Big Cat Rescue’s In Situ Conservation Work
2021 Conservation Work
Around the outskirts of the Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve (BTR), which holds one of the highest populations of Tigers known in India, it is common for villagers to build open farm wells to obtain water. These are ground level deep holes. They become a death trap for tigers and leopards chasing prey at night who fall into them and die. Currently around 2500 of them exist in BTR. The simple solution is to build a fence around the wells, but the villagers do not have the $330 required to build these. In the past Big Cat Rescue has been able to donate funds to fence in 56 wells. Thanks to donors to International Tiger Day 2021 we are able to fund 87 more wells!
2020 Conservation Work
This page is updated throughout the year as we fund new projects. Big Cat Rescue donates more than $100,000 each year to save cats in the wild where they belong.
SNARES TO WARES INITIATIVE
Big Cat Rescue donated $1,000 to the Snares to Wares Initiative. Snares to Wares is a 501(c)(3) community-based conservation initiative within Michigan State University, dedicated to improving human livelihood and protecting wildlife in and around the village of Pakwach, Uganda. The initiative simultaneously transforms human lives and addresses the problem of wildlife poaching by empowering local artisans to repurpose wire snares into sculptures of the wildlife that would otherwise fall victim to snaring, such as elephants and Lions.
Abject poverty and lack of opportunity have given rise to rapidly-expanding subsistence poaching via wire snaring in the human communities bordering national parks in Uganda. While antelopes are the intended targets, the wire snares are indiscriminate and often catch a host of other animals. Snares to Wares is focused on not only removing wire snares from national parks, but is offering employment opportunities for the communities directly affected by these issues. By providing local people with an alternative source of income, potential poachers become entrepreneurial artisans whose work benefits wildlife conservation across Uganda. Proceeds from the sale of the sculptures made by locals flow directly into the community to sustain these transformations. In addition many of the proceeds from Snares to Wares offer education opportunities for students from Uganda to study conservation, by creating a sponsorship program. The program allows Ugandan students to have direct involvement in the conversation surrounding wildlife conservation in their own countries. Read more about the initiative here: https://snarestowares.org/
URBAN FISHING CAT PROJECT
Big Cat Rescue donated $8,000 to researcher Anya Ratnayaka and the Urban Fishing Cat Project. The Urban Fishing Cat project works on the conservation of Fishing Cats in the urban wetland habitats of Columbo, Sri Lanka, through awareness, education and research. After witnessing rapid wetland clearing in 2013, Anya and her team made it their mission to understand how fishing cats were able to adapt to this habitat threat and what was needed for their survival.
Fishing Cats are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list and Endangered in Sri Lanka, they are one of four wild cats native to the country. Through Camera Trap Tracking and GPS collaring of cats, the Urban Fishing Cat project was able to collect information on the cats relating to population numbers, habitat usage, home ranges and threats. Aside from habitat loss, Road Mortalities are another threat to Fishing Cats and in January 2020 Anya and her team were contacted by the Road Development Authority to provide information on roads that have high rates of fishing cat-vehicular collisions, so that new mitigation methods such as under/over passes, sign boards and speed bumps could be installed to ensure that wildlife could safely cross.
From the beginning the Urban Fishing Cat project has worked closely with the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation. By sharing the information gathered with relevant government stakeholders, the Fishing Cat became a flagship species for Wetland Conservation in Colombo. The donation made by Big Cat Rescue was to help the Urban Fishing Cat Project replace camera traps and purchase waterproof housing, after their equipment was lost in Monsoon storms in 2019. Read more about the Urban Fishing Cat Project here: https://fishingcats.lk/
JOMOLHARI SNOW LEOPARD CONSERVATION PROGRAM
The global Snow Leopard population stands at an estimated 5,000-7,000 individuals spread over 2 million square kilometers of habitat. To date they have been killed from 15% of their historic range. Their range varies from the Himalayas to Central Asia and spans 12 countries, including Bhutan, where the cats can be found among much of the northern alpine regions along the Tibetan Border. The Jomolhari mountain region has some of the highest snow leopard activity in Bhutan. Numerous camera trap photos, signs and DNA sampling from the region has established it as not only one of the best snow leopard habitats but a prime location for its prey, Blue Sheep.
The residents of this region are primarily Yak herders and while yak is prevalent in the area, the herders have generally been tolerant of some predation from Snow Leopards, but public attitudes and perception towards the cats is fast changing. The Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation project is an integrated approach to conserve an important snow leopard region and bring benefits from conservation to local communities.
Their aim is to encourage resident communities to actively participate in snow leopard conservation, which in turn can only succeed with their support. Yak-herding communities will benefit from improved health care, livestock husbandry, and education services and income generation from tourism and related initiatives, whilst snow leopards will benefit from protection by the local communities. Read more about the Jomolhari Snow Leopard Conservation project here: https://bhutanfound.org/projects/snow-leopard-conservation-program/
2019 Saving Wild Places for Wild Cats
In 2019 Big Cat Rescue donated $136,600.00 to conservation programs in the wild, benefiting 18 Wild Cat Species. Click the pins on the map, or the species on the left, to get all of the details!
