Tuesday, June 30, 2015

22 #Cats Winning At Life

1. This cat who will NOT stand down from his “no socks while sleeping” policy.

22 Cats Winning At Life

2. This winner:

This winner:

3. This cat who successfully proved his point without moving a damn paw.

22 Cats Winning At Life

4. This cat who swiftly put this pup in his place.

5. This kitten who has perfected the art of sliding into your DMs.

22 Cats Winning At Life

6. This cat who’s taken on the grueling task of giving fedoras a better name:

22 Cats Winning At Life

7. This cat who knows JUST what to do with an intruder:

22 Cats Winning At Life

8. This master potato hunter:

22 Cats Winning At Life

9. This cat who would’ve won Legends of the Hidden Temple with ease.

22 Cats Winning At Life

10. This problem solver:

22 Cats Winning At Life

11. This cat valiantly standing up to the Roomba.

22 Cats Winning At Life

12. This burglar who came back from near-disaster like a pro:

22 Cats Winning At Life

13. This cat proving his worth at his new job as a bus boy:

14. This cat who knows it’s about the journey not the destination:

22 Cats Winning At Life

15. This cat who knows the importance of hydration during a spa day:

22 Cats Winning At Life

16. This master of civil disobedience:


17. This cat who won this house based on squatters rights:

This cat who won this house based on squatters rights:

18. This Master of Naps:

22 Cats Winning At Life

19. This cat who knows what he wants and how to get it:

22 Cats Winning At Life

20. This kitten who successfully executed his Promposal with 98% epic dance moves and 2% awkward:

22 Cats Winning At Life

21. This cat who knows the secret to controlling humans is an old fashioned hug:

22 Cats Winning At Life

22. And finally, this turd who knows how to use some red paint to harmlessly scare the crap out of humans:


L.A.'s Meanest Shelter Cats Find Jobs As Security Guards

Margrite, a cat saved by the group. / Photo: Courtesy of VTFA.
When Melya Kaplan visits one of L.A.'s too-full animal shelters, she isn't searching for cute or cuddly. "We look for unsocialized cats; we want the ones that are hissing and spitting in their cages," she told us. Luckily for street-smart strays, they have an advocate in Kaplan and her team, the group behind Working Cats, a program that's found more than 500 of L.A.'s fiercest strays jobs as lean, mean, rat-hunting machines for local businesses.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, it all started with a rodent problem at DTLA's historic flower mart, where vermin were scaring shoppers and making meals of the fresh goods. Kaplan, executive director of Voice for the Animals, stepped in with an idea that would soon become the Working Cats program: Save the wildest cats from L.A. shelters to work as live-in rat security guards. And it worked: Nine strays later, the flower mart is rodent-free.

Now the group places cats everywhere, from police stations to private homes, normally two or more cats at a time for companionship, of course. The new owners name the strays and feed them, and almost instantly see their vermin problem disappear.
A cat placed with the L.A. Police Dept. / Photo: Courtesy of VTFA.
Of course, it's no secret that these cats would likely never be adopted without people like Kaplan and her team. According to the ASPCA, each year approximately 7.6 million companion animals enter shelters, and 2.7 million are euthanized. That's more than a third.

Thanks to press, such as the aforementioned Los Angeles Times article, Kaplan is getting more and more calls for cats — and for more than just businesses. "We've been getting calls to place cats in private homes with rat problems," Kaplan says. And oftentimes, the owners get more than a security guard. "Even the cats that are hissing and spitting can become domestic in time," she says. It's a win-win.


Your Daily #Cat

Wild cat posing well on the tree 

Wildcat posing well on the tree by Tambako The Jaguar

Discontented Odisha to conduct #tiger census in Jan next

Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Jun 30, 2015

tigersSix months after straight-out rejecting the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) report of all-time low figure in the state, the Odisha government has decided to conduct tiger census in January 2016 to back its claims of presence of higher number of big cats.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) SS Srivastava on Monday said that the state government has begun necessary preparation for fresh enumeration of tigers adhering to the techniques adopted by the Central enumerators.

“National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) is reviewing the dispute over the number of tigers in Odisha with the help of pug marks and camera trap technique. However, the authority has not communicated its final decision to the government yet. Tiger census in the state would be conducted as per techniques adopted by the Central teams to enumerate the tigers for which necessary preparations have begun,” Srivastava said.

Earlier this year, the state government had rejected the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) report which claimed that there had been a sharp decline in tiger population in the state with the number of big cats down to an all time low of 28 in 2014. Reacting sharply to this, the state government had written to NTCA to conduct census again as the forest department asserted that the number wouldn’t be less than 60.

The NTCA under the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, in its report made public in New Delhi in January this year, had revealed that the tiger population in the country has gone up from 1,706 to 2,226 tigers, an increase of 30% in three years since 2011.

