Big Cat Rescue’s In Situ Conservation Work
2018 Saving Wild Places for Wild Cats
Click the pins on the map, or the species on the left, to get all of the details!
2018 InSitu Funding
Snow Leopard Trust
In January 2018 Big Cat Rescue donated to the Snow Leopard Trust. Understanding the ecology and habitat needs of any species is a key building block to create and maintain successful conservation programs. In order to protect snow leopards, it is first imperative to identify the resources they use within their home ranges and varying landscapes, in addition to how they interact with each other, as well as other wildlife. The Snow Leopard Trust conducts groundbreaking ecological research across 5 of the 12 countries Snow Leopards inhabit, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Pakistan. These 5 countries together contain over 75% of the worlds population of wild snow Leopards.
In Mongolia, specifically, they have created a Long-Term Ecological Study that is focused on growing knowledge of Snow Leopard behaviour and patterns of land use. Through this study they have been able to continuously monitor wild snow leopards, including their spatial behaviours, predation patterns, prey preference, disease ecology and a most importantly form a determination of population size.
As with many species, human-animal conflict is an ongoing problem, as humans increase land use, decreasing the availability of land for wildlife, decreasing prey availability and increasing mortality threats such as poaching, deforestation and mining.
To further protect snow leopards, the snow leopard trust works on a larger landscape level, finding ways for snow leopards to coexist with the people sharing their habitat. Many families living in snow leopard habitats are herders who live on less than $2 a day and depend on their livestock for food and income. Occasionally snow leopards will kill livestock, as they are an easy prey source, and members of the community resort to retaliation killings or poaching of the big cats. Therefore the snow leopard trust saw an immediate need and is working to initiate community based conservation programs to break the cycle of poverty and create incentive for herders to protect the wildlife and ecosystems.
Read more about their work here: https://www.snowleopard.org
Lion Landscapes is a non profit organisation dedicated to lion conservation in Africa. The Laikipia and Samburu region of Kenya supports the 3rd largest lion population in the country, despite the presence of people and livestock throughout the region. In recent years Laikipia’s lions have faced increased danger; unprecedented influxes of many thousands of livestock and people from other regions has threatened the viability of the area for lions. Some lions have been killed directly due to conflict with incoming livestock owners. There is less food for lions because wild prey has also been killed directly or out-competed by tens of thousands of incoming livestock. The biggest threat to lions is that they have been exposed to large numbers of poorly defended livestock, and lions that have never killed livestock have started to view livestock as prey.
Past experience has shown that livestock depredation behavior in lions, once learnt, is a longer term problem that will not be resolved when the large numbers of livestock and people from other areas go home. Rather, now visiting livestock are leaving the area, lions are facing a period of nutritional hardship, and some lions are turning to kill resident livestock, that they previously co-existed with without incident. In short, an alarming number of Laikipia’s lions have developed a dangerous habit – people whose livelihood is threatened by lions often respond by killing the lions.
Luckily long term research in the area has shown that conflict between lions and people can be effectively managed by collaring and monitoring lion movements, and giving livestock owners access to real time lion movement data. This allows livestock owners to be proactive and keep their livestock away from lions, or increase their protection of livestock when close to lions.
One adult lioness in each pride, and one adult male in each male coalition is collared with a GPS collar that sends us hourly locations for the lion. Access to lion movement data is given to livestock owners that maps the lion locations on google earth. Even if livestock owners don’t have the same technology as all of us, almost all of them have access to smartphones and a cell network.
In addition to the data from the GPS collars, Lion Landscapes has developed a predator system. This system responds to chips in the lion’s collar by setting off alarms and lights when the collared lion approaches livestock within a certain distance.The harmless deterrents used (lights and alarms) often stop a lion attacking on their own but the system also ensures that human boma guards are awake and ready for the lion when it arrives.
Read more about their work here: https://www.lionlandscapes.org/collaring-for-coexistence
Furs for Life
The leopard is likely the most persecuted large cat in the world. Extinct in six countries and possibly extinct in six additional countries, leopards have vanished from at least 49 percent of their historic range in Africa and 84 percent of their historic range in Eurasia.
The species is threatened by illegal killing for their skins and other body parts used for ceremonial regalia, conflict with local people, rampant bushmeat poaching, and poorly managed trophy hunting.
In southern Africa, as many as 2,500 leopards are killed each year for their skins. With fewer than 5,000 leopard remaining in South Africa, this illegal killing poses a significant threat to their survival.
Many leopards are killed so their skins can be used by local religious groups, such as the Shembe, for ceremonial garb. Leopard furs are a crucial element of traditional dress during the Shembe Festival, an annual gathering of Shembe members. After discovering that as many as 15,000 illegal leopard skins were being used, Panthera initiated the Furs for Life Leopard Project in 2013.
Working with digital designers, Panthera created high-quality and affordable faux leopard skin capes. More than 14,000 capes have already been donated and another 4,000 are set to be distributed by 2018.
The Faux skins are gaining increasing acceptance as viable alternatives to real leopard skins. Panthera’s research has indicated that the use of real skins has already decreased by 50% preventing hundreds of Leopard deaths each year.
