This “King of Beasts” once roamed over most parts of the world including Africa, North America and Eurasia. Today, however, they are restricted to the savanna, open expanses, and grassy plains of Africa, and to a small area of western India. There are about 15,000 lions in the wild today. Just ten years ago that number was closer to 50,000. The shrinking numbers are due to hunting and overpopulation of humans.
One hundred and fifty years ago, there lived a subspecies of lion, Panthera leo persica, which was found from India to the Middle East. There are only an estimated few hundred alive today. They can be found in the Gir forest sanctuary in Gujarat, in western India. A sanctuary was set up in 1966 in the Gir forest to try and protect the surviving numbers of Asiatic Lions in India. They are endangered due to hunting and other human factors.
The Lion is the only cat that lives in large social groups, shares its territory, and regularly hunts together. The Lion’s diet consists of wildebeests, antelope, zebras, wild pigs, buffalo, impalas, and other hoofed mammals. The Lionesses do all the hunting in large number of groups or pairs. Prey will be approached with stealth until it is in range, then the cats will lunge and kill the prey by biting its neck. Lions are the dominant carnivores in their habitat and will drive away competitors or even kill them.
The Lion’s head and body can be up to eight feet, two inches, and tail up to three feet, five inches. Its weight can be up to 550 pounds.
Lions are primarily ground-dwellers, but occasionally jump up tree branches. Most Lions will remain in the same territory all year long, however some are nomadic and follow the seasonal prey.
Lions live together in a pride based upon a group of related females (Lionesses) and their cubs. Surprisingly, the pride is led by a dominant female. When a new male joins a pride it will drive away the other males and kill any remaining cubs, then mate with the females to produce his own offspring.
A Lioness will give birth to up to six cubs after a gestation period of 15-17 weeks. All of the Lionesses in the pride share in the rearing of the cubs and the males may even be playful with them.
Common Name: Lion Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Pantherinae Panthera Species: leo NOTE: The lions discussed below are African and Asian.
Misc: The Lion is the only cat with tufted tails (both sexes) and manes (males), with the manes allowing them to be the only cat which you can distinguish gender from a distance. They are also the only true social cat and live in groups called “prides.” The lion has often been called “the King of the Jungle,” but that would be most inaccurate. The lion’s habitat does not include the jungle, and therefore, the correct phrase would refer to the lion as “the King of Beasts.”
Sub-species: Of the known sub-species of lion there seems to be an agreement on 2 as far as genetics go – Pantherinae Panthera leo leo – the African lion, and Pantherinae Panthera leo persica – the Asian lion. Regardless of the area of Africa a lion is found in today, their DNA analysis has shown them to be the same, whereas there is a difference between African and Asian. As of the time of this writing, the Barbary lion has never been tested and compared to these results, and may in fact be a third and distinct lion sub-species.
Size and Appearance: Second only in size to the Siberian tiger among the felines, the lion is the largest carnivore in Africa, and the second largest feline predator in the world. Average males weigh 385-550 pounds, and females weigh 250-450 pounds. The males reach an overall length of 11 feet from the tip of the nose to tip of the tail, and females being just a bit shorter. Lions have a uniformly tawny coat, and the shades of it may vary from light to dark. In the Timbavati region, white lions are found, which is a form of leucism as opposed to albinism. Black (melanistic) lions have not been observed and reports of black lions in captivity have never been confirmed. Males possess a mane and it can range in colors from blonde to red to brown to black. It covers their head, neck and chest, and its development is believed to be strongly influenced by testosterone. Their ears have black spots on the backs, which stay black throughout their lives, unlike the black rosettes that cover their bodies when they are born.
Habitat: The lion prefers to live in open woodlands and thick bush, scrub, and tall grassy areas. The lion can and will tolerate a wide variety of habitats, absent only from rain forests and desert interiors. While lions drink water regularly when it is available, they can survive by obtaining their moisture requirements from their prey or from tsama melons. This allows them to survive in very arid climates.
Distribution: The lion was once found from northern Africa through southwest Asia (extinct in most countries within past 150 years), west into Europe (extinct 2000 years ago) and east into India (relic population of 350 in Gir Forest only). Today, the majority of Africa’s lions can be found in east and southern Africa, with about 1,500 in West Africa. Most of the lions today exist inside protected areas. 2007 surveys estimate only 15,000 lions to be left in the wild and most of those are on game parks where they are hunted as trophies.
