Two Ways You Can Help Andean Cats

The most endangered cat in The Americas needs your help. Researchers of the Andean Cat Alliance are going all out to learn as much as they can about this beautiful little cat before it’s too late. The entire population of the Andean Cat throughout their range is estimated to be around 1,300 cats. Conservation measures are urgently needed, and you can help.

 

#1 Spreading The Word

The biggest, most reversible problem facing the Andean cat is one that this campaign seeks to reverse: no one knows this species exists and is fighting for survival.

Because most people have never heard of Andean cats, very little support from the wildlife conservation community is available to help these cats face human-caused challenges that are driving them closer to extinction: climate change, habitat ravaging mining, vicious feral dogs, and myths held by locals who, in turn, kill these cats with trained hunting dogs.

Despite only catching a glimpse of this cat once in the wild (and being one of less than 10 people to ever do so), researcher and conservationist Rodrigo Villalobos has made it his life’s work to conserve these elusive creatures. Through hiking thousands of miles through the Andes Mountains over the span of 12 years and setting a network of camera traps, Rodrigo and his research partner Cristian have discovered one of the rarest populations of Andean cats.

The Power of Wildlife Documentaries

Wildlife documentaries raise awareness about important wildlife issues through high quality imagery. Just think about African wildlife that are relatively easy to see and film — lions, elephants, and rhinos. Most people have never stepped foot in the African savannah yet, through documentary films, we feel like we’ve looked inside their private lives and have a strong understanding of the huge conservation battles these creatures are facing. But what happens with wildlife that is very difficult to film because they are very secretive, rare, and live in extremely harsh terrains? Unfortunately for the Andean cat, this is the problem their species is facing. Now, for the first time in Andean cat conservation history, our team has found a reliable location to film this cat. This is where you come in for the Andean cat: we need you to improve the quality of our footage by 4K professional, high definition cameras. With high quality footage we have an extremely high chance of getting word about Andean cats out to people around the world through syndicated and huge media networks.

Through funding assistance of 501(3)c nonprofit, Friends of Fauna, you can make any size contribution right now and be one of the people to purchase the actual equipment that will be used to film, by camera person, the Andean cat in high definition for the very first time. Can you imagine being able to say you funded the very first camera to film the African elephant or Bengal tiger and introduce these species, through the power of social media, to the world? This is the exact opportunity you have to do with an animal even rarer than elephants or tigers — the Andean cat.

Visit their Indigogo page to help researchers publicize the plight of these cats.

Canadian donors use this link

 

#2 Double Your Support to Purchase Camera Traps

The Andean cat is one of the most enigmatic creatures of Earth, and conservationists have been struggling for years to design effective conservation actions for a species that has been considered the ghost of the Andes. Reality proves that we need to be able to find key areas where the cat is, to make the most relevant decisions that will ensure its long term conservation.

You can make this happen, your support is critical to find hotspots for conservation.

An anonymous donor provided matching funds to buy equipment for making a big scale camera trapping effort in key areas, for long term conservation of Andean cats and a whole landscape. With the acceleration of global warming and the knowledge that Andes and Patagonia will be highly impacted by this phenomenon, it is URGENT to find these sites, and you can make a difference!

Your gift will be matched completely, so you will double your impact immediately, but you need to hurry, this offer ends the first week of January, so PLEASE, donate NOW!

If you give:
USD $40 we can buy batteries and memory cards for one camera
USD $80 you support food and lodging fo one field person
USD $180 you buy a regular camera trap
USD $450 you gift an HD camera trap
USD $2500 you cover a field campaign to review cameras for a whole team!

Every amount helps and will be immediately matched!

Donate now through The Wildlife Conservation Network 

Flat-headed Cat #5

The Flat-headed cat appears to be found at low population densities, avoids oil palm plantations, and is closely associated with low lying wetland forests. Such wetland habitats have been, and continue to be exposed to some of the highest rates of deforestation in Southeast Asia.This deforestation and the increasing prevalence of vast tracts of oil palm plantations is likely resulting in the fragmentation of habitat and isolation of individual populations.

Over 45% of protected wetlands and 94% of globally significant wetlands in Southeast Asia are considered threatened. Causes include human settlement, draining for agriculture, pollution, and excessive hunting, wood-cutting and fishing. In addition, clearance of coastal mangroves over the past decade has been rapid. While there have been observations of the Flat-headed Cat in secondary forests there has not been any evidence that the Flat-headed Cat can also live in oil palm plantations.

 

flat-headed cat

 

Flat-headed Cat #4

Flat-headed Cats share one characteristic with the Cheetah and Fishing Cat, in that their claws are not fully retractile, and can be seen at all times. Their toes are more completely webbed than those of the Fishing Cat, and they have long, narrow footpads. Filling the role of a semi-aquatic carnivore, their long, narrow jaws and pointed, backward facing teeth are adaptations to catching and holding slippery prey such as fish and frogs. These cats may well be more deserving of the name ‘fishing cat’ than the species that already has that name.