One of these alternative skins can be purchased for just $30, meaning a SAVE Award donation of $1,000 funds 33!
Read more about this project here: https://www.panthera.org/furs-for-life
Audubon Canyon Ranch
Audubon Canyon Ranch is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit environmental conservation and education organization, founded in 1962. Today, Audubon Canyon Ranch acts as guardian of a system of nature preserves spanning 26 properties in California. ACR works to improve global environmental health by conserving and stewarding valuable natural resources, managing for ecological resilience, providing scientific solutions to ecosystem management, and teaching generations of conservationists in ways that strengthen natural and human communities.
Living with Lions is a community-based mountain lion research and education project in the Mayacamas Mountains of Sonoma and Napa Counties that will increase scientific and public understanding of mountain lions, identify priority habitat areas for conservation, and increase appreciation for these important top predators. By expanding their knowledge of mountain lion behavior, population size, feeding habits, home range, and movements, ACR can contribute to their conservation and the protection of the habitat critical for mountain lion survival while minimizing conflict with humans.
ACR’s principal investigator on the Project is Dr. Quinton Martins, a leading expert on large mountain cats and a skilled predator trapper. Together with a team of ACR staff and advisors, Dr. Martins is studying the movement of mountain lions fitted with GPS collars within a study area that encompasses approximately 1,000 square miles, primarily in the Mayacamas Mountains (areas east of Highway 101 and west of 29) in Sonoma and Napa Counties. Living with Lions will lead to a better understanding of mountain lion ecology, connectivity in this fragmented landscape, and identification of priority areas for conservation.
ACR believes that conservation is successful when people feel personally connected to nature. Mountain lions are such an iconic and charismatic species, inspiring awe, curiosity, and sometimes fear in a way that few other animals do. Through cutting-edge research, ACR continues to lead regional conservation and, through a greater understanding and appreciation of our natural world, create a better environment for all communities.
S.P.E.C.I.E.S – Ocelots in Trinidad
The Ocelot is one of 13 species of wild cat native to the western hemisphere and one of 10 felids inhabiting Latin America. The Ocelot occurs from the lower Rio Grande Valley to extreme south Texas and the Sky Islands of southern Arizona. Following the 2017 Wildcat Walkabout Big Cat Rescue made a donation to support the non-profit organisation S.P.E.C.I.E.S, who was undertaking the first comprehensive effort to study ocelots in Trinidad. The history of the ocelot on Trinidad is unique for several reasons. It is the only place that the ocelot has evolved in the absence of larger mammalian carnivores, on Trinidad it is the largest predatory mammal.
Among Neotropical small felids, it is second only to the jaguarundi in distribution expanse, and is classified by the IUCN as a species of “Least Concern”, the lowest priority for conservation among the world’s threatened and endangered species. But on Trinidad, there is anecdotal evidence to suggest the ocelot population may be declining, and its future may be threatened by human activities. More importantly perhaps, Trinidad hosts the only population of ocelots on a continental island, making it the most geographically isolated of all ocelot populations. Because Trinidad has been isolated from the mainland for approximately 11,000 years, much of its biodiversity is unique.
The study aimed to look at the ecology of Trinidad’s ocelot population, define its place in the evolutionary history of the ocelot as a species and develop an integrative plan for its long-term conservation. The study is investigating the impacts of deforestation, illegal hunting, urbanization, and different types of agricultural land use and intensity on ocelot habitat suitability, population density, and the diversity of prey species available to the predator. S.P.E.C.I.E.S are also collaborating with local institutions to promote greater awareness of the ocelot’s needs among the public of Trinidad & Tobago, build individual capacity and organizational capacity to monitor ocelots, and develop an island strategy for habitat connectivity and conservation across based on the needs of the species. If the ecological needs of ocelots can be better understood, it is possible to more precisely define the types and intensity of human activities that are compatible with an increasing or stable ocelot population.
In May 2018 BCR received the below update on this project. In the previous months S.P.E.C.I.E.S researchers have been very busy undertaking multiple surveys, encompassing three separate study sites: Arena Recreational Forest, Asa Wright Nature Center, and Nariva Swamp. These study sites represent some of the most important potential ocelot habitat on the island and the early stages of this project has been more successful than it could have anticipated. One of the benefits of these surveys was to help increase graduate student involvement, leading to more thesis topics that will advance ocelot research.
Incoming observational data has shown that agouti, which is a main prey item for the ocelot, are showing strong population numbers. The strong agouti population is important because it demonstrates that hunting agouti for bush meat does not seem to be affecting the overall population numbers and, thus, not negatively impacting one the ocelot’s favored prey items. Also recently, a “Bioblitz” was held on the island by the University of the West Indies. The goal of a Bioblitz is to observe as many species as possible in a given amount of time. In this case, the Bioblitz lasted four to six weeks and resulted in some of the first data on ocelots and other wildlife of Trinidad.
Read more about their work here: https://egret.org/living-with-lions
See InSitu work from 2017 here: https://bigcatrescue.org/insitu2017/
See InSitu work from 2016 and before here: https://bigcatrescue.org/insitu2016/