Reproduction and Offspring: Lions will reproduce any time of the year, and all females of reproductive maturity will breed at the same time. This allows them to give birth in synchrony with each other, thereby sharing the suckling responsibilities. Any lactating female in a pride will suckle any cub that belongs to the pride. Lions give birth to 1-6 cubs after a gestation of 110 days. The cubs are born blind and helpless, and weigh approximately 2-4 pounds. Cub mortality is very high in lions, and less than half will survive their first year. Young males will leave their pride between 2-4 years if they can get away with staying that long, but sometimes they are forced out as early as 13-20 months. Females remain with their natal pride most of the time, although some will disperse and form new prides. While male lions are physically capable of reproducing at 30 months and females at 24 months, they do not generally successfully reproduce until pride membership has been firmly established.
In captivity, lions can live 20 years, as compared to 12 in the wild for males and 15-16 for females.
Social System and Communication: The lion is the only true social cat and lives in groups called prides. These prides are made up of a single male or a coalition of males (up to 7) and up to 20 females and their offspring. The males defend the females and the territory from strange males, and competition among the males is fierce. A male’s average tenure over a pride is only 2-3 years, but can increase depending on the size and strength of the coalition. Groups of males do better than a lone male. Lions use a variety of vocalizations, most notably the roar. It can be heard over a distance of 5-6 miles, and serves to let other members of the pride know where they are, and as a signal to strange males to stay away. The Africans believe that the lions are speaking and saying “he inchi ya nani – yangu, yangu, yangu” or “whose land is this? It’s mine, mine, mine!” Hear our roars, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
Hunting and Diet: Lions are very opportunistic eaters, and will take almost any prey ranging from small rodents to young rhinos, hippos and elephants. The majority of its prey, however, is medium to large ungulates, most notably zebra, wildebeest, impala, warthog, hartebeest and waterbuck. They will stay away from adult rhinos, hippos, elephants and even giraffes. The females do most of the hunting, and the male will come and join the females after the kill is made. The females will make way for the males and allow him to eat his fill first. Males will participate on a hunt when it is a particularly large prey item – like a water buffalo – where his size and strength is required to bring down such a large animal (although enough females can do it successfully on their own). Males must also hunt during their bachelor stages, when there are no females to take care of them.
Principal Threats: Lions are generally considered problem animals whose existence is at odds with human settlements and cattle culture. Their scavenging behavior makes them highly susceptible to poisoned carcasses put out to eliminate predators. Where the wild prey is migratory, lions will predate on captive stock during the lean season, thus making the nuisance animals and easy targets for humans to eliminate.
Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Not listed. (but should be and in 2012 and 2013 BCR petitioned USFWS to add the lion)
2003 Felid TAG recommendation: Lion (Panthera leo). One of the last SSPs to be developed for an otherwise large and widely held felid, the initiation of the African Lion Studbook in 1992 discovered that only two lions could be traced back to wild founders in Africa. All other lions in zoos, regardless of the institution’s size, were acquired as public donations or from other untraceable sources. Only one purebred Asian lion remains in North America. With a target population of 350 animals, only lions with ancestors that can be traced back to the wild are accepted into the studbook and SSP. Since the SSP began, several dozen lions have been imported, primarily from South Africa, but parties interested in importing additional lions need to ensure that specimens under consideration are unrelated to animals already in this country.
In the case of Asian lions, the wild population will continue to be monitored, with future importations possible from sources within the Indian Lion EEP population. Three institutions had mate killings in the past year.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 69 being in the U.S.
Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book.
Common Name: Leopard Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Pantherinae Panthera Species: pardus (asian) Sub-species: (Not all listed, these are the most common)
Javan leopard – P.p. melas
Amur leopard – P.p. orientalis Indian leopard – P.p. fusca
North Chinese leopard – P.p. japonensis
Somali leopard – P.p. nanopardus
Zanzibar leopard – P.p. adersi
Sinai leopard – P.p. jarvisi
Sri Lankan leopard – P.p. kotiya
Barbary leopard – P.p. panthera
Persian leopard – P.p. saxicolor
Arabian leopard – P.p. nimr
Anatolian leopard – P.p. tulliana
Caucasus leopard – P.p. ciscaucasica
Indochinese leopard – P.p. delacouri
African leopard – P.p. leopardus (pictured, spotted right) Misc: This cat, in its melanistic color phase, is often mistakenly referred to as a black panther. This species has been (and is still) illegally hunted throughout its range for sport, and for its fur.
The leopard is capable of running just under 40 miles per hour for brief periods. It can leap more than 20 feet horizontally, and 10 feet vertically. It is also a very adept swimmer.
Size and Appearance: The leopard is the smallest member of the 4 “great cats” and most closely resembles its cousin the Jaguar. Leopards vary in length from 3 – 6.25 ft with a tail length of 22.5 – 43 inches, and stand 17.5 – 30.5 inches high at the shoulder. Males weigh between 80 – 150 pounds and females between 62.5 – 100 pounds. This spotted cat has short powerful limbs, heavy torso, thick neck, and long tail. Its short sleek coat varies greatly from pale straw and gray buff to bright, deep ochre and chestnut, and sometimes black (found mostly in wetter, dense forests). Large black spots grouped into rosettes on the shoulders, upper arms, back, flanks and haunches, and smaller scattered spots on the lower limbs, head, throat and chest, and the belly has large black blotches.
