BIG CAT Conservation

BIG CAT Projects

BIG CAT CONSERVATION SPECIES LIST

compiled by Quentin Jones

If any of the links below fail, this means the destination webpage has been re-structured - try a google search for the link name we have provided and you might still be able to find the page you are interested in. Please let us know of broken links and we will aim to correct them.

If you know of any good webpages which we haven't listed, please send us details via our contact page.

AFRICAN LION

Panthera leo

African lions (Panthera leo) today survive in most of sub-Saharan Africa except in desert and rainforest habitats. Lions once inhabited a massive range from southeastern Europe, throughout Africa and across the Middle East to northern India. Asiatic lions (P. l. persica) belong to the single remaining subspecies in this region, with only a relict population of between 250-300 persisting in the Gir forest (Gujarat Province) of northwest India. This subspecies is recognised by the IUCN as endangered.

Unique among cats, lion’s live in groups called prides, usually comprised of between 4 –12 related females, their collective offspring and 1-6 males. Some of the males may be related also. The size of the pride usually depends on the habitat quality in which it exists with larger prides occurring in the prey-rich Plains of Eastern Africa. In peripheral or low-quality habitats it is not unusual for lions to remain largely solitary. There are several benefits theorized favouring the choice of group living. These include an increased ability to maintain and protect territory, especially in open areas, increased hunting success due to co-operative stalking practices, the ability to tackle large prey such as adult buffalo which would be impossible for a single animal and a better chance of successfully raising young. Like elephant and many primate societies, a central aspect of pride living is the association of 'aunts' that aid in the rearing of cubs. Most cubs in a pride are born during the same season, making the atmosphere of the pride akin to that of a nursery school. One of the greatest threats to cub survival is the takeover of the group by a new male or collection of males. Upon taking over a new group it has been observed that male lions often kill all of the existing young in the pride. It is believed that this is done in an attempt to eradicate all trace of the previous leader as well as to bring the lionesses into estrous more quickly so that the new male(s) can begin to have its own young and increase its fitness. Male lions are easily distinguishable from females as a result of the long mane of thick, coarse hair that rings the neck, framing the massive head. It is possible that the mane is used as a display to signify health and vitality as well as to indicate the sex and age of the bearer. It is also useful for protecting the neck during encounters with other males. The size and thickness of the mane differs geographically with lions at the southern and northern extent of the range possessing larger manes than those midrange. Asiatic lions (Panthera leo persica) have smaller and darker manes than their African cousins.

In addition to the asiatic subspecies, many taxonomists contend that there are five extant African subspecies. Each subspecies is identified by geographic region. Panthera leo senegalensis (west African or Senegalese lions), P. l. azandica (north east Congo lions), P. l. bleyenberghi (Katanga, Angolan, or south Congo lions), and P. l. krugeri (south African or Transvaal lions).

Panthera leo krugeri includes Kalahari lions (sometimes denoted as P. l. verneyi). Lastly, there are East African lions (P. l. nubica). These animals have been categorized as Somali lions (P. l. somaliensis), Masai lions (P. l. massaicus), Serengeti lions (P. l. massaicus), Congo lions (P. l. hollisteri), and Abyssinian lions (P. l. roosevelti). It should be noted, however, that there is some debate as to the validity of the African subspecies classifications, leaving only the Asiatic subspecies, P. l. persica, uncontested. The IUCN recognises the African lion as vulnerable, with current populations estimated between 20,000 and 40,000 - a rapid decline from the 100,000 estimated in the mid 1990s. The North African barbary (Atlas or Nubian) lion (Panthera leo leo) is extinct in the wild - with the last known wild Barbary lion was shot in the Atlas Mountains in 1922. There are claims of up to 250 Barbary lions in captive collections, but there is much debate as to the genetic history of these lions, and all claims should be treated with caution - although there remains the possibility of selectively breeding near-pure bred Barbary lions and, if successful, re-introduction into the wild. Work undertaken in the 1960s supports a close relationship between the Barbary and Asiatic subspecies. The southern European lion subspecies (Panthera leo europaea) or (Panthera leo tartarica), is by some considered con-specific with the asian subspecies (Panthera leo persica), and became extinct from much of the Euroean continent during AD 80-100. The South African Cape lion (Panthera leo melanochaitus) is also extinct in the wild, with the last killed in 1858. Again there are claims of captive Cape lions. Man-eaters
While very few lions have taken to hunting humans, one famous incident occurred in the Tsavo region of Kenya during the construction of a railway line during the heyday of British colonial expansion. A mysterious male lion began preying upon the railway workers, going so far as to drag the odd individual from his tent in the night. Not surprisingly this caused tremendous panic and further vilified the lion as an obstacle to progress in the region. It was later determined that it was not one lion, but a pair of old brothers that were responsible for the attacks. They are now forever immortalized in the Hollywood movie “The Ghost and the Darkness”, the title of which purportedly came from the monikers given to the lions during the time.
Lions in culture
No other Big Cat and possibly no other animal can compare to the lion in terms of its central role in folklore and myth around the world. The prominent role that lions play in the political and religious spheres of human society further exemplifies the degree to which they have captured the imagination. From emblematic symbols of the Indian kings to the inspiration for ambitious constructions from the Sphinx of ancient Egypt to the famous Lion Gate of the Greek Mycenae period and the Lion paws of the 5th century Sigiriya rock fortress. On a more personal (and practical) level the Masai of Eastern Africa historically required their young warriors to kill a lion before they were considered men. This tradition no doubt stems from the fact that the Masai are pastoralists and as such consider the lion as a prime threat to the safety of their cattle.
CONSERVATION ISSUES Today, habitat depletion and increased cattle grazing are the prime threats being faced by lions across their range. Lion populations have declined dramatically from a historic figure of 200,000 to less than 20,000 estimated to be remaining in the wild today. Lion population range has also decreased dramatically as conflict with man and land-use change has resitricted lion populations. Over-hunting for sport has had a dramatic effect on historical lion populations both in Africa and Asia. Due to their reputation as the 'king of the jungle' or 'king of beasts', lions became a favourite target for the armies of big game hunters that plagued the African savannah during colonial times, and still persist today with the international trophy huting industry. Asiatic lions
Particularly fragile is the Gir Forest Sanctuary, India, the lone remaining enclave of the Asiatic lion. It is 1412 sq. km in size, however the section of the Sanctuary that is National Park and therefore more thoroughly protected, is a mere 258 sq. kms. The intense population pressure on the parks boundaries must be carefully monitored for the future security of the lion population to be ensured.
Trophy Hunting
There is still a legal hunting trade - you can still shoot your own lion 'trophy' in some African countries, including Zimbabwe and South Africa, sometimes for as little as USD10,000, and upwards to USD50,000.
Hunting often targets prime adult alpha males, who are usually in their sexual prime and pride leaders. Removing these males has significant negative impact on lion social structure, as incoming males taking over a vacated pride often kill their predecessors cubs (under the age of two) in episodes of infanticide so that females become ready to breed and father his own offspring.

Trophy hunting should be tightly controlled by national legistation, and for example in Zimbabwe is operated on an annual quota basis, supposedly issued on the basis of the health of resident lion populations. The 'sale' of hunting quotas to landowners raises funds for the National Park Authority.

However lion populations are difficult to measure and estimate, and it has been shown that populations have been heavily over-estimated on private estates in order to justify maintaining and increasing quota numbers, and therefore maximising trophy hunting income. Females and sub-adult males are often also targetted. Hunting consessions often border national parks and act as 'buffer zones' between lion populations and human activities. But it has also been shown that removing pride males also creates a vacum effect, drawing out young males from these protected areas. Often lion territories will overlap into both protected and hunting areas, leading to the hunting of males which could be largely resident in the national park, to the detriment of the lion population and tourist potential of the area. Canned Lions
But the sums of money involved in trophy hunting can also lead to unethical exploitation - in South Africa lions are bred in captivity and released in private hunting concessions, sometimes drugged, in a staged trophy hunt for a forgein client - known as canned hunting. Also all lions in South Africa are captive to some degree, with South Africa's National Parks and private safari and hunting game reserves completely fenced. Therefore natural recovery of populations which are hunted are either genetically limited or supplimented by captive bred lions.
Captive lions, lion breeding and tourist lion walking
However lions are prolific breeders, and whilst this means that persecuited populations in the wild should be quick to recover - if protected and with suitable habitat and prey populations - it also means captive breeding operations can produce a significant number of young lions. This has lead to the recent development of lion tourism with tourists paying up to USD100 each to 'walk with the lions' - often before they are sold to private concessions, which often have established histories of lion hunting.
Some of these operations are claiming conservation merit in their captive breeding programme as a justification for tourist lion walking programmes, and have developed multi-stage redintroduction programmes as part of their claims. Their conservation merit is completely disputed by leading our leading lion scientists and researchers, who state there is no conservation justification in re-introducing captive bred lions. A lion's 'walking life' is short, as once they become sub-adults they are too big to be handled safely - so they are usually only used between the ages of 6 to 18 months. But with hundreds of clients paying every day, these operations raise large sums of money, whilst breeding, exploiting and then selling significant numbers of lions. White Lions
Originally known to only come from the Timbavati region of South Africa there are few known living or historic records of wild white lions, but many currently in captivity around the world, probably all victims of captive inbreeding as with the white tiger. The white lion is not albino, nor is it a separate subspecies, but is an typical African lion with a recessive gene. It is therefore bred in captivity through selective breeding between often related animals. White lion captive breeding and display should not be ecouraged for any conservation purposes, and zoos or safari parks claiming conservation merit in their work whilst holding white lions in their collections should be questioned. The Global White Lion Protection Trust has reintroduced rescued captive bred white lions back into a wild envirinment - see link below.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - African Lion

African Lion Working Group (ALWG)

Lion Conservation Fund

Conservation Research Projects

Lion Research Centre

Living with Lions - Research Project

Hwange Lion Research

Desert Lions - Research Project

African Wildlife Foundation - Lions

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Lion

ARKive - Panthera leo

Predator Conservation Trust - African Lion

Big Cats Online - Lion

Asiatic Lion Information Centre

Asiatic Lion Information

Predator Conservation Trust - Asiatic Lion

Related Links

Campaign Against Canned Hunting

Drakenstein Lion Park -

Born Free Foundation - Canned Hunting

North African Barbary Lion (International Zoo News)

Barbary Lion - Information Site

White Lions - Mythology, History and Genetics

Global White Lion Protection Trust

 

AFRICAN GOLDEN CAT

Profelis aurata

The main population is found in central Africa, in the forests of The Democratic Republic of the Congo basin and surrounding areas. A secondary population occurs in West Africa, in the forests of Senegal to Benin, with an apparent gap in Nigeria separating this population from the central African population. Savannization and deforestation in West Africa have probably led to fragmentation and declines in populations of the African golden cat. The bush meat trade is depleting populations of small antelope prey, which may lead to increased livestock depredation by the African golden cat and its consequent persecution. Although local tribes' people hunt the fur and especially the tail of the African golden cat for ceremonial use, hunting does not provide a major threat to the golden cat as there appears to be little direct hunting of this cat.

