Big cats in Britain


This 2014 video is called Lions Documentary: BIG CATS Deepest Secrets – Lions, Tigers & Ligers | NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC – SPECIAL.

By Peter Frost in Britain:

Do we need big cats to roam our countryside?

Friday 3rd July 2015

PETER FROST asks whether it’s time to bring the wild lynx back to Britain

BIG cat sighting are a staple of local papers and TV reports. Remember the Essex lion? Most are hoaxes or misidentifications, usually of domestic cats or domestic cats turned feral.

Substantiated reports refer to feral domestic cats, bigger, fitter and stronger than their home-loving cousins, leaping a five-bar gate with a full-grown rabbit in their jaws.

Some big cat sightings are undoubtedly genuine but in a nation where most people now carry a phone with a good camera, it is surprising how few sightings are backed up with good photos or video. Actual captures or dead animals are even rarer.

Many of these big cats are certainly escaped pets or captive animals released when they get too big or to troublesome to keep.

Many big cats are available on the pet black market and exotic leopard cubs and similar are often bought by people with more money than sense. The cubs grow fast and the next thing you know they are in the boot of the Jaguar — what else — and being dumped in the nearest woodland.

Let’s look at the suspects: the leopard (Panthera pardus) is widespread and adaptable. This sleek, athletic big cat can range from greyish yellow to a rich buff or chestnut, with black spots and rosettes. Black panthers — a type of leopard — are very common. Leopards can grow up to six feet and weigh 200lb.

The puma (Felis concolor) has many different names including cougar and mountain lion. Its fur is buff or sandy brown to reddish brown, sometimes light silver and slate grey or black, usually with no markings. This big cat is nocturnal. Pumas can be as big and heavy as leopards.

The jungle cat (Felis chaus) is misnamed. It lives in moist reedy areas and among agricultural crops. It is sandy or yellowish-grey to a greyish brown or tawny red, cream underparts and striped legs, 33” and 30lb.

Caracal (Felis caracal) — sometimes mistakenly classified as a desert lynx — has large pointed black ear tufts of black hair. Its coat is tawny brown to brick red. Nocturnal, it hunts birds, rodents and reptiles. It can jump several feet into the air to catch birds. It is three feet long plus tail and weighs up to 40lb.

The British wildcat looks like a larger and heavier version of the domestic tabby cat but is a distinct species. It has a broad face, very obvious body stripes and a thick, striped, blunt tail. Mainly nocturnal, the wildcat is secretive and very rarely seen. It often interbreeds with feral domestic cats.

Britain once had its own native big cat, a species of lynx, but it was hunted to extinction centuries ago. Now some naturalists are suggesting we bring back wild lynx to our countryside. There are a number of lynx species that might qualify. Lynx look like domestic tabby cats on steroids and all have distinctive ear tufts.

Largest is the Eurasian lynx, with males averaging 45lb and females a little less. Iberian lynx are smaller, with males weighing in at 26lb and females slightly smaller. The Canadian lynx is the smallest, with males averaging just 22lb and females even less.

Bringing back the lynx is, as you would expect, a controversial idea. Sorry Ukip, but under the European Habitats Directive we have a legal obligation to study the desirability of reintroducing species that have become extinct from our countryside.

Some people, me included, would love to see these elegant tiny tigers wandering our woods and hills and controlling the plagues of escaped ornamental deer that are destroying our woodlands. It would boost wildlife tourism in many areas too.

Others fear that these carnivores would kill our sheep and lambs, threaten the livelihoods of farmers, endanger other native British species and terrorise both pet owners and parents.

One favourite for any re-introduction is the Iberian lynx, which is the most threatened species of wildcat on Earth — down to just 300 animals in the wild. If this animal becomes extinct it will be the first lost feline since prehistoric times.

The Iberian lynx is the closest surviving relative of the original British lynx. Its main diet is rabbits and Britain has often had a problem controlling populations of rabbit — a non-native species. Sadly the Iberian lynx is not really big enough to have much effect on our plague of small muntjac deer.

An alternative is the bigger Eurasian lynx. This would make the British food chain more natural, boost tourism and control muntjac deer. European studies have found little risk to domestic livestock from lynx. They sometimes eat grouse and pheasants, which will bring them into conflict with landowners and our Tory government.

We are all concerned when we read of world problems threatening the continued existence of the tiger all around the world. Should we not encourage our own miniature tigers in this green and pleasant land?

Rare Amur leopards, from zoos to the wild


This is a Amur leopard video.

From Wildlife Extra:

Captive Amur Leopards to be released into the Russian Far East

A plan to reintroduce captive Amur Leopards into the Russian Far East has been formally approved by Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources, the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has announced

The site for the reintroduction has been agreed as Lazovsky Zapovednik (State Nature Reserve) in the South-Eastern-most tip of Russia.