However, the number of big cats in Odisha plunged from 32 to an all time low of just 28 during the same period. The number was 45 in the census held on 2006.

Notably, the state has three tiger reserves — Similipal, Satakosia and Sunabeda.


35 #leopards roam around freely in Mumbai’s western suburbs

Mumbai, June 30: A survey was conducted between December 2014 and April 2015 by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) along with Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) to get the figure of the big cats roaming around. It is found that 35 leopards are roaming around the western suburbs of Mumbai.
It is estimated that in SGNP there are 21 leopards per 100 sq/km and there were 35 in Aarey Milk Colony (AMC) and the nearby areas where camera trapping was done. According to the reports by Mid-Day, sources revealed that Nikit Surve the researcher, got images of the leopard in AMC which showed numerous leopard movements in the area. The research area was divided into 3 zones, each covered with 15 cameras. It was done to get better understanding of the big cats roaming freely in the area.

The 45 days plus research involved trapping the leopards from a camera in order to know the big cats’ population in and around SGNP area. Mumbai-based Nikit Surve was the expert who started the research from February 2015 onwards. Nikit is pursuing Masters Degree from WII in Dehradun. (Image Credits – Twitter)


Puggies comb flooded jungle to track #lions

Puggies comb flooded jungle to track lions
One of the animal trackers, known as 'puggies', sits with a pride of lions at Gir. (TOI photo: Bhushan Pandya)
AMRELI: Bhimji Mehta, 35, wades through a swamp in Savarkundla in Gujarat's Amreli district in search of the king of the jungle. Ravaged by last week's floods, unprecedented in 90 years, this part of Saurashtra is home to about 75 Asiatic lions — many of them dead or marooned.

Looking at tell-tale signs, visible only to him, Mehta tracks down a hungry and weak lioness that has taken shelter on high ground to escape the swirling waters of Shetrunji river. The traumatized big cat is tranquilized by foresters who are following Mehta and appears to be responding well to treatment.

A crack team of 15 expert animal trackers, locally known as puggies, has launched a massive hunt to trace beleaguered big cats struggling to survive the floods that have killed 11 of them so far. Many of them fourth generation trackers, their mission is to locate carcasses or lions in distress in the water-logged countryside. Nearly 39 lions, many of them famished for days, have been found by them in the last 48 hours since the waters abated.

In nearby Liliya, Mohammed Juna and Rahim Baloch, puggies from Sasan-Gir, are in hot pursuit of two lions. By looking at the depth and size of pug marks they tell foresters that the two lions, aged four and 10, have passed by only moments earlier.

"Waters are yet to recede completely and many lions must be hungry and struggling to find their way with their 100 kg weight in such difficult terrain," says Juna.

Fighting odds, including poisonous insects and reptiles, these trackers have put their lives on the line to locate the missing big cats by their pug marks, droppings, tufts of lion fur stuck on twigs, scratches on tree barks and leftovers of a prey.

"Their expertise and services are invaluable to us," says SC Pant, principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife. The forest department is counting on these men, who get only daily wages, to account for each lion in Amreli — dead or alive.

The lion kingdom of Gujarat has far outgrown the bounds of Gir wildlife sanctuary and the recent census put the Asiatic lion populace at an all-time high of 523. Like others in the gang, Juna (43) and Rahim (49) have inherited the skill of tracking lions from their forefathers. "These trackers know the forest like their backyard and they share a personal bond with big cats. They can identify the animals just by their roar," says Pant.

Puggies are also called 'shikaris' because they used to help the nawabs and British find lions to shoot. Life has come full circle for these once-aides-of-hunters who now play a critical role in conservation. Everyday at 5 am this tribe of fearless trackers walk into lion territory, armed with just a stick, calling out to the big cats. 

Kitten Growing up with Dog Best Friend (video)

Monday, June 29, 2015

Your Daily #Cat

Looking where to jump... 

Looking where to jump... by Tambako The Jaguar
 European wildcat

Hunt for Sylvester the lion suffers double blow

Shaun Smillie | 29 June, 2015  

Image by: ALON SKUY

The hunt for an escaped Western Cape lion has become harder since searchers lost critical capabilities such as the use of a helicopter and dogs trained to track big cats.

Yesterday morning helicopter pilot Ben Potgieter waited at Palmietfontein Farm, on the border of Western and Northern Cape, 90km north of Beaufort West, as trackers followed the spoor of the three-year-old lion, nicknamed Sylvester.

This was Potgieter's last day on the job and he was paying for it out of his pocket.

The loss of Potgieter's helicopter was the second blow to the team that has been hunting the lion for three weeks. It escaped from the Karoo National Park.