Habitat: The leopard can adapt to almost any type of habitat that provides it with sufficient food and cover, which excludes only the interior of large deserts. In its range, it is the only large predator in the rain forests.
Distribution: Throughout Africa, from the Arabian Peninsula through Asia to Manchuria and Korea.
Reproduction and Offspring: Leopards are capable of breeding between 2 and 3 years, and produce 1 – 3 cubs after a 90-100 day gestation. The cubs become independent between 13 – 18 months, and siblings may remain together for several months before separating. Females in captivity have produced offspring as old as 19 years, but the average age of last reproduction is 8.5 years.
In captivity, leopards have lived over 20 years, as compared to 10 – 11 in the wild.
Social System and Communication: Leopards are solitary cats, and use the same methods as the other cats for defining their territory: scent marking, feces, and scratch marks. It has a variety of vocalizations including grunting, growling, hissing and meowing. One of their most recognized sounds is their distance call which sounds something like someone sawing wood.
Hunting and Diet: Leopards are very opportunistic animals and have an extremely flexible diet. They will consume protein in almost any form, from beetles up to antelopes twice its own weight. It readily eats carrion, and caches sizeable kills in trees, returning nightly to feed on them. Their main diet consists of over 30 different species including: medium sized antelopes (reedbuck, impala, Tommy’s gazelles) and the young of larger species (topi, hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra) as the primary food sources, with hares, birds and small carnivores rounding out the list. They have even been known to include the occasional baboon in their diet.
Status: CITES: Appendix I
Felid TAG recommendation: Leopard (Panthera pardus). International studbooks for five rare leopard subspecies (Amur, Persian, Chinese, Sri Lankan, and Arabian) have been maintained for as long as 25 years. On the basis of conservation need, space availability, and the potential for obtaining new founders, the Felid TAG has determined that there is only space for one race. The Amur leopard, P. p. orientalis of the Russian Far East, adjacent Manchuria and North Korea has been identified as the leopard for zoos and other North American institutions. Hybrids, other races and color morpho-types will be managed to extinction. The Amur leopard is managed via a PMP and includes AZA zoos, non-member zoos, and private owners as part of the program. The target population of 120 individuals probably will be increased to 150 to meet genetic and demographic objectives. The EEP and the PMP will merge soon to manage this species globally. The Russian Ministry of the Environment has initiated discussion about a potential release program in the Russian Far East.
How rare is this cat? The International Species Information Service lists 459 worldwide, with 195 being in the U.S.
Common Name: Tiger Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata) Class: Mammalia Order: Carnivora Family: Felidae Genus: Pantherinae Panthera Species: tigris
Bengal Tiger – Panthera tigris tigris 1200-1500 left
Siberian (Amurian) Tiger – Panthera tigris altaica 331 left
Sumatran Tiger – Panthera tigris sumatrae 136 left
Indo-Chinese Tiger – Panthera tigris corbetti
Malayan Tiger – Panthera tigris jacksoni **
South China Tiger – Panthera tigris amoyensis 37 left
Javan Tiger – Panthera tigris sondaica – extinct since early 1980’s
Bali Tiger – Panthera tigris balica – extinct since the 1940’s
Caspian Tiger – Panthera tigris virgata – formerly thought to be extinct since the early 1970’s *
*1/16/09 A team of scientists from Oxford University and the NCI Laboratory of Genomic Diversity in the USA have discovered that the Caspian Tiger and the Siberian Tiger have the same DNA. The tiger sub-species studied were the Caspian tiger (Panthera tigris virgata), the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), the Indian – Bengal – tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) and the South China tiger (Panthera tigris amoyensis). The Caspian tiger was found to differ by only one nucleotide of its mitochondrial DNA from the Siberian tiger: other tiger sub-species differ by at least two nucleotides.
**In 2004, the tigers of Peninsular Malaysia were recognized as a new subspecies, Panthera tigris jacksoni, when a genetic analysis found that they are distinct in mtDNA and micro-satellite sequences from tigers of northern Indochina, P. t. corbetti (Luo et al., 2004). However, Mazak and Groves (2006) found no clear morphological differences (in cranial measurements or pelage characteristics) between tigers from Peninsular Malaysia and those elsewhere in Indochina, and argue for inclusion in P. t. corbetti. P. t. jacksoni is provisionally accepted here. The geographic division between P. t. jacksoniand P. t. corbetti is unclear as tiger populations in northern Malaysia are contiguous with those in southern Thailand (T. Lynam pers. comm. 2008).
