Weekend Cat Blogging #203: Endangered Wild Cats #3

We at CatSynth continue our Earth Day (or “erf day”) tradition of reporting on endangered wildcats from around the world.

We are always interested to learn about new cats, such as the Kodkod or huiña. Huiñas are relatively small (often 5lbs or less), and quite furry, and far found primarily in Chile and parts of western Argentina. It is also considered among the most endangered wild cats in South America, though very little is known about it. The Cat Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union conducted a study of the huiña in 2006.

The huiña may be related to the more common Geoffroy’s Cat, which found in the hills and plains of Argentina. Although not officially endangered, it classified as near threatened. The CSG worked on a separate project to study the Geoffroy’s Cat in 2007.

As such studies suggest, our knowledge of wildlife is always changing and growing. The Bornean Clouded Leopard has been known for a long time, but with few sightings and very little information. In 2006, it was officially recognized as a separate species, and immediately listed as a Vulnerable species.

With our recent interest in China, we thought we would feature one of China’s endangered cat species, the Chinese Mountain Cat. Like other wild cats, it is quite elusive. National Geographic presents a series of rare photos from 2007. The Chinese Mountain Cat is listed as a Vulnerable species, and currently does not have much protection in China (the only country where it is found):

Sanderson is hoping that the new images will reveal some of the secretive habits that have kept the creature a mystery to scientists for nearly a century.

“Pandas go for a million [U.S.] dollars a year to rent and are very well protected by Chinese law, but there is virtually no protection for this cat,” he told National Geographic News.

“There’s no interest in its conservation because it’s poorly known, but now perhaps this will change.”

We next visit the endangered cats here in the United States. The National Wildlife Federation maintains a report on Endangered Cats of North America, which lists several well-known species. The Florida Panther continues to be critically endangered. Current estimates suggest that there are fewer than 200 remaining, primarily in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge and portions of the Everglades National Park. The main threats to the panther have been habit loss and scarcity of prey, though other issues such as inbreeding in such a small population can potentially be a large problem as well.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist proclaimed March 21, 2009 as “Save the Floriday Panther Day”, and the species remains a major focus of conservation efforts.

Another critically endangered wild cat in the United States is the Texas subspecies of the ocelot. Although still relatively plentiful in Central America, the Environmental Defense Fund suggests that as few as 100 may be left. Although they face the same threats as other cats, including habitat loss, pressures from human development and inbreeding of small populations, the Texas ocelot is caught up in the nasty political pressures involving immigration and border protection. From the National Wildlife Federation Report:

Increased efforts by the U.S. Border Patrol to stop illegal immigration into Texas from Mexico has degraded native habitat along the border. Some experts fear that the use of high-pow-ered “stadium” lights, brush clearing, fencing and road paving by Border Patrol operations in border areas has been detrimental to both the ocelot and its prey and threatens to inhibit ocelot and jaguarundi dispersalprotection. By the same token, additional research is needed on the historic and present-day distribution of small border cats and on the most pressing factors contributing to their decline. Reaching out to local communities through educational initiatives may be the most effective way to generate grassroots support and to bolster resources for ocelot and jaguarundi.

We have previously discussed how border politics, including a proposed border fence, threatened these cats.

On a positive note, the EDF cites several groups on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border working together to help protect these wild cats.

In additional exploring the cats themselves, we have the opportunity to learn about organizations that are working to promote and protect feline species. Most of the large wildlife conservation organizations, including those listed above (World Conservation Union, National Wildlife Federation, and the Environmental Defense Fund), have projects related to cats. Additionally there are organizations such as the Feline Conservation Federation, which was a valuable source of information about cat species.

Although we list both small and large cats, we have been most interested in following small cat species, which receive less public attention than the large and celebrated big cats, like lions and tigers. I came across this rather extensive list of small cat species at the site The Messy Beast.

Weekend Cat Blogging #203 is hosted by Salome at Paulchens Food Blog?!

The Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos (for us, the “wild cats festival of chaos”) will be hosted by Mr. Tigger and M-Cats Club.

The Carnival of the Cats will be up on Sunday at Mind of Mog.

And of course the Friday Ark is at the modulator.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Wildcats, House Panthers and "erf day"

Luna continues to enjoy her “House Panther” status and all the warm compliments. But this weekend, we celebrate cats both domestic and wild, just as we did last year on Earth Day (or “erf day”).

We start again with the Cat Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union (CSG), but focusing on something positive. They are featuring a study of the jungle cat (Felis chaus) and leopard cat (Prionailurus bengalensis), pictured to the right:

The family Felidae is well represented in India, with 15 species occurring here, making it the richest in cats worldwide. However, except for the large cats the rest figure very poorly in research and conservation policies in the country, probably because of their rarity and elusive nocturnal habits, coupled with cumbersome bureaucratic formalities in studying rare species. Fortunately, in the past few years non-invasive molecular techniques have been introduced in wildlife research in India, which has made small cat research easier.

Another endangered cat of India and Southeast Asia is the Fishing Cat. It is a close relative of the leopard cat, and shares some of the same habitat. However, the fishing cat (not surprisingly) is better adapted to hunting and eating fish, and is an excellent swimmer.

The fishing cat is one of many species featured in The Smithsonian National Zoo's Cat Conservation Project.

Note that these are all “small cats”, which often do not get the attention of the larger cat species, which are of course magnificent and also seriously endangered in many cases. Certainly, the small cats share some of the endearing qualities in appearance to our domestic felines (which are believed to be descendants of African wild cats).

Few wild cats resemble their domestic counterparts more than the Oncilla of South America. However, it seems relatively little is known about this species of cat. According to the CSG, it has never been studied in the wild, and little is known about its behavior or population. However, it is been trapped in the past for the fur trade:

n 1971, 28,000 pelts were counted in Brazilian warehouses, and in 1983, 84,500 skins were exported from Paraguay (Broad 1988)

The Oncilla closely resembles the better known Margay, which inhabits both Central and South America, and is not considered endangered. They are skillful tree climbers, and sometimes referred to as “Tree Ocelots,” taking the name from one of the more well-known wild cats of the Americas.

If you interested in this topic, please visit last year's article, which discusses some of the worlds most endangered cats, including the Iberian Lynx, which continues to be the most endangered in the world, with an estimated population in the hundred. Also, the intriguing little Andean Mountain Cat, illustrated to the right.

And speaking of house panthers…

Weekend Cat Blogging #151 is hosted by Luna's “twin” Puddy, along with Katie of A Byootaful Life.

And that's not all. The Carnival of the Cats is being hosted by the Diamond Emerald Eyes (whose mom created Luna's collage at the top of this article) at House Panthers!

The Bengal Brats may not be “house panthers”, but we still love them. They are hosting the Bad Kitty Cats Festival of Chaos at Pet's Garden Blog.

And lest we forget, the friday ark is at the modulator.