Research and Articles by Lauren Buckingham
Santa Monica Mountains Fund
Big Cat Rescue donated $5,000 to continue support of the Santa Monica Mountains Fund, in 2019. Unfortunately in 2018, the Santa Monica Mountains Fund lost the majority of their field equipment due to wildfires that swept through the Santa Monica Mountains. With our donation they were able to reach their fundraising goal, to replace all that was lost, in less than a month!
The Santa Monica Mountains Fund is dedicated to advancing research and conservation of the mountain lions and Bobcats that call the park home. Unfortunately, their future in the park is uncertain and the Fund is actively working with park biologists to learn what is needed protect these magnificent animals.
Clear evidence shows that when large predators are lost, the balance of life in an ecosystem is severely disrupted and the diversity of other plants and animals begins an accelerated decline.Human impact is the largest threat to native species, and it comes in many forms including habitat loss, conflict with wildlife, and introduction of invasive species. The Santa Monica Fund protects native species by investing in scientific research that is used to determine management and policy decisions. They also work to raise awareness of species protection issues to help visitors and park neighbors understand how their decisions might affect the amazing plants and animals found within the mountains.
You can read more about the great work they do here: https://samofund.org/
Bay Area Bobcats
In Southern California, Felidae Conservation Fund is working in the Bay Area and Central Coast, trying to identify remaining bobcat habitat and wildlife linkages between habitats, in an effort to conserve wild Bobcat populations and prevent local extinctions. Identifying linkages that connect habitats is critical as they provide a means for species to access necessary resources, provide access for juvenile dispersal and facilitate movement between habitat patches for wildlife to find viable mates. Since carnivores generally have relatively large home ranges, fragmented habitats often become smaller than the home ranges. As a result, home ranges of large carnivores often extend into the boundaries of urbanized areas which leads to human-wildlife conflicts.
The Bay Area Bobcat Study aims to look at how human development and habitat fragmentation affects bobcat populations, population status, mortality factors, and health, all of which have not been evaluated in depth for the region. This study will track bobcat movement through fragmented landscapes and identify barriers that hinder juvenile dispersal within bobcat metapopulations. Combining telemetry and conducting field camera research will reveal where bobcat juveniles are dispersing, and how bobcats are moving on the landscape. By gaining this information felidae will be able to make plans for conservation including informed recommendations to land managers and roadway engineers, concerning wildlife corridors and crossing structures.
You can read more about the project here: http://www.felidaefund.org/?q=bay-area-bobcats-page
Bay Area Puma Project (BAPP)
The Bay Area Puma Project (BAPP) is the first large scale research, education and conservation program for pumas in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. BAPP’s primary goal is to increase knowledge, understanding and awareness about Bay Area puma populations, in order to promote better co-existence and less conflict between humans and pumas in the region, and ultimately to help foster a more harmonious relationship between humans and the natural world.
As the top predator in the natural spaces around the Bay Area, the puma plays a critical role in maintaining the health and balance of our local ecosystems. However human development is rapidly encroaching on puma habitat, creating mounting problems that include habitat fragmentation and corridor loss, increasing anxiety in local communities due to puma encounters, and more human-puma conflicts involving roads, livestock, and depredation.
You can read more about the project here: http://www.felidaefund.org/?q=bay-area-puma-project-page
David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
Wildlife Crime is an ever growing problem which threatens national and international security, economic development and the survival of key species.
Wildlife rangers work in some of the planet’s most extreme and dangerous environments and anti-poaching rangers do one of the toughest jobs in the world. These men and women work tirelessly day and night, in often hostile conditions, to protect wildlife on the conservation frontline. Without on the ground wildlife rangers, there would be no hope of turning the tide in the fight to protect some of the world’s most vulnerable and endangered species like elephants, rhinos and tigers. Many wildlife rangers have died in the line of duty, killed by poachers or distressed animals, as they fight to protect vulnerable wildlife.
The duties of wildlife rangers can include:
• Carrying out anti-poaching patrols
• Locating and removing wildlife snares
• Collecting vital data on endangered species and habitats
• Responding to emergency reports of wildlife crime, by poachers who are often heavily armed
• Gathering important intelligence on criminal activity to help combat wildlife crime
The David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation (DSWF) helps support rangers across Africa and Asia – from the mountains of Mongolia, to the forests of Russia and the wild plains of Africa. DSWF directly funds projects that support rangers in their daily roles, helping to ensure they get the vital field equipment and level of training they need.
You can read more about their work here: https://davidshepherd.org/our-work/wildlife-rangers
Combatting Illegal Wildlife Trade in Democratic Republic Congo
Conserv Congo is a non profit organization, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose mission is to preserve and protect the Congolese biodiversity whilst sharing its existence with the rest of the world. Through their work they aim to promote scientific tourism/research, Fight poaching in all its forms and shapes through any possible and admissible waysl Protect the Congolese rainforests and their biodiversity, Contribute towards local sustainable development, Fight poverty as a tool to conserve nature, Provide general support and assistance to park rangers in the DRC and Create environmental awareness in communities through education and campaigns. Big Cat Rescue donated to assist in their work to combat the Illegal Poaching and Trade of Leopard skins and body parts.