Misc: This species has been (and is still) widely hunted throughout its range for sport, for the fur trade, and for the traditional Asian medicine market. For the medicine trade – no part of the Tiger’s body goes unused (see diagram below). The tiger is one of the best known mammals, and has become a symbol everywhere for conservation. Today, sadly, there are more tigers in captivity then exist in the wild. There are thought to be between 5,000 and 10,000 tigers in U.S. cages and 90% of them are in miserable roadside zoos, backyard breeder facilities, circus wagons and pet homes. Read about the conviction of those involved in canned hunts in the US.
The numbers on the tiger illustrate parts of the tiger that are traded on the black market. These myths are why the tiger has been hunted nearly to extinction.
Size and Appearance: The largest of all the living cats, the tiger is immediately recognizable by its unique reddish – orange coat with black stripes. Stripe patterns differ among individuals and are as unique to the animal as are fingerprints to humans. The dark lines above the eyes tend to be symmetrical, but the marks on the sides of the face and body can be different. Males have a prominent ruff or collar, which is especially pronounced in the Sumatran tiger.
One single white cub was found in the wild and taken by a hunter who killed his mother and normal colored siblings. He was named Mohan and is the progenitor of most white tigers now in captivity. White tigers would never survive in the wild as the white coat is only produced through severe inbreeding. White tigers have brown stripes and crystal blue eyes, and some specimens in captivity have no stripes at all.
Black tigers have been reported, but only a single pelt from illegal traders remains the only evidence. The pelt shows that the black only occurs on the top of the head and back, but turns into stripes down the sides, unlike in other cats that are completely and truly black (or melanistic).
Body size of the tiger varies with latitude, the smallest occurring at low latitudes in Indonesia and the largest at high altitudes in Manchuria and Siberia. The largest, the Siberian tiger can reach weights exceeding 700 pounds and reach lengths of 10+ feet, and the smallest, the Indonesian or Bali tiger weighing a mere 200 pounds with a total length of 7 ft.
While Amur Tigers are usually the largest tigers in captivity the Indian tigers in the wild have proven to be larger than any recorded Siberian cats. Female Bengal tigers (panthera tigris tigris) will average 300 pounds and males 450. Several in Nepal have been recorded between 550 and 700. The largest Siberian on record is 845 pounds. The Guiness Book of Records has one tiger in India at 857 pounds, shot by a hunter from Philadelphia in 1967, near what is now Corbett Tiger Reserve.”
Scientists in Russia report that no tigers immobilized by the Russian team have weighed as much as those in Chitwan. It probably is a function of habitat quality. Siberian tigers have the potential for being the largest, and captive ones are larger than captive Bengals. But in the wild the prey base in Russia is not abundant enough for those tigers to realize their full potential. Prey is more scattered and the Russian tigers need huge territories to capture sufficient food, so much more energy is expended in the food quest.
In sanctuaries tigers have lived up to 26 years, as compared to 15 in the wild. Tigers only live 10-12 years in most zoos.
Habitat: Tigers occupy a wide variety of habitats including tropical evergreen forests, deciduous forests, coniferous woodlands (Taiga), mangrove swamps, thorn forests and grass jungles. The factors common to all of the tiger’s habitats are some form of dense vegetative cover, sufficient large prey, and access to water. Tigers are extremely adept swimmers and readily take to water. They have been recorded easily swimming across rivers achieving distances of just under 20 miles. The tiger also spends much of its time during the heat of the day during hot seasons half submerged in lakes and ponds to keep cool. Indian tigers generally have a range of 8-60 square miles, based on availability of prey. Sumatran tigers have a range of about 150 square miles. Due to the severity of the climate and lack of prey, the Siberian tiger can require a range of 400 square miles. Tigers have lost more than 40% of their habitat in the past decade. (1)
Distribution: Indian subcontinent, Amur River region of Russia, China, North Korea, Sumatra, Indonesia, and Continental southeast Asia. In 2004, the Malayan tiger was declared a separate sub species from the Indochinese sub species of tiger. Found exclusively in the southern part of the Malay Peninsula. It is the third largest tiger population behind the Bengal tiger and the Indochinese tiger.
Reproduction and Offspring: Tigers will mate throughout the year, but most frequently between the end of November to early April. After a gestation of 103 days a litter of up to 7 cubs, although averaging 3, is born. Cubs will leave their mothers as young as 18 months old, or as old as 28 months old. During the first year, mortality can be as high as 35%, and of that 73% of the time it is the entire litter that is lost. The main causes of infant mortality are fire, floods, and infanticide, with the latter being the leading cause. Females tend to reproduce around 3 ½ years and males just under 5 years. In captivity, females have produced through age 14.