On Saturday the pack of hunting dogs and their handlers returned to Botswana.

Potgieter felt the dogs and the helicopter gave the searchers their best chance of darting the lion with a sedative.

The plan, he explained, was for the dogs to follow the scent of the lion then use the helicopter to flush it from hiding. The dogs have GPS tracking devices on their collars.

Once the lion was on the move, Potgieter would fly at tree-top height to within 15m of the animal, allowing his passenger, a vet, to fire his dart gun.

Potgieter said that on Friday they nearly had Sylvester.

The dogs were on the scent, and they were close. But then Sylvester crossed into another farm and the search team could not get access.

With no dogs and a 36km/h wind that makes flying dangerous, all Potgieter could do yesterday was wait.

In the distance, the trackers were following the lion up the jagged Nuweveld mountain range, as he headed again for the Northern Cape boundary. "This is a team effort; you can't do a lion trace without a helicopter and dogs," Potgieter said.

This is the second time Sylvester has passed through Palmietfontein. On his last visit he killed 14 sheep.

When the lion crosses into Northern Cape, at the top of the mountain range, a team of trackers from that province's conservation authority will take over.

The takeover, said Potgieter, takes time and there are problems with communication.

SANParks spokesman Ray Thakuli said that the loss of the helicopter and the dogs was a small setback, but SANParks wasworking hand-in-hand with other conservation authorities to bring the lion back to the Karoo National Park in Western Cape.

In the meantime, with Sylvester once again near Palmietfontein, the farm's owner, Eltrus Mocke, will once more have to head out and check if the big cat has taken any of his livestock.

His farmworkers, however, will not be venturing into the veld.

Huibrie Griffiths has not been out looking for firewood for a month because of the lion.


Lion cubs greet mother in Samburu (video)

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Your Daily #Cat

Wild cat licking paw 

Wildcat licking paw by Tambako The Jaguar

Lions will return to Rwanda for the first time in two decades

By Megan Hamilton     11 hours ago 
Kigali - After being wiped out more than 20 years ago in Rwanda's horrific genocide that claimed an estimated 800,000 lives, lions will return to the country, wildlife officials say.

A pride of seven lions — two males and five females — are being transported in a 36-hour journey from South Africa and will arrive in Rwanda on Monday, The Daily Star reports. After a two-week quarantine, the big cats will be released into the eastern Akagera National Park.

Officials at the 112,000 hectare (276,800 acre) park, which borders Tanzania, say the reintroduction is "a ground-breaking conservation effort for both the park and the country of Rwanda." Yamina Karitanyi, chief tourism Officer at the Rwanda Development Board, told reporters that the move is an effort to boost the tourism sector and to encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem in Akagera Park, The Guardian reports. "It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park under the public private partnership between the RDB and African Parks, she said. "Visitors to the park will now have a chance to see one of Africa's 'Big Five' animals in one of the continent's most diverse national parks, cementing Rwanda's status as conservation focused, all-in-one safari destination," she said.

After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi people ended, thousands of Rwandan refugees returned from exile, bringing their extended families, News of Rwanda reports. Some adopted a pastoral lifestyle — raising livestock, while others became farmers. Land for crops and livestock was at a premium, and for these people, obtaining a plot of land was a life-or-death situation. Land grabbing was very common, meaning that poorer people were left out.

Then, Rwanda's government intervened, cutting off a giant chunk of Akagera National Park, and then giving it to farmers and herders. The park shrank from 2500 square kilometers to 1200 square kilometers. Wild creatures didn't fare well because they were often hunted, and this included lions, especially since the big cats started attacking cattle because their natural prey were so diminished. So the herdsmen took a decidedly lethal measure, setting out poisoned carcasses to kill the prides of nine to 12 lions. By 2000, all of the lions remaining in Akagera National Park were dead.

The lions arriving on Monday come from parks in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province, having lived in "relatively small, confined reserves where it is necessary to occasionally remove surplus lions," said a statement from Akagera National Park, The Daily Star reports. African lions, (Panthera leo), may very well be Africa's most iconic animal, but tragically, they are listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In fact, these magnificent cats are in trouble throughout most of Africa, it seems. Once a stronghold for lions, eastern Africa's populations of the big cats has been declining rapidly, the IUCN reports.

 A new and dangerous trend is emerging, in which bones and other body parts used for traditional medicine in Africa and Asia, the organization warns. Lion sub-populations in western Africa are listed as "critically endangered" because of over-hunting and dwindling prey. The seven lions heading to Akagera were chosen "based on future reproductive potential and their ability to contribute to social cohesion," with animals in a mix of ages and genetic makeup, Discovery News reports. "The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country," said Peter Fearnheard, head of African Parks.