The African leopard (Panthera pardus) is one of the five extant species in the genus Panthera, a member of the Felidae. Leopards are at risk of extinction across their African and Asian range, having suffered a population decline in sub-Saharan Africa of more than 30 percent in the past 25 years, in part due to unsustainable trophy hunting but also general poaching.
Leopards are hunted illegally, and their body parts are smuggled in the wildlife trade for medicinal practices and decoration.As a result of their association with kings in Africa, the leopard’s pelt is often seen today as a symbol of aristocratic rank, chiefs using it as a part of their traditional regalia. Its meat is also highly favored by the privileged elite class in African Society, which believes it is a symbol of status, power and privilege. Some people go a step further and even associate the consumption of its meat to having health benefits even though very little proof has been produced regarding this speculation.
In Asia, the skin besides other uses, it is also used in wineries and whisky distilleries, where certain body parts are essential ingredients to making highly sought after and costly alcoholic beverages The Panthera pardus is listed on CITES Appendix I, which prohibits international trade for commercial purposes, but this international agreement does not prohibit trade in hunting trophies and also does not guarantee a complete protection against money seeking traffickers.
Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of Conga being a wildlife trafficking haven in the region, remains flooded by leopards skins from other provinces in the country and also from neighboring countries. At any given moment in Kinshasa there could be not less than 20 leopards skins for sale under our investigations. The influx of leopard skins, bones and meat are a results of the dire demand from the fashion industry, the traditional beliefs both in Africa and Asia. Its skin is used for luxury home décor, fashion accessories, as rugs, seat covers and taxidermy specimens. Bones are used in traditional Chinese medicine products, including well-known Chinese brands that have been seized and tested in Australia and other countries, while teeth are sold as increasingly expensive jewelry items. A single piece of an adult leopard skin can scoop up to a 1000 US dollars on the local market in Kinshasa. The skins are usually sent to Asia , Europe and the US as the final destinations where they can even scoop higher margins, depending on the quality and the industry it serves.
You can read more about their work here: https://conservcongo.wordpress.com/contact/about/
Ewaso Lions – Warrior Watch
In 2010, Ewaso Lions launched Warrior Watch, which protects lions, by engaging Samburu Warriors, a group traditionally neglected in conservation decision-making. Warrior Watch makes the Samburu Warriors ambassadors for the lions, while raising awareness about conservation, and advocating peaceful coexistence with lions and wildlife. The program builds on the Warriors traditional protection role by increasing their ability to mitigate human-carnivore conflict.
Ewaso Lions works with local community leaders to select Warriors. They train Warriors on wildlife ecology, conservation, human–wildlife conflict transformation, security issues, and more. Over time, the Warriors are trained to collect data and use GPS, allowing Ewaso Lions to map wildlife presence and movements. Following lion attacks on livestock, Warriors encourage herders not to take retaliatory action and help recover lost livestock. Warriors investigate problem animals and consider different solutions for reducing future livestock attacks. Each week, the
Warriors meet as a group with Ewaso Lions staff to report on wildlife sightings, incidents of human-wildlife conflict, community awareness meetings, and livestock issues. In turn, Warriors receive educational lessons in English and Kiswahili and arithmetic, as well as a small monthly food stipend and meals during the weekly meetings.
Their vision is to create a network of warriors working across community conservancies in northern Kenya for conservation. They evaluate the program to improve Warrior Watch going forward and to make sure it is the best it can be. Through Warrior Watch, they are hopeful that wildlife will have a secure future among the local people in this part of Kenya.
An evaluation of Warrior Watch found that the program had significantly improved attitudes and tolerance towards large carnivores, contributed to the social and political empowerment of warrior demographic and garnered widespread community support.
You can read more about their work here: http://ewasolions.org/conservation/warrior-watch/
Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme
The Greater Limpopo Carnivore Programme was founded in 2011, and is a conservation research programme dedicated to improving the conservation prospects for Lions, across the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, in Mozambique. The Area encopasses 38,000km², consisting of three National Parks; Limpopo, Banhine and Zinave, four private wildlife reserves, and wildlife corridors.
The Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area is listed by IUCN as one of Africa’s most important conservation areas and is one of only 10 remaining ‘lion strongholds’ on the continent.
Wild Lions ranging across Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area are under threat and are persisting below their potential carrying capacity, and within a small portion of their potential natural range. The landscape boasts incredible species biodiversity, including lions, leopard, cheetah, hyena, wild dog, many endemic bird species and more. Preserving these ecosystems and improving the connectivity for species dispersal, between Mozambique National Parks and those of Zimbabwe and South Africa, is crucial.
