Save Scottish wildcats, new website


This 2012 video is called The making of wildlife documentary Last of the Scottish Wildcats.

From Wildlife Extra:

Scottish Wildcat Action website launched

A new Scottish Wildcat Action website has been launched as part of the first national conservation plan to bring back viable populations of Scottish wildcats

Scottish Wildcat Action, supported by the Scottish Government and Heritage Lottery Fund, and its new website has easy-to-use features which encourage people in the Scottish Highlands to report sightings, volunteer with fieldwork, and register their interest to help.

Labour MSP and wildcat champion Rhoda Grant said: “The Scottish Wildcat is part of our heritage that we are desperately seeking to protect. We have a limited time to stop wildcats from disappearing but we also need to reduce the risks from hybridisation and disease from feral cats in the meantime. The launch of the website today will not only help to identify where our remaining wildcats are but it will also help to glean invaluable information on hybrids and feral cat sightings which will allow for the required action to be taken to reduce the hybrids and combat the transmission of disease.

“The website will offer members of the public the opportunity to be involved in this fantastic project to save this most beautiful of species and will, I am sure, prove to be an invaluable resource in ensuring the wildcat’s survival.”

Dr Roo Campbell, Scottish Wildcat Action Project Manager for the work in wildcat priority areas, said: “Local sightings of all wild-living cats are key in our efforts to save Scottish wildcats and the new website will allow our local communities to report sightings.

“As part of our national work, our team of staff and volunteers will set up more than 400 trail cameras in wildcat priority areas to build up a picture of what’s out there, but public sightings will add valuable intelligence to this standardised monitoring.”

Trail cameras are motion-sensitive field cameras used for monitoring shy species that live in remote places.

The website gives users further tips on how to identify a Scottish wildcat, but the general advice is if it looks like a large tabby cat with a thick ringed tail with a black blunt tip, it could be one of few remaining wildcats.

Hybrid and feral cat sightings are also important to the project, which aims to reduce risks of hybridisation and disease transmission through a co-ordinated Trap-Neuter (vaccinate) and Release (TNR) programme in the priority areas.

Numbers of Scottish wildcat are now so low that it is difficult for them to find and mate with other wildcats, so inevitably they have hybrid kittens with unneutered domestic cats.

This inter-breeding is contributing to the attrition of Scottish wildcats as a distinctive native species. The presence of unvaccinated feral cats, often in poor condition, can also lead to diseases, such as feline leukaemia virus (FeLV), being passed on to wildcats.

Wildcat priority areas identified by Scottish Wildcat Action are Strathpeffer, Strathbogie, Northern Strathspey, the Angus Glens, Strathavon and Morvern. Sightings and volunteers within these areas are particularly important to the conservation of the species but sightings from across Scotland are also welcomed.

Colin McLean, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: “By working together as organisations and individuals we have a better chance of saving this rare native creature. It is thanks to players of the National Lottery that volunteers will be trained and cameras installed to track the elusive Scottish wildcat. However, it is down to us all to keep our eyes peeled, report any sightings, and give this species a brighter future.”

Good tiger news from Bhutan


This is a Siberian tiger video.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Bhutan tiger population higher than previously thought, survey reveals

Himalayan country’s first nationwide survey finds 103 tigers, but WWF warns big cat was facing a crisis elsewhere south-east Asia

Wednesday 29 July 2015 10.50 BST

Bhutan is home to more than 100 tigers, a rise of more than a third on the previous population estimate, a survey has revealed.

The first national tiger survey in the tiny Himalayan country, conducted entirely by Bhutanese nationals, has found there are 103 tigers, up from the previous estimate of 75.

But while conservationists welcomed the news from Bhutan’s first nationwide tiger survey, they warned the big cat was facing a crisis in south-east Asia where some countries are failing to assess populations.

Countries need to carry out national surveys as a crucial step in the “Tx2” goal agreed in 2010 by tiger range nations to double numbers of the endangered cat by 2022, wildlife charity WWF said.

Dechen Dorji, WWF Bhutan country representative, said: “The roaring success of Bhutan’s first ever nationwide survey gives us a rare look into the lives of the magnificent tigers roaming across the entire country.

“This is an incredible achievement with great teamwork and leadership from the Royal Government of Bhutan.”

The news, on Global Tiger Day, comes after Bangladesh announced the results from its first national tiger survey which revealed there were 106 wild tigers in the country, a lower figure than the previous estimate.

But WWF said the previous figure was based on less reliable methodology than the new systematic survey which included the use of camera traps, and could have led to overestimates for the number of tigers in Bangladesh.

Experts from Malaysia have suggested that tiger numbers in the country have as much as halved from the previous estimate of 500 in 2010 to as few as 250, and the government has announced its intention to conduct its first national tiger survey.

