Wild Cats World did a small “Tour de France” on kind invitation by Parc des Félins and Zoo de Maubeuge, to talk about (wild) cats conservation. The park is of course the dream of every wild catlover, as for space and species, while Maubeuge showed us how it is possible to provide an enriched life to the animals with little means and space.
Of course we kindly accepted to see the Sri Lanka leopardcubs with their (very protective!) mom, a special birth for the species and for a small park like this.
As for the sandcats (felis marguerita) we discussed the possibility to start with this gorgeous species at our WCW SA project. It would be great to have this species next to the Black footed Cats, the two smallest African wild catspecies. More about this later at a later stage. For now enjoy this photo and many more that will follow!
Sri Lanka leopard cubs, endangered subspecies of the leopard (panther).
We were kindly invited to get a first glimpse of the 6 weeks old cubs at Zoo Maubeuge, the first successful litter of Sri Lanka leopard cubs of 2014 in the world-wide breeding program. The leopardmom was very protective and was hiding the cubs in the straw so it was very difficult to get a glimpse and eventually a good picture. Aren’t they cute?
The Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is a leopard subspecies native to Sri Lanka. Classified as Endangered by IUCN, the population is believed to be declining due to numerous threats including poaching for trade and human-leopard conflicts. No subpopulation is larger than 250 individuals.
The current WCW project are:
- Spotted Cats Conservation Project /WCW Leopard Conservation Project S.A.
Projects and investments in South Africa since 2011 for captive animals (leopard,cheetah, African wildcat, caracal, serval, black-footed cat).
Currently the project is situated on Daniell farm near Kirkwood, Holmes farm near Cradock (Black-footed cats).
- Javan leopard release program (JLRP), started in 2013
Cooperation with Wanicare foundation / Cikananga Sanctuary Java/Indonesia to release wild captured leopards (in conflicts with humans) in the wild again.
- Nepal Leopard Release Project
Educational and awareness project in association with Jane Goodall Institute.
- Madame “X” Project Huge semi-wild project for lions and cheetahs
This is a private project for celebrity Madame “X”; we respect her wishes not to reveal her name and location and are very honoured she asked Babette de Jonge & Wild Cats World to represent and help her in this wonderful project.
250 square mile region of West Highlands now feral cat free according to survey by pro-neutering Wildcat Haven project, halting risk of hybridisation to the critically endangered Scottish wildcat
After a decade of bad news for the Scottish wildcat, in which population estimates have plunged from thousands to less than 35, largely due to cross-mating with feral domestic cats, there is now real hope that the species can be saved from extinction.
The Wildcat Haven project in Ardnamurchan and Sunart in the West Highlands, established by the Scottish Wildcat Association to conserve the species by neutering away its primary threat, has announced that after five years of intensive planning, trials and fieldwork funded primarily by grants from US foundations, that the 250 square mile project region appears free of feral cats and feline diseases.
“Cats of any kind are notoriously difficult to survey,” explains project chief scientific advisor Dr Paul O’Donoghue, “however a summer survey turned up nothing and over the last six months we’ve really saturated the area with live traps, cameras, vets and ecologists, and had lots of people from the local community out looking as well. The only feral cats seen have already been neutered, which means the population should collapse naturally within the next couple of years. Once verified, this will be the first time feral cats have been removed from such a large mainland area anywhere in the world.”
Based on a peninsula with a small land bridge, the area is protected by a large, heavily monitored and camera trapped buffer zone at a geographic bottleneck which feral cats cannot migrate past. Further surveys are being carried out and the local community asked to report any sightings, but now the project has its eyes firmly set on the next phase.
“Our goal is to establish populations of genetically pure wildcats,” Explains Dr O’Donoghue, “we are determined not to settle for second best or to settle for a bunch of tabbies that bear a resemblance to wildcats. Protecting anything less than the pure Scottish wildcat will condemn the species to extinction.
“The behaviour of feral cats and pure wildcats is very different, Scotland’s ecology needs the true wildcat and, outside of a wildlife park enclosure, this is the only place in the UK where they are safe from hybridisation.”
The project has drawn strong support locally, in an area with a remarkable diversity of wildlife where people are greatly concerned that any conservation efforts are carefully planned and rolled out.
“This is a huge achievement for everyone involved,” commented Steve Piper, who founded the project with the SWA in 2008, “the project only really moved out of field trials a couple of years ago so this is very rapid progress on something many said was impossible; Wildcat Haven is easily five years ahead of the SNH action plan, they’re well aware of it but have chosen to ignore it; a practical, affordable, fully field tested way to save the genetically pure Scottish wildcat which has built the support of very diverse stakeholders; this is only future the Scottish wildcat has.”
It sometimes happens that 6 cubs are born, also in the wild, usually not all of the cubs make it to adulthood. A few years ago a female cheetah did raise succesfully a litter of 6 in the wild (Masai Mara, Kenya.) The biggest litter cheetahcubs was one of 9 cubs (in South Africa, captivity) of which 7 did survive. They were not raised by the mom but by Zanchieta Wildcat farm.
In Arnhem zoo the mom and her cubs won’t be shown to the public for a while longer as if the mother gets stressed there’s a possibility she can kill or even eat her cubs. So far the cubs are all healthy. Sadly zoos always have a pressmoment which gives a lot of stress to the animals, who already are nervous because of the vaccinations and implant of a chip. This of course doesn’t happen in the wild.
Cheetahs thrive, wild dogs don’t…
Increases in the number of top predators like lions do not always affect the number of cheetahs in the area. A recent study looked at the effects of lion populations on other hunters. The number of cheetahs was not affected by the increase in the lion population but wild dogs suffered to the point of local extinction.
The study used historical data accumulated in the Serengeti over a period of 30 years and study of individual animals via radio-collars. During the closing decades of the previous century the number of lions tripled. During the same period the wild dogs left the area or were killed outright while the cheetah population remained stable.
When comparing the findings with data from fenced areas in southern Africa showed the same pattern. Cheetahs can live with lions but wild dogs can’t.
What could be a factor is that lions do not exclusively hunt the same prey as cheetahs and therefore will not always compete at the dinner table. Wild dogs have a wider range of prey animals and can therefore be a greater threat to lions.
Of course the study only addresses certain aspects of inter-species dynamics and does not mention that all three species suffer most from the ultimate apex-predator, humans and their relentless expansion.
Read the study report in the Journal of Animal Ecology