For more information on this elusive feline, take a look at our Flat-headed Cat fact sheet. We will be happy to update it whenever any new information is received.

 

Flat-headed Cat #3

flat-headed cat

About the size of a domestic cat, the Flat-headed cat has an elongated body, short legs with small, rounded paws, and a short tail. The coat is thick, soft and long, reddish brown on top of the head and dark brown on the body, with a fine speckling of grey and buff on the tips. The muzzle, chin and cheeks are white, with short, white stripes at the inner edge and along the lower margins of eyes, and two dark streaks on each cheek. A yellow line runs up from each eye to near the ear. Large, brown eyes are set closely together, and short, rounded ears are set well down the sides of the head. The legs are short and can have some indistinct horizontal markings. The short tail is thickly furred, reddish brown above and yellowish underneath.

Stay tuned for more information on this elusive feline!

Have you ever seen a Flat-headed Cat, either in captivity or in the wild? Please comment below and tell us your experience!

Flat-headed Cat #2

flat-headed cat

Very little information is available on the Flat-headed Cat’s ecology and behaviour. It is believed to be a solitary, nocturnal and crepuscular animal. All observations of individuals were made at night or in the early morning. Most sightings have been of them walking on riverbanks. The Flat-headed Cat has also been observed swimming across rivers. Similar to other cats it sprays urine marks, but does so unlike any other cat: it walks forward in a crouching position leaving a trail on the ground.

Stay tuned for more information on this elusive feline!

Have you ever seen a Flat-headed Cat, either in captivity or in the wild? Please comment below and tell us your experience!

Flat-headed Cat #1

flat-headed cat

The Flat-headed cat, Prionailurus planiceps, is one of the world’s least known yet most threatened wild cats. Despite being categorized on the IUCN Red List as Endangered since 2008, this cat has received very little scientific and conservation attention anywhere in its range, which includes Sumatra, Borneo and the Malayan Peninsula.

The lack of ecological knowledge about this felid hinders assessment of threats, conservation status and ecological needs. It also undermines efforts to protect this species.

Stay tuned for a lot more information on this elusive feline!

Wild Sand Cat Kittens Seen For The First Time

It was 2 a.m. in the Moroccan Sahara, and researchers were heading back to camp after seven hours of driving through sand, dust, and prickly vegetation on their fifth and final expedition to document sand cats. Gregory Breton was chatting with their local driver, Elhaj, to keep him awake, while Alexander Sliwa spent a few more minutes squatting on the roof of the Toyota Land Cruiser shining spot lamps into the bushes.

Then, it happened. Three pairs of eyes gleamed back at Alexander through the darkness about 4 kilometers from the campsite. They belonged to young sand cats, yellowish, small wild cats with broader faces and larger ears than domestic cats.

Finding sand cats (Felis margarita) in their natural range (northern Africa, across the Middle East, and southwest and central Asia) is difficult. They barely leave any visible pugmarks, they don’t leave behind remains of their prey, and their vocalizations are quiet. They move stealthily at dusk, night, and dawn, they’re good at hiding, and their fur provides perfect camouflage when they want to vanish from observers and threats. But they don’t run away.

Finding these kittens was astonishing. The researchers spent an hour taking pictures and videos and setting up camera traps in the hopes of recording some natural behavior once they left. Based on their experience with sand cat litters in captivity, they estimated the kittens were six to eight weeks old—too small for collaring. They believe this was the first time researchers have documented wild sand cat kittens in their African range.

As they were carefully leaving the kittens, making sure they didn’t startle them, the team spotted and radio-collared an adult female that was nervously roaming around during the interaction. She could be the kittens’ mother. If they collect footage of her and follow her for a long period, they can gather data on the natural reproduction cycles and offspring dispersal of this species in the wild—all topics never before documented.

The sand cat expeditions in the Sahara started in 2013, when Alexander Sliwa—the world’s leading specialist in black-footed cats, heading a 25-year study on this species in South Africa—and Gregory Breton discovered that more sand cat sightings were being reported in Morocco. They decided to travel there and try to spot some cats.

To date, they’ve’ve spotted 29 different sand cats, radio-collared 13 of them, and collected some surprising data. For instance, sand cats are traveling more than previously thought and more than what’s been recovered for any other small cats. But they still don’t know why. Additionally, it seems this desert cat is living in select parts of the desert—and if the low density is confirmed over time, the species may not be as frequent as believed, at least in this region.

Text by Gregory Breton. For details on this project and to donate to the sand cats, see our Sand Cats of Morocco page.

 

 

Pumas in Patagonia

By Sebastian Kennerknecht

puma concolor
Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) female in front of mountains, Torres Del Paine, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

Until recently, it was virtually impossible to reliably see and photograph a wild puma. That has all changed in the last five to ten years. I just returned from an eight-day trip to southern Chile, where I had the privilege of seeing twelve different pumas, some as close as ten yards (nine meters) away from me.