But tiger numbers are unknown in Indonesia, Thailand and Burma, and there are thought to be no breeding populations in Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos, WWF said.

Mike Baltzer, WWF Tigers Alive initiative leader said: “There is a tiger crisis in south-east Asia.

“Countries are not counting their tigers and are at risk of losing them if immediate action isn’t taken. Political support is weaker and resources are fewer, while poaching and habitat loss are at critical levels.

“Until countries know the reality on the ground they can’t take appropriate action to protect their tigers.

“WWF is calling on all south-east Asian tiger countries to count their tigers and on the global tiger conservation community to focus efforts in these critical south-east Asian countries.”

There has been some good news for tigers across their range, with figures released earlier this year showing an increase in numbers in India, while Amur tigers are on the rise in their Russian Far East home, according to the latest census results.

Nepal’s last survey in 2013 found tiger numbers had increased there and there are indications that tigers are settling and breeding in north eastern China, WWF said.

Killing Californian bobcats like lion Cecil becomes illegal


This video is called Bobcat Stalks a Pocket Gopher | North America.

From takepart.com in the USA:

California Bobcats Will Avoid Cecil’s Fate Thanks to New Baiting Ban

Wildlife officials end the commercial bait-and-trap industry that fed the overseas demand for bobcat pelts.

Aug 6, 2015

by Taylor Hill

California bobcats are smaller and more abundant than the threatened lions of Africa.

But the native North American predators will be spared the fate of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most famous lion, now that California has become the first state in the nation to ban commercial and sport bobcat trapping.

The public largely ignored California’s centuries-old legal bobcat hunting until 2013, when reports surfaced that the population in the community of Joshua Tree—just outside the national park boundaries—was disappearing.

It emerged that bobcat hunters—in a practice similar to that employed by the now-infamous Minnesota dentist to lure Cecil out of a protected park and turn him into a game trophy—were using scent pheromones and even battery-powered fake birds to entice bobcats beyond the park border, then killing them for their fur pelts.

RELATED: Feeding Russia’s and China’s Fur Fixation, American Trappers Make a Killing With Bobcat Pelts

One commercial trapper working on private land baited and killed 50 Joshua Tree bobcats in one year alone, according to the conservation group the Center for Biological Diversity, effectively eliminating the population from a 100-square-mile area just outside the park. While losses like these have not threatened the species’ health or survival statewide, concentrated killing can devastate regional populations beyond recovery, removing an important predator from local and regional ecosystems.

The California hunt in recent years fed increasing demand for the diminutive, 20-pound cat’s fur in China, Russia, and other countries, where one white-bellied bobcat pelt can sell for $200 to $600.

While the state legislature reined in the bobcat hunt in 2013, the law left 40 percent of state-owned land available to licensed hunters. But with only about 100 commercial bobcat trappers working in California, the commission’s 3–2 vote on Wednesday reflected its uncertainty that revenues from sales of $1,325 bobcat hunting licenses, as well as tagging fees of $35 per pelt, would be enough to cover the costs of regulating the hunt.

“The failure by the trappers association to show that they could adequately pay for the trapping program was one problem,” said Jean Su, a staff attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “But the bigger issue was the fundamental shift that has taken place in how we, as people, are viewing wildlife.”

That shift, she said, was evident in how the commission approached its decision. Instead of requiring conservationists to show scientifically that hunting the bobcats would be harmful to the species or the environment, they laid the onus on bobcat trappers to show that trapping the species would not be harmful.

“Before we make a decision to allow destruction of a natural resource, we should have the science to support that as a practice,” Commissioner Anthony Williams said during the Wednesday public hearing. “I don’t think that burden has been met.”

Bobcat-trapping totals in California have diminished in the past 35 years: Nearly 28,000 cats were killed in 1978, compared with 1,639 in 2013. But the state’s last bobcat population census was made 36 years ago, leaving both commissioners and trappers in the dark about how commercial hunting has affected the population.

“The trappers argue that without the science, you keep everything status quo, keep trapping bobcats. Our argument is the flip side of that,” Ju said. “Without the science, you really can’t have a limited take. It’s like having a bank account, and you have no idea how much is in the account, and you just go start spending money.”

Ju said more than 25,000 letters representing more than 1 million Californians were sent to the commission calling for the ban.

“What happened to Cecil is absolutely what was happening to these bobcats,” Ju said. “This public’s involvement in this shows people are not seeing wildlife as a commodity—that’s a minority view now.”

Stop lion killing, USA, European Union


This video is called African Lions: National Geographic Documentary.