Social System and Communication: Tigers, like most cats are solitary, however, they are not anti-social. Males not only come together with females for breeding, but will feed with or rest with females and cubs. There have actually been reports of some tigers socializing and traveling in groups. Females with cubs have also been seen coming together to share meals. Most likely, in all of these cases they are somehow related. Males will kill cubs from other males, so it is likely that the offspring in question is his own. The females most likely are mother and daughter with overlapping home ranges. Hear our roars, chuffs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
Hunting and Diet: Tigers hunt primarily between dusk and dawn, and they attack using the same method as do the lions. They stalk, chase, and attack, bringing down and killing the prey with usually a bite to the nape of the neck or the throat. The bite to the throat allows the tiger the ability to suffocate the prey bringing death relatively quickly and painlessly. Smaller animals are often killed with the bite to the nape of the neck allowing the tiger to to fracture the vertebrae and compress the spinal chord of its victim. Once killed, the tiger either drags or carries its meal into cover. The tiger’s enormous strength allows it to drag an animal that would require 13 adult men to move. Tigers consume anywhere from 35 – 90 pounds of meat at one sitting, beginning at the rump of the prey. If undisturbed, they will return to the carcass for 3-6 days, feeding until it has completely consumed its kill. Because tigers are not the most successful of hunters, only killing 1 in every 10-20 attempts, it may be several days before it has its next meal. In the wild, cooperative hunting among tigers has also been observed where couples and families hunted like a pride of lions. This, however, is the exception not the rule. Unlike the other felids, man is a regular part of the tiger’s diet and has earned them greatest reputation as man-eaters. The most common prey items are various species of deer and pig, but they will also take crocodiles, young elephants and rhinos, monkeys, birds, fish, leopards, bears, and even their own kind. They have also been reported to eat carrion.
Status: IUCN: Endangered
Felid TAG recommendation: Tiger (Panthera tigris). The SSP for tigers supports a target population of 150-160 individuals for each of three subspecies. The Amur (formerly called the Siberian) Tiger SSP is nearly 20 years old, has functioned well with this target population, and has periodically obtained new founders from orphan situations or as F1 captive-born individuals from Europe. Its goals are not likely to change in the future. The Sumatran Tiger SSP is well under its target population, and additional spaces are readily available, especially in zoos located in warmer climates. Additional founders are periodically available from Sumatra via captive-bred individuals or wild-born tigers that must be removed from the wild. At this time, the Indochinese or Corbett’s tiger also is included in the RCP (albeit present in only four zoos). Given the small founder population presently in the North American population, additional animals from range-country zoos that are unrelated to those in North America are being sought. Although still present in large but declining numbers, no space is allocated for hybrid tigers (including white tigers, tabby tigers, “snow tigers” and ligers since they are all inbred, crossbred, and suffer congenital birth defects). No purebred Bengal tigers exist in North America because the zoos hybridized all of their stock trying to produce white tigers that could survive the inbreeding necessary to create the white coat. Due to this and a lack of space, this race will not be targeted by the Felid TAG for inclusion in its RCP. No one who breeds tigers outside of the Species Survival Plan which is only for AZA accredited zoos is really breeding for conservation.
How rare is this cat ? The largest wild population of tigers are in India. According to statistics released in 2009 there are 1,200 – 1,500 tigers left on 27 wildlife reserves in 11 states in India. Tigers are no longer “burning bright” in our world’s most famous tiger preserves.
Tiger numbers in the wild are thought to have plunged from 100,000 at the beginning of the 20th century to between 1,500 and 3,500 today. A century ago, India had some 100,000 tigers. Now, officials estimate they number about 1,200 – 1,500. The Bali, Javan, and Caspian subspecies, have become extinct in the past 70 years. The South China tiger is on the verge of extinction, with just 20 to 30 remaining in the wild. The International Species Information Service lists in captivity 1,098 worldwide in captivity with 256 being registered with ISIS in the U.S. as purebred tigers, as of 2009. There are NO purebred Bengal tigers in the U.S. The only purebred tigers in the U.S. are in AZA zoos and include 133 Amur (AKA Siberian), 73 Sumatran and 50 Malayan tigers in the Species Survival Plan. All other U.S. captive tigers are inbred and cross bred and do not serve any conservation value.