Two subspecies are described:
- Profelis aurata aurata (Congo to Uganda)
- Profelis aurata celidogaster (West Africa)
The African golden cat has long been regarded as closely related to the Asian or Temminck’s golden cat, but a recent review of cat taxonomy by Wozencraft (1993) separates the two into different genera. The African golden cat has turned out to be a close relative of both the caracal and the serval. However, the current classification places it as the only member of the genus Profelis. The primary habitat of the African golden cat is in the moist Tropical Rain Forest zone of Equatorial Africa. It is able to live in many types of forest, including primary forest, secondary vegetation, recently logged forest with a dense understory, and riverine forest where watercourses penetrate more open habitat. It is known from montane forest, alpine moorland, and bamboo forest at elevations up to 3000 m (10,000'). More typically it is found in forested areas with very dense, moist secondary undergrowth, often along rivers. The African golden cat apparently adapts well to logged areas, probably because destruction of the canopy favours the dense secondary undergrowth with which this cat is often associated. CONSERVATION ISSUES Remarkably little is known about the population numbers of the African golden cats. It is certain however that they will be substantially affected by the extensive habitat destruction occurring all over Africa. They are not regarded as being sufficiently threatened by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) to warrant being classified as rare or endangered. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has strictly regulated all international commerce in golden cat products by listing them in Appendix II. As it is thought that the African golden cat does well in secondary forest, combined with its ability to survive on small rodents, it is thought to be in less danger of extinction than many other small cats. However the constant increase in deforestation for the timber trade and expansion of agricultural land use is a long-term threat in many parts of this cats range.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - African Golden Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - African Golden Cat

ARKive - Profelis aurata

Related Links

-

 

ANDEAN WILDCAT/ANDEAN MOUNTAIN CAT

Oreailurus jacobita

The Andean cat occurs in southern Peru, the highlands of Bolivia, northern Chile, and northwestern Argentina. It is distributed over 620,000 sq km (240,000 sq mi) in these four countries, but intensive field surveys in all 4 range countries have led biologists to believe that the Andean cat’s distribution is likely highly fragmented and that this cat is very rare.

The Andean cat is apparently very specialized in its habitat requirements, having been found only in the rocky arid and semi-arid zones of the high Andes above the timberline (generally above 3-4,000 m in elevation). CONSERVATION ISSUES Population densities of this species are unlikely to be high and the total effective population size has estimated at below 2,500 mature breeding individuals. The range is very restricted so total numbers cannot be large. It is believed that populations have been negatively effected by declines in prey species, such as chinchilla, over significant parts of its range, hunting and habitat degredation. These factors coupled with our uncertainty about the ecology of the Andean mountain cat led the IUCN to recommend that it be totally protected throughout its entire range. Loss of Prey
This can be attributed to several factors, including: a) hunting of prey by people of the region - principally hunting of mountain viscachas for meat, which is consumed at the local level, or for the skin, which is sold; b) competition between mountain viscachas and domestic animals whose grazing areas overlap with feeding areas of mountain viscachas; and c) competition between mountain viscachas and exotic species - especially the European hare, which was initially introduced in Argentina and is currently found throughout the four countries where the Andean cat occurs. In addition, it is likely that the mountain chinchilla previously constituted important prey for the Andean cat, but the chinchilla has been hunted nearly to extinction to supply the fur trade.
Hunting/Persecution
This occurs for several reasons: a) use in traditional ceremonies: A common tradition is the use of an Andean cat skin or a stuffed cat during ceremonies that are performed for marking domestic livestock, mainly llamas or alpacas. Ancient beliefs hold that Andean cat skins, when used during religious ceremonies, bestow good fortune and ensure bountiful crops and productive livestock. b) persecution: The Andean cat is not considered a threat to domestic llamas or alpacas, but in some regions, it is killed because it is considered to be a threat to smaller domestic animals, such as sheep, goats and fowl, or to humans. c) sport hunting: Some native people hunt carnivores and other species for sport.
Habitat Degradation
a) In the high Andean region, the main economic activity is the breeding of domestic llamas and alpacas as well as introduced animals like sheep and goats. There are some areas with high levels of overgrazing, and this affects the cat’s herbivorous prey. b) The extraction of certain plant species, which are used as fuel and/or construction material, has had a significant impact. c) These areas are rich in mineral resources. Mining is carried out by some local communities, but is mainly an activity of trans-national or national companies. This land use has more impact on Andean cat habitat (due to contamination, resource extraction for fuel, hunting of the Andean cat's prey, and general habitat disturbance) than do traditional uses.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The Andean cat has been placed on Appendix I of CITES. The IUCN Red List currently has the Andean Mountain cat listed as Endangered.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Andean Mountain Cat

Conservation Research Projects

Andean Cat Alliance

Wildlife Conservation Network - Andean Cat

The Andean Cat Conservation Action Plan

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Andean Mountain Cat

ARKive - Oreailurus jacobita

Related Links

-

 

ASIAN GOLDEN CAT/TEMMINCK'S CAT

Catopuma temminckii

The Asiatic golden cat is found throughout South East Asia from Tibet (China), Nepal, and Sikkim (India) through southern China, Myanmar, Thailand, and peninsular Malaysia and Sumatra (Indonesia). Areas of good habitat still exist in Bhutan, parts of northeastern India, and China. It is thought to be uncommon. The Asiatic golden cat inhabits tropical and subtropical evergreen lowland and dry deciduous forest. Less frequently it is found in more open habitats such as shrub and grasslands and sometimes in more open rocky areas. It has been recorded from lowlands up to 3,050 m (10,000'). CONSERVATION ISSUES Basic ecological knowledge is seriously lacking for this and many other small cat species. The Asiatic golden cat is threatened primarily by habitat loss due to deforestation and loss of its prey due to illegal hunting and an inability to adjust to human activity.. It is also significant hunting pressure for its pelt, and its bones are used as a substitute for tiger bone in traditional Asian medicines. Asian golden cat is listed on CITES under Appendix I and is listed by the IUCN as Near Threatened.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Asiatic Golden Cat

Conservation Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Asian Golden Cat

Related Links

-

 

BLACK-FOOTED CAT/SMALL SPOTTED CAT

Felis nigripes

The black-footed cat is found in three countries in southern Africa: Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. It is restricted to the more arid areas in this region and is typically associated with open, sandy, grassy habitats with sparse shrub and tree cover, such as the Kalahari and Karoo regions.

There are two recognised subspecies:
- F. n. nigripes found in Eastern Cape Province and Namibia
- F. n. thomasi found in Botswana and Eastern Cape Province
F. n. thomasi has a darker coat than F. n. nigripes. This secretive and rare cat is among the smallest of the world's cats, and is the smallest wild cat in Africa. CONSERVATION ISSUES Insufficient information is available to assess the population numbers of the black-footed cat. It is thought to be rare and has a very limited distribution. Most authorities have described the black-footed cat as a naturally rare species. Still, it is understood to be locally common at certain localities in South Africa, especially in the Orange Free State and northern Cape. Being restricted to arid environments, it probably naturally occurs at relatively low densities. Indiscriminate methods of predator control could be a significant threat, although farmers seldom report capturing black-footed cats in problem animal surveys. Farmers in South Africa and Namibia consider the similar-looking African wildcat a predator of small livestock, and set out steel-jaw traps and poisoned bait to get rid of them. Carcass poisoning for jackal control could be a threat to the black-footed cat, which readily scavenges. A similar threat is poisoning of locusts, which are food for the black-footed cat. Finally, overgrazing by livestock is prevalent throughout the species range, and habitat deterioration can lead to reductions of the cat’s small vertebrate prey base. The black-footed cat is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red Book of Endangered Species and is listed in CITES Appendix I. Hunting Prohibited:
Botswana, South Africa
No Legal Protection:
Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Black-footed Cat

Research Projects

Black-footed Cat

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Black-footed Cat

ARKive - Felis nigripes

Related Links

-

 

BOBCAT/RED LYNX/BAT LYNX

Lynx rufus

The majority of the world’s bobcats are found in the United States, where they range through a wide variety of habitats, including boreal coniferous and mixed forests in the north, bottomland hardwood forest and coastal swamp in the south-east, and desert and scrubland in the south-west. Only large, intensively cultivated areas appear to be unsuitable habitat.

CONSERVATION ISSUES When trade in most of the spotted cat skins was banned under Appendix I of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the bobcat and lynx became targets for the furriers. Bobcats are now on Appendix II which allows licensed international commerce. In the early 1980s, state wildlife authorities estimated the total US bobcat population to range between 725,000 to 1 million adult animals. Bobcats have historically been less abundant in the east-central US, owing to high human population density and intensive, large-scale agriculture. Bobcat populatations are also considered to be generally widespread and healthy in the Canada and ‘adequate’ in Mexico, although hunting and trapping have led to general population decreases. In the last 20 years, the bobcat has been the most heavily legally harvested and traded wild cat species. World demand for bobcat fur rose gradually in the late 1960s and early 1970s and jumped in the mid-1970s after CITES entered into force, when the pelts of endangered cats listed on Appendix I became legally unobtainable for the commercial fur trade. Although threatened by long-term persecution and habitat destruction, bobcat populations are not thought to be under serious threat. There are many in captivity. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) do not consider the bobcat to be significantly threatened, and it is not listed by them.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Bobcat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Bobcat/Red Lynx

Related Links

-

 

CANADIAN LYNX/AMERICAN LYNX

Lynx canadensis

The Canadian lynx is distributed throughout the broad boreal forest belt of North America (Canada, Alaska and also into the USA along the Rocky Mountains).

