Every year on or around Earth Day, we at CatSynth dedicate our Weekend Cat Blogging post to the endangered wild cats of the world.
There are 37 known species of cats, including the domestic cats. As those of us who share our lives with domestic cats know, they share a lot in common with their wild cousins, especially the closest wild species Felis Silvestris, otherwise known as the “wild cat.” Indeed, domestic cats are considered likely descendants of the African and Middle Eastern subspecies of the wild cat.
Beyond the similarities, however, there is quite a bit of diversity among the species of small wild cats in terms of size, appearance and behavior. We have following the work of the International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC) Canada over the past year, which has given us the opportunity to learn more about many of these cats and the efforts to protect them. Among ISEC Canada’s sponsored projects is the study of the Black-Footed Cat, which is found in southern Africa and is among the smallest of wild cat species.
[Image courtesy of ISEC Canada.]
The Black-Footed Cat is considered vulnerable, with an estimated population of about 10,000. They have been among the lesser studied cats, so this current project will help us understand them and the threats they face better.
ISEC Canada is also sponsoring a project in Argentina. Here they study the Geoffroy’s Cat.
[Photo by Mr. Guilt, courtesy of ISEC Canada]
Although considered to be relatively widespread in open areas of South America, little is known about them. This project has helped researches learn about the Geoffroy’s Cat, and also the rarer Pampas Cat.
[Photo © GECM-UNS, courtesy of ISEC Canada]
This and several other great photos of felids of the Argentine Espinal can be found here.
Over the past year, I have also become acquainted with another species, the Pallas’ Cat.
Pallas’ cats are native to the high-altitude grasslands of Central Asia including Mongolia, western China, and parts of Russia and Afghanistan. Though this particular cat resides in the Prospect Park Zoo in Brookyln. You can read about my encounter with the Pallas’ cat in this article.
Pallas’ cats are about the same size as domestic cats, but have quite a different appearance suited to their habitat. Another very distinctive looking cat is the Caracal, with its black ear tufts.
[Photography via Wikimedia Commons.]
Caracals have a large range over much of Africa and the Middle East, though they are not often seen. They are not considered endangered, though their populations are smaller in North Africa than in the south.
Another organization that works to preserve wild cats and educate the public about them is the Felidae Conservation Fund. They are based here in northern California, and one of their main projects is studying our local puma population. They are also involved in other projects, such as studying the Andean Cat and the Fishing Cat.
[Photo by Ben Williams, courtesy of ISEC Canada.]
The fishing cat is quite photogenic, as can be seen in the above photo by a member and supporter of ISEC Canada. (Click here to see more images.) Fishing cats are found in Southeast Asia, and are uniquely adapted to catching fish. They even have webbed front paws. Visit Fishing Cat Project (supported by the Felidae Fund) to find out more about their conservation.
We conclude with another cat species that we have not featured in previous posts, the Rusty Spotted Cat.
The rusty spotted cat is among the smallest of cat species. They live in southern India and Sri Lanka and appear to be at home in a wide range of habitats, from humid forests to open grasslands, and even in abandoned houses in densely populated parts of India. You can read more about them here.
There is always more to say about the magnificent cats of the world than we can fit in one article. Please visit our previous wild-cat articles for more. And please also visit ISEC Canada, the Felidae Conservation Fund, and the many other organizations working to conserve endangered wildlife.