While Akagera is fenced, the big cats will also be equipped with "satellite collars" to reduce the risk of wandering into inhabited areas. "These collars have a two-year life, by which time the park team will have evaluated the pride dynamics and only the dominant individuals in each pride will be re-collared," the park noted. In this park, there's plenty of food to be had for these big cats, including many species of antelope, buffaloes, giraffes, and zebras.

The park also boasts leopards and elephants. The park is an important tourist destination, with more than 28,000 visitors in 2014. Hopefully future tourists will have the chance to once again watch African lions hunting in their world.


In search of the elusive Leopard Cat

In search of the elusive Leopard Cat
Leopard cats, the much-understudied species of small cat has been facing severe threat from habitat loss and fragmentation

Big cats are not the only animals that intrude into human settlements in search of food, even smaller cats do so! A considerable number of the of small cat population spread across various tiger reserves in the state has also been venturing out of jungles for food. While big cats prey on livestock and at times humans, these small cats prey only on the fast-multiplying rodent population and benefiting people.

Even as very little is known about the population density of small cats, these behavioural traits of small cats are part of the first scientific study on density of the small cat population carried out by the conservation scientists of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). The study entitled 'Estimating population sizes of leopard cats in the Western Ghats using Camera surveys' was recently published in the Journal of Mammalogy.

Considering that Karnataka forests are home to several species of small cat, researchers from WCS have focused on the population density of leopard cats (Prionailurus bengalensis)—the second most abundant small cat species after the jungle cat and have come out with interesting results.

Leopard cats, the much-understudied species of small cat has been facing severe threat from habitat loss and fragmentation.
Also, commercial exploitation for their skins and a thriving pet trade has left leopard cats vulnerable.

The leopard cats are comparable to domestic cats in size and can be easily identified by their dark stripes running from their head down the spine. The body is covered with spots helping in individual identification of the cat similar to tiger's stripes or leopard's rosettes.

"Though they are widely believed to have been found in Western Ghats and parts of North-East India, studies on them have been limited to documentation of occasional sightings," said Arjun Srivatsa, research associate and lead author of the study.

High density close to human population

Interestingly, compared to their population data, Bhadra Tiger Reserve has revealed a high density of leopard cats. "The high density areas are largely restricted to secondary forests and coffee plantations outside the park boundaries and village-relocation sites within the reserve. We found that they live and do well on coffee plantations and like all other small wild cats they mainly feed on rodents. Areas close to human settlements generally have more rodents. Hence, their presence or density is likely to be higher in such areas. However, they also need natural forest cover to survive," Arjun clarified.

Leopard cats prefer wet areas

The study team, which included Arjun, Ravishankar Parameshwaran, Sushma Sharma and Dr Ullas Karanth, installed cameras at a whopping 562 locations across Bhadra, Nagarahole, Bandipur and BRT tiger reserves.

"The collected data revealed that Bhadra had the highest density of leopard cats out of the four reserves followed by BRT.

While the Bhadra had about 10 cats per sq km, BRT revealed five cats per sq km. Overall, across the four reserves; we estimate that there are around 100 leopard cats. Certainly, there could be more leopard cats in places like Kudremukh, Dandeli-Anshi, Sharavathi-Mookambika, etc, that have similar habitat conditions," Arjun clarified.

Further, the sparse data in Bandipur and Nagarahole is attributed to high tiger and leopard densities. "It is only a potential reason for the trend. The other reason could be that these reserves are much drier compared to Bhadra and BRT. These cats prefer wetter forests and are found in higher numbers in reserves that receive more rainfall. We are now continuously monitoring their populations in these reserves. Our subsequent results will shed light on their long-term population trends," another researcher clarified.

Did you know?

* A leopard cat is about the size of a domestic cat, but more slender, with longer legs and well-defined webs between its toes.

* Leopard cats are solitary, except during breeding season. Some are active during the day, but most hunt at night, preferring to stalk murids, tree shrews and hares.

* Although commercial trade is much reduced, the species continues to be hunted throughout most of its range for fur, for food, and as pets. They are also widely viewed as poultry pests and killed in retribution.

* The Tsushima leopard cat is listed as critically endangered on the Japanese Red List of endangered species, and has been the focus of a conservation program funded by the Japanese government since 1995.

* The Asian leopard cat (P. b. bengalensis) is mated with a domestic cat to produce hybrid offspring known as the Bengal cat. This hybrid is usually permitted to be kept as pet without a license.

Karnataka scientists estimating leopard cat population in Western Ghats

Karnataka scientists set up camaras to check population sizes of leopard cats in the Western Ghats across 2,075 sq km in 2013; their paper, which reports good news for leopard cats in the region, was published in Journal of Mammalogy this week.

While the leopard is infamous for reports of animal-human conflict in Mumbai, not much is known about the leopard cat, which is Asia’s most common wild cat species found predominantly in the Western Ghats.

