of the animals trying to cross between China and Russia conservationists are keen to create conditions that will help safeguard the populations. One such move could see barbed wire removed from areas used for migration routes, to allow easy passage and prevent injuries.

According to estimates from Beijing Pedagogical University and the Forestry Department of Jilin Province, 42 Amur leopards and 28 tigers live at the border. Infrared cameras captured them almost 700 times during 2014 alone.

Jiang Guangshun, deputy director of the Feline Research Centre of the State Forestry Administration of China, said the creation of a joint initiative would help increase the numbers of big cats in the region.

Among the animals passing through the border area are the three tigers released by President Vladimir Putin a year ago. Satellite signals beamed to Moscow from collar trackers has been showing their movements and where they have preferred to spend their time and forage for food.

More commonly known as the Siberian tiger, the Amur tiger is listed as an endangered species, with less than 450 of them left in the region. Five years ago Russia launched a national strategy to protect the animal, which is the largest of the five tiger species.

Putin, an avid campaigner to save the species, was also recently behind the unveiling of a computer animated tiger cub as a new character on Russia’s longest-running children’s TV show.

Sergei Aramilev, director of the Primorsky branch of the Siberian Tiger Centre, said: 'Cooperation between Russia and China in the preservation of the Amur tiger population is essential to restore their numbers. In nature there are no borders and predators do not have passports, so it is not in our power to tell tigers when to go to China or come back.

'The recovery of the tiger numbers in China will create a backup of the population, which may in the future be used to increase the genetic diversity that is important for populations with low numbers.'


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Stolen Indiana cats end up in Albuquerque


ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – A special reunion is in the works after a pair of cats stolen more than 1,000 miles away wound up in Albuquerque.
Animal Humane New Mexico says a man surrendered the cats earlier this month. Workers then checked them for a microchip and found that the cats, Leroy and Shya, belonged to the same home all the way in Indiana.
The cat’s owner is now in the process of figuring out how to get them back home to Indiana.
It’s still not known exactly how the cats made the cross country trip.


Walkersville, New Market cats made famous in syndicated cartoon

 Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2015 
The nationally syndicated “Kit ’n’ Carlyle” cartoon recently featured the antics of two Frederick County cats. The May 16 strip featured the fraternal feline rivalry of Nancy Franck’s Walkersville cats, and Saturday’s edition covered the odd eating habits of New Market resident Alisa Deacon’s pet, Mai-Tai.

Franck, who follows Larry Wright’s cartoon avidly, responded several months ago to the published invitation to send a story idea for consideration. Every Saturday, the cartoon’s namesake, Carlyle the cat, has a dream, and readers are invited to “send kitty dreams” for the story panel.
Franck emailed an idea, based on the daily scuffle between two of her four sibling cats: 7-year-old Mew and Boots. Boots, who is black and white, reminds her of the mischievous Carlyle.
“I said in my email I have to check on Carlyle every day,” she said.
Boots’ and Mew’s other two siblings, Midas and Mini, are tiger- striped.
The four cats were abandoned as a litter six years ago in Franck’s backyard barn by a mother who apparently had hunted while caring for them, she said. Several squirrel tails were found near the kittens’ nesting place, Franck said.
She took a picnic basket out, filled it with the kittens, and has kept them all, despite a brief attempt to find other homes for two of them.
She considers them a divine gift, she said, because instead of her seeking them out, they came to her.
Mini, the smallest and only female, can box any of them to keep them in line, Franck said.
“Kit ’n’ Carlyle” follows Carlyle’s life with Kit, a single working woman, whose social life, meals and rest the cat often interrupts.
Wright’s May 16 cartoon pictured Carlyle dreaming of two cats, both depicted with tiger stripes, butting heads. Franck chuckled at the notoriety the cartoon has brought, with friends and businesses commenting on it.
The cartoon, syndicated by the Newspaper Enterprise Association Inc., stated that Franck’s cats play like fighting bulls, which is not how Franck characterized them.
“The cartoonist changed the story,” she said.
She had not heard whether her submission would be considered. The day the cartoon referred to her cats, she was busy with a yard sale and did not see it until there was a lull in business.
“I was surprised,” she said.
The cartoon about Deacon’s cat Mai-Tai illustrates the pet’s love of pizza and habit of crawling into the box.
The story dates back to Deacon’s first day with the 18-year-old cat, which her husband got her as a gift when they were dating.
The day she got Mai-Tai, Deacon said, it jumped into a box of pizza they had bought for dinner, knocking over a bottle of soda.
“She absolutely loves pizza, and she eats crazy food all of the time,” Deacon said in a phone interview.
Mai-Tai also has a taste for beef taquitos, cheese, broccoli and ravioli.
Deacon also submitted to Kit ’n’ Carlyle a story about Mai-Tai crawling into a guinea pig cage to eat the guinea pig food.
She sent the pizza story about a year ago and was delighted when she saw it made it into the cartoon.
“I laughed,” she said. “I was excited. I thought it was funny.”


