Every year, we at CatSynth set aside Weekend Cat Blogging on Earth Day to look at some of the wild cat species around the world. In particular, we focus on some of the smaller wild cats, which after often less well known than the big cats such as tigers, lions and leopards, but in many cases just as endangered.
We begin with the Iriomote cat, a critically endangered wildcat found only on the remote Japanese island of Iriomote.
There are estimated to be only 100 or so left in the wild. The main threats, habit removal and non-native species (notably feral domestic cats), are exacerbated by the fact they are exclusive to one island. One third of the island has been declared a wildlife reserve with a Iriomote Wildlife Center set up to study and protect them. But with such a small population, their future remains uncertain.
With all the events and focus on the Middle East and North Africa this year, it also seems appropriate to feature the sand cat (felis margarita).
As their name implies, sand cats are found in deserts, in particular in pockets in Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco in North Africa, on the Arabian Peninsula. But there are also subspecies found in Iran and as far east as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although not endangered overall, individual local populations are, such as Israel where it became locally extinct. A program by the Jerusalem Zoo aims to re-introduce them.
In looking up information for this article, I came across the International Society for Endangered Cats (ISEC), an organization based in Canada dedicated to “aid in the wild conservation and captive preservation of endangered and threatened small wild cat species though education, scientific observation and support for captive breeding of critically endangered species.” They have several active projects at the moment, including a study of the black-footed cat.
The black-footed cat is found in the southwest of Africa, i.e., Namibia, Botswana and parts of South Africa. They are among the smallest of wild cats, and as nocturnal creatures they are rarely seen. One thing that makes them unusual is that they don’t climb trees but instead burrow into the ground for shelter.
The ISEC is also conducting a study of the Argentine Espinal:
The Argentine Espinal is an arid grassland and shrubland mosaic that has been greatly modified since the 1600’s, when cattle became the prominent species on the landscape. Found today only in fragmented patches, the Espinal was once home to a great diversity of birds, plants and mammals, among them a unique guild of felids composed of the Pampas cat Leopardus colocolo, Geoffroy’s cat Leopardus geoffroyi, Jaguarundi Puma yagouaroundi and Puma Puma concolor.
We have discussed the Geoffroy’s cat in a previous post. They are still relatively common and have a large range in southern South America. However, they are classified as “near-threatened”, primarily because of habit fragmentation and other concerns.
We also encountered the Pampas cat before. Because there has not been much study of these cats, their conservation status is not officially listed. As one can tell from the photo, it is a somewhat heavier looking cat than many of the other species. Little is known about its diet or hunting habits. Despite being named for the Pampas, their range extends far beyond its geographical boundaries.
For more information, please visit the ISEC website. In our back yard, the Felidae Conservation Fund is also involved in wild-cat studies around the world, as well as close to home with a study of Bay Area mountain lions. Other organizations involved in cat conservation include the Feline Conservation Federation, and the Cat Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union.
Weekend Cat Blogging #307 is hosted by Jules at Judi’s Mind Over Matter.
The Carnival of the Cats will be hosted this Sunday by Meowza.
And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.