The rampant Pay to Play industry, that breeds these generic tigers solely to produce cubs that are marketed as “orphaned” or “rejected” to unwitting patrons is largely responsible for the decline of wild tiger populations. Cubs can only be used for public contact, according to USDA guidelines, until they are 12 weeks old. After that they are considered too dangerous and can bite off a finger. Animal exploiters constantly breed tigers to have plenty of profitable cubs on hand for petting and photo sessions. Once they reach maturity they are often relegated to tiny, barren breeding pens to create more cubs, or can end up in “canned hunts” and on the menu because lions are not currently a protected species and it is impossible to tell tiger meat from lion meat.
Update 1/4/2010: According to official statistics, as many as 59 tiger deaths were reported from across India in 2009 till December 8. Of the 59, 15 were “poached” while the remaining 44 died due to “illness and other causes”. Madhya Pradesh topped the charts with 13 tiger deaths followed by Assam (10), Karnataka (9) and Uttarakhand (7).
2009 saw the deaths of 85 tigers; more than a two-fold increase in the number of tiger deaths compared to 2008 and almost a two-fold increase compared to 2007. In all, 28 big cats were killed in 2008 and 30 in 2007. NGOs, nevertheless, peg the number of tiger deaths at more than 53 in 2010 which is approximately one per week.
2010 Tiger Census
Lao PDR 30
Viet Nam 30
Total in the wild: 3,062 Total in cages in the U.S. in 2004 4,955 Note that there are NO legitimate reintroduction programs.
Common Name: Bobcat
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Genus: Felinae (Lynx)
Sub-Species: L.r. escuinapae Mexican bobcat
Misc: This cat is named for its short tail.
Size and Appearance: The Bobcat is a medium sized cat with a ruff of fur around the sides of the face. They weigh between 13-30 pounds, stand 21 inches high and are 30-50 inches long. The bobcats in the North tend to be larger than those in the south. Their coat color varies and has been recorded in shades of light gray, yellowish-brown, buff-brown, and reddish-brown. They are always spotted to some extent, with some patterned only on the undersides, and others having spots on the sides and chest backs too. The southern Bobcats seem to have a more spotted coat, with the spots being much smaller than the northern cats. Both melanistic and albinistic Bobcats have been reported, but the melanistic ones have only occurred in Florida. They are often confused with their larger feline cousin the Lynx, but can be easily distinguished by their tail tips. The tail of the Lynx looks as though it was dipped in an inkwell being black all the way around, whereas the Bobcat’s tail appears to have been painted black on top and white on the bottom.
Habitat: Boreal and coniferous mixed forests, hardwood forest, coastal swamps, desert and scrubland.
Distribution: United States and Southern Canada.
Reproduction and Offspring: After a gestation of approximately 50-70 days, females produce a litter of 1-8 kittens, with the average being 2-3. They weigh 9.75-12 ounces at birth and will open their eyes at around 6 days. They are weaned between 3-4 months of age, and reach sexual maturity around 12 months for females, and 24 months for males.
In the wild, Bobcats live 12-13 years, and at Big Cat Rescue they have lived over twenty years.
Social System and Communication: Solitary. Male territories will overlap that of many females and even to some extent another males, but female territories are exclusive. Males and females only come together at the breeding season, which is December to April. Hear our purrs, hisses, snarls, calls, and growl sounds HERE
Hunting and Diet: These tough little cats will eat almost anything, and are natural born survivors (except for man’s interference). Their primary diet is rabbit, but they also eat rodents, beaver, peccaries, birds and bats, and deer. They are also scavengers.
Principal Threats: This little cat was the most heavily harvested and traded member of the cat family for the past 20 years. In the 1970’s CITES went into effect and the pelts of the Appendix 1 cats became illegal and unobtainable, the price offered to trappers for a Bobcat pelt went from $20.00 to $600.00. This also caused the number of Bobcats killed annually to rise from 10,000 to over 90,000 by the 1980s. The interest in Bobcat pelts today was declining due to international awareness of the cruel methods of trapping and prohibitions against trade of animals trapped using these methods up until 2008 when Russia began buying all the bobcat pelts they could get their hands on. This surge in demand threatens to wipe the bobcat out of America. The bobcat also battles the ever growing human population and its destruction of all habitat in its path. According to 2001 statistics provided from actual sales of hunting permits, over 40,000 bobcats are still being killed each year. This figure does not include all the bobcats killed by hunters who do not buy licenses nor report their kills. Less than 3% of our population are hunters but they kill over 100 million animals each year for sport.
Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Not listed.
