Sand Cats of the Sahara Desert

posted in: wild cat conservation | 0

How do you save a small wild cat?

Wild Sand cat 1.50To save them you first have to understand them. You need to go where they live. You need to learn the ecology of these species – activity times and rest periods, the size of the home range and territory year round, the distances they cover every day, social and reproductive behaviours, their prey species and hunting methods.

When that habitat is shared with other similar sized carnivores, you need to learn how they all co-exist.

Desert carnivores in Morocco

During the spring of 2013, Dr. Alex Sliwa and Gregory Breton (Curator of the Sand Cat breeding program in Europe) made a self-financed trip to the Moroccan Sahara. They observed Sand Cats, African Wildcats, Fennec Foxes and Ruppells Foxes.

Now they are launching the first-ever study on the ecology and behaviour of the Sand Cat in Morocco. While the Sand Cat is the priority species for research, they will also be studying those three other carnivores to determine how the Sand Cat co-exists in their shared habitat.

Never studied in Morocco, the distribution of the Sand Cat is still unclear. Between 1971 and 2000 only a few specimens had been observed in the wild. However, since 2005 and with a growing number of sightings in the Moroccan Sahara region, an enduring presence of Sand Cats is confirmed.

How do you find a small wild cat in the desert?

Researchers actively search for them with a 4×4 truck, driving at low speed, at night, shining a 100W spot lamp in a sweeping motion to detect the eyeshine reflection of carnivores. Once located, they net the animal which has taken refuge in the shrubs. When the cat has been sedated, they are measured and given a health check, then fitted with a radio collar. These animals will then be followed with an receiver and antenna to determine their movements.

Ongoing Sand Cat research

Once sufficient data is collected from radio-telemetry equipment and tracking collars then it is fully possible to:

  • sand cat felis margaritaexpand the study to the whole country to determine where the species are living in high, medium and low densities and where they are missing.
  • motivated by the study, train students and/or local employees for field work, recording and tracking the collared Sand Cats, African Wildcats, and Foxes
  • develop a partnership with local schools to speak in class and praise the animals to school children
  • during peer conferences, meetings and media events, spread the results and knowledge learned

You can help

The researchers would like to study these animals over several years to collect data throughout their lives, ideally covering several generations. But the duration of this program will depend on funds provided by the supporting donors.

Your support for this project will enable the researchers to determine the status of Sand Cats in this part of the Sahara, and begin conservation plans for their future.

Donate Now Through CanadaHelps.org!

 

sand cat habitat
Sand Cat habitat.

 

Sand Cat habitat
Sand cat habitat?

tiny.cat paw printSee our fact sheet for more information on the appealing little Sand Cat.

 

Pampas Cat video from northern Peru

These Pampas cat videos were captured by camera traps set in two different wetlands of the Sechura desert in northwestern Perú. They are part of a research project by Alvaro Garcia Olaechea and Cindy Hurtado, entitled “Human-small cat conflict and distribution of the Pampas cat Leopardus colocolo in northwestern Peru and southwestern Ecuador”.

YouTube Preview Image

For more information about the project go to Species Conservation.org.

Thank you Alvaro for keeping us updated!

Read more about the Pampas Cat on our fact sheet.

Found! Fishing cat in coastal Cambodia

fishing catPictures of the Endangered fishing cat – the first in Cambodia for more than a decade – provide welcome evidence that these elusive felines still survive in some parts of the country.

Cambodia’s Centre for Biodiversity Conservation (CBC) continues to make history with a camera trap survey revealing that the Endangered fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) can still be found in some parts of the country.

The camera traps have provided the first official records for the species since 2003, capturing images and footage of three individuals at two different coastal sites.

Researchers from the CBC, a partnership between Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and the Royal University of Phnom Penh, were thrilled by the findings which have allayed grave fears about the status of these animals in Cambodia.

FFI project leader, Ms Ret Thaung said that the fishing cat’s preference for wetland habitat had led to severe population declines throughout much of its Asian range. “Asian wetland habitats are rapidly disappearing or being modified by human activity, so fishing cat numbers have declined dramatically over the last decade and the remaining population is thought to be small,” she said.

“Fishing cats are believed to be extinct in Vietnam, no confirmed records in Lao PDR, and with scarce information about the species in Thailand and Cambodia.

“It is clear that urgent steps are needed to protect these cats from snaring and trapping and to conserve their wetland habitats – but to do this effectively we needed to get a better idea of where they live.” “

Overwhelming discovery

The CBC’s camera trap survey was designed to address some of these knowledge gaps . Following leads gathered during interviews with local villagers, the experts set up 32 cameras at five locations and left them to record what passed by .