Lynxes are forest animals, only occasionally being found on farmland close to forested areas. They have been found rarely as far north as the tundra and arctic islands. CONSERVATION ISSUES The Canadian Lynx is legally managed and exploited over most of its range - they are hunted for their fur and are persecuted by farmers, as they are considered to be a predator of domestic livestock animals and trapping is still practised over most of the range. Within Canada, lynxes are generally not in danger of extinction, however the status of the lynx within the USA (including Alaska) is uncertain and controversial. In general, the future of the lynx looks more promising than for many other felids, as it is not significantly affected by habitat modification and land use change. Canada lynx is not listed on the IUCN Red List, but are controlled under CITES: Appendix II. They are hunted for their fur and are persecuted by farmers, as they are considered to be a predator of domestic animals.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Canadian Lynx

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Canadian Lynx/American Lynx

Related Links

-

 

CARACAL/AFRICAN LYNX

Caracal caracal

Found over all of Africa except the sand deserts and the equatorial rain forests, the caracal is particularly common in South Africa. They are also widely distributed from the Arabian and Sinai Peninsulas (again absent from the interior sandy deserts), Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait, Iraq, Iran and Turkey through Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and south to the Punjab and central India. Animals of essentially semi-dry areas, caracals are found in woodlands, savannahs, hilly steppes, and acacia scrubland.

CONSERVATION ISSUES They are killed due to the threat they pose to small livestock and are hunted for their skins and meat. The African races are not listed as threatened. Caracals seem to be increasingly common further south of the equator. In southern Africa, caracals are sufficiently numerous to be considered to be a serious pest species and a hazard to livestock. They are classified as problem animals with no legal protection in South Africa and Namibia. Control levels are high, but they do not seem to be significantly influencing caracal populations, which seem to be increasing. Up to twenty adult caracal skins are used to make a fur coat, although caracal pelts have a relatively low economic value so the development of large-scale trading seems to be highly unlikely. A wide geographical distribution which is not in any real danger, indicates that the future of the caracal is likely to be reasonably optimistic. The most northerly subspecies F. (C.) c. michaelis is classified as Rare by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). Asian caracals are on CITES: Appendix I, and African populations are on Appendix II. Caracals are not listed on the IUCN Red List.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - African Caracal

Predator Conservation Trust - Caracal

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Caracal

Related Links

-

 

CHEETAH

Acinonyx jubatus

The cheetah once ranged across Africa and the Middle East to Tajikistan in the north and India in the southeast. Although it was numerous in the 18th century in India, the cheetah was becoming rarer in the 19th century, and the last credible records of cheetah sightings in India were in the 1960's. As of the 1970's, it still occurred in arid areas of Turkmenistan, the northwest border of Afghanistan, and the eastern half of Iran. Currently, throughout its range outside Africa, it has been exterminated or is on the verge of extinction.

The cheetah also historically occurred in various habitats throughout Africa, with the exception of tropical lowland forest, penetrating deep into the Sahara, where remnant populations still survive in southern Algeria and northern Niger. Its sub-Saharan range has now become seriously fragmented, particularly in West Africa, where overall densities are very low. The two largest meta-populations of cheetah are now believed to occur in East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) and Southern Africa (Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia). Although cheetahs are most frequently observed on open grassy plains, they also make extensive use of bush, scrub and open woodland. They are not generally associated with forest habitats: they occur only thinly in the more humid zones of miombo woodland that cover much of central Southern Africa, and are absent from the Sudano-Guinean forest savanna belt of West Africa. The cheetah is widely acclaimed as the fastest runner in the Animal Kingdom, able to attain speeds of over 90km/hr for short bursts! This incredible fleetness can only be utilized as a practical measure in open country, thus the very attribute allowing the cheetah to successfully hunt also works to restrict its potential range. The cheetah shows many adaptations for fast running. Long legs and a flexible spine allow an extended stride length for speed, exposed claws grip the ground for traction and large nostrils permit increased efficiency when breathing during and after a spurt of activity. The heart and lungs of a cheetah are large relative to their size, as are their air passageways and adrenal glands. Their feet, meanwhile are outfitted with hard, ridged pads which theory suggests are useful as anti-skid treads. The long tail acts as a counterbalance when changing direction swiftly during pursuit. The actual hunt involves sneaking through the long grasses of the plains to within 30 or so meters of the potential target followed by a short but intense sprint. It is the aim of the cheetah to swipe out with a forepaw and knock the fleeing antelope or young wildebeest off balance, hooking it with a specially enlarged front dew claw situated halfway between pad and elbow joint. Unlike most cats, cheetahs apparently show no requirement for water and can attain sufficient moisture from the blood of their kills. They are mostly solitary animals but young, related males often stay together for years, hunting in tandem and maintaining territories amid the solitary males and females with cubs. Lions are a constant menace for the cheetah; frequently hunting out the latter’s dens and consuming the cubs. With small canines, an inability to roar and a distinctly non-threatening physical presence the cheetah is easily scared away from its kill by everything from lions to hyenas to vultures. Once flushed from the kill it will not return even after the usurper has moved away. Cheetahs have long had an association with humans. They were used as hunting companions throughout North Africa and the Middle East and due to the fact that they are relatively easily domesticated have been substituted for dogs in many instances. Where once they inhabited open lands throughout Africa, the Middle East and into India and Russia, hunting, habitat destruction and the loss of prey species have seen them restricted to east and southern Africa with small, relic populations in Egypt and Iran. The total number of cheetah is generally estimated below 20,000 and below 10,000 by some estimates. CONSERVATION ISSUES Persecution, habitat loss, over-hunting of their prey and competition from other predators are all factors responsible for the continuing decline of the cheetah. They are extremely susceptible to changes in land use. In the past, the removal of live cheetahs from the wild into captivity, sport hunting, and the fur trade all contributed to a decline in the species. Habitat and range have been reduced by agriculture, degradation of rangelands and competition from domestic stock, following increasing occupation of the habitat by human communities. Genetic homogeneity
Genetic research has demonstrated that both captive and free-ranging cheetahs exhibit a very high level of homogeneity in coding DNA, exhibiting only 2% genetic variation (where other cats have 10% or more). The cheetah appears to have suffered a series of severe population bottlenecks in its history, with the first and most significant occurring possibly during the late Pleistocene extinctions, around 10,000 years ago. The factors which would have led to these ancient population bottlenecks are not clear, but both their causes and consequences may be of significance to cheetah conservation today.
Vulnerability in protected areas
Many observers have commented on the cheetah’s vulnerability to interspecific competion with other large carnivores. The chief mechanism by which more powerful carnivores - lions, leopards and hyaenas - limit cheetah abundance is by killing cheetah cubs, but these species, as well as (sometimes) even jackals, baboons and vultures, also drive adult cheetahs off their kills. Where other large carnivores have largely been eliminated cheetahs appear to increase to higher densities. For this reason a strategy of relying solely upon the limited system of protected areas, which often results in higher densities of competitor species, may not be sufficient to ensure the conservation of long-term viable sub-populations. An intergrated approach to managed co-existence within agricultural and other human land use areas is there for essential.
Livestock predation
The survival of the cheetah outside protected areas is affected by conflicts with people over predation on livestock, as the species is widely considered a threat to livestock and subsequently persecuted. The Cheetah Conservation Fund of Namibia is working to educate farmers about appropriate management steps which can be taken to minimize stock losses.
Captive breeding
Captive breeding of cheetahs are ongoing, with ideas of increasing the gene pool for release into the wild. However such measures are not as successful as conservation of the existing wild populations and their remaining habitats, allowing hopefully for natural regeneration of the species.
CONSERVATION STATUS The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the Asiatic cheetah A. j. venaticus as Critically Endangered, the Northwest African cheetah A. j. hecki as Endangered and other cheetahs as Vulnerable. International commerce in cheetah products has been prohibited under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cheetah Conservation Compendium

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Cheetah

Predator Conservation Trust - Cheetah

Conservation Research Projects

Felidae Conservation Fund - Cheetah

Cheetah Conservation Fund (Namibia)

Cheetah Conservation Botswana

De Wildt Wild Cheetah Project (South Africa)

Cheetah Outreach(South Africa)

Kgalagadi Cheetah Project (South Africa)

Asiatic Cheetah Project

Iranian Cheetah Project

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Cheetah

ARKive - Acinonyx jubatus

Related Links

Studies of the Asiatic Cheetah in Iran (WCS)

 

CHINESE MOUNTAIN CAT/CHINESE DESERT CAT

Neofelis nebulosa

Despite its old name, the Chinese desert cat is not really a desert animal, but it is the only felid wholly indigenous to China. It is confined to steppes, mountain brush and forest up to 3,000 metres. Records of its occurrence are known from the eastern border of the Tibetan Plateau, mostly from Qinghai Province, but also from other areas farther north, east and northwest.

Based on estimates of geographic range and average densities of other small cats, the Chinese mountain cat’s total effective population size is estimated at below 10,000 mature breeding individuals, with a declining trend. CONSERVATION ISSUES The most important reason for the decline of the Chinese mountain cat is the loss of its prey base. Large-scale poisoning campaigns have been conducted in China since 1958 in an attempt to reduce populations of pikas and zokors, which are viewed as grazing competitors of domestic livestock. Zinc phosphide was one of the main chemicals used, from the onset of control efforts until 1978, when its use was discontinued because it was discovered that it also killed carnivores that preyed on these animals. Control programs using poisonous chemicals continue throughout much of the Chinese mountain cat’s range, and they have eradicated the cat's prey from large areas. The Chinese desert cat is also hunted for its skin. The fur of this cat can be found in some markets - it is valued for the making of traditional hats. The Chinese mountain cat poses no threat to humans or their livestock. A restricted range and extensive habitat destruction have caused the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to place it on Appendix II. This classification recognises that the species listed are in danger of becoming extinct if trade is not strictly regulated. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the Chinese mountain cat as Vulnerable.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Chinese Mountain Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Chinese Mountain Cat

Related Links

-

 

CLOUDED LEOPARD

Neofelis nebulosa

The clouded leopard is an animal of the tropical forests, up to altitudes of about 2,500 metres. It seems to be able to survive in marginal scrub and in selectively logged secondary forest.