How fancy cats evolved: The science of our most adorable pets

The Manx, the Munchkin -- without fancy cats, we'd have no memes. Tip your hat to the genius of evolution

How fancy cats evolved: The science of our most adorable pets (Credit: chanon sawangmek via Shutterstock)
A number of fancy cat breeds began with a mutation—often confined to one individual in a litter—that had an obvious effect on the phenotype. The Scottish Fold, for example, was founded by a barn cat from Perthshire, Scotland, with peculiarly forward-bending ears. Someone decided it would be a good thing to perpetuate this mutation. The Manx, from the Isle of Man, has a skeletal mutation that causes the tailless condition, among its other effects. In this it somewhat resembles the Japanese Bobtail, a natural breed with a quite different mutation. Munchkin cats have a mutation that causes limb shortening analogous to that of the dachshund.

Polydactyl cats have extra toes and constitute a recognized breed in the United States, called the American Polydactyl. They seem to have originated in southwest England, from where they made the Atlantic crossing by ship to New England, where they are especially abundant. One important reason for their early success was the widespread belief among sailors that they brought good luck—another example of the role of human caprice in the domestication process. The record for polydactyly is 27 toes, set by a Canadian cat. Here’s hoping that the record isn’t broken.

There is another mutation, called radial hypoplasia (RH), or “hamburger feet,” which results in a different form of polydactyly, of a spiraling nature. A creative breeder in Texas sought to build on this deformity in constructing a “Twisty cat” breed, in which the spiraling extends to the bones of the forelimb. Twisty cats also have extremely short forelimbs and relatively long hind limbs, which cause them to sit like a squirrel—hence an alternative name, “squitten.” Twisty cats are banned in Europe on humanitarian grounds, but not in the United States; the same is true of the Munchkin. It is time that the United States caught up with the United Kingdom in this regard. The deliberate breeding of skeletally deformed breeds is unconscionable.

Some of the oddest-looking breeds result from a mutation that causes hairlessness. Actually, these cats aren’t completely hairless; they just look that way. The first such breed originated in 1966 from a single naked kitten, appropriately named Prune. It is a mystery to me why anyone would want to perpetuate this condition; I suspect it is simple neophilia.

Given the climate there, it is particularly perverse that the Sphinx is a Canadian breed. But then, two other notable hairless breeds, the Donskoy and Levkoy, were created in Russia and Ukraine, respectively. One hopes they are indoor cats. Other cat breeds were founded by less drastic mutations of the coat, including the Cornish Rex (downy hair), Devon Rex (short guard hair), Iowa Rex (dreadlocks), and American wirehair (dense wiry coat).

The other method for generating new cat breeds is hybridization with existing breeds. The Siamese is most commonly used as one part of the cross. For example, the Havana Brown was the result of a cross between Siamese and American shorthair, and the Himalayan represents a cross of Siamese and Persian. Second-, third-, and fourth-order hybridizations begun with Siamese hybrids and other breeds include the Ragamuffin, Ocicat, and California Spangled. Some notable hybrids that lack a Siamese component include the Australian Mist (part Abyssinian), the Nebelung (part Russian Blue), and the Burmilla (part Burmese). The Levkoy is noteworthy not only for its uncomeliness but for the fact that it was created from a cross of two mutant breeds (the ear-challenged Scottish Fold and the hair-challenged Donskoy). The mutant ante can be ever upped.

Some truly creative breeders decided to go outside of the domestic cat box in finding partners for hybridization. The Chausie is a cross between an Abyssinian and a jungle cat (Felis chaus). Since the jungle cat is in the same genus (Felis) as the wildcat and the domestic cat, it is not surprising that this match worked. But other crosses outside of the genus Felis are more ambitious. The Bengal is a cross between a domestic cat and a leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis). At least the leopard cat is about the same size as a domestic cat; not so two other out-of-genus crosses: the Caracat is a cross between an Abyssinian and a caracal (Caracal caracal); and the Savannah is a cross between a domestic cat and a serval (Caracal serval). Both caracals and servals are considerably larger than wildcats.


When you start a breed with a single mutant, you have a founder population of two: the mutant and the individual with which it mates. To maintain the mutation at high levels, you must mate close relatives—say, siblings, or mothers and fathers with sons or daughters. Either way, the result is intense inbreeding and the accumulation of deleterious recessive mutations—a phenomenon known as “inbreeding depression.” Indeed, inbreeding in some cat breeds begun in this way is as severe as in dog breeds, as reflected in breed-characteristic pathologies.