Through scientifically guided conservation activities, the programme aims to recover and restore the long-term viability of the Greater Limpopo Lion Conservation Unit meta-population. By ensuring the persistence of lions and their prey, ecosystem health and functioning can be improved, for the betterment of other wildlife species, and thus safeguard the incredibly biodiversity of this landscape.
The GLCP is working in collaboration with wildlife authorities, dedicated private stakeholders and international NGO’s to ensure the conservation needs of the GLTFCA are addressed holistically and effectively.
Read more about their work here: https://www.greaterlimpopocarnivores.org/
Conserving Bhutan’s Mountain Tigers
The tiger is an apex predator and an umbrella species: ensuring their survival allows many species they need and live with to flourish in its large shared habitat. Bhutan is unique, in that its tiger habitat is contiguous across the whole country and extends from lowland subtropical jungles all the way to subalpine forests. The highest altitude for tiger in the world was recorded in Wangchuck Centennial National Park at 4,400 masl (meters above sea level). Bhutan is also the only place on the planet, where snow leopards and tigers are found in the same landscape.
Today, fewer than 3,200 tigers exist in the wild, spread across 13 countries in Asia and the Russian Far East. However, killing for profit or in retaliation, destruction of habitat for industries or subsistence, and a thriving illicit global trade have drastically reduced tiger populations across its range.
A population baseline for Bhutan’s mountain tigers is an important metric to help measure conservation success. It also allows conservationists to understand the spatial layout of important tiger habitat in order to better guide their protection. In addition, understanding tiger biology is critical to implementing effective conservation interventions. This project is a long-term initiative to build a sound knowledge base to guide tiger conservation. Conservation policies and management using
sound science is the only way we can ensure that resources are focused on the right interventions in the right areas. In other words, it enhances higher return on conservation investment.
Read more about their work here: https://bhutanfound.org/projects/conserving-bhutans-mountain-tigers/
Phoenix Fund – Amur Leopard Conservation
The Phoenix Fund was founded in March 1998 and is a registered russian non-profit and non-governmental organization, located in Vladivostok. Their efforts involve monitoring the wildlife of the region, developing, implementing and administering important projects aimed at conserving the biodiversity of the Russian Far East. They work closely with foreign environmental organizations and are working to develop links the local authorities, other environmental NGO’s, scientists, educational institutions and the public.
The Amur Leopard is the most endangered cat in the world. It is balancing on the brink of extinction with a wild population totaling an estimated 100 individuals. Poaching is the main threat to the survival of the Amur Leopard but they face other threats including destruction of habitat, loss of prey species and genetic impoverishment of the population as a result of inbreeding; and time is running out to save them.
The Phoenix Fund implemented an initiative, that will provide a highly skilled, mobile, law enforcement team with essential equipment and daily allowance for regular anti-poaching patrols to be conducted in Amur Leopard territories. The team works to not only protect the Amur Leopard but to protect the ecosystems of the forest in which they live. The aim is that the initiative will reduce poaching through strengthening law enforcement, habitat protection, improving data collection, nature protection legislation, educating the public, and engaging local communities in conservation efforts.
Read more about their work here: https://fundphoenix.org/en/
African Impact Foundation
Populations of large carnivores are threatened across the globe and a significant number are experiencing population decline, due to threats from habitat loss and poaching to sale through the illegal wildlife trade. Over a third of South Africa’s leopard habitat is found in the Limpopo province, yet 95% of leopards in the area, are found outside of formally protected areas. Despite this, the majority of population and conservation-based research has occurred inside of protected areas, which house a mere 5% of the total population. This has led to a lack of data, which in turn creates unreliable results to inform conservation practices and effective species management.
African Impact Foundation is working to collect data on private lands and study the area where these cats are primarily residing, to work towards evidence based conservation practices. Ultimately, it is only through focused research in these areas, that efficient conservation solutions, that will protect the species and individuals livelihoods can be protected, contributing to the health of the entire ecosystem.
The aims of the project are:
- To Photo Leopards on Camera Traps
- To monitor wildlife corridors used by Leopards
- Study Population Densities
- Create territorial/movement maps for various predators
- Track down and Remove Snares
To date African Impact Foundation has successfully raised enough money for 8 camera traps which, through 1250 pictures, were able to identify 8 different species within the ecosystem, conduct research on their behaviours and their movement patterns. A $350 donation buys 1 camera trap for the study.
Read more about their work here: https://africanimpactfoundation.org/conservation-project-kruger/
CORBETT FOUNDATION – TIGER WELLS
In 2019 Big Cat Rescue continued our support of The Corbett Foundation and their open wells initiative by donating $5,000. The Corbett Foundation is a charitable, non-profit and non-governmental organization solely committed to the conservation of wildlife. They work towards a harmonious coexistence between human beings and wildlife across some of the most important wildlife habitats in India, namely Corbett Tiger Reserve, Kanha and Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserves, Kaziranga Tiger Reserve and around the Greater Rann of Kutch. Local Communities and wildlife share natural ecosystems and this often raises conflict, so the health and wellbeing of these communities are often directly linked to their willingness to participate in wildlife conservation efforts.