From Wildlife Extra:

Call to US and EU governments to ban trophy hunting following the death of two Zimbabwean lions

Following the tragic and reportedly illegal killing of two lions in Zimbabwe, the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA have called on the US Government and the European Union to take urgent steps to end the import of lion trophies and for an international moratorium on lion hunting.

There has been a global outcry following the killing of the first lion, nicknamed Cecil, by American dentist Walter Palmer, which has further fuelled the political and public debate on trophy hunting and the plight of wild lions in Africa.

President Obama and Prime Minister Cameron have both made very public declarations on the need to stop the illegal wildlife trade, but there are concerns that these intentions may not be implemented fast enough.

Current estimates suggest there are barely more than 30,000 lions remaining across Africa and localised or regionalised extinctions are a real possibility in the next 10 years.

Across Africa, lion populations have reduced by more than 50 per cent since 1980. They have disappeared altogether from at least 12 African countries, and possibly as many as 16, and only inhabit a fragmented 8 per cent of their historic range.

President of the Born Free Foundation, Will Travers OBE, says: “Cecil’s story has sickened and saddened us all.

“We can no longer accept that hunting magnificent wild animals for ‘sport’ can be deemed acceptable.

Trophy hunting is no sport; it is merely a disguise for killing to massage an ego.”

Born Free is calling on the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to release its Final Rule on the petition to list the lion as ‘endangered’ under the United States Endangered Species Act (ESA), first submitted in March 2011.

Listing under the ESA would prohibit wounding, harming, harassing, killing, or trading in lions, except under certain very limited conditions, and would add significant protection for lions across their range.

Further, Born Free is calling on US Government prosecutors to explore whether legal action against Walter Palmer is warranted under the Lacey Act, which prohibits transport of wildlife specimens if they were taken illegally in their place of origin.

According to Adam M Roberts, CEO of Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA, “The US Government has a responsibility to take decisive action to prevent another incident such as this from ever happening again.

“For four years we have waited for a final decision on our petition to list the lion – there is no more time to wait.”

Roberts addressed the issue of trophy hunting specifically, saying, “The figures don’t stack up. The value to Africa’s economy from wildlife tourism vastly outpaces any sum accrued from hunting.

“Trophy hunting is an elitist activity practiced by very wealthy people, with the income benefiting a small number of stakeholders. The future is in conserving Africa’s wildlife, not destroying it.”

There is very little evidence that the proceeds of trophy hunting benefits conservation or local communities in the hunting areas, with as little as 3 per cent or less of the revenue generated trickling down.

Lions and other charismatic wildlife are worth far more alive than dead to Zimbabwe’s tourism industry. In Zimbabwe it is estimated that trophy hunting generates only 3.2 per cent of total tourism revenue.

Virginia McKenna OBE, a name synonymous with lions and star of the wildlife classic Born Free summed up the feelings of millions around the world: “This whole story is like some terrible nightmare.

“The power of money, the ego of man, the lack of compassion for and real understanding of wild creatures, the concept of hunting as a “sport”.

“I thought we tried to instil kindness and respect in our children. Perhaps Mr. Palmer thinks differently.

“But if what I heard today is true – that after killing Cecil he asked if they could find him an elephant – the future he faces is bleak indeed.”

DELTA AND AMERICAN AIRLINES WILL BAN THE SHIPMENT OF BIG GAME TROPHIES The two airlines have said they will no longer fly buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino trophies. [Alexander Kaufman, HuffPost]

Cougars of Wyoming, USA on the Internet


This video is called Mountain lion (Felis concolor).

From Wildlife Extra:

Wild American cougars to become internet stars

Panthera, a wild cat conservation organisation, has launched The Cougar Channel – an interactive website that is uncovering the secret lives of the ‘American lion’ by sharing never-before-seen footage and photographs with the world.

The cougar channel provides an intimate glimpse into the day-to-day encounters, threats and behaviours of the individual cougars monitored through Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project in northwestern Wyoming. Placing cameras in natal dens and on cougar kills, Panthera’s scientists have captured footage of kittens playing and nursing; cougar families feeding, grooming and curiously inspecting Panthera’s cameras; and Panthera’s scientists tracking and collaring cougars to reveal how to better protect the species.

Science Director for Panthera’s Puma and Jaguar Programs, Dr. Mark Elbroch, said: “Our goal is to provide a fascinating and engaging digital experience that will help demystify this elusive and often misunderstood big cat and spark interest in preserving the species.

Cougars play a critical role in the landscapes they occupy, so we are thrilled to give these wild cats the spotlight they deserve. Finally, people can see the natural behaviors and challenges cougars face…and the conservation efforts that are crucial to ensuring their survival.”