The clouded leopard is found in tropical and sub-tropical forests from central Nepal in the eastern foothills of the Himalayas through southern China and most of southeast Asia to the islands of Sumatra (Indonesia) and Borneo (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia). The previously known population on the island of Borneo has recently been shown to be a separate species. CONSERVATION ISSUES Deforestation, resulting from commercial logging and the growth of human settlements, is thought to be the foremost threat to the clouded leopard. Not only does deforestation remove the clouded leopard's own shelter and habitat, but it reduces the number of prey animals. As humans have increasingly encroached on their habitats, these leopards have been known to prey on livestock, which puts them at risk of being killed by the owners. Another major threat is the hunting of this cat for its fur and teeth as well as its bones, which are prized in the traditional Asian medicinal trade. Habitat destruction and human persecution have placed the clouded leopard in a ‘Vulnerable' classification according to the IUCN. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has placed it on Appendix I, prohibiting all international commerce.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Clouded Leopard

Research Projects

Clouded Leopard Project

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Clouded Leopard

ARKive - Clouded Leopard

Related Links

-

 

EURASIAN LYNX

Lynx lynx

Europe's biggest cat and the largest of the lynx family. It also has one of the widest distribution of all the cats.

The range of the Eurasian Lynx extends right across the northern part of the Old World from Scandinavia to the Pacific coast of Asia. It formerly included almost the whole of Europe and efforts are being made to reintroduce lynx to parts of France, Switzerland and Italy. Small, probably isolated populations have survived in a few areas of (mainly) eastern Europe as far south as Turkey, while further east the species extends to the north side of the Himalayas and Afghanistan. Subspecies
North Caucasus and Iraq - L.l. dinniki
Pakistan, central Asia and Mongolia - L.l. isabellinus
Irkutsk - L.l. kozlovi
Scandinavia, Russia, Northern Europe and Iraq - L.l. lynx
East Siberia - L.l. wrangeli
Sardinia - L.l. sardiniae
Russia - L.l. stroganovi
CONSERVATION ISSUES As a species, the Eurasian lynx is not endangered, but in some parts of its range it has become extremely rare and may not survive unless active measures are taken to conserve it. Many areas from which lynxes had disappeared have been recolonised when conditions once again became favourable. Formerly numbers were reduced due to hunting for fur and deforestation. Due to conservation efforts in the 1970s, lynx were released in Switzerland, Austria and Germany, and populations are now stable. The Eurasian lynx is not listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) red data species list. The cat is listed in CITES Appendix II.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Eurasian Lynx

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Eurasian Lynx

Related Links

-

 

FISHING CAT

Prionailurus viverrinus

The Fishing Cat is to be found in a range that spreads form northern India, Sri Lanka, across Burma, the Thai peninsular and down to Sumatra and Java, where records show the cat populations to be in critical decline.

Fishing cats live in a variety of watery habitats, mangrove swamps, marshy thickets and reed beds, up to an altitude of 1,500 metres. they seem to prefer areas where there is substantial thick cover near open water, especially in the dry season. Fish are the most frequent prey of the fishing cat. Other prey include crabs, frogs, rats, civets, fawns, calves, snakes, lizards and birds. The fishing cat is a nocturnal hunter. It is very much at home in the water. It is a strong swimmer, even in deep water, and it can swim long distances. The fishing cat appears to be a solitary hunter, but otherwise there is little information on its social organization or mating behavior in the wild. The fishing cat’s total effective population size is estimated at below 10,000 mature breeding individuals. Subspecies
Two subspecies of fishing cat are described:
India, south east Asia and Sumatra - P. v. viverrinus
Java and Bali - P. v. risophores
CONSERVATION ISSUES The fishing cat is threatened principally by loss of its wetlands habitat as well as by direct and indirect persecution (pollution and pesticide poisoning). Causes of this destruction include human settlement, draining for agriculture, construction of aquaculture facilities, and wood-cutting. In addition, clearance of coastal mangroves over the recent past has been rapid in tropical Asia. High use of pesticides in rice fields and fishponds results in adverse impacts, since the harmful chemical residues can enter aquatic food chains and affect top predators such as the fishing cat. Destructive fishing practices have also greatly reduced the fishing cat's main prey base. Fishing cats are also directly persecuted because they often live close to human habitation and suffer from considerable persecution. It is reported that they are shot and trapped whenever possible (and often sold in local markets) to prevent them steal chickens and are also reputed to devastate local fisheries. Finally, the fishing cat is hunted because it is considered edible and its skin is still valued by the fur trade. Even though their fur is coarse, fur coats are still made and sold. Legal protection is extremely difficult to enforce. The fishing cat is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as endangered. The Convention on International trade in Endangered Species lists the fishing cat on Appendix II which strictly regulates international commerce, although the sub-species P. v.rizophoreus, which is restricted to Java, is under critical threat.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Fishing Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Fishing Cat

Related Links

-

 

FLAT-HEADED CAT

Prionailurus planiceps

The Flat-headed cat is the most aquatic of the cats, more aquatic than the Fishing cat! One of the most distinctive features of this species, as the name would suggest, is the head. It appears to be somewhat flattened. This is enhanced by the unusually small ears which are set well down on the sides of the head.

Flat-headed cats have been very little studied in the wild and consequently not much is known about their habitat requirements. The flat-headed cat is associated with secondary forest/scrub and primary freshwater swamp forest within lowland coastal floodplains. They have usually been observed close to water in tropical forest or scrub below 700 metres in Thailand, Malaysia, Borneo and Sumatra, but they have also been seen in oil palm plantations in Malaysia. The cat is a lowland water specialist feeding mainly on frogs. fish and aquatic animals, along with birds and small rodents. Rarely seen in the wild the flat-headed cat is a crepuscular or nocturnal hunter and is to be found searching for prey in areas of tropical rainforest bordering streams and rivers. CONSERVATION ISSUES Habitat destruction is probably a very significant factor influencing their population sizes, but so little is known about the demography of this and so many of the other small cats that only very rough estimates can be made about their status. If reports of flat-headed cats found in palm oil plantations are true, then this is extremely encouraging, as it indicates that they can survive with considerable habitat disturbance. Water pollution, especially caused by oil, organochlorines and heavy metals associated with agricultural run-off and logging activities, poses a serious threat to the flat-headed cat through contamination of its food-chain. The clearance of waterways as human settlement expands into forested areas is also a problem. This species is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as vulnerable. The Convention on International trade in Endangered Species lists the species on Appendix I.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Flat-headed Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Flat-headed Cat

Related Links

-

 

GEOFFROY'S CAT

Oncifelis geoffroyi

Geoffroy’s cat has been described as occurring in a wide variety of habitat types. It is distributed throughout the pampas grasslands and arid Chaco shrub and woodlands, and up around the Salinas Grandes (alpine saline desert of north-western Argentina) to 3,300 m in the Andes. However, it is not found in either the tropical rainforests or southern broad-leaved forests, and avoids open areas, preferring dense, scrubby vegetation. It is sympatric throughout its range with the pampas cat, and the preference of the Geoffroy’s cat for dense ground cover may serve to separate the two species ecologically.

Throughout its range, Geoffroy’s cat has been described as the most common of the small cats, with the exception of southern Chile, where it is restricted to a small area of cold scrublands east of the Andes. However, there are fears that a decade of high-volume skin trade has severely reduced populations. Its status is not well known. Subspecies Northern Argentina, Andean Bolivia - O.g. euxantha
Central Argentina - O.g. geoffroyi
Paraguay, south east Brazil, Uruguay, north Argentina - O.g. paraguae
North west to central Argentina – O.g. salinarium
Patagonia (Disputed) - O.g. leucobapta
CONSERVATION ISSUES The species has been exploited commercially since the international cat skin trade boomed in the late 1960s, with nearly 350,000 skins exported from Argentina alone between 1976 and 1979. Trade volumes remained high into the 1980s as trade in ocelot pelts declined, averaging 55,000 per year between 1980-1984 (at the peak of their exploitation 72,000 skins were declared to have been exported from Paraguay in 1981). Paraguay and Bolivia were the main exporters (in contravention of national legislation) during this time, although it is believed that the bulk of these skins were smuggled in from Brazil and Argentina. International trade has since declined - no significant trade has been reported since 1988. Paraguay and Uruguay still have significant domestic markets for pelts. However, reports state that most pelts in trade today are derived from cats killed as pests and livestock predators, and that commercial hunting as it existed in the past has essentially ceased. Geoffroy’s cats appear to tolerate moderate levels of deforestation. So little is known about the species’ ecological requirements that it is at present impossible to judge the actual impact of hunting or habitat loss. This species is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as near threatened. The Convention on International trade in Endangered Species lists the species on Appendix II.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Geoffroy’s Cat

Research Projects

Natural history and conservation of Geoffroy’s cat in Argentina (pdf file link)

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Geoffroy’s Cat

Related Links

-

 

GUIGNA, KODKOD, CHILEAN CAT

Oncifelis guigna

The kodkod or güiña (pronounced gwee-nya) is the smallest South American cat, about half the size of a large domestic cat. Of the Latin American felids the Kodkod has the most restricted distribution, confined to central and southern Chile and marginally into Argentina.