Sifting through the images, the team was delighted to discover fishing cats at two sites in southwest Cambodia: Peam Krosaop Wildlife Sanctuary (Koh Kong Province) and Ream National Park (Sihanoukville Province).

“This is a remarkable discovery as fishing cats are very vulnerable to human persecution,” Ms Thaung said. “We are especially pleased to see both a male and female cat from Peam Krosaop Wildlife Sanctuary. When working with Endangered species, every animal is important and the excitement of such a discovery is overwhelming.”

As both of these sites are protected areas, the resident fishing cats should be afforded some protection.

Conservation challenges ahead

According to Ms Thaung, the CBC and its partners now aim to develop a fishing cat conservation action plan focused on the two sites where the cats were recorded.

“This will primarily involve community education and measures to reduce threats,” she said. “We also plan to continue our research and improve the ability of local rangers to correctly identify fishing cats and help with research and conservation for the species.”

The main challenge at these two sites will be managing conflicts with people, who have been known to kill fishing cats for their meat or in retaliation for damaging fishers’ nets.

An important facet of any conservation work will therefore be to raise awareness about the species and boost local support for its conservation – particularly in light of recent interviews with villagers living near the two sites, which revealed that local people do not see these animals as important.

Sadly, protected area status alone cannot not guarantee the future of a site or its wildlife, as Ms Thaung explains: “Unfortunately, no cats were found in the freshwater wetlands at the Botum Sakor National Park.”

“We are particularly concerned about this, as this area is being devastated by forest clearance and land degradation.”

Above all, the discovery of fishing cats in two new areas (coupled with their notable absence from a place one might reasonably expect to find them) reveals how much we still have to learn about these animals, and how urgent is the need to protect them.

YouTube Preview Image

Fauna & Flora International (FFI) protects threatened species and ecosystems worldwide, choosing solutions that are sustainable, based on sound science and take account of human needs. Operating in more than 40 countries worldwide – mainly in the developing world – FFI saves species from extinction and habitats from destruction, while improving the livelihoods of local people. Founded in 1903, FFI is the world’s longest established international conservation body and a registered charity.

Eurasian Lynx & Cubs Video

posted in: Cats in the wild | 0

This incredible video of a Eurasian lynx and her cubs, taken at Langedrag Wildife Park in Norway, was very generously sent to us by Per Johan Naesje. Thank you so much for sharing!

 

Learn more about the Eurasian Lynx on our fact sheet.

Update to the Conservation Status of Wild Cats

posted in: Cats in the wild | 2

The conservation status of the smaller 28 wild cat species varies widely. Earlier this month the IUCN revised their Red Data List, so an update to our Status of Wild Cats chart was in order. There were a few surprises.

geoffroys

Geoffroy’s Cat – This cat is widespread and abundant throughout its range, in all habitats. Its distribution range is continuous, meaning there are no isolated populations. Perhaps the most important factor in their new listing as Least Concern is the fact that these cats have adapted to the conversion of sub-tropical forest into croplands, and seem to be fairly tolerant of habitat alteration. Much like the Bobcat in North America, these cats appear to be adaptable to new situations, and their population is now considered Stable.

Iberian Lynx –  This beautiful cat has actually been down-listed. Previously classed as Critically Endangered, they are now classed as Endangered, with an increasing population. Of the 37 wild cat species, this is the only one whose population is increasing, due to the enormous efforts of the people involved in their breeding and reintroduction. They are a perfect example of humans saving a species if the will and the effort is there.

Sand Cat – In 1996, these small cats were classed as Least Concern. In 2008, and again in 2015, they were classed as Near Threatened. In each of the classification years however, their population trend was and is listed as Unknown. In this day of camera traps and wildlife cameras, no one actually has any idea how many sand cats there are. Are they endangered? Are they common?

Sand Cats are native to Algeria; Egypt; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Israel; Jordan; Kazakhstan; Kuwait; Mauritania; Morocco; Niger; Oman; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Syrian Arab Republic; Turkmenistan; United Arab Emirates; Uzbekistan; Western Sahara; Yemen. The geopolitical situation in many of these countries explains the serious lack of field studies on these cats.

It is very difficult to find good news in the conservation world, so we’ll close with a list of the ten NON-endangered small wild cats:

  • Bobcat – Least Concern, Population Stable
  • Canada Lynx – Least Concern, Population Stable
  • Eurasian Lynx – Least Concern, Population Stable
  • Leopard Cat – Least Concern, Population Stable
  • Serval – Least Concern, Population Stable
  • Jaguarundi – Least Concern, Population Decreasing
  • Jungle Cat – Least Concern, Population Decreasing
  • Ocelot – Least Concern, Population Decreasing
  • Wildcat – Least Concern, Population Decreasing
  • Caracal – Least Concern, Population Unknown

You can read the complete wild cat list on our Status of Wild Cats page.