Often referred to as mountain lions, panthers, or pumas, cougars have the largest geographic range of any terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere, from Alaska to the southern tip of Chile, yet little is known about the species. Today, the cougar is often mischaracterized as a vicious, solitary predator, leading to persecution across its range.

Dr. Howard Quigley, Director of Panthera’s Puma Program and Executive Director of Panthera’s Jaguar Program, shared, “The GPS collars, remote cameras and other research methods we are utilizing aren’t just helping us collect this fascinating footage – they enable us to track cougar movements, identify dens and monitor kittens from an early age. These data are expanding our scientific understanding of the species’ ecology, and ultimately allowing our scientists to better preserve the future of the wild cougar.”

Good Iberian lynx news from Spain


This video is called Spain’s Last Lynx – Nature Documentary.

From the BBC:

Iberian lynx returns to Spain from verge of extinction

25 July 2015

An intense conservation campaign has brought the Iberian lynx back to the south of Spain from the verge of extinction barely 10 years ago, Guy Hedgecoe reports from Spain.

At the La Olivilla lynx breeding centre in Santa Elena, in southern Spain, a group of conservationists are in an office, gathered around a TV monitor.

On it they watch an Iberian lynx cub learn to hunt by playing with a domestic rabbit in one of the centre’s compounds. The lynx, the size of a small cat, is only a few weeks old but already has the sharply pointed ears and mottled fur that make the species so recognisable.

It swipes playfully at the rabbit with its paws, but still has a long way to go before it graduates to killing its own prey.

When it does, it will probably be released into the wild, following in the tracks of many other animals born in captivity here.

Just over a decade ago, the Iberian lynx, also known as Lynx pardinus, was on the verge of extinction, with only 90 animals registered, in the Andujar and Donana areas of southern Spain.

‘Saving the species’

But an intense campaign over recent years has brought it back from the brink, with 327 lynxes believed to be roaming southern, central and western Spain, as well as parts of Portugal, last year.

“We’re on the way to saving the species,” says Miguel Simon, director of the Iberlince lynx conservation programme.

“Losing this unique natural treasure would have been as bad for us as losing the Great Mosque in Cordoba or the Alhambra in Granada.”

In June, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) improved the status of the Iberian lynx from “critically endangered” to “endangered”. In its appraisal, the organisation saw the mammal’s recovery as “excellent proof that conservation really works“.

Around 140 specimens have been released into the wild, with the Iberian wildcat programme borrowing reintroduction techniques used by German conservationists.

Not all good news

But this success has not been cheap. Between 2002 and 2018, the programme will have received €69m (£49m; $76m) in funding, mainly from the European Union.

Much of that money has gone into three breeding centres in Spain, including in Santa Elena and one in Portugal.

Teresa del Rey Wamba, a veterinarian who works on the conservation programme in southern Spain, says that prior to the animal’s recent comeback, a lack of appropriate prey was a major problem, as was illegal hunting.

Clamping down on poaching and encouraging the growth of rabbit populations – the lynx’s favoured food – were therefore key, with private landowners, local governments and hunting federations all supporting the programme.

But it is not all good news. Last year, 22 lynxes were killed by vehicles on Spanish roads.

Miguel Simon says that while this is a problem, it also reflects how the lynxes’ movement has increased as their numbers have risen.

His team has overseen the installation of underground tunnels, custom-built for the animals to cross busy roads, and more are planned.

Of greater concern however is a recent outbreak across southern Europe of rabbit haemorrhagic disease, a highly contagious virus that has been killing off the lynxes’ staple diet since 2011 and reducing their reproductive rate.

In light of this threat, the IUCN decision to take the lynx off the “critically endangered” list was incorrect, according to Emilio Virgos, a lynx expert at Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid.

“If all the data we have so far about how lynxes live and survive and reproduce are correct, and we have no reason to think otherwise, the number of lynxes… will drop drastically,” he says of the outlook for the next few years.

He warns that extinction is still a possibility within decades.

While Mr Simon is worried about the rabbit virus, he describes such forecasts as “alarmist” and points to an emergency plan to boost rabbit numbers. Its success, he says, will depend in great part on continued funding.

“The battle for conservation of the lynx is never-ending,” he says.

What is a lynx?

A medium-sized cat which lives in the wild
There are four different species – Eurasian, Iberian, Canada and Bobcat
The Eurasian lynx is the biggest – about 60cm tall – roughly the same size as a Labrador
The Iberian lynx is one of the rarest smaller wildcats in the world – mainly found in parts of Spain and Portugal
The Bobcat is found in North America while the Canada lynx lives in Canada and Alaska
Most lynxes are listed as threatened or endangered and are prized by poachers for their fur
Lynxes are usually only active at night and hunt deer, rabbits and hares for food

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?