Felid TAG 2000 recommendation: Bobcat (Lynx rufus). Many bobcats are present in zoos in numbers that are deleterious to other RCP species. Although the TAG recognizes that bobcats have an important role in regional theme exhibits, it is suggested that AZA holders help reduce the North American population from morethan 125 individuals to 0. For zoogeographic exhibits, the TAG suggests that institutions consider exhibiting Canadian lynx, rather than bobcats. If theme dictates bobcat exhibition, animals should be acquired from other AZA institutions or from sanctuary or rescue organizations. No breeding is recommended. At the Annual AZA Conference (September 1999), the following four species were recommended by the Felid TAG to be ‘down-graded’ to a Phase-Out populations. For the jaguarundi, tigrina, and Geoffroy’s cat, these recommendations were made because of limited space available, the limited number of founders in these populations, and limited potential for acquiring additional founders. The bobcat was recommended for Phase-Out due to commonality in nature. Additionally, where zoogeographic exhibits exist, the TAG recommends exhibiting Canadian lynx rather than the bobcat.
How rare is this cat? According to Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group based in Washington D.C., there are about 750,000 to 1,020,000 bobcats as of 2009. The International Species Information Service lists 245 captive bobcats worldwide, with 191 being in U.S. zoos.
Information reprinted With Permission from the IUCN Wild Cats Book
Common Name: Chinese Mountain Cat
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Genus: Felinae (Felis)
Misc: Another one of the world’s least known felines, the Chinese Mountain Cat was originally called the Chinese Desert Cat, but in 1992 it was agreed to change it to the Chinese Mountain Cat since it never actually inhabited the desert at all.
Size and Appearance: A small stocky built cat with relatively short legs, the Chinese Mountain cat weighs between 10-20 pounds and is between 38.5-47 inches long. Its coat is long and dense with abundant underfur. The color is pale gray in winter and darker brown in summer, and the backs are somewhat darker than the rest of the body. It has indistinct stripes on the sides and legs, and the ears have small tufts. The backs of the ears are the same dark color as the back, and have a pale reddish-brown area below each ear. They have a relatively short tail which has 5-6 dark gray bands and a black tip.
Distribution: The northeastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau.
Reproduction and Offspring: The breeding season is between January – March, with litters most often born in May. Litters range from 2-4 young, and the offspring reach independence at 7-8 months.
Longevity unknown. There are no Chinese Mountain Cats currently in captivity.
Social System and Communication: Solitary. Males and females both make their homes in burrows, with the females’ being deeper and more secure than the males’, and they only have one entrance.
Hunting and Diet: Primarily nocturnal, the majority of their diet is rodent-based (mole rats, white-tailed pine vole, and pikas), but also includes birds (mostly pheasants). The hunt by listening for the mole rats movements through tunnels and then dig them out.
Principal Threats: The primary threat at this time is believed to be the poisoning of the prey base, which is also killing carnivores in the area, including the Mountain Cat. They are also hunted for the local fur trade, and their skins turn up regularly in the local markets.
Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Insufficiently known.
Felid TAG 2000 recommendation: Chinese mountain (desert) cat (Felis bieti). A small, longhaired species native only to central China, this cat is occasionally maintained in Chinese zoos. Given the remoteness of its habitat, coupled with the lack of information and availability, North American zoos are not encouraged to acquire this species.
Information taken from IUCN Status Survey
This Chinese Mountain cat obviously does not live on Easy Street.
Life Span: Captive black footed cats have lived up to 13 years.
Sub-Species: Some sources list a southern subspecies, Felis nigripes thomasi, but today many authorities question the validity of this subspecies.
Size and Appearance: The black-footed cat is perhaps the smallest species of wild cat in Africa, black-footed cats average only 2.4 lb. to 4.2 lb. when fully grown. As with many other animals the females are usually smaller than the males.
Head and body length (not counting tails): The males are around 14 to 17 inches long. Their tails are about 6 to 8 inches long. Again females are normally smaller than the males.
Height: The males are usually around 8 to 10 inches tall when measuring that the shoulder.
Coloration: Overall they are buff-colored with heavy black oblong spots, and the legs have thick dark stripes or “ring bars” on the legs, the tails and the neck of this fascinating little wild cat.
Paw Coloration: The underside of the paw and the paw pads are black. That is where their name comes from.
Skin Coloration: The skin of these cats are different from other wild cats because their skin is pink.
Ear Coloration: The back of their ears are has the coloration as the background of their coats do.
Eyes: The have really big eyes.
Habitat: Black-footed cats are nocturnal inhabitants of the arid lands of southern Africa, and are typically associated with open, sandy grassy habitats with sparse scrub and tree cover. Although poorly studied in the wild, optimal habitat seems to be savannah areas having long grass with high rodent and bird densities. During the day, they live in abandoned burrows dug or in holes in termite mounds.
During the course of a year males will travel up to 8.5 sq. mi. while females travel up to 4 sq. mi. A male’s territory overlaps the territories of one to four females.
Distribution: Black-footed cats are native to arid regions of the southern parts of Africa like Nambia, Zimbabwe, Angola but not is the driest or sandiest parts of the Namib or Kalahari deserts. Before its numbers decreased so much it had once been known to inhabit Botswana. Sadly, none have been seen in Botswana for a long time.