The Critically Endangered Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) is probably the only large cat for which a reintroduction programme using zoo stock is considered a necessary conservation action.

There are currently estimated to be between 50-70 left in the wild, in a small pocket of Russia between Vladivostok and the Sino-Russian border. Around 220 Amur leopards are currently in zoos throughout Europe, Russia, North America and Japan, as part of a global conservation breeding programme jointly coordinated by ZSL and Moscow Zoo.

Established pairs of breeding leopards from the breeding programme will be transported to Russia where they will live in specially constructed enclosures. Here they will be allowed to breed and rear cubs, which will learn to live in that environment from the very start of their lives. Once they are suitably mature, the cubs will be released.

There is no fixed timeframe in place as yet but it has been suggested that construction of the facilities may start in spring 2016, and leopards could be released in 2017.

ZSL will soon start analysis of which leopards will be initially used.

More information about the reintroduction programme, including the approved plan, can be found on the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance website.

Amur tiger back in the wild


This video says about itself:

19 June 2015

A three year old Amur tiger has been successfully captured, collared and released into a mountainous region in the Russian Far East. The young male was identified as a ‘conflict tiger’ in a prey depleted area but rather than confining him to a life of captivity, the Russian government opted to give him a second chance. – See more here.

From Wildlife Extra about this:

WWF films tiger being released back to the wild

WWF has filmed an Amur Tiger being released back into the wild after spending time in a wild animal rehabilitation centre in the Russian Far East.

The tiger is a young male called Uporny, who was captured in November 2014 after being identified as a ‘conflict’ tiger.

He had been living in an area where there was a lack of prey and had killed dogs to survive. There were also fears that he could come into conflict with humans in a nearby town.

After undergoing the necessary health checks in a wild animal rehabilitation centre in the Russian Far East, Uporny was released into a sparsely inhabited mountainous area.

Uporny’s new home is an area with a good source of prey. It’s also home to a female Amur tiger, which provides hope that Uporny will not only continue to live wild and free, but also breed – contributing to the recovering tiger population in Russia.

The Russian government Forest Department (Ministry of Natural Resource of Khabarovsky Province) organised and implemented the translocation operation with the help of WWF and the Amur Tiger Center.

“This is a very rare piece of footage, showing the release of a healthy, powerful male tiger back into the wild, where he belongs,” says Rebecca May, Asia Regional Manager at WWF-UK.

“A huge team effort and great expertise was involved, including that of colleagues in WWF Russia. We wish him well in his new home.”

For his release into the wild, the tiger was fitted with a lightweight radio collar. The collar has a special function that allows it to drop off when the tracking team are satisfied with his progress.

Having been flagged as a potential conflict tiger, Uporny will be monitored until he is well established in his new area. For the first month, a team of specialists will be tracking his location and eating habits on a constant basis, using GPS data sent from the collar as well as tracking him on the ground.

Once the collar detaches, he will be monitored using camera traps and the recording of his pugmarks.

Lions back to Rwanda after fifteen years


This video is called Wild Botswana: Lion Brotherhood HD Documentary.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Lions to be reintroduced to Rwanda after 15-year absence following genocide

Seven big cats will be taken from South Africa to Akagera national park, where lion population was wiped out, in major conservation project

David Smith in Johannesburg

Sunday 28 June 2015 16.00 BST

Seven lions in South Africa are to be tranquillised, placed in steel crates and loaded on to a charter flight to Rwanda on Monday, restoring the predator to the east African country after a 15-year absence.

Cattle herders poisoned Rwanda’s last remaining lions after parks were left unmanaged and occupied by displaced people in the wake of the 1994 genocide, according to the conservation group African Parks, which is organising the repopulation drive.

It said two parks in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province with “relatively small, confined reserves where it is necessary to remove surplus lions” are donating the big cats to Rwanda. The seven – five females and two males – were chosen based on future reproductive potential and their ability to contribute to social cohesion, including a mix of ages and genetic makeup.

From Monday they will be transferred to Akagera national park in north-east Rwanda by truck and plane in a journey lasting about 26 hours. African Parks said: “They will be continually monitored by a veterinary team with experience in translocations. They will be kept tranquillised to reduce any stress and will have access to fresh water throughout their journey.”

Upon arrival at the 112,000-hectare park, which borders Tanzania, the lions will be kept in quarantine in a specially-erected 1,000m² enclosure with an electrified fence for at least two weeks before they are released into the wild.

The park is fenced, but the lions will be equipped with satellite collars to reduce the risk of them straying into inhabited areas. African Parks said: “The 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.”

As a wildlife tourist destination, Rwanda is best known for its gorilla tracking safaris. But Akagera, a two-hour drive from the capital, Kigali, is home to various antelope species, buffaloes, giraffes and zebras, as well as elephants and leopards. It attracted 28,000 visitors in 2014.