 

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Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) female, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

Until last fall, I lived in central California for over twenty years. Pumas — also called mountain lions, cougars, catamounts, shadow cats, among many other names — live there as well. Yet in all my time actively looking for these elusive cats I never even glimpsed the tail end of one. It required traveling halfway around the world to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing one of these cats freely walk on this earth.

 

patagonia
Mountains reflected in saline lake, Amarga Lagoon, Torres Del Paine, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

puma concolor
Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) mother and six month old cub nuzzling, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

The reason for this is simple, conservation. Torres del Paine National Park and the adjacent 6,662 ha Laguna Amarga Ranch provide a large area where pumas are not persecuted. This has led to about fifteen individual animals not being afraid of people. Those same animals are the ones featured in my images, and everyone else who has traveled to most southern part of Chilean Patagonia.

 

puma concolor
Mountain Lion (Puma concolor) sixteen month old cub, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

This was a once in a lifetime experience for me, but being a conservation photographer focused on wild felids, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. During interviews conducted in 2005-2006 Anna Kusler and her colleagues determined that 86% of ranchers surrounding Torres del Paine National Park had a negative perception of pumas, due to pumas predating on their domestic sheep. Additionally, 100% of the interviewees had a negative perception of guanacos, the pumas principal prey, due to their perceived competition with sheep for grass. This outlook does not bode well for any of the wildlife surrounding the park.

 

guanaco
Guanaco (Lama guanicoe), Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

 

As Kusler’s paper suggests, there are a few options to create a system that allows for more co-existence between the human population and the local wildlife. This includes using livestock guarding dogs, corralling sheep at night, and of course eco-tourism. The owners of the aforementioned Laguna Amarga Ranch switched from sheep husbandry to puma ecotourism after a harsh winter storm killed many of their animals in 1995. They never looked back. During my trip, there were four different tour companies using their land to reliably see and photograph pumas. The densities of pumas were so high in the area, we almost always had the pumas to ourselves. From a purely economic standpoint, an alive puma was worth more than a dead one. From an emotional standpoint, seeing these animals in the wild are moments I will never forget. I am excited by the idea that this change of thought will happen in the United States as well, sooner than later.

Kusler A., Sarno R., Volkart N., Elbroch M., Grigione M. 2017. Local perceptions of puma-livestock conflict surrounding Torres Del Paine NP, Chile. Cat News 65, 13-16, 2017.

New Sand Cat Info

sand cat felis margaritaWe’ve updated our Sand cat fact sheet with new information on their distribution and conservation threats.

Distribution

Sand cats Felis margarita occur across the Sahara Desert, from Morocco in the west to as far as Egypt and the Sudan in the east. In Asia, they have been recorded in Syria, Iran, east of the Caspian Sea in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Their presence in Pakistan is unknown. Sand Cats show a scattered distribution across the Arabian Peninsula but their status and distribution are not well known.

The global distribution of the Sand Cat appears to be markedly patchy. It is not clear whether the gaps in known range are due to a lack of records or truly reflect species absence.

Conservation

Habitat degradation and loss are considered to be the major threats to the Sand Cat. Vulnerable arid ecosystems are being rapidly converted by human settlement and activity, especially degraded through livestock grazing. Additional threats are the introduction of feral and domestic dogs and cats, creating direct competition for prey, predation and disease transmission. This applies particularly along roads through suitable habitat.

In Iran, Sand Cats are killed by shepherd dogs and trapped in snares set for other species. They also get stuck in fences and are vulnerable to indiscriminate trapping and poisoning of predators.

In the Arabian Peninsula, sand dune habitat continues to decline. Several of the areas have been affected by political strife, and war-like conditions that have accelerated habitat destruction i.e. Syria.

Locally, Sand Cats may be threatened by the pet trade. There are occasional reports of Sand Cats being shot in Saudi Arabia.

In Algeria, they are not considered a threat to poultry, or trapped to sell as pets. Toubou nomads living northwest of Lake Chad consider Sand Cats frequent chicken thieves which readily enter their camp in the evenings. They do not generally retaliate, due to traditional religious respect for these small cats as tradition holds that they were the companions of the Prophet Mohammed and his daughter.

The development of reliable survey methods is urgently needed to assess the population. Furthermore, studies on the behaviour and ecology of the Sand Cat are crucial to apply appropriate conservation measures.

You can help the Sand Cats in Morocco

Read the full Sand Cat fact sheet here

2017 Wild Felid Legacy Scholarship

geoffroy's catThe Wild Felid Legacy Scholarship from the Wild Felid Research and Management Association (WFA) provides financial aid to a graduate-level university student conducting research on wild felids in the Americas. The scholarship is awarded in early summer. The recipient(s) receive $1,000 and are recognized in the WFA’s newsletter, the Wild Felid Monitor. Applications are evaluated based on: demonstrated need for financial aid; participation in a research project that aims to improve our understanding of wild felid biology, management and/or conservation; and undergraduate and graduate GPA.

We will begin accepting applications for the 2017 scholarship January 15, 2017. All application materials must be received by the Scholarship Chairperson by MARCH 30, 2017. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

More details and to apply see http://www.wildfelid.org/legacy.php