The Corbett foundation has implemented its programs in over 400 villages in the last decade. Big Cat Rescue has been a supporter of this initiative since 2016.
Read more about the Corbett Foundation here: www.corbettfoundation.org
INTERNATIONAL TIGER DAY 2019 – FREELAND FOUNDATION
For International Tiger Day 2019, Big Cat Rescue worked to raise crucial funds for the Freeland Foundation, to combat the illegal wildlife Trade in Asia. Big Cat Rescue matched the profit from purchases of our International Tiger Day merchandise – and any donations made on the merchandise page, dollar for dollar up to $5000. The total raised was $8,000.
The Freeland Foundation is an International Non-Government Organization, headquartered in Bangkok, that works in Asia on environmental conservation. The organization combats the illegal wildlife trade and habitat conservation, addressing threats to endangered species, like tigers, including poaching in protected areas, smuggling, and the subsequent sale and consumption of Wildlife. Their global team of law enforcement and development experts work alongside government officers, local communities, students, and other NGOs in Asia, Africa and America to educate, empower, and catalyze action. They are known as innovative risk-takers.
Most big cats are now in decline. Tigers, leopards, lions, and jaguars are being poached for the multi-billion dollar illegal wildlife trade. Thailand’s big cats are especially under threat due to poaching to supply nearby markets. Not surprisingly, the ecosystems depending on these predators are also in peril.
But there is hope! Freeland’s flagship program, Surviving Together, has helped nearly extinct tiger populations in Thailand rebound. In March last year, the world’s first evidence of a breeding tiger population was discovered in Eastern Thailand: an area abandoned by many conservation groups for nearly 10 years assuming there were no tigers left. Since the program began in 1999, Surviving Together has developed a comprehensive approach to conserving protected areas and their biodiversity, bringing together local rangers and reformed poachers as unlikely allies. Through these collaborative efforts, the program addresses the root causes of environmental degradation and bolsters protection on the front lines of conservation, where it is needed most. The Surviving Together has a six-pronged approach: On the ground Ranger training and support, the introduction of Alternative Livelihoods for poachers, Community Education, Protected Area Monitoring, Wildlife Monitoring, and Human-Animal Conflict Mitigation. Read more about the Freeland Foundation here: https://www.freeland.org/cwt
WILDLIFE ALLIANCE – RANGERS PROTECTING WILDLIFE
Wildlife Alliance was founded in 1995 originally as the Global Survival Network and is an international 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Wildlife Alliance is the leader in Direct Protection of Forests and Wildlife in tropical Asia, providing on-the-ground protection to one of the last unfragmented rainforests in Southeast Asia. The Cardamom Rainforest Landscape is a critical part of the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot which supports populations of >50 IUCN Threatened species of vertebrates and serves as the region’s most important watershed, climate regulator and carbon sink.
The Cardamom Mountains face severe threats from wildlife poaching, illegal logging, land grabbing, and slash and burn farming. The effect is devastating on the rich local biodiversity and tropical rainforest. Wildlife Alliance supports rangers to protect this ecosystem, and strives to restore the habitat through effective park management, patrols, and enforcement of policies to protect this jewel of Southeast Asia.
Rangers patrol rainforest, coastal mangroves, and rivers to stop wildlife poachers, forest fires, land grabbers, and illegal loggers. Teams also conduct vehicle checkpoints, dismantle charcoal kilns, remove wildlife snares, and rescue wildlife from poachers. Whenever possible, rescued wildlife is immediately returned back to their natural habitat.
South East Asia is at the epicenter of the global extinction crisis and the majority of the region’s Protected Areas are ‘paper parks’ with insufficient resources, capacity, or supervision to achieve effective species conservation. Wildlife Alliance delivers a unique and successful model of hands-on direct protection to forests and wildlife which focuses on creating and managing high performance teams of forest rangers.
Wildlife Alliance manages 8 ranger stations with an average of 8,000 of patrols covering 119,552 km each year. When offenders are caught, Wildlife Alliance takes a hands-on approach by accompanying offenders to court and following up on all court cases to ensure the proper legal procedures are applied.
Read more about Wildlife Alliance and their work here: https://www.wildlifealliance.org/cardamom-protection/
WILDLIFE PROTECTION SOLUTIONS
Wildlife Protection Solutions is a non profit organization whose mission is to use technology, to conserve endangered species and ecosystems. The team consists of technology experts seeking to enhance conservation best practices, through the practical application of new software, hardware and field methods. WPS has established research camps in a number of international locations, including but not limited to, the US, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. Species extinction is happening faster than every, and we’re losing an estimated 25 species every single day. But WPS’s wildlife team is taking a stand by deploying our real-time monitoring system around the world to protect against wildlife crime and poaching.