Last year, as part of the preparations for the reintroduction, the Akagera team ran a sensitisation programme in communities surrounding the park to promote harmonious co-existence with lions.

Yamina Karitanyi, the head of tourism at the Rwanda Development Board, said: “It is a breakthrough in the rehabilitation of the park … Their return will encourage the natural balance of the ecosystem and enhance the tourism product to further contribute to Rwanda’s status as an all-in-one safari destination.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the lion as vulnerable in an update this month of its red list of species facing survival threats. It noted lion conservation successes in southern Africa, but said lions in west Africa were critically endangered and rapid population declines were also being recorded in east Africa.

African Parks cited human encroachment on lion habitats and a decline in lion prey as reasons for the population drop. It identified a trade in lion bones and other body parts for traditional medicine in Africa, as well as Asia, as a growing threat.

Peter Fearnhead, the chief executive of African Parks, which manages Akagera and seven other national parks on the continent, said: “The return of lions to Akagera is a conservation milestone for the park and the country.”

See also here.

Apparently Rwanda plans to reintroduce black rhino as well as lions to Akagera NP this year, to have the “big five”: here.

Lion, African golden cat, lynx news


This January 2014 video is called West African Lions Close to Extinction.

By Jeremy Hance:

Cat update: lion and African golden cat down, Iberian lynx up

June 23, 2015

A new update of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized the West African population of lions—which is considered genetically distinct and separate from East and Central African lions—as Critically Endangered. Based largely on a paper in 2014, the researchers estimate that there are only 121-375 mature lions in West Africa today.

“The main drivers of lion declines are large-scale habitat conversion, prey base depletion through unsustainable hunting, and the retaliatory killing of lions due to perceived or real human-lion conflict,” reads the assessment.

Most of the remaining lions (Panthera leo) are found in protected areas, but lack of prey—due to widespread poaching—and the encroachment of cattle on parks has helped decimate lion populations in the region. Burkina Faso and Benin have both held trophy hunts of lions in the last decade as well.

West African lions are found west of the lower Niger River. Today they only survive in parks in Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal.

This video says about itself:

First known footage of elusive African golden cat in daylight

28 January 2015

Extremely elusive African golden cat shown hunting red colobus monkeys.

The Jeremy Hance article continues:

The update to the IUCN Red List also raised the stakes for another African feline. The list has moved the little-known African golden cat (Caracal aurata) from Near Threatened to Vulnerable. The rainforest-loving species has been hard hit by deforestation, poaching and snaring. Indeed, researchers say the cat disappears in forests with a heavy human presence.

“This update shows that we are still seeing devastating losses in species populations. The IUCN Red List is the voice of biodiversity telling us where we need to focus our attention most urgently—this voice is clearly telling us that we must act now to develop stronger policy and on-the-ground conservation programs to protect species and halt their declines,” said Jane Smart, Director, IUCN’s Global Species Programme.

This December 2014 vuideo is called Iberian Lynx Cat (Nat Geo Wild) Full Documentary HD.

Still, it’s not all bad news. After decades of conservation work, the Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus) has been moved from Critically Endangered to Endangered. Today, 156 mature Iberian lynx roam Spain and Portugal, up from 52 just a decade ago.

Considered the world’s most endangered cat, conservationists brought the Iberian lynx back from the brink by rebuilding the rabbit population, captive breeding and reintroductions, and cracking down on illegal trapping. In addition, conservationists paid landowners to improve habitat for their lynx on private land.

“This IUCN Red List update confirms that effective conservation can yield outstanding results,” said Inger Andersen, IUCN Director General. “Saving the Iberian Lynx from the brink of extinction while securing the livelihoods of local communities is a perfect example.”

Today, conservationists report that cars may be the biggest peril to ongoing recovery of the Iberian lynx.

From Wildlife Extra:

While the Guadalupe Fur Seal (Arctocephalus townsendi), which was twice thought to be Extinct due to hunting in the late 1800s and 1920s, has now improved from the Near Threatened category to Least Concern, thanks to habitat protection and the enforcement of laws such as the USA Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Wildcat back in Dutch province after centuries


This is a video about a parrot crossbill at Stabrechtse heide nature reserve in the Netherlands.

That bird now will have to look out, not only for feral cats

Dutch regional TV Omroep Brabant reports today that a wildcat was recorded by a camera trap at Stabrechtse heide.

This, warden Janneke de Groot says, may be the first time since the Middle Ages that a wildcat has been seen in Noord-Brabant province.

Not so long ago, also after a long absence, wildcats came back to another province, Limburg.

And now the wildcats have apparently gone further west. Maybe using the new wildlife corridors, Ms de Groot says.