Any Crossword Puzzle Fans?

7476156110_9bd1ae3ce8_zUpon researching captive wild cat conservation further afield in Europe, Asia and Australia, I found that there are several organizations throughout the world with “ex situ” conservation programs and they all seem to have an acronym. It occurred to me that all of these acronyms would make a great crossword puzzle. Given more time and talent I may have attempted to present my findings in such a format but alas, the clock is ticking so I will resort to a brief description of a few of these programs. At the very least we should have a short quiz at the end of all this.

 There are several regional Zoo and Aquarium organizations throughout the world and most of these have conservation and breeding programs similar to those of North America’s Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) also has Taxon Advisory Groups (TAGs) and develops Regional Collection Plans which identify which species need to be managed in European Endangered Species Programs (EEPs). The Australasia Species Management Program (ASMP) is managed by the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA). The Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) has a Species Survival Committee (SSCJ).

 In addition to these regional organizations, the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA) has a global conservation program which includes 4 Global Species Management Programs (GSMPs). The concept of GSMPs have been slow to gain momentum due to several challenges such as lack of communication, issues with transport of animals and a lack of resources. One of the four programs and the longest running is the Sumatran Tiger GSMP which was established in 2008. WAZA was founded in 1935 and was originally called the International Union of Directors of Zoological Gardens (IUDZG) until being renamed in 2000. In 1948 the IUDZG was a founding member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

8148942999_4455df1421_zThe IUCN is an environmental organization that helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. The IUCN manages a complex Global Species Programme which includes the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group (CBSG); a global network of conservation professionals working both inside and outside a species natural range. The IUCN is also responsible for the production of the IUCN Red List. The IUCN Red List is a comprehensive information source on the status of wild species and their links to livelihoods. The overall aim of the Red List is to convey the urgency and scale of conservation problems to the public and policy makers, and to motivate the global community to work together to reduce species extinctions.The IUCN Red List assesses the extinction risk of species. The IUCN also has a Species Survival Commission (SSC). Working in close association with IUCN’s Global Species Programme, SSC’s major role is to provide information to IUCN on biodiversity conservation, the inherent value of species, their role in ecosystem health and functioning, the provision of ecosystem services, and their support to human livelihoods. This information is fed into The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

 So, there you have it in a nutshell (STYHIIAN). Now if only all of these dedicated people spoke the same language, worked in the same time zone and had infinite resources we could start solving the world’s conservation issues, starting with one small cat at at time!


Killed Just Because He Lived

posted in: Cats of Africa | 0

The Caracal Project in Namibia began in January 2011 and continues to expand. They are collecting ecological data on caracals at a large scale, and working with livestock farmers to mitigate conflicts with caracals and other predators. This is essential because caracals are the most persecuted cat in Africa, yet no country has a population estimate based on scientific data.

They are finding that more and more livestock farmers, those who have always killed caracals, are willing to allow the cats to be released back onto their farms as long as they are radio collared and the farmers are kept involved in our research. This is a vital aspect to changing farmer perceptions regarding caracals and other predators.

caracal in namibia

Update March 2012

I just wanted to send you an update that on The Caracal Project another caracal has been shot by a livestock farmer- a young male (above) whose range encompassed private and communal sheep farms. He lived on these farms for over 18 months without any documented predation on livestock. We are disappointed but appreciate being told by the farmer. Radio collars on three other caracals continue to collect data.

Hope all is better for you and I am sorry to share this bad news but it shows why this research is important. Thanks again for all your support and everything you do to save wild cats!

Aletris M. Neils
Executive Director
Conservation CATalyst

Great Overview of Field Research in Africa

posted in: Cats in the wild | 0

This wonderful video from the Cape Leopard Trust gives an excellent overview of what field researchers must do to learn about cats in the wild. While they are looking for a big leopard, the same procedures are followed by scientists studying the small wild cats.

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The Cape Leopard Trust in South Africa uses research as a tool for conservation, finding solutions to human-wildlife conflict and inspiring interest in the environment through an interactive and dynamic environmental education program. As well as leopards, they are studying a smaller cat through the Cedarburg Caracal Project.

Canada Lynx Population Peak

Canada Lynx have been receiving a lot of limelight the past couple of months.

A Colorado photo of two lynx on the roadside went viral, prompting calls to close the highway for the sake of the lynx. In Canada, a pair of lynx were photographed near Banff, AB and three were caught on video in British Columbia. A ski resort in Alberta is alternately closing its runs as reports of a female and her kitten are received.

For an animal that relies on its elusiveness, why are so many being reported this year? Meet the reason.

Snowshoe hares have a cyclical population which takes between eight and eleven years to go from peak, through decline, and back to peak. The period of abundance usually lasts for two to five years.

Sunspot activity, predator numbers, food availability, parasite load, stress and disease have all been investigated as causes of the cycle. All of these factors likely play a role, with predation and food availability being the most important. Litter sizes vary with the population cycle, with females producing more young during the low phase than during the peak.

canada lynx

Canada Lynx feed almost exclusively on snowshoe hares, and their populations follow the hare cycle. A year or so after the hares have declined the Canada Lynx population crashes, helping ensure the survival rate of the few remaining hares. More will live to fuel the next population rebound, the lynx numbers will follow, and the cycle continues.

Scientists who have examined the fur-trading records of the Hudson’s Bay Company have been able to trace closely linked 10-year cycles of growth and decline in populations of the two species over the past 200 years.

Canada Lynx are currently at the peak of their cycle, and their numbers will slowly drop over the next few years.

Mating occurs during February or March each year, and the young (usually four) are born in April and May, 60 to 65 days later. Female kits may breed for the first time as they approach one year of age, but this depends on the abundance and availability of snowshoe hares and the physical and nutritional condition of the lynx.

Starvation following the rapid cyclic declines in snowshoe hare populations is the greatest single source of natural mortality among adult and yearling lynxes. About 40 percent of the total lynx population may starve to death following a crash in the snowshoe hare population. During the following three to four years, when the hare population is starting to rebuild, lynxes breed, but the kittens die before winter. This suggests that an adult female simply cannot support both herself and her litter when hares are scarce.

This lynx-snowshoe hare cycle is perhaps the greatest example of how intricately nature is balanced. If you live in Canada Lynx country and would like to increase your chances of seeing one, now would be the time to go looking.