Wildlife Protection Solutions has developed wpsWatch, a mobile and desktop app that aims to fight wildlife crime in real time. Using a suite of custom camera traps, sensors and software, WPS has developed a system capable of providing 24/7 monitoring for any given conservation area of wildlife area, in the world. When wpsWatch detects wildlife threats, it sends emails or SMS alerts to security and monitoring staff, prompting an immediate response to active intrusions and illegal activities. The system is currently deployed in 22 locations, covering 1,853,320 hectares and to date has detected 240 intrusions. In mid-December 2018, wpsWatch cameras identified an image of a man carrying a gun who had illegally entered a protected area in the Sabah region of Malaysian Borneo. The poacher trespassed by car and was continuing on foot into the forest when staff saw the photo. Malaysian management dispatched a patrol team to assess the situation. Rangers found the vehicle and captured and apprehended the man.
Every day wpsWatch and volunteers scan more than 1,000 photos from hundreds of cameras around the world to alert protected area managers to possible threats and wildlife crimes in progress.
Read more about Wildlife Protection Solutions here: https://wildlifeprotectionsolutions.org/wpswatch-program/
Kope Lion, which is short for Korongoro People’s Lion Initiative, is a non-profit, non government organization registered in the US and Tanzania. Kope Lion was founded in 2011 and focuses on human-lion coexistence in Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The organization is comprised of local experts, international scientists and local communities.
The Ngorongoro landscape is unique, renowned for its spectacular natural beauty in a landscape with vast grass-plains, volcanic highlands, dense mountain forests, archaeological and cultural values, including the evolution of man and a present-day traditional pastoralist system, impressive wildlife populations, including the great migration. Perhaps the biggest symbol for this landscape is the Ngorongoro Lion.
Lion numbers are declining rapidly across the globe, mainly due to loss of habitat, but where lions still coexist with people, their main threat is direct killing. Ngorongoro Conservation Area is a UNESCO world heritage site, and is a state-run, multiple-use protected area, where traditional pastoralist populations share the land with wildlife. The areas rapid human population growth and expansion has led to intensifying human-wildlife conflicts, meaning that lions have begun to disappear entirely from their former home ranges, isolating populations.
In 2011 Kope Lion established a full time, on site presence on Ngorongoro. Their work was expanding upon a long term dataset, including family histories and lion population genetics reaching back to 1962. Their aim was to move beyond ecological research and instead focus on conservation, threat reduction and incorporating the local community, the Maasai, to work with them instead of against them. Many lion hunters are now employed as
Lion protectors. Read more here: https://kopelion.org/
SINGITA GRUMETI FUND
The Grumeti Fund is a non-profit organization carrying out wildlife conservation and community development work in the western corridor of the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania. The Grumeti concessions are bountiful lands, rich in flora and fauna, considered by many as an international treasure.
For years uncontrolled hunting and rampant poaching had decimated local wildlife populations within the western corridor, which in turn plunged surrounding communities into poverty. But thankfully in 2002, the Grumeti Fund was established in an attempt to rehabilitate and restore the Grumeti concessions. The Grumeti fund employs 165 dedicated staff to protect, manage and monitor Grumeti’s concessions and wildlife. Thanks to their passion and commitment, the near-barren plains of ten years ago are once again teeming with life.
The 350,000 acre Grumeti concessions form a crucial part of the Serengeti ecosystem. Grumeti Fund works with government, local communities and other stakeholders on various conservation projects, ranging from the re-introduction of locally extinct animal species to managing wildfires and reducing the impact of invasive plants.
To target poaching, the Grumet Fund employs a team of 100, on the ground, game scouts. All of the scouts come from the local communities bordering the concession, and the vast majority have a history of poaching involvement. The scouts undergo extensive training to maintain high standards of efficiency and safety.
In addition the Grumeti Fund has a dedicated detection and tracking canine unit, committed to staying one step ahead of poachers. The permanent presence of four rescue dogs and their skilled handlers enhance the Anti-poaching department ability to apprehend poachers. The Grumeti Fund envisions using the Canine Unit across the Serengeti ecosystem, in partnership with government organizations and other conservation NGO’s to expand the impact. Ideally, we see the dogs working to deter poachers from entering the protected area altogether.
THE AFRICAN PEOPLE & WILDLIFE FUND
African People & Wildlife Fund is a 501c3 Non-Profit founded in 2005. African People & Wildlife (APW) works to conserve Africa’s wildlife, protect vital habitats, and promote community development through innovative, multidisciplinary strategies that emphasize coexistence with the natural world.
Africa’s wildlife populations require large and healthy habitats. APW empowers local communities to protect their rangelands by working with them to monitor and manage natural resources effectively. They also support a team of community game scouts who regularly patrol targeted areas to prevent deforestation, fight illegal charcoal production, manage bushfires, and educate local people on the importance of environmental protection.
African People & Wildlife Fund initiates Wildlife tracking and Monitoring, specifically for 7 endangered or vulnerable large mammal species living in the rangelands: cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, leopards, lions, oryx, and African wild dogs. Large carnivores need healthy prey populations in order to thrive. To ensure that our programs are making a positive impact, community members closely monitor local wildlife species. Warriors for Wildlife record signs of big cat and wild dog presence in their respective villages across northern Tanzania, which also helps to mitigate conflict. Meanwhile, partner organizations and APW-supported community scouts conduct wildlife counts in targeted areas.