Their preferred habitat is the Nothofagus Valdivian temperate rainforests (icluding evergreen, deciduous and sclerophyllous scrub forest) of sothern Chile, which is characterized by the presence of bamboo in the understory, and particularly near water. The kodkod's total effective population size is estimated at below 10,000 mature breeding individuals. CONSERVATION ISSUES Because of its restricted distribution, the kodkod is particularly vulnerable to habitat loss, the primary cause of reduced numbers in the north of its range. Population fragmentation and localized decline in the northern half of its range have been attributed to logging and deforestation by burning for agricultural development. Logging of the Chilean Valdivian forest is increasing for export to Japan, but a substantial proportion (36%) is protected, and logging is not necessarily a threat to the kodkod because of its use of secondary vegetation. There are also several large protected areas within its range in Argentina. Persecution from indirect hunting (dogs and traps) is also a potential threat to their populations – they are unintentionally killed by wire snares set by hunters to catch rabbits, as well as by the dogs used to hunt them. This species is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as vulnerable. The Convention on International trade in Endangered Species lists the species on Appendix II.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Guigna

Research Projects

Conservation and ecology of the huiña cat in Argentina (pdf file link)

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Kodkod

Related Links

-

 

IBERIAN LYNX, SPANISH LYNX

Lynx pardinus

The Spanish (or Iberian) Lynx rivals the Iriomote Cat for the title of the world's most endangered cat. The Iberian lynx is so critically endangered it could become the first wild cat species to go extinct for 2,000 years. According to the WWF, there are fewer than 200 left in two small pockets of Spain and Portugal (Cota Donana and Andujar) and numbers have declined dramatically since the early 1990s. Spanish lynx formally occurred throughout the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and the south of France, where there is favouring dense scrub for shelter and open pasture for hunting rabbits. but are now restricted to scattered mountainous areas and the Guadalquivir Delta. CONSERVATION ISSUES Factors in the lynx's decline include habitat loss fragmentation by agricultural and industrial development (which affects both the lynx itself as well as its rabbit prey), and resulted in the range of the lynx shrinking by 80% between 1960 and 1990. By 2000 it was considered to exist in a heavily fragmented population in which only two groups are large enough to have long-term prospects of viability. Although it began to decline in the first half of the 20th century, the decline accelerated after the 1950's due to the spread of myxomatosis, a disease introduced to control Europe's rabbit population and which decimated populations of the European rabbit, the lynx's main prey. Conservationists are now breeding and releasing rabbits, while the wild rabbit population is developing a natural immunity to Myxomatosis. Lynx are also impacted by persecution due to its alleged damage to livestock, snares and poison baits set for rabbits, foxes and other predators, accidentally killed on the roads by speeding vehicles and shot in illegally hunting operations. The Iberian lynx is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) red data species list as critically endangered. It is listed in CITES under Appendix I

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Iberian Lynx

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Iberian Lynx

Related Links

-

 

IRIOMOTE CAT

Mayailurus iriomotensis

Iriomote cats were not described until 1967 and previously thought to be a subspecies of the leopard cat Prionailurus bengalensis rather than a species in its own right.

These cats have one of the most restricted distribution of all cats, found only from one island location, and there are possibly only sixty left. The 292 square km island of Iriomotejima is at the southern end of the Japanese Ryukyu Islands, which are 200 km east of Taiwan (24° 15´-25´ north Latitude and 123° 40´-55´ east Longitude). The island is mountainous and covered in broadleaf, evergreen, subtropical rainforest with dense mangroves along the estuaries. The highest mountain is only 470 metres. This endemic cat is found all over the island near water, including beaches and cultivated land. It only avoids the most heavily populated areas. CONSERVATION ISSUES They are rapidly loosing habitat to agricultural development and may be threatened by tourism development, persecution and growing competition from the islands feral cat population. Although in 1977 the Iriomote cat was declared a National Japanese Treasure, pressures of development pose a very serious threat. One third of the island has been declared a reserve where the trapping of the cat for any reason is strictly prohibited. However, the species continues to decline. It has been reported that the density of the cats is relatively low inside the National Park because they prefer forest edges, coastal areas and lowlands, most of which are outside the protected areas, and through which the island’s main road has been constructed. The meat of the cat is considered to be a delicacy on the island and a significant number have also been killed on the roads. There is no captive breeding population or program. This species is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as endangered. The Convention on International trade in Endangered Species lists the species on Appendix II.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Iriomote Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Iriomote Cat

Related Links

-

 

JAGUARUNDI, EYRA CAT, OTTER CAT

Herpailurus yaguarondi

In appearance the jaguarundi is unlike any other cat and has been likened to a large weasel or otter, hence its English common name of 'Otter Cat'.

Jaguarundi are found in lowland forests, second growth woodland, swampy areas, and dense thorny thickets of mesquite and acacia (chaparral). They avoid very open country, but are often found near rivers and are expert catchers of fish, which are caught with its probing front paws. Native to Central America and the northern and central countries of South America down to Argentina (but not Chile), they are distributed from Arizona and the lower Rio Grande of south Texas, to the Chaco of orthern Argentina, in Jujuy and Mendoza provinces. They were introduced into Florida in the 1940’s and the feral population is now well established. Noteably it has a chromosome count of 38, as do both the puma and jaguar, where as the remaining small felids in South America have only 36. There is some evidence to suggest that the jaguarundi is perhaps a descendant of the ancestral puma which is believed to have emigrated from Asia via the Bering Land bridge and is not closely related to the other small South American cats. Scientific documents on the jaguarundi are extremely scarce. Few studies have been done on them and consequently, population numbers are practically unknown. Subspecies
Western Argentina - H.y. armeghinoi
Southern Texas to central Vera Cruz - H.y. carcomitli
Southern Brazil, Paraguay and north Argentina - H.y. eyra
Veracruz to central Nicaragua - H.y. fossata
Peru - H.y. melantho
Central Nicaragua to Ecuador - H.y. panamensis
Southern Arizona to central Guerro - H.y. tolteca
East Venezuela to northeast Brazil - H.y. yagouaroundi
CONSERVATION ISSUES Although the fur of the jaguarundi is not highly sought after by fur traders the cat is at risk through general deforestation and loss of its natural habitat, and are doubtless caught in traps set for other species. They are notorious for predation on domestic poultry, a fact which brings them into conflict with humans. This species is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as least concern. The Convention on International trade in Endangered Species lists four sub-species of jaguarundi in CITES Appendix 1 with the remaining sub-species in Appendix II.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Jaguarundi

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Jaguarundi

Related Links

-

 

JUNGLE CAT, SWAMP CAT, REED CAT

Felis chaus

Widely distributed from Lower Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Asia Minor to Transcaucasia and north along the west coast of the Caspian sea to the lower reaches of the Volga and east through Turkmenistan, Tadzhikistan, and Kazakhstan to Chinese Turkestan, Afghanistan, Baluchistan, Nepal and south through the Indian subcontinent to Sri Lanka, and Burma, Thailand, Indo-China and Yunnan.

In Egypt and Iraq the jungle cat appears to prefer swampy ground and reed beds, while in India, they live in woodlands, open plains, grasslands, arid scrublands and agricultural areas (corn fields, sugar cane plantations). Tamarisk jungles are the favoured spots in Jordan. Jungle cats are found from sea-level to 2,400 metres in the Himalaya. Subspecies
Turkestan to Iran and Baluchistan - F. c. chaus
Kashmir to Sikkim, Yunnan and Indo-China - F. c. affinis
Thailand and Burma - F. c. fulvidina
Southern Syria and Iraq - F. c. furax
Sri Lanka - F. c. kelaarti
Bengal to the Rann of Kutch - F. c. kutas
Egypt - F. c. nilotica
Russia - F. c. oxiana
Sind, west India - F. c. prateri
CONSERVATION ISSUES Very little is known about the status of jungle cat populations. They have been greatly persecuted in the past, and will have certainly benefited from the protected zones which have been set up for tiger conservation. Thought to be scarce over much of its range, the species is reasonably safe as a whole, because it does have such a large distribution. Jungle cats do well in cultivated landscapes (especially those that lead to increased numbers of rodents) and artificial wetlands. However, reclamation and destruction of natural wetlands, ongoing throughout its range but particularly in the arid areas still pose a threat to the species. This species is listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) as least concern. The Convention on International trade in Endangered Species lists this species in Appendix II.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Jungle Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Jungle Cat

Related Links

-

 

LEOPARD

Panthera pardus

With the ability to thrive not just in forests like the tiger or open savannah like the lion, the leopard is the most successful big cat in terms of colonizing new and varied terrain. That these felids can subsist on a host of small prey species increases their impressive ability to lie in all manner of habitat. This is perhaps why these adaptable carnivores have spread virtually throughout Asia and roam over all of Africa except for the Sahara. With small populations in Israel and Central Asia the leopard today maintains a large if fragmented range. This is the only big cat inhabiting Sri Lanka.

This wide range in geographical extent corresponds to a variability of coat colour in different regions from grayish to brown but all united by the common theme of dark spots forming rosettes on a lighter yellowish background. All-black individuals – black panthers - are not uncommon, especially in thicker, moister forest regions. Such melanistic forms of the jaguar are similarly found and, to add to the confusion, are also known as a black panthers. Of all the big cats, leopards are most similar to puma in terms of physique and the basic tenor of their lives. They are supple, bold creatures skilled at concealment but possessed of great drive and self-assurance. Solitary for the most part, they come together to mate and socialize, communicating with great dedication through a selection of non-audible methods such as scrape marking and scent spraying. They also possess a wide-ranging vocal repertoire used only as needed. Leopards are known to be good swimmers if necessary and are excellent climbers, carrying kills up to three times their own weight up into trees as a safeguard against scavengers. Leopards are opportunistic in their dietary requirements, taking all manner of prey. Large prey such as deer, antelope, young buffalo and wild boar are at times heavily supplemented by smaller game such as rats, porcupines, rabbits and turtles. One population in the arid Kalahari region of southern Africa has been observed to include insects such as beetles as a major component of their seasonal diet. Subspecies Africa: P.p.adersi, P.p.adusta, P.p.leopardus , P.p.melanotica, P.p.nanopardus, P.p.panthera, P.p.pardus, P.p.reichenowi, P.p.ruwenzorli, P.p.sindica, P.p.suahelica Middle East: P.p.ciscaucasia, P.p.dathei, P.p.jarvisi, P.p.nimr, P.p.saxicolor, P.p.tulliana Asia: P.p.delacouri, P.p.fusca, P.p.japonensis, P.p.kotiya, P.p.melas, P.p.millardi, P.p.orientalis, Pp.pernigra. CONSERVATION ISSUES As with many endangered animals, increasing human populations, loss of habitat and hunting have dramatically reduced the number of leopards. They are endangered through much of their range, with the Amur, Anatolian and Barbary leopards being almost extinct. Its ability to inhabit a wide variety of terrain and adapt to changing circumstances has set leopards in good stead with the increasing forces of human encroachment. Unfortunately the ability to substitute cattle and dogs (a mainstay of the diet in many parts of India) for wilder prey, while salutary in terms of survival has not benefited the species in terms of its public perception. Leopard-human conflict over domestic livestock is increasing throughout its range and together with continued poaching for the Chinese medicinal market, the illegal fur trade and habitat loss is putting pressure on this hardy felid. Forest fragmentation within as well as between habitats are also resulting in possible ‘bottlenecking’ of leopards, which in turn will lead to increasingly fragile wild populations. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the north Chinese leopard (P.p. japonensis), Sri Lankan leopard (P.p. kotiya), Javan leopard (P.p. melas) and north Persian leopard (P.p. saxixolor) as endangered. The south Arabian leopard (P.p. nimr), Amur leopard (P.p. orientalis), north African leopard (P.p. panthera) and Anatolian leopard (P.p. tulliana) are considered critically endangered. International commerce in the leopard is prohibited under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Leopard