The opposite occurs when breeds from different species are crossed, as in the Savannah and Caracat. Here the problem is a lack of harmony of various sorts among the genomes—a condition known as “outbreeding depression.” Servals and domestic cats, for example, don’t have the same number of chromosomes, which creates fundamental problems in partitioning them during the creation of sperm and eggs. More subtly, certain suites of genes that work particularly well with each other are normally inherited more or less as a unit. These “coadapted gene complexes” are broken up with excessive outbreeding.

The optimal condition lies somewhere between these poles, when the porridge is neither too cold nor too hot. The “just right” porridge is called hybrid vigor. This is what you get in mongrel dogs and barn cats. (Sylvester and Smoke are American shorthairs whose mother was the latter.) You would also expect to get hybrid vigor from crossing two distinct cat breeds, such as were used to create the Himalayan (Siamese ~ Persian). And initially, you do. The problem is that only a relative few offspring of these crosses, which have the desirable characteristics, are used as breeders for the next generation. The intense artificial selection for these characteristics soon results in inbreeding depression again.

The so-called natural breeds were in the “just right” hybrid vigor mode until cat fanciers began to control their breeding in the twentieth century. The effects of these efforts are especially evident in the Siamese, long the most popular of the natural breeds. The Siamese in Europe and North America today are strikingly different from those found in Thailand, as I can attest from personal experience. The Thai Siamese is a larger animal and longer of leg. Though the Thai Siamese has the typical “oriental” lithe body, it is more muscular, and not nearly as thin as that of the western Siamese. In addition, its skull is larger and notably more rounded in shape. These differences reflect the effects of artificial selection in the West.

The first Siamese to arrive in the West—appropriately named Siam—was an 1878 gift to President Rutherford B. Hayes. Six years later the first breeding pair was imported to Britain, followed by several more imports of a small number of these cats. Most Siamese in Britain today may be the descendants of only 11 imported Siamese. This small founder population, with its inherent sampling error relative to the genes of the Thai Siamese, was then prone, by virtue of its small size and isolation, to further random divergence through genetic drift.

The novel Siamese were an immediate hit at cat shows, so they were newly subjected to artificial selection, by means of which they further diverged from the original type. This divergent evolution accelerated in the last half of the twentieth century because judges came to prefer longer, thinner cats with proportionally small heads of a triangular shape, topped by large ears, set wide to emphasize this triangularity—to which end the snout was also thinned and the eyes became more almond shaped. Within a few decades, traditional Siamese had disappeared from cat shows. Some breeders organized to preserve the “traditional” style of Siamese, which is now recognized by TICA (The International Cat Association) as a new breed, called Thai. Such are the inversions of the topsy-turvy world of cat breeders.

The effects of inbreeding have been dire. Siamese have cancer rates rivaling those of Bernese mountain dogs and other cancer-prone dog breeds. They are especially prone to breast cancer. Accordingly, the life span of the Siamese is considerably shorter—with a median length of 10–12 years in one study—than that of the average house cat (15–20 years). Other “natural breeds,” such as the Abyssinian, also have shortened life expectancies as a result of inbreeding. Those that live longest are prone to blindness by means of progressive retinal atrophy and other defects of premature aging.
Aside from the Siamese, the Persian and the Himalayan have been the breeds most modified by sustained artificial selection. In addition to their gorgeous long hair, these two breeds are notable for their brachycephalic (squashed) faces, first developed in the Persian and inherited in the Himalayan when it was created through Siamese ~ Persian crosses.

Since creation of the Himalayan, the brachycephaly has been further exaggerated in both breeds, with predictable results. Though neither breed rises to the level of bulldog grotesquerie and its concomitant ailments, they do suffer from breathing problems, chronic sinus infections, and, more generally, abbreviated lives.

In stark contrast, the American shorthair, of which Smoke and  Sylvester are exemplars (OK, just Smoke), is a natural breed that has remained a natural breed. Which means that American shorthairs have long bred with whomever they deemed desirable—and the females often find it desirable to mate with more than one male. They evolved, from a large founding population, by means of natural selection into the perfect domestic cat—robust, athletic, and low maintenance. If properly socialized, they make ideal house cats. As an added bonus, American shorthairs are among the best mousers, right up there with the legendary Egyptian Mau.

There is an attempt under way to create an even better mouser, which would be the first cat breed created for function rather than appearance. The breed is called American Keuda, which is an acronym for “Kitten Evaluation Under Direct Assessment.” The breed is being created from American shorthair barn cats. The only criterion for the breeding program is exceptional mousing ability. Inbreeding, which inevitably reduces this ability, is therefore kept to a minimum, as evidenced by the huge variability in coat colors. Interestingly, some Keudas have come to look very much like the Egyptian Mau, a cat breed that perhaps most resembles the ancestral Felis silvestris lybica, from which all domestic cats are descended.