The leopard cats can be identified by their spots, which are similar to tiger stripes and leopard's rosettes
The leopard cats can be identified by their spots, which are similar to tiger stripes and leopard's rosettes

DATE, Research scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS India Program), conducted an in-depth research titled ‘Estimating population sizes of leopard cats in the Western Ghats’ to determine the estimated population of the leopard cat in the region. Comparable to domestic cats in size, leopard cats are identified by their characteristic dark stripes lining their head and spine.

The villagers of Bori village in the Narayngaoon range of Forest Department near Junnar were shocked to see a leopard that had fallen into the 60-feet deep well, at around 9.30am on Saturday. A rescue team was called to help the big cat. “With the help of a rope, we released a trap cage into the well. The leopard immediately walked into the cage, and we lifted it,” said veterinarian Dr Ajay Deshmukh, who was part of the rescue operation. The leopard didn’t suffer injuries and was later transported to the Manikdoh Leopard Rescue Center for further medical examination. pics credit/ Dr Ajay Deshmukh, Wildlife SOS

They can be identified by their spots, which are similar to tiger stripes and leopard’s rosettes. “There is increasing amount of work done on leopard cats in Southeast Asian countries, but in India, studies on leopard cats are generally limited to documentation of occasional sightings,” said Arjun Srivathsa, research associate, and the lead author of the study.

The team from Karnataka, comprising Srivathsa, Ravishankar Parameshwaran, Sushma Sharma and Dr Ullas Karanth, analysed the data recorded across an area of 2,075 sq km covering Bhadra, Biligiri Rangaswamy Temple (BRT), Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserves. And, their camera traps have captured some good news.

While Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary in Karnataka has the highest population density with over 10 leopard cats per 100 sq km area, Biligiri Ranga Temple (BRT) Tiger Reserve in Karnataka has four individuals per 100 sq km. The survey yielded sparse data from Bandipur and Nagarahole.

The authors assign possibility of high tiger and leopard densities in these two areas, as a reason. In their conclusion, they point out the preference of wet areas by leopard cat species as Bhadra and BRT receive more rainfall. In Bhadra, high leopard cat density areas were mostly restricted to secondary forests and coffee plantations outside park boundaries and village relocated sites within the reserve.

This is significant as these areas also tend to have greater populations of rodents; presence of leopard cats could keep a check on rodent populations. “The research will aid in scientific reassessment of the species’ conservation status, which is currently categorised as ‘least concern’ in International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) Red List, despite limited ecological knowledge. The study was published this week in Journal of Mammalogy,” said Srivathsa.


Fewer tiger subspecies, better protection?

June 27, 2015
Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB)
New scientific research could help to protect tigers (Panthera tigris) from extinction. The findings indicate that tigers should be classified as only two subspecies – up to now nine subspecies were previously recognized. This will have a significant impact on species conservation since management efforts and breeding programs can now be organized in a simpler, more flexible and effective way.

Tiger skulls.
Credit: Per Christansen
New scientific research could help to protect tigers (Panthera tigris) from extinction. The findings indicate that tigers should be classified as only two subspecies -- up to now nine subspecies were previously recognized. This will have a significant impact on species conservation since management efforts and breeding programmes can now be organised in a simpler, more flexible and effective way. The results have been published in the scientific open access journal "Science Advances."

The compilation and detailed analysis of the most comprehensive dataset for tigers ever assembled allowed scientists from the German Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), National Museums Scotland, the Selandia College in Denmark and the Natural History Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen to carry out a critical evaluation of the nine putative tiger subspecies. They found that most of these subspecies were much more similar to each other than previously known. Only two tiger subspecies could be clearly distinguished: The "Sunda tiger" (Panthera tigris sondaica), formerly from Sumatra, Java and Bali and the "Continental tiger" (Panthera tigris tigris) from mainland Asia. From the perspective of conservation, the northern population of the "Continental tiger" (Amur tiger) should be treated as a distinct conservation management unit from the southern populations, since it is adapted to different environmental conditions.

For the first time multiple trait datasets of the six living and three extinct tiger subspecies described so far were compared. The morphology of more than 200 tiger skulls as well as the coloration and stripe patterns of more than 100 tiger skins were compared with molecular genetic data and ecological and life history traits. The results did not support the distinction of nine subspecies previously described for tigers. Only the Sunda tiger from the islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali could be clearly and unambiguously distinguished from populations of the Continental tiger. These detailed analyses also lend further support to the idea that there was a massive population decline of tigers after the super-eruption of the Toba volcano on Sumatra about 73,000 years ago. Tigers may have only survived in a single refugium in South China, from where all modern tigers then originated.