Research Projects

Cape Leopard Trust

Mun Ya Wana Leopard Project

Conservation biology of leopards (Panthera pardus) in a fragmented landscape; spatial ecology, population biology and human threats - Mun Ya Wana (pdf file link)

Persian Leopard Ecology and Conservation in Bamu National Park, Iran (pdf file link)

Anatolian Leopard Project

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Leopard

Related Links

Amur Leopards (WCS)

AMUR

Amur Leopard Conservation Support Programme

WWF - Amur Leopard

WWF - Amur Leopard Research - The Amur-Heilong region

 

LEOPARD CAT

Prionailurus bengalensis

The Leopard Cat inhabits the forests and plains of the Indian subcontinent, Malay peninsula, Philippines, Indonesia and there are small populations in China. Leopard cats are one of the most common and widely distributed felids. They are not restricted to primary forests, being found in scrublands, second-growth woodland, semi-deserts, and even agricultural regions, especially near water. They are tolerant of human activity, often being found close to villages. Distributed as far north as North Korea and the Amur basin and as far south as Bali, the leopard cat’s range extends towards Pakistan through northern India, the southern Himalaya, Bangladesh, Burma, and Indo-China. They are found on the Philippines, Borneo and Java and several islands near Japan. There is a marked difference in the size, coloration and markings across species and this has led many experts to question whether certain individual sub-species should not be re-classified as separate species in there own right. This list does not contain Tsushima cat, found on the Tsushima Island of Japan, which was only recognised by science in 1988, when it was given species status. It is now believed to be a subspecies of the leopard cat and its population appears to have been separated from the mainland leopard cats for a long time. This is also illustrated with the Iriomote cat, which some believe should classified as a sub-species of leopard cat as Prionailurus bengalensis iriomotensis, whilst it has been recognised as a separate species Prionailurus iriomotensis. Similar arguments are maintained regarding the sub-species found in north eastern Asia, P.b. euptilura (Amur cat or Far Eastern forest cat). Subspecies India to Indo-China and Yunnan - P. b. bengalensis
Borneo - P. b. borneoensis
China and Taiwan - P. b. chinensis
The Far Eastern forest cat, East Siberia - P. b. euptilura
Kashmir to Sikkim - P. b. horsfieldi
Java and Bali - P. b. javanensis
Manchuria - P. b. manchurica
Philippines - P. b. minuta
Sumatra - P. b. sumatrans
North Kashmir to South Baluchistan, Pakistan - P. b. trevelyani
CONSERVATION ISSUES Insufficient information exists about the numbers of leopard cats in the wild to really assess their status. Although subspecies may be threatened, the species is sufficiently widespread to withstand a lot of human encroachment. In recent years, mainly due to the high profile of conservation measures on 'big cat' fur trading, emphasis of trading has moved to the smaller wild cat species and the leopard cat is under continued threat from hunting in many parts of its range where skins of spotted cats are always in demand. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the Philippine leopard cat (P.p. japonensis) as vulnerable whilst all other subspecies are considered least concern. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) holds the leopard cat on Appendix II, strictly regulating international commerce. Populations of Bangladesh, India and Thailand P. b. bengalensis are included on Appendix I which prohibits all international trade in products of that subspecies.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Leopard cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Leopard cat

Related Links

-

 

MARGAY, LONG-TAILED CAT, TREE OCELOT

Leopardus wiedi

Sometimes called the long-tailed spotted cat, the name margay is an anglicised version of “marguey” which translates as “tiger cat”. It is also referred to as the little or tree ocelot. There is potentially a great deal of confusion between the colloquial names of the small spotted Latin American felids. Margays are excellent climbers and spend more time in the trees than on the ground. Strictly arboreal, the margay is more strongly associated with forest habitat, both evergreen and deciduous than any other tropical American cat and is usually found in forested areas. It appears to be less tolerant of human settlement and altered habitat than its close relatives, the ocelot and oncilla, although it has been occasionally reported outside forested areas in modified habitat such as shady coffee and cocoa plantations. The margay once ranged from Texas (where they are now extinct) through Central America and south to northern Peru. They have a very similar distribution to the oncilla, ocelot, jaguar and jaguarundi which are all found in the same habitats. These species have been little studied, but they must have evolved to avoid close competition with one another – for example margays are nocturnal and arboreal, which avoids them having to compete with the terrestrial, diurnal ocelot. Very little is known of the margay’s status and abundance across its range. The Amazon Basin is its stronghold. Extremely rare in Central America, Margays live at low population densities in areas which are being rapidly destroyed. Subspecies Eleven subspecies of margay have been described: East and central Brazil to north Argentina - L. w. wiedii
Amazonas, Brazil - L. w. amazonica
Bolivia and Mato Grosso, Brazil - L. w. boliviae
Nuevo Leon, Mexico and Texas border - L. w. cooperi
Sinaloa to north Oaxaca, Mexico - L. w. glacula
Honduras to Costa Rica - L. w. nicaraguae
Tamaulipas to Oaxaca, Mexico - L. w. oaxacensis
Panama to north Peru - L. w. pirrensis
Chiapas, Guatemala, El Salvador - L. w. salvinia
Orinoco to Amazon Basin - L. w. vigens
North Chiapas to north Guatemala and Yucatan - L. w. yucatanica
CONSERVATION ISSUES The margay has been one of the most heavily exploited Latin American cats, with an average annual net trade reported to CITES of 13,934 skins between 1976 and 1984, as emphasis of exploitation shifted onto them, due to restrictions on jaguar and ocelot. Illegal hunting for domestic markets or for the underground skin trade has been reported to be a continuing a problem in some areas. Deforestation is now the primary threat to reduced populations now that international trade has virtually ceased. Along with ocelots they were extremely popular as exotic pets in the USA. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the species as vulnerable. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) holds the leopard cat on Appendix I which prohibits all international trade in products.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Margay

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Margay

Related Links

-

 

MARBLED CAT

Pardofelis marmorata

The marbled cat is found in northern India, Nepal, Guangxi and Yunnan provinces in China, and south through Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam, peninsular Malaysia, Sumatra (Indonesia), and Borneo. Throughout its range it is thought to be rare, although it has also been suggested that the perception of the marbled cat's rarity may be caused by its secretive nature and its preference for remote forest areas. It is rarely seen in the wild. Too little is known of the Marbled Cat for any reliable statements to be made about its habitat requirements. It has been found in tropical forests from Nepal through southeast Asia to Borneo and Sumatra, but its presence in parts of the area is known only from single observations. It is thought to spend a lot of its time in trees where it is difficult to see and it may be more widely distributed than is at present known. Subspecies P.m.charltoni
P.m.marmorata
P. m. marmorata is the southern subspecies from Malaysia and Borneo. CONSERVATION ISSUES Because of its dependence on forest habitat, the major threat to the marbled cat is habitat destruction caused by felling of trees and the traditional, shifting, 'jhum' method of local cultivation. The marbled cat is thought to be intolerant of human disturbance, abandoning a forest that is even moderately disturbed. Poaching for skins, bones and meat may also be a threat. Other conservation issues include insurgency, straying into human habitation, and various developmental activities. Marbled cats are extremely vulnerable to the dramatic loss of tropical forest in southeast Asia. Population numbers are almost completely unknown, very few skins are on the market despite heavy hunting pressure. The conclusion of the Cat Specialist Group at a conference in Kanha National Park, India in 1984, was that the marbled cat was very rare. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the species as vulnerable. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) holds the leopard cat on Appendix I which prohibits all international trade in products.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Marbled Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Marbled Cat

Related Links

-

 

OCELOT

Leopardus pardalis

Ocelots are found in central America and northern countries of South America (but not Chile). Although ocelots do not live on the high plateaux of Bolivia and central Peru, they are found in the mountains of Colombia, Ecuador and north Peru. The distribution of the ocelot is almost identical to those of the oncilla, margay, jaguar and jaguarundi. They are found from Arizona and south west Texas through Central America to Paraguay, Uruguay, Ecuador, northern Peru, Bolivia and northern Argentina. The habitats ocelots utilise are very diverse: rain forest, montane forest, thick bush, semi-desert, marsh and river banks, but never in open country. Pet ocelots have escaped or have been released near Miami, it is thought that they may now form a self-sustaining Florida population. Ocelots have 36 chromosomes. Most of the other species of cats have 38. This has led some workers to separate them, with the margay and oncilla into the separate genus Leopardus. Subspecies Eleven subspecies of ocelot have been described: Vera Cruz to Honduras - L. p. pardales
Costa Rica to Peru - L. p. aequatorialis
Texas to Tamaulipa, Mexico - L. p. albescens
Orinoco to Amazonas - L. p. maripensis
Nicaragua to Panama - L. p. mearnsi
East and Central Brazil to north Argentina - L. p. mitis
Sinaloa to Oaxaca, Mexico - L. p. Nelson
North Venezuela to north Colombia - L. p. pseudopardalis
South west Ecuador - L. p. pusaea
Arizona to Sinaloa, Mexico - L. p. sonoriensis
Central Bolivia - L. p. steinbachi
CONSERVATION ISSUES The ocelot's attractive coat once made it a prime target of the fur trade. The ocelot was the spotted cat most heavily exploited by the fur trade from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. They were heavily exploited by the fur trade, and their long gestation and small litter size makes recruitment rates back into the population slow. Ocelots are relatively tolerant of human settlement. The oclet is not listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) red data list. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) holds the leopard cat on Appendix I which prohibits all international trade in products.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Ocelot

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Ocelot

Related Links

-

 

PALLAS CAT, MANUL

Otocolobus manul

The Pallas cat or manul is scattered throughout Central Asia, from Transcaucasia and the eastern shoreline of the Caspian Sea through to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, east and central Kazakhstan, and Tibet, to the Altai, Tuva, Mongolia and Sichuan, and south to Iran, Afghanistan and east Ladak. This area comprises, steppes, deserts, rocky plateaus and treeless rocky mountainsides. It is possible that in parts of their range manuls could be quite common. Subspecies Three subspecies are described: Mongolia - O. m. manul
Southwest Turkestan, Afghanistan and Iran - O. m. ferrunginea
Tibet and Kashmir - O. m. nigripectus
During the last glaciation Pallas's cat was found in Europe, and in Ladak they have been seen higher than 4,000 metres. CONSERVATION ISSUES The ocelot's attractive coat once made it a prime target of the fur trade. The ocelot was the spotted cat most heavily exploited by the fur trade from the early 1960s to the mid-1970s. They were heavily exploited by the fur trade, and their long gestation and small litter size makes recruitment rates back into the population slow. Ocelots are relatively tolerant of human settlement. The IUCN Red List has the 'red' manul (O. m. ferrugineous) as Near Threatened but other manul subspecies as Least Concern. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) places the manul on Appendix II, allowing strictly regulated trade.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Pallas Cat