 

In Search of the Wild Cats of the high Andes

Text and photos by Sebastian Kennerknecht

Andean Cat biologist Juan Reppucci climbs up a ridge near Mount Grenada, northerwestern Argentina.
Andean Cat biologist Juan Reppucci climbs up a ridge near Mount Grenada, northerwestern Argentina.

An Andean Cat slowly walks along a ridge in the high Andes. A camera’s shutter clicks. The cat pauses to see where the noise is coming from. The camera takes a few more pictures. Curious, the feline approaches and cheek rubs the waterproof case surrounding the camera. I wake up.

That’s the dream I had while sleeping in a tent in western Bolivia while working on the Cat in Thin Air project. My name is Sebastian Kennerknecht and for years I have dreamed of photographing the Andean Cat to then use those pictures to aid in their conservation. To make this a reality I teamed up with the amazing biologists of the Andean Cat Alliance and created the Cat in Thin Air project.

The goal of the project is simple: help ensure the survival of the Andean Mountain Cat through education on a local and global scale. The method was also simple at least in concept: photograph the ecology of the cat, the human caused threats the cats face, as well as the conservation actions being taken to protect this animal, to then tell the Andean Cat’s whole story to be shared with the world.

So it was time to head to Bolivia and Argentina to meet up with the researchers who have been studying the species for years.

Cintia Tellaeche and Juan Reppucci loading truck with gear. Do you think we brought enough?
Cintia Tellaeche and Juan Reppucci loading truck with gear. Do you think we brought enough?
The research truck leans heavily around a corner as it climbs higher into the Andes.
The research truck leans heavily around a corner as it climbs higher into the Andes.
Timely tightening of all the nuts by biologist Juan Reppucci was appreciated by all!
Timely tightening of all the nuts by biologist Juan Reppucci was appreciated by all!

Once we arrived at the study site the beauty of the area became more than obvious.

Rock formations in the high Andes, Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina.
Rock formations in the high Andes, Jujuy Province, northwestern Argentina.

So how do you photograph a cat species that most researchers studying the species have never even seen themselves? The answer is simple: SLR camera traps. Imagine a professional camera connected to two flashes all of which are connected to a triggering device that activates the camera when an animal passes through an invisible beam.

One of the camera traps in the Altiplano of Bolivia.
One of the camera traps in the Altiplano of Bolivia.

All of the biologists, including Juan Reppucci, Cintia Tellaeche, Mauro Lucherini, Alejandra Torrez, and Juan Carlos Huaranca, being the amazing people that they are put their research projects on hold and helped me not only set up these camera traps but also schlep them up the mountain.

Andean Cat biologist Cintia Tellaeche taking a breather. At over 13,000 feet every step is hard work.
Andean Cat biologist Cintia Tellaeche taking a breather. At over 13,000 feet every step is hard work.

We placed four of these camera trap set-ups to try and get pictures of these elusive cats. After that it was time to be patient and focus on the other photographs (like the threats and the biologist’s research — – but sadly if I write about that here, this post will simply get too long). After five weeks we collected all the traps and checked the results of the cameras.

weird animal that decided he needed to check the camera trap was working properly (yes, that’s me).
A weird animal that decided he needed to check the camera trap was working properly (yes, that’s me).
Culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus) fox, Ciudad de Pedra, western Bolivia
Culpeo fox (Lycalopex culpaeus), Ciudad de Pedra, western Bolivia
Molina’s Hog-Nosed Skunk (Conepatus chinga), Ciudad de Pedra, western Bolivia
Molina’s Hog-Nosed Skunk (Conepatus chinga), Ciudad de Pedra, western Bolivia

Whenever I go on assignment to try and photograph a wild cat species (in the wild!) that hasn’t been photographed a whole lot, looking through the camera trap images is both nerve racking and extremely exciting. Getting pictures of a fox and a skunk was of course more than great, but it wasn’t the goal of the project. When I saw a picture of an Andean Cat on the back of the camera, all my fears went right away (due to multiple reasons we can’t publish this image yet); and that image was followed by the discovery of a Pampas Cat.

Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocolo), Ciudad de Pedra, western Bolivia
Pampas Cat (Leopardus colocolo), Ciudad de Pedra, western Bolivia

All our efforts were rewarded by this single picture. This will hopefully be the first of many pictures of the cat species found in the Andes. Only time will tell as I will return to South America next year. If you’d like to find out more about the Cat in Thin Air Project, please visit: http://catinthinair.org/ . Finally, I’d like to also make sure Lilian Villaba is acknowledged for all the work she put into making this project a reality!

We’ve given away all our money – again!

posted in: Cats in the wild | 0

February is our year end, and thus our favorite month here at ISEC Canada. This is the month when we get to give all our money to the small wild cats.

Kubu1

We are overjoyed to have sent $20,500 CAD to the Black-footed Cat Working Group, as a result of our fall campaign to raise funds to replace their old truck. Studying these tiny desert dwellers requires thousands of hours of driving through some pretty rough areas. Now, due to of the generosity of our donors, scientists can continue learning how to help these cats.

In addition, we sent $26,500 CAD in allocated donations to the Small Cat Action Fund of Panthera. They will equally match these funds, resulting in even more field work grants to small wild cat researchers.

What this means, of course, is that we need to start collecting money again. If you’re in the mood to donate to small wild cat conservation, please see the Donate Now button on the right! 😉

Summit Municipal Park Wildlife Refuge, Panama

The Summit Municipal Park is a wildlife refuge found inside Soberania National Park in Panama. It was originally founded in 1923 as an experimental botanical garden owned by the United States. Starting in the 1960s, animals started to arrive at the park from the authorities, people who owned them as illegal pets, and people who found them hurt or disturbed from habitat destruction.

All of the animals in the park are rescue animals. In the last four years, this refuge has received 850 animals and was able to successfully release 815 animals back into the wild. All of the animals that could not be released are given the best possible care at the refuge by some truly incredible people. The caretakers at the refuge volunteer their time 7 days a week (without any pay) just to ensure the animals receive the best care possible. One of the caretakers and board members, Elena, explained that while they do not receive any monetary pay, they are rewarded with the personal growth that comes from helping save these incredible animals.

Eduardo Estrada is a wildlife photographer in Panama, specializing mainly in closeups with cats rescued and housed at the refuge. “In my very specific case I have been a professional photographer for over 10 years with about three years dedicated to wildlife in general, but mainly focused on rescue cases we receive, products of seizures made ​​by the authorities from traffickers of wildlife or abuse cases , car accidents, etc.”

Eduardo says “felines stole my heart and get my greatest attention. I have worked with Jaguars, Pumas, Margay, Ocelot and Yaguarundi. I try to find approaches in my photographs, hoping that those who see the pictures get a glimpse at their souls.”

“The model in the picture is Cash, brother of Tango who are two Pumas rescued in Bocas del Toro (Panama) born a week before becoming trafficked wildlife. It is presumed that the mother was killed so the traffickers could catch them. Now they are living in the Summit Municipal Park, condemned to a life in captivity by the action of the traffickers. Elena Castejón, feline expert and Secretary of the Board of Summit Park, and Lynn Hawksworth feline expert and member of the Board of Summit Park have been his caregivers and and I am of course your photographer. I think this is a sad privilege to me.”

Panama puma Cash

Zookeeper travels the world to work with small wild cats

posted in: Endangered Cats, Zoo cats | 1

We are happy to welcome to a new blog writer for the small cats. This determined man has an amazing life working with small wild cats around the world, and he’ll be sharing his adventures with us on a regular basis.

clouded leopardHello to all my fellow Felid lovers reading this blog My name is Ricky and I am a Zoologist & Zoo Keeper from London, UK.

I have had a huge passion for wild cats from a very young age and have been privileged to have been working alongside them and many other animals in Zoological collections for the past 10 years through work experience, voluntary, seasonal and now permanent work.

My specialism is cats both big and small, but it’s the smaller, lesser known species that really get me excited. Theres so much to find out about them!!

My goal is to become a captive cat specialist one day, and part of that goal is my wish to spend time working with/observing captive individuals of as many cat species as possible. This means that I do a lot of travelling far and wide to see and spend time with some amazing species which unfortunately not much is known about.

The way that I am able to go on these trips is because I save up what I earn at work… I’m a very determined person and when I hear of a species at a collection I put myself in contact with that collection and go from there.

I have been very lucky (and persistent) and have been able so far to have spent some amount of time working with 31 out of the 37 known wild cat species and have been invited to various collections across the world to spend time with 3 more!

I am going to be telling you about a few of my recent trips across the world to spend time with rare small cats in future blog posts.

I hope you enjoy,

Ricky Reino

clouded leoprd

1 2 3 4 5 8