Worldwide there is significantly more concern about and money spent on the conservation of tigers than on any other individual wildlife species. However, fewer than 4,000 tigers roam around the forests of Asia -- a historically low number. For the tiger to survive at all, these small and shrinking populations require active conservation management. The discovery that only two tiger subspecies exist paves the way for new conservation management options in that global protection efforts can now be implemented more flexibly and effectively.

"A classification into too many subspecies -- with weak or even no scientific support -- reduces the scope of action for breeding or rehabilitation programmes. For example, tiger populations in South China and Indochina have been reduced to such low numbers that -- if each continue to be classified as separate subspecies -- they would likely face extinction," explained Dr Andreas Wilting from the IZW, the leader of the study. The new tiger classification allows for the combined conservation management of these populations and the Malaysian and Indian tiger, as all four populations from the southern part of continental Asia can now be managed as a single conservation unit. "The results of our collaborative research offer an exciting, pragmatic and more flexible approach to tiger conservation. Now we can plan the restoration of wild tiger populations with confidence, knowing that there is a sound scientific underpinning to tiger taxonomy," says Andrew Kitchener from National Museums Scotland.

The main goal of worldwide conservation efforts is to double the tiger populations by 2022. For this purpose, all remaining individuals are essential for the long-term survival of the tiger. The resulting high genetic diversity will ensure that tigers have sufficient adaptability to cope with future environmental changes and the challenges of new pathogens. The new study provides the scientific basis for a practical and effective tiger recovery.

The Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) investigates the vitality and adaptability of wildlife populations in mammalian and avian species of outstanding ecological interest that face anthropogenic challenges. It studies the adaptive value of traits in the life cycle of wildlife, wildlife diseases and clarifies the biological basis and development of methods for the protection of threatened species. Such knowledge is a precondition for a scientifically based approach to conservation and for the development of concepts for the ecologically sustainable use of natural resources.

Story Source:
The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:
  1. A. Wilting, A. Courtiol, P. Christiansen, J. Niedballa, A. K. Scharf, L. Orlando, N. Balkenhol, H. Hofer, S. Kramer-Schadt, J. Fickel, A. C. Kitchener. Planning tiger recovery: Understanding intraspecific variation for effective conservation. Science Advances, 2015; 1 (5): e1400175 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400175

Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V. (FVB). "Fewer tiger subspecies, better protection?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 27 June 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/06/150627081055.htm>.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

To save big cats from extinction, scientists say we need to redefine ‘tiger’

Fewer than 4,000 tigers roam across the Asian continent today, compared to about 100,000 a century ago. But researchers are proposing a new way to protect the big cats: redefine them.

The proposal, published this week in Science Advances, argues current taxonomy of the species is flawed, making global conservation efforts unnecessarily difficult.

There are up to nine commonly accepted subspecies of tigers in the world, three of which are extinct. But the scientists' analysis, conducted over a course of several years, claims there are really only two tiger subspecies: one found on continental Asia and another from the Indonesian islands of Sumatra, Java and Bali. "It's really hard to distinguish between tigers," said Andreas Wilting, the study's lead author from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research. "There has been no comprehensive approach. The taxonomies are based on data from almost a hundred years ago."

The study, described by its authors as "the most comprehensive analysis to date," looked at the mitochondrial DNA, skulls, skin markings, habitat and prey of all nine tiger subspecies. It found a high degree of overlap in these traits between the continental tigers — spanning from Russia to Southeast Asia — and between the island-dwelling "Sunda" tigers.

Nearly $50 million is spent worldwide to preserve the big cat each year, according to the Science Advances study, and there has been some progress made.

The Amur tiger, found in Russia, has been on the rise over the past decade, with as many as 540 of the tigers in the wild, up from between 423 and 502 a decade ago, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Likewise the Bengal tiger population, was reported to have increased by 30 percent since 2010, according to India’s National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The hope is that by simplifying the taxonomy, conservationists would have more flexibility in preserving the animals, such as by moving tigers from one area to the next. This is especially important for the South-China tiger, which is considered critically endangered numbers less than 100 in the wild.

"They've gotten down to such low numbers that there's really little hope for them," Wilting said.
The study reinforces evidence that tigers are perhaps the least diverse big cat in the world. It also supports a theory that there was a massive population decline after a super-eruption took place in Sumatra about 73,000 years ago, leaving only a single ancestor for all modern tigers from the South China area.

But in a field where one of the biggest goals is to preserve the diversity in tigers, convincing people that tigers aren't really that diverse can be a challenge. This is not the first time tiger taxonomy has been challenged, but earlier proposals have had trouble gaining ground due to a lack of evidence.