Research Projects

Ecology and Conservation of Pallas Cat in Central Mongolia

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Pallas Cat

Related Links

-

 

PAMPAS CAT, COLOCOLO, GRASS CAT

Oncifelis colocolo

Pampas cats live in South America from Ecuador to Patagonia. The pampas cat is strongly associated with grass and shrub habitats. In addition to the pampas grassland formations for which it is named, it also occurs throughout the cerrado (open wood, shrub and grass complexes) of central Brazil. The pampas cat also occurs in several forest types, typically open woodland or scrub thicket, such as the Gran Chaco, but also the belt of "yungas" cloud forest that runs along the slopes of the Andes. It is absent only from lowland rainforest, both tropical and temperate Valdivian. At the southern extent of its range, it occurs in the cold semi-arid desert of Patagonia. It occurs on both the eastern and western slopes of the Andes, with an elevational range from 100 up to over 5,000 m, where it is possibly sympatric with the Andean mountain cat. Little is known about these small South American cats, and the subspecies vary considerably from each other. Subspecies Seven subspecies have been described: Central Chile - O. c. colocolo
Central Brazil - O. c. braccata
Northwest Argentina - O. c. budini
Northwest Argentina - O. c. crespoi
South Peru and west Bolivia - O. c. garleppi
Central Argentina - O. c. pajeros
Ecuador and north Peru - O. c. thomasi
A taxonomic evaluation of 96 museum specimens leads García-Perea (1994) to propose that, given pronounced geographic differences, the "pampas cat" is actually three species: Lynchailurus pajeros [high Andes from Ecuador to Patagonia and throughout Argentina]; L. braccatus [warm grassland and sub-tropical forest in Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay]; and L. colocolo [central and north-western Chile]. CONSERVATION ISSUES The pampas cat is widely distributed, tolerant of altered habitat (including secondary growth, forest plantation, and the fringes of agricultural and settled areas), and international trade in its pelt has largely ceased since the late 1980’s. It has been described as less common than the Geoffroy’s cat, records are scarce and the species is generally considered rare. The pampas cats of Chile (L. c. colocolo) are the most endangered group due to small geographic range. The IUCN Red List lists the pampas cat as Near Threatened. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have restricted international commerce in products of the pampas cat, by listing on Appendix II.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Pampas Cat

Research Projects

Pampas cat ecology and conservation in the Brazilian grasslands (pdf file link)

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Pampas Cat

Related Links

-

 

JAGUAR

Panthera onca

The jaguar is depicted as the New World version of the leopard, as it exhibits very similar physical markings with black spots and blotches on a yellowish background. In actual fact the spots are rosettes, which, in contrast to the leopard, completely enclose one or more dots in a field darker than the regular background colour. The jaguar is also heavier set than the leopard with a broader head and muzzle and thicker, shorter legs. Despite these differences it is believed that the two species evolved from a common ancestor in Eurasia with the present-day jaguar crossing into North America on the Bering land bridge. No longer extant in the northern part of its old range, the jaguar can be found from northern Mexico all the way south to northern Argentina at altitudes up to 3,500m (ISEC, 2002). Extremely rare sightings in the very southern United States are believed to be roaming migrants from the Mexican population.

Like the tiger in Asia, the jaguar does not abide by the popular theory that cats dislike water. In fact jaguars are strongly associated with water, often thriving in riparian lowlands like the Amazon basin or in seasonally flooded grassland habitats like the Brazilian Pantanal or Venezuelan Llanos. They are considered to be excellent swimmers and strong climbers however most of their hunting is done on the ground. As the largest cat in the western hemisphere and strikingly patterned as well, it is not surprising that the jaguar is a dominant feature in numerous indigenous cultures throughout Central and South America. The Olmecs of Central Mexico revered these cats; building monuments in their honour while for the Mayans the jaguar symbolized the night sun of the underworld and therefore was the personification of fear, night terror and death. In stark contrast to this view is that of the Tucano Indians of Amazonia who consider the jaguar as the earthly incarnation of the sun, one of the most powerful symbols in their worldview. Subspecies

CONSERVATION ISSUES

Originally the threats to this large felid came from commercial exploitation for their skins, however now they are threatened more by the persistent twin ravages of habitat destruction and human encroachment. As jaguars live in typically dense forest, they’re prey tend to be smaller and less concentrated requiring larger land areas per animal. This means that habitat fragmentation, an event occurring at alarming rates in Central America, can have dire consequences for this species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the jaguar as near threatened, without differentiating between the various subspecies. If this cat were treated as thoroughly as, say, the tiger it is likely that several subspecies would achieve a higher rating. International commerce in jaguar products has been prohibited under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Jaguar

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Jaguar

Related Links

Save the Jaguar (WCS)

 

PUMA/COUGAR

Panthera concolor

The puma or cougar is the big cat with the largest latitudinal range, extending from the northern reaches of British Columbia to the very southern tip of South America. This perhaps explains the diversity of names that are regionally used to describe this relatively plain-featured felid. From the widespread standards such as puma, mountain lion and panther to the more colourful and regionally restricted mountain devil, painter, red tiger, catamount and mountain screamer. There are at least 19 sub-species across this range, varying in coat colour from sandy brown to a deep, reddish tinge, all one coloured and exhibiting no other markings. The larger specimens are found in North America. Cougars inhabit a wide variety of habitat types ranging from swamps to deserts, moist deciduous forests to cold, dry coniferous forests and at altitudes up to 4,500m. Like the other big cats, the cougar has attained mythological significance throughout its range. This is perhaps best exemplified in the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco in Peru the design of which was inspired by the physical shape of the cougar.

They are hardy, adaptable cats that can survive by changing their prey base as circumstances dictate and are able to live in very close proximity to human settlement, often unbeknownst to the inhabitants. Subspecies North America: P.c. borbensis, P.c. californicus, P.c. cougar, P.c. concolor, P.c. coryi, P.c. costaricensis. Central America: P.c. hippolestes, P.c. kaibabensis, P.c. oregonensis, P.c. schorgeri, P.c. stanleyana. South America: P.c. acrocodia, P.c. anthonyi, P.c. bangsi, P.c. greeni, P.c. hudsoni, P.c. osgoodi, P.c. pearsoni, P.c. puma. CONSERVATION ISSUES This tight spatial relationship with people has led to much conflict between the species with cougars increasingly including domestic livestock in their diets as encroachment intensifies. A typical response to this kind of livestock predation has been for ranchers to put out poisoned carcasses for the raiding carnivore. However as cougars often refuse to eat anything not killed by them, this method has proven inefficient, often unintentionally penalizing other scavengers that do show up for the feast. Unfortunately ranchers, led by US government agencies have simply changed tactics and gone after cougars with guns, snares, traps and hunting dogs in an effort to safeguard their herds. This has fragmented cougar populations. A case in point is the Florida panther, sub-species of the cougar; it has been decimated by persistent persecution and the sharp reduction of its habitat to the point that only about 50 individuals exist in the wild. For a large carnivore this number is tragically small and not viable. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the jaguar as near threatened, without differentiating between the various subspecies. If this cat were treated as thoroughly as, say, the tiger it is likely that several subspecies would achieve a higher rating. International commerce in both the P. c coryi and P. c. costaricensis subspecies is prohibited under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Trade in products other than these subspecies is strictly limited under international law (CITES Appendix II).

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Puma

Research Projects

Felidae Conservation - Puma

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Puma

Related Links

-

 

RUSTY-SPOTTED CAT

Prionailurus rubiginosus

Rusty-spotted cats inhabit Southern India and Sri Lanka. It is found in southern India, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, and Sri Lanka, but recent reports of sightings elsewhere in India suggest that it may be more widely distributed. In India the rusty-spotted cat is found in moist and dry deciduous forests, tropical thorn forest, scrub forest grasslands, arid shrublands, rocky areas, and hill slopes. In Sri Lanka the rusty-spotted cat is found from sea level to elevations of 2100 m (6900‘) in dry and monsoon forest and grassland. Subspecies Two subspecies are usually recognised: India - P. r. rubiginosus
Sri Lanka - P. r. phillipsi
CONSERVATION ISSUES Habitat loss and the spread of cultivation are serious problems for wildlife in both India and Sri Lanka. In addition, carnivores which take poultry are vulnerable to persecution. The IUCN Red List identifies the species as vulnerable. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have restricted international commerce in products by listing on Appendix I.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Rusty-spotted Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Rusty-spotted Cat

Related Links

-

 

SAND CAT, SAND DUNE CAT

Felis margarita

Sand cats range across N Africa and SW Asia (Sahara to Baluchistan), occuring through the northern Sahara, Egypt, Israel, the Arabian Peninsular and Iran, to Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Pakistan. Sand cats inhabit inhospitable arid regions which are characterized by rolling sand dunes, flat stony plains and rocky deserts. They seems to display a preference for ergs, regions of shifting sand, and areas of sand dunes covered with sparse vegetation. Subspecies There are six described subspecies: The Sahara, Algeria to Arabia - F. m. margarita
Niger and the Sudan - F. m. airensis
Sahara (Algeria) - F. m. meinertzhageni
Turkestan - F. m. thinobia
Pakistan - F. m. scheffeli
Arabia/Jordan - F. m. harrisoni
F. m. thinobia is the largest of the subspecies and has almost no patterning at all. Individuals from the western parts of the sand cat’s range tend to be more brightly coloured and more distinctively marked. These subspecies, and those of many other animals, are often the subject of much taxonomic debate and many are disputed. CONSERVATION ISSUES Although the current lack of knowledge about the species’ status and biology makes an assessment premature, the sand cat appears to be one of the least threatened felid species. Its preferred habitat is not being lost or degraded; desertification should actually benefit the species. The IUCN Red List has the Pakistan sand cat (F. m. scheffeli) as Near Threatened, other sand cat subspecies as Least Concern. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists the sand cat on Appendix II.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Sand Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Sand Cat