Reproduction: Females reach sexual maturity at about 8 to 12 months. They are in estrus for only a day to two at a time during which on a few hours of that are they receptive to mating. They can have two litters a year.
Offspring: Females usually have 2 kittens but sometimes have three kitten or just 1 kitten. It is quite rare but it happened that there were four kittens in a litter. Gestation is about 63-68 days. Kitten weigh about 2 to 3 ounces at birth. Kittens are blind and totally dependent on their mothers.
Black-footed kitten develop more quickly than domestic kittens. They have to because the environment they live in can be dangerous. They start walking at about two weeks of age. When they are about a month old they start eating solid food and are weaned at about two months of age.
Kittens are born and raised is a burrow type den. Mothers will often move the kittens to new locations after they are about a week old.
They are independent when they are four or five months old. They may remain in their mother’s territory for a while after becoming independent.
Social System Behavior and Communication: Little is known about this species but like most other small cats, black-footed cats are solitary and come together only for breeding. Black footed cats are extreme unsocial. These cats are rarely ever seen. They will flee and take cover at the smallest hint of something or someone coming.
Their calls are louder than those of other cats of their size, presumably to allow them to call over relatively large distances. However, when close to each other, they use quieter purrs or gurgles. If they feel threatened they will hiss and even growl.
It is believed they are strictly nocturnal being active between sunset and sunrise. During the daylight hours they rest is densely covered areas. They have been known to spend the daytime hours in unoccupied burrows of springhares, porcupines and aardvarks. They will dig in the sand to adjust those burrow and dens to get them just the way they want them. They have also been found resting in hollow termite mounds during the day.
If a black footed cat is cornered they can be quite fierce. Because of that behavior they are sometimes called miershooptier when translated means ‘anthill tigers’.
They mark their territories with scent by spraying urine. Males may spray up to a dozen times in an hour. They also scent mark by clawing and rubbing on things. They will also mark their territories by leaving their poop where others can easily see it.
Hunting and Diet: In nature, their diet consists mainly of small mammals and birds, insects, arachnids, and reptiles. In captivity many cats are fed commercial feline diets and mice, and further investigation into their nutritional requirements is warranted. They hunt by a stalk, run and pounce method, or they wait outside of rodent holes for their prey. They can travel up to 5 miles a night while hunting.
They have higher energy requirements than the other African cats because of this they may kill and eat 14 small prey animals in a night.
They usually hunt rodents and small birds. Although it is not their preferred prey they are capable to taking down white quilled bustards. Even though the Cape hare is larger than the black footed cat it can take one down.
They will occasionally hide some of their dinner for later.
These cats hunt by stalking and sneaking up on their prey. Sometimes, instead of stalking they will flush their prey out of their cover and pounce on it.
They have been observed waiting quietly with their eyes closed outside of rodent dens and burrows. Their eyes may be closed but they are not sleeping. Every sense is awake and alert just waiting for the slighted sound or movement of the emerging prey animal.
Something that is different about black-footed cat is that they are poor climbers. They are not interested in tree branches. The reason for that is their stocky bodies and short tails make tree-climbing awkward.
They get all the moisture they need from their prey, but will drink water when it’s available.
The black footed cat is known for its bravery and tenacity.
Principal Threats: Little is known about their real status in the wild, and farmers seldom report capturing black-footed cats in problem animal surveys. Indiscriminate methods of predator control may be a significant threat as poison baits and traps set for African wildcat and jackal could easily be a threat because black-footed cats readily scavenge. A similar threat is poisoning locusts which are a preferred food. They have few natural enemies in agricultural areas except jackals and caracal, and may be more common than originally suspected. The loss of grassland due to overgrazing by livestock is prevalent throughout the species’ range may well be their biggest threat, as may be habitat deterioration that led to reductions of the cat’s small vertebrate prey base.
Status: Is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN since 2002. The black-footed cat is one of the lesser studied wild cats of Africa. Felis nigripes is included on CITES Appendix I and protected by national legislation across most of its range. Hunting is banned in Botswana and South Africa.
Felid TAG 2003 recommendation: Black-footed cat (Felis nigripes). One of the most popular small-sized felids, the black-footed cat has unique renal concerns that may be stress or diet- related. These problems may be detrimental to longevity in zoos. Recent research holds promise for this species, and additional importations are possible. With both a regional and international studbook in place, an SSP is recommended with a target population of 80 individuals.
How rare is this cat ? The International Species Information Service lists 21 worldwide in cages, with 21 being in the U.S.
Information taken from IUCN Status Survey and Feline Facts (SOS Care)