At the heart of the debate is a concept called "taxonomic inflation," or the massive influx of newly recognized species and subspecies. Some critics blame the trend in part on emerging methods of identifying species through ancestry and not physical traits. Others point to technology that has allowed scientists to distinguish between organisms at the molecular level. "There are so many species concepts that you could distinguish each population separately," Wilting said. "Not everything you can distinguish should be its own species."

This concept of inflation becomes more pressing when animal habitats are destroyed. Populations affected by habitat loss often become increasingly isolated and more susceptible to genetic drift. Because there are fewer genes in the population pool, the animals change more rapidly and becomes more distinct — sometimes for the worst.

This was especially true in the case of the Florida panther in the early 1990s, when the species was reduced to fewer than 30 individuals in the wild. Rampant inbreeding left the big cat inundated with genetic defects, such as heart problems and reproductive issues.

Efforts to preserve the animal through captive breeding proved unsuccessful. Florida researchers, frantic to save the long-held state symbol, decided to take controversial action by introducing eight female Texas cougars in 1995.

The result has been considered a success, as the cougars, a close genetic relative to the panther, were able to refresh the gene pool and stave off extinction. While the Florida panther is still considered endangered, there are now somewhere between 100 and 180 in the wild.

Still, the case has sparked debate on whether the panther remains a pure subspecies. That's important because it may affect the priority placed on protecting the cat and its habitat by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "It really depends on what you define a subspecies to be," said Dave Onorato, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission who worked on the panther restoration project. "Perhaps they're now more close to what they were before they became inbred."
Onorato said the Florida panther case could be held up as an example for people trying to protect big cats around the world, including the most stressed tiger populations.

Worldwide conservation efforts have been put into place to double tiger counts by 2022, but many tiger populations remain under threat by poachers, habitat loss and climate change, according to the World Wildlife Fund.


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Wild cat walking in the shadow 

Wild cat walking in the shadow by Tambako The Jaguar

Friday, June 26, 2015

Study finds pet owners reluctant to face up to their cats' kill count

6 hours ago
Study finds pet owners reluctant to face up to their cats' kill count
A study finds pet owners are reluctant to face up to their cats' kill count. Credit: Jenni McDonald / University of Exeter
Cats are increasingly earning themselves a reputation as wildlife killers with estimates of animals killed every year by domestic cats in the UK numbering into the millions. This new study on the attitudes of cat owners suggests that proposals to keep cats indoors in order to preserve wildlife would not be well received.

The researchers studied cats from two UK villages, Mawnan Smith in Cornwall and Thornhill near Stirling. They found that although cat owners were broadly aware of whether their cat was predatory or not, those with a predatory cat had little idea of how many prey items it typically caught.

Regardless of the amount of prey returned by their cats, the majority of cat owners did not agree that cats are harmful to and were against suggestions that they should keep their cat inside as a control measure. They were however willing to consider neutering which is generally associated with cat welfare.

The results, which are published in Ecology and Evolution, indicate that management options to control cat predation are likely to be unsuccessful unless they focus on cat welfare.

Dr Jenni McDonald from the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall said: "Our study shows that cat owners do not accept that cats are a threat to wildlife, and oppose management strategies with the exception of neutering. There is a clear need to directly address the perceptions and opinions of cat owners.

"If we are to successfully reduce the number of wildlife deaths caused by , the study suggests that we should use cat welfare as a method of encouraging cat owners to get involved."

Co-author Professor Matthew Evans, Professor of Ecology at Queen Mary University of London, said: "In this paper we examined how aware cat owners were of the predatory behaviour of their pet.

Owners proved to be remarkably unaware of the predatory behaviour of their cat, they also did not agree with any measures that might limit the impact that cats have on local wildlife. This study illustrates how difficult it would be to change the behaviour of if they are both unaware of how many animals are killed by their pet and resistant to control measures. This presents conservationists who might be attempting to reduce cat predation with serious difficulties, as owners disassociate themselves from any conservation impacts of their cat and take the view that cat predation is a natural part of the ecosystem."

A total of 58 households, with 86 cats, took part in the study. Owners' views regarding their cats' predatory behaviour was assessed by comparing predictions of the number of prey their cat returns with the actual numbers bought home. A questionnaire was given to 45 owners at Mawnan Smith to determine whether the predatory behaviour of cats influences the attitudes of their owners.

In the UK, 23% of households share a population of over ten million domestic cats.

Previous studies have shown that although the majority of cats only return a small amount of prey, one or two items per month, it is the cumulative effect of high densities of that is likely to have an overall negative effect on the environment.

More information: Reconciling actual and perceived rates of predation by domestic cats by Jennifer L. McDonald, Mairead Maclean, Matthew R. Evans and Dave J. Hodgson is published in Ecology and Evolution.
Journal reference: Ecology and Evolution search and more info website
Provided by University of Ex


Residents report large cat sightings north of Amarillo

KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports
Mountain Lion / Bobcat
June 25, 2015

Amarillo, TX - Potter County Sheriff's deputies say residents have spotted a large cat near homes north of Amarillo.