Related Links

-

 

SERVAL

Leptailurus serval

Servals live in Africa from south of the Sahara to southern Africa. Servals prefer well watered grasslands, and are confined to areas near water and with adequate shelter. They do not live in densely forested areas. Widely distributed, they are reasonably common over all of Africa south of the Sahara except for rainforest and semi-deserts or desert areas. Subspecies There are 14 recognised subspecies: Cape Province - L. s. serval
Mozambique - L. s. beirae
Servaline cat: Sierra Leone to Ethiopia - L. s. brachyura
Algeria-Atlas - L. s. constantina
East Transvaal - L. s. hamiltoni
Tanzania - L. s. hindeio
South Zimbabwe, Botswana, southwest Africa - L. s. ingridi
Uganda - L. s. kempi
Congo and Angola - L. s. kivuensis
North Angola - L. s. liposticta
South west Angola - L. s. lonnbergi
North Botswana - L. s. mababiensis
West Transvaal - L. s. robertsi
Dahomey and Togo - L. s. togoensis
F. m. thinobia is the largest of the subspecies and has almost no patterning at all. Individuals from the western parts of the sand cat’s range tend to be more brightly coloured and more distinctively marked. These subspecies, and those of many other animals, are often the subject of much taxonomic debate and many are disputed. CONSERVATION ISSUES The principle threats they face in the rest of their ranges are habitat loss and persecution . The IUCN Red List has the North African serval (L. s. constantinus) as Endangered but all other serval subspecies as Least Concern. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) have restricted international commerce in products by listing on Appendix I.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Serval

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Serval

Related Links

-

 

SNOW LEOPARD / OUNCE

Uncia uncia

Snow leopards are the most mysterious of the big cats. With their ghostly grey coats and inhabiting treacherous, inhospitable wilderness they have until recently been relatively unstudied in the wild. Reasearcher rarely encounter live animals, and they make themselves conspicuous only in a secondary manner by leaving scrapes, scent marks and fecal deposits at particular locations for others of their kind to interpret.

Unusually for the big cats, in the winter months snow leopards often supplement their carnivorous diet with plant matter, especially willow bark. Further separating them from other big cats (except the similarly restricted cheetah) is their inability to roar and their trait of eating while in a crouch position, both characteristics usually associated with the smaller cats. Their fur is exceedingly long – up to six cm’s on the chest – as it is an essential for such harsh conditions. Other adaptations for the cold include a long, rounded tail of long hairs used to wrap around the body when sleeping for extra insulation and broad footpads covered with a cushion of hair. This hair increases the surface area of the feet and helps to distribute weight evenly over the snow. They also protect the pads from extreme cold. Snow leopards are extremely agile felids with the ability to leap as many as 15 m in a single bound, their long tails acting as an effective counterbalance. A favourite daytime hangout is apparently atop a huge nest – accessed by a straight vertical leap -built by a black vulture. Subspecies CONSERVATION ISSUES With prey few and far between in most parts of their Central Asian range, snow leopards have probably never been particularly common, however it is their very beauty that has been their biggest curse. The rapacious fur industry, charmed by the thick, plush fur wreaked havoc with snow leopard populations and it is estimated that only 4,000-7,000 remain in the wild. The demand for snow leopard products for medicinal usage is also rampant. Compounding the decimation due to poaching, much of the snow leopard’s traditional prey has been eradicated. This includes large ungulates hunted to extinction or replaced by domestic stock and pika and marmots poisoned in they’re thousands by ranchers who see them as detrimental to their livelihood. The International Snow Leopard Trust was founded in 1981 to deal with some of these issues, however in the remote regions where snow leopards are mostly found attempts at conservation are slow moving and difficult. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the snow leopard as endangered. International commerce in the snow leopard is prohibited under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Snow Leopard

Research Projects

Felidae Conservation Fund - Snow Leopard

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Snow leopard

Related Links

Snow Leopard Trust

Snow Leopard Conservancy

Snow Leopard Network

WWF - Snow leopard Ecology

 

TIGER

Panthera tigris

The largest and perhaps most instantly recognizable of the Big Cats, the tiger is one of the world’s most critically endangered species. Already at least three sub-species – the Bali, Caspian and Javan – have been rendered extinct, while the numbers of three other sub-species – the South China, Siberian and Sumatran – are scant, with estimated populations of 20-30, 300-400 and 400-500 respectively. While evidence is sparse concerning the Indo-Chinese sub-species, population estimates range from 1,200 to 1,800. It is only the Bengal tiger of Central and Southern India that appears temporarily secure in the wild with an estimated minimum of 3000 animals (note these figures are out of date - the newest figures are in some cases half these estimates).

Tigers are generally solitary animals with the most frequent social groupings being a mother and her cubs or a mating pair. They are nocturnal for the most part but may be active during the day as well, particularly in the colder, northern extents of their range. They require a steady supply of large prey and do not seem to be able to subsist on small prey for any extended period of time. Partially eaten carcasses are often covered over with leaves or other vegetation when the tiger is not eating, a precaution to ensure that scavengers do not easily locate them. Most tigers prefer to stay in the vicinity of their kill, even when they are not eating and frequently alternate between feeding and drinking at a nearby water source. Tigers are comfortable in water and can be found lounging in shaded pools in the heat of the day. Subspecies

Amur (also called: Manchurian; Northeast China; Siberian; Ussuri) Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica)

Bali Tiger (Panthera tigris balica) - extinct Indo-Chinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) - extinct Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) Bengal (Indian) Tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) Caspian (Hyrcanian; Turan) Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) - extinct CONSERVATION ISSUES Initially it was the avid desire of hunters to acquire trophies in the form of skins from these distinctive animals that led to a sharp decline in the population. This was further fuelled by the animal’s size and fierce reputation, which seemed to add a certain sense of inflated machismo to the hunt. As times and attitudes gradually changed, so did the origin of threats to the species. Human encroachment into tiger habitat, particularly in densely populated countries like India has eclipsed trophy hunting as the main cause of population decline. That some tigers, almost always individuals too old or injured to successfully hunt its natural prey, have become 'maneaters' has caused further detriment to its public image. Taken in context and considering the very close, forced association between man and tigers in certain parts of the latter’s range, direct attacks on humans are infrequent indeed. More common however is the human-tiger conflict over domestic animals. With cattle, goats and sheep replacing natural prey species like deer, wild boar and wild goats, tigers have come to rely more and more upon these domestic breeds for their survival, thus triggering an intense rivalry with ranchers and farmers. Unfortunately the hunting of tigers has never stopped, merely changing focus from trophies for the wall to a cornucopia of parts as ingredients for traditional East Asian medicines. The near mythological status of the tiger has meant that everything from its flesh to its bone, its hair to its penis has become imbued with perceived medicinal potency. From Siberia to Malaysia this grand felid is persecuted for the trade, which is perhaps the biggest threat to its continued survival. A final, not insignificant cause of population decline is the exotic pet trade. Uninformed or simply careless individuals consider ownership of a big cat as a status symbol regardless of its predicament in the wild. Recent estimates in Italy suggest that at least 3000 tigers, lions and leopards are kept as personal pets. In response to the declining wild populations the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums selected the Siberian tiger as their first target species for a Species Survival Plan (SSP). This ex-situ (captive) conservation method involves meticulous record-keeping in order to maintain bloodlines and genetic diversity as well as intense research into captive breeding. However these plans tend to overlook the concurrent preservation of natural habitat and the fear remains that even successful SSPs will not have a dramatic effect on wild populations. Most zoos are actually doing a disservice to the big cats (and other endangered species) by giving the false impression that they are plentiful and failing to educate visitors about their precarious situation. A case in point is the Siberian tiger, with a global captive population larger than that in the wild. The relative success of the Bengal sub-species is due entirely to the dedicated conservation efforts of the Indian Wildlife Department initiated by the World Wildlife Fund and World Conservation Union’s 'Project Tiger'. Instituted in 1971 with essential and unwavering support from then President Indira Gandhi this project brought the plight of the tiger into the international arena and raised funds for an ambitious conservation strategy. With numerous issues still plaguing the Southern Indian tiger population, their future is far from rosy, however with the will of the government firmly behind the project there is reason for hope. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) lists the tiger as endangered. The subspecies of the Chinese tiger (P.t. amoyensis), the Amur (or Siberian) tiger (P.t. altaica) and Sumatran tiger (P. t. sumatrae) are listed as critically endangered and are under extreme threat of extinction.

International commerce in cheetah products has been prohibited under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.


LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Tiger

Research Projects

The Sundarbans Tiger project

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Tiger

Related Links

Save the Tiger Fund

Tigris Foundation

The Tiger Foundation

Tiger Conservation in Viet Nam

Tigers Forever (WCS)

-

 

TIGER CAT, LITTLE SPOTTED CAT, ONCILLA

Leopardus tigrinus

Variously known as the tiger cat, little spotted cat, tigrina or the oncilla, this species ranges from Costa Rica south to northern Argentina and possibly north Peru. It is found in cloud and humid lowland forest as high as 1000 metres in altitude. This species has never been studied in the wild, and there is little understanding of its habitat requirements, density, and coexistence with other small cats. Closely related to the ocelot and margay, the oncilla has only 36 chromosomes. Most of the other cats have 38. These species have all been considered to be members of the Felis genus. Wozencraft (1993) in his latest review of cat taxonomy placed them all in the genus Leopardus. Subspecies Three subspecies of the oncilla have been described: East Venezuela to northeast Brazil - L. t. tigrina
East central Brazil to northern Argentina - L. t. guttula
West Venezuela to west Ecuador – L. t. pardinoides
CONSERVATION ISSUES
Deforestation for coffee plantations has extracted a big toll from oncilla populations, particularly in the northern parts of the range. Oncillas became extremely popular as fur coats when trade in the larger Latin American spotted cats was restricted under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Since then, their population decline has prompted concern. The IUCN Red List has the oncilla as Near Threatened. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) lists this species on Appendix I, prohibiting all international commerce in oncillas or products made from them.

LINKS

Species Accounts and Information

IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group - Cat Species Information

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species - Tiger Cat

Research Projects

-

General Information

BBC - Wildfacts - Serval

Related Links

-

 

Scottish Wildcat

 

 

title

Add your main content here - text, photos, videos, addons, whatever you want!