Anti-poaching is also a part of their mission, A highly-trained anti-poaching unit conducts regular patrols to fight the illegal killing of elephants, giraffes, lions and other vulnerable wildlife species. The team’s work has resulted in notable decreases in poaching incidents within their target area.
Read more here: https://africanpeoplewildlife.org/wildlife-habitat-conservation/
WILDCAT WALKABOUT 2019
On November 2nd 2019, Big Cat Rescue had our annual Wildcat Walkabout event, where money raised by admission prices, was donated to 5 worthwhile wild cat conservation projects. Each project was devoted to a different cat species; Cheetah, Margay, Jaguar, Florida Panther & Snow Leopard. This year the event raised a staggering $41,700 total! Below are descriptions of each project and links to read more about the organizations we supported.
PASO PACIFICO – JAGUARS IN NICARAGUA
$8,300 was donated to Paso Pacifico. Paso Pacifico was founded in 2005, and is a non profit organization, whose mission is to restore and conserve the natural ecosystems of Central America’s Pacific Slope. They aim to do this by collaborating with landowners, local communities and involved organizations to promote ecosystem conservation. Their reforestation projects across Nicaragua’s Pacific Slope are restoring habitat for carnivorous felids such as the jaguar, ocelot, and mountain lions, as well as contributing to the conservation of the landscape.
Once believed to be extinct in Nicaragua, jaguars are slowly recovering on the Pacific Slope of Central America in the Paso del Istmo Biological Corridor. Protecting jaguars is one primary goal of their program. Paso Pacifico has been using camera traps placed in strategic locations across their reserves to monitor and document the recovery of the species in Nicaragua. The Camera traps help to map critical habitat areas for jaguars and to identify the availability of prey to these large predators. The “community” of forest wildlife can provide clues about the health of the forest.
It has become apparent that the jaguar’s decline has largely been due to deforestation and human predators. Farmers and ranchers have seen jaguars as a threat to their livestock, resulting in jaguars often being shot on sight. In an effort to improve farmers’ perception of jaguars, Paso Pacifico have implemented workshops with landowners and other community members to learn about the jaguar and its importance to the ecosystem. At these workshops, landowners receive livestock management training to better protect their animals from jaguars and other large carnivores. Farmers also receive compensation for any livestock that they lose to carnivores in an effort to prevent farmers from shooting jaguars on their property.
Read more here: https://pasopacifico.org/project/jaguars/
THE ALTAI PROJECT – SAVING SNOW LEOPARDS
$8,500 was donated to The Altai Project. The Altai Project protects natural landscapes and wildlife, and supports indigenous people and traditions, in and around Russia and the 4-nation Greater Altai region that includes Mongolia, Kazakhstan and China.
As of 2014, fewer than 100 snow leopards remain in Russia, mostly in the Altai-Sayan Ecoregion. As an apex predator, this beautiful cat plays a critical role in maintaining the structure of the regions ecological community.
The Altai Project have worked intensively to provide financial support, technical and scientific expertise and equipment to aid scientists from Altaisky Nature Reserve. For the last 3 years, these scientists have conducted extensive presence/absence and camera-trapping surveys to gain a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of Snow Leopard distribution and ecology in Altai and other parts of the cats Russian habitat Range. The Altai Project have provided dozens of camera traps, developed and installed anti-poaching monitoring devices, designed date recording technology and financially supported numerous surveying and anti-poaching expeditions.
All of surveying work has driven one point home, that the biggest threat to Snow Leopards in Altai is snares and other poaching. Large numbers of snares have been found across regions, even the most inaccessible. It is easy to catch Snow Leopards with snares, because the cats are predictable and follow the same trails, for many years. In remote regions, poaching may be the only source of income for local families and the demand for animal parts is high. Much of key Snow Leopard habitat is completely outside of protected areas, or is insufficiently protected.
In addition to conservation efforts, new information about Leopard residence has been found. Small but critical populations have been located in remote areas in South Central and Southeastern Altai, and evidence of migratory cat has been collected in other areas across southeastern Altai. The more information can be collected on the cats the better they can be managed and conserved.
Read more here: https://www.altaiproject.org/2014/02/snow-leopard-campaign/
FLORIDA WILDLIFE CORRIDOR
$9,000 was donated to The Florida Wildlife Corridor. The Florida Wildlife Corridor, is a registered non-profit organization, championing the public and partner support needed to permanently connect, protect and restore, a statewide network of lands and waters that supports wildlife and people, including the native Florida Panther.
Using a science-based approach, on-the-ground knowledge of the Corridor, and the support of thousands of followers throughout the state and nation, the Florida Wildlife Corridor now embarks on its most important journey – to accelerate the rate of conservation in Florida by 10% annually in order to protect 300,000 acres within the Corridor by the end of 2020.