Thursday morning a call was made to the Potter County Sheriff's Department saying what looked like a tiger was roaming around the area. It's the second call deputies have recently received. While they still can not fully confirm if it's a bobcat or mountain lion it's not the first time this large cat has be spotted.  

"One of our deputies actually saw a mountain lion two weeks ago out by Valley De Oro out on 1061. He's adamant it was a mountain lion and not a bobcat," Potter County Sheriff Brian Thomas said. 

With small animals and livestock usually prey for big cats like bobcats and mountain lions, local resident Billinda Jaggers says she bought a donkey to help defend her four horses 

"He will run them out of this pasture, he tries to stomp them and bite them," she said about the donkey. 

Not only is concerned about her horses, she also worried about the safety of her two year old grandson.  

"That kinda scares me, him walking around by himself out here," she said. 

While deputies are on the look out for the big cat they are asking residents to call 911 if they see it and to stay away because looks can be deceiving.  

"They may be very cute but you have to remember they are still a wild animal and that animal does not understand humans," Thomas said. 

Reports of the large cat have come from Valle De Oro and the and the Tierra Grande community north of Amarillo.  

More images of rare big cat captured by hidden cameras

\By Anna Liesowska
25 June 2015
Traps record snow leopardess and cubs as experts work with border guards to help protect species.

Photos and video footage were recorded of the snow leopard in its natural habitat during daylight, helping to give experts more of an understanding about their daily habits. Picture: Sergei Spitsin
Camera traps have captured more images of one of the world’s rarest big cats out in the open in the Altai Mountains.

Photos and video footage were recorded of the snow leopard in its natural habitat during daylight, helping to give experts more of an understanding about their daily habits.

In a particularly poignant moment, it was discovered that one of the cats spotted over the years with cubs had returned to the area once more with another litter.

Leopardess Guta has previously been seen at the Chikhacheva Ridge, on the border between the Altai Republic and Tuva, with cubs in 2012 and 2013.

She is easily recognisable as a result of one characteristic feature: the tip of her tail is white and bent, having been broken when she was young. Unlike the other leopards, it tends to drag behind her and leaves a trail in the snow.

Snow leopards

Snow leopards

Snow leopards
Guta is easily recognisable as a result of one characteristic feature: the tip of her tail is white and bent, having been broken when she was young. Pictures: Sergei Spitsin

The camera traps also caught footage of male leopard Khorgai, who rules the territory.

The snow leopard is in the endangered category on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species with as little as 4,000 left in the world, of which only 2,500 may reproduce.

New images of the big cat are particularly welcome to conservationists, given that 2015 has been designated the International Year of the Snow Leopard, with a special global campaign to raise awareness of the animal’s plight.

Snow leopard

Snow leopard
The camera traps also caught footage of male leopard Khorgai, who rules the territory. Pictures: Sergei Spitsin

Chikhacheva Ridge is located in the south-eastern part of the Republic of Altai on the borders of Mongolia, the Republic of Altai and Tuva Republic. Monitoring the cross-border grouping by camera trapping has been conducted there since the autumn of 2011.

In order for it to be successful, scientists have to liaise closely with border guards.

As well as checking the existing camera traps the experts also installed new ones, as part of a project funded and created by the Siberian Health Corporation in Novosibirsk.


'Some of the cameras we have installed covertly because of thefts and they sometimes record people and even armed people.' Pictures: Sergei Spitsin

Sergei Spitsin, senior fellow of the Altair Reserve, said that teamwork between the experts and border personnel is vital - and said that the guards are not always looking for animals.

He explained: 'Our goals for the protection of the natural area of the Altai are the same, but the scientific goals are a bit narrower than the goals of border guards.

Pallas cat

Pallas cat
Pallas cats were also spotted by the camera trap. Pictures: Sergei Spitsin

'We found out in the course of our work that there is one area where our interests may intersect in unexpected ways. I mean the data from the camera traps. We are mainly interested in pictures of snow leopards and other animals, but the border guards are interested in images of people, especially people with weapons.

Chikhacheva ringe
Chikhacheva Ridge is located in the south-eastern part of the Republic of Altai on the borders of Mongolia, the Republic of Altai and Tuva Republic. Picture: Sergei Spitsin

'Some of the cameras we have installed covertly because of thefts and they sometimes record people and even armed people. This information we pass on to the border service for further operational and preventive work.

'This time we started with a new type of test camera with a GSM-module. It allows guards to receive the photo of violators in real time, and with reference to an exact place. So it will be possible to respond promptly to an alarm signal received from the camera.'