Cat genomics is not nearly as far advanced as dog genomics; it is still in the kitten stage. The first complete cat genome sequence came from an Abyssinian named Cinnamon. Subsequently, 10 other breeds have been partially sequenced. There are clear geographic factors in the genetic similarities of cat breeds. The Southeast Asian breeds, for example, form a distinct cluster; the European and North American breeds form a less distinct cluster; and the Central Asian, West Asian, and North African breeds tend to clump as well. Exceptions, such as the Ragdoll, American Curl, Ocicat, Sphinx, Devon Rex, Cornish Rex, and Bengal, are generally Western breeds recently created through hybridization or major mutations.

Many of the major mutations affecting body type and coat coloration of domestic cats were identified in the pregenomic age by conventional linkage analysis. Here I will consider a few interesting recent discoveries concerning coat characteristics.

Recall that a mutation (in a gene called Fgf5) was responsible for long hair length in many dog breeds. A mutation in the same gene also appears to cause long hair in cats. Actually, four separate mutations in this gene can cause long hair in cats, each different from the mutation that causes long hair in dogs. This phenomenon—same gene, different mutation, similar phenotype—is actually quite common. It occurs when different mutations, causing different amino acid substitutions in the coded protein, disrupt biological activity in similar ways. Since each variant of a gene is called an allele, we can more concisely say that, in this case, different alleles result in the same phenotype. But it is more often the case that different mutations in the same gene have different developmental effects; that is, different alleles result in different phenotypes. Consider the tyrosine gene (TYR), which plays an important role in coat pigmentation. One mutation in this gene is largely responsible for the distinctive coloration of the Siamese: dark extremities, light body. This color pattern is due to the fact that the mutant allele is temperature-sensitive.

During development, the extremities are cooler than the rest of the cat and the TYR gene is more active; in the more central areas, where the body is warmer, the TYR gene is less active, given this mutation. A different mutation in this gene results in an allele that is less temperature-sensitive. The result is the Burmese color pattern, in which the nonextremities are more pigmented than in the Siamese. Different mutations, and hence alleles of a related gene, called TYRP1, cause chocolate coloration or albinism.

Like all other genes, Fgf5, TYR, and TYRP1 are all coding regions of DNA, in that they code for proteins. But as we saw in the previous chapter, much of the evolutionary action is in noncoding sequences that regulate the activity of genes. One such noncoding mutation is responsible for the polydactyl condition. The gene that it regulates is one of the most storied in all of developmental biology: sonic hedgehog (shh).

Sonic hedgehog is a master developmental regulatory gene that produces a protein molecule of a sort called a “morphogen,” which forms a concentration gradient by diffusion. The effects of this morphogen on the cells of the developing embryo depend on its concentration. In this way, sonic hedgehog plays an important role in the development of organs, brain, and limbs. Its activity is regulated by noncoding elements near the gene called “cis-regulatory elements.” The limb-specific cis-regulatory element is called ZRS. A mutation in ZRS that causes too much sonic hedgehog activity is responsible for the polydactyl condition.

The noncoding polydactyly mutation is an example of a genetic mechanism that also underlies several human developmental abnormalities. And this is but one instance in which breeder-induced cat miseries have served to advance human medicine. For many of the ailments of purebred cats, as for purebred dogs, are also found in humans—a legacy of our shared mammalian evolutionary history. Indeed, these medical applications provided much of the original rationale for both the canine and feline genome projects.

Over 250 hereditary diseases of domestic cats are homologous to human diseases. The goal is to identify the genetic substrates for these diseases in cats, and then look for the homologous genetic substrates in humans. Cat models are especially promising with respect to progressive retinal degeneration, cardiomyopathy, and inherited motor neuron disease. The cat may also prove a useful model for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Cats are already important models for several viral diseases, including HIV-AIDS, which is prevalent in free-ranging cats, as is feline leukemia and the feline equivalent of SARS. Research is under way on cats to determine the DNA variants that make some cats more susceptible to these infections.

Until the wildcat genome is sequenced, feline genomics cannot provide much information about the genetic alterations that facilitated domestication. We can predict, however, that these genetic alterations were more concerned with behavior than with anatomy and physiology. For it is in their behavior that domestic cats most differ from their wild ancestors.

Excerpted from “Domesticated: Evolution in a Man-Made World” by Richard C. Francis. Published by W.W. Norton and Co. Copyright © 2015 by Richard C. Francis. Reprinted with permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Richard C. Francis is a science journalist with a PhD in neurobiology from Stony Brook University. He is the author of the acclaimed books Epigenetics and Why Won’t Men Ask for Directions? Francis currently resides in northern California.