The Florida Wildlife Corridor empcompasses 15.8 million acres, 9.5 million acres of which is already protected, and 6.3 million acres of remaining opportunity area that currently has no conservation status. Current protected areas include 4.7 million acres of federal land, 4.5 million acres of state land, 162,776 acres of county and city land and 204,232 acres of private land with permanent conservation status.
A wildlife Corridors is a vital link between wildlife habitats, that are isolated as a result of human habitat fragmentation, typically caused by urbanization, agriculture and forestry. The Corridors provide an unbroken path of suitable habitat that gives animals and plants safe passage, without being hindered as they travel through urbanized landscapes. The corridors facilitate movement of individuals, through both dispersal and migration, so that gene flow and diversity are maintained between local populations. By linking populations throughout the landscape, there is a lower chance for extinction and greater support for species richness.
At present the Florida Wildlife Corridor provides habitat for 42 federally listed endangered species, 24 threatened species and 15 candidate species. At the state level, there are an additional 176 species listed as endangered, 56 as threatened and 29 as a species of special concern.
Read more here: http://floridawildlifecorridor.org/
GRUPO ECOLOGICO SIERRA GORDA I.A.P – PROTECTING MARGAY
$7,900 was donated to Grupo Ecologico Sierra Gorda I.A.P. The Sierra Gorda Alliance was founded in 1987 and is working with local communities to protect cloud forests which have dwindled to just 2% of their original coverage. These forests house thousands of animals, among them some of Mexico’s most threatened species, including the magnificent margay. They are working with local communities to protect – not plunder – these natural resources to continue to protect margay’s vital habitats.
Without income opportunities, the impoverished traditional landowners of Mexico’s Sierra Gorda often resort to illegal logging, hunting and other harmful practices. Margays, one of the six feline species present in the area, are especially at risk, with more than 14,000 hunted and sold for their coats globally each year. Education, training, and technical assistance to local landowners is crucial for protecting these cats and preserving their habitat.
Sierra Gorda Alliance work with local communities to create sustainable livelihoods, and actively engage them in the protection of the region. They provide fair compensation to landowners who undertake conservation activities, such as regenerating damaged habitats, as well as investing in community micro-enterprises, including ecotourism and fair trade eco-products that create sustainable alternatives to logging, hunting, and high-impact ranching.
The most effective measure they take is purchasing land for strict conservation. This allows safe, protected habitat for a large number of species. Properties are chosen strategically in order to create biological corridors for Margay, Ocelots and other wild animals, increasing connectivity and assuring gene flow. Sierra Gorda Alliance also supports the management of these private reserves, covering park ranger salaries, equipment, and transportation.
Read more here: http://sierragorda.net/en/
TSAVO CHEETAH PROJECT
$8,000 was donated to the Tsavo Cheetah Project. Tsavo Cheetah Project are working together with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) on long-term, effective cheetah conservation and monitoring programs in the Tsavo region of Kenya. The Tsavo Ecosystem has been concluded as a priority focal area for cheetah research and conservation. Covering an area of 16,000 square miles (42,000 square kilometres) the Tsavo Ecosystem in south eastern Kenya, comprises the unfenced Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks and a diverse range of ethnic communities and tribes.
The Cheetah is a globally threatened species, listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Worldwide, cheetah populations are estimated between 9,000 and 12,000 individuals, with population strongholds existing in Southern and Eastern Africa. The cheetah population in Kenya is not well-known, but is believed to be less than 1000 individuals. The main threats affecting the cheetah’s survival are habitat loss and fragmentation, a declining prey base, inter-guild competition with sympatric large predators, and conflict with humans through livestock depredation. The conservation strategy for cheetahs is dependant on reliable population estimates, and an understanding of cheetah distribution and threats within protected areas, ranch lands, communities, and along wildlife dispersal corridors.
Increasing human populations and demand for land and settlement is causing ever-closer interaction between humans and wildlife within the ecosystem, leading to conflict and livestock depredation. Since 2011, the project has conducted research into the conservation and population status of the cheetah, beginning within the region of southern Tsavo East.
There are many misconceptions among local residents on the cheetah’s behavior and ecology. Many people fear the cheetah, unaware of its non- aggressive nature. As a result, reports of unnecessary killings of this threatened cat continue to occur in the vicinity, even within the park’s boundaries by encroaching pastoralists. Local poaching in the study area for bush-meat includes cheetahs main prey species and has even caused cheetah deaths due to indiscriminate snaring.
The aim of the Tsavo Cheetah project is to protect and conserve the Tsavo ecosystem cheetah population for the long-term survival of the species. They work with stakeholders and communities in addition to governmental bodies to foster the coexistence with local residents and influence wildlife laws and policies.
Read more here: http://www.tsavocheetahproject.org
Previous Year’s InSitu Work by Big Cat Rescue
See InSitu work from 2018 here: http://bigcatrescue.org/insitu2018/
See InSitu work from 2017 here: http://bigcatrescue.org/insitu2017/
See InSitu work from 2016 and before here: http://bigcatrescue.org/insitu2016/