How does picking up after our leopards help save tigers in Indochina??
Big Cat Rescue was recently contacted by the Sr. Program Officer of World Wildlife Fund’s Asian Species Conservation Program asking for assistance with a major initiative in tiger conservation. In mid-December, WWF will begin their 5 month program “Tiger Conservation in the Cambodian Eastern Plains.” This 4.5 million acre area of Cambodia, once termed “the Serengeti of Asia,” possesses a globally outstanding landscape for biodiversity and is one of the highest priority tiger conservation areas in the world. It provides a one-of-a-kind opportunity to save the tiger, along with a host of other species including the Asian elephant, Eld‟s deer, wild water buffalo, gaur, banteng, leopard and dhole. The first step of this project is to complete an occupancy survey of this vast, remote area.
Big Cat Rescue’s Asian leopards will play an important role in this plan. Over the next few weeks, dogs will be trained to recognize large carnivore scat (fecal material) by a team at the Univ. of Washington’s Center for Conservation Biology. Having tracked grizzlies and brown bears in Canada, these energetic detection dogs were originally rescued from shelters. They have undergone intensive training and now have rewarding careers in conservation research (more info: http://depts.washington.edu/conserv/conservation_canines_program.html)
In order for these dogs to do an effective job in Cambodia, one of the first things they need is Asian leopard scat for training purposes. Senior Keepers Julie Hanan and Marie Schoubert volunteered to collect scat samples at Big Cat Rescue from Asian leopard participants for this program; Reno, Cheetaro, Jumanji, Sundari, Nyla, Simba, and Sabre. A week’s worth of scat samples were collected, bagged, identified and shipped on dry ice overnight to Washington where the two dogs being deployed to Cambodia await their training. Once the dogs arrive in Cambodia in December, they will be trained further on locally collected scats so they get used to the smell of natural scats from these species.
When asked why she volunteered for this project, Marie Schoubert explained that she often hears people frustrated saying that, the more they fight and try to help nature and the animals, the less difference they see. But her attitude is that we can never give up. Her passion for animal conservation is so strong that she helps any way she can, whether it be by volunteering countless hours at Big Cat Rescue, by using her voice (she is fluent in many different languages), by signing petitions, etc. When she heard about this project, she knew that this would be just one more way she, and the leopards of Big Cat Rescue, could help make a difference.
She and Julie Hanan both share Big Cat Rescue’s vision – a world where the animals we share it with are treated with respect and caring and where habitat is preserved to ensure the indefinite future survival of these wonderful gifts of nature. Though the Asian leopards at Big Cat Rescue are captive, the help they have provided through this program to their “cousins” in the wild may prove crucial to the preservation of big cats worldwide. This is just another example of Big Cat Rescue’s global impact by our volunteers who care and are committed so deeply to our mission.