InSitu

Manny Jaguary: Can you see that some of his spots have spots inside them?

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!

Research and Articles by Lauren Buckingham

2018 InSitu Funding

Gorongosa Lions

Gorongosa National Park is mozambique’s flagship national park, encompassing 4,067 sq.km and acting as a hub for ecotourism, scientific research, conservation and community engagement. After preliminary exploration it is one of the most beautiful and biodiverse landscapes in Africa, thanks to its varied terrain, richness of its soil and variety of different ecosystems. Within this park is the Gorongosa Lion Project, a long-term recovery and conservation of lions in the Gorongosa-Marromeu Lion Ecosystem.

In 2012 the Gorongosa Lion Project was initiated to begin the first-steps required to document the conservation status and ecology of the Gorongosa lion population, and identify and remedy threats to their recovery and persistence across the Greater Gorongosa Ecosystem.

The lion is currently in a race for its survival across Africa.  In just 50 years, lions in the wild have declined by 70% and have been extirpated from 80% of their historical range.  Increasing human expansion and loss of habitat, retaliatory killings for livestock losses, incidental snaring and poaching, and unsustainable trophy hunting practices are all taking their toll on the species. Conservation efforts such as those underway in Gorongosa are critical to the survival of this magnificent species in Mozambique and beyond. Gorongosa was once home to hundreds of lions and our mission is to make Gorongosa a lion stronghold once again. Between 50-70 lions live in the Park today and research work is currently underway, led by Paola Bouley, to accurately document, protect and restore the species to its full capacity in the Park.

The GLP is currently investigating potential limiting factors including prey composition & abundance, genetics, disease, and human impacts (including snaring, poaching, and park boundaries). One technique used by the project is GPS radio collars. The Collars cost around $2,500 and can save lives. The collars allow for the tracking of individuals, obtaining essential information for research but also alerting if  individuals are in danger from trapping, poaching etc. The collars improve safety for the remaining population.

Other core programs of the GLP include, A Rapid-Response Veterinary Unit, Lion Anti-Poaching Teams, Conservation medicine initiatives to involve and train the next generation of Gorongosa wildlife managers alongside the essential research & monitoring. Read more about their work here: http://www.lions.gorongosa.org

Freeland Foundation

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. Freeland’s global team of law enforcement and development experts, work alongside government officers, local communities, students and other NGO’s in Asia, Africa and America to educate, empower and catalyze action to investigate and arrest wildlife/poaching syndicates, even when local law enforcement is too corrupt to do its job.

In October 2018, Big Cat Rescue donated $5,000 to their mission “Tyger” Initiative, following a lead on an active poaching gang in Southeast Asia. The donation was time sensitive, as the Freeland Foundation needed urgent funding to help authorities track down and stop the poachers. Over a 4 week period, the poachers had struck 3 times, killing tigers and selling their parts. Freeland had obtained information on one of the poachers in addition to one of the buyers. The initiative was set to track the poachers across 3 international borders. In previous investigations, the Freeland Foundation, had bad been successful in breaking up some of Asia’s biggest wildlife trafficking rings and arresting kingpins previously thought to be untouchable, so with the donation from Big Cat, hopes were they could catch these poachers too, and fast.  

Read more about their work here: https://www.freeland.org/stop-wildlife-trafficking

Endangered Wildlife Trust

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is a registered 501(c)3 Non Profit Organization dedicated to conserving threatened species and ecosystems in southern Africa.

Carnivores are traded both as living and dead specimens e.g. Leopards are traded for hunting trophies, cheetahs as exotic pets and lions for photo props/canned hunts. Trade needs to be well regulated to ensure that it does not impact negatively on the survival of the species. In South Africa it has been shown that the regulation and policing of trade in carnivores is inefficient and that in many cases trade is detrimental to the survival of the species. The Carnivore Trade project focuses aims to change this through monitoring, regulation, awareness and training.

Read more about the Carnivore Trade Project here: https://www.ewt.org.za/CCP/ccp.html

Guardians of the Wild

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) initiated the Guardians of the Wild Project in 2001, with the goal of assisting the government in creating a strong, well-equipped and motivated force of frontline rangers, to curb poaching and habitat degradation in key tiger habitats.

As few as 3,000 tigers survive in the wild. The few tigers that do remain live in vast inaccessible forests protected by forest and park rangers who often lack proper training and equipment, and who are outmanned and outgunned by gangs of poachers seeking to kill wild tigers and sell their skins and parts on the black market. Being a park ranger in India, Nepal or Bhutan is not the same as being a park ranger in the USA, where field staff have the training and equipment they need to survive and accomplish their missions, and help is just a phone call away. Dense swamps, marshlands, thick tropical forests, vast savannas, and the world’s highest mountain peaks form impenetrable barriers that make resupply and rescue virtually impossible. Rangers on the front lines in South Asia risk serious injury and their lives from road accidents, animal attacks or conflicts, disease outbreaks, attacks by insurgent groups, drowning, and a host of other menaces. And, there’s the constant threat from poachers. Well armed and motivated, poaching gangs roam the vast, often times roadless landscape, taking a variety of animals with them as they seek the ultimate payoff – a wild tiger. In recent years, criminals have upgraded their techniques and equipment, making it even more difficult for the under-equipped forest staff to curb illegal activities. To date 110 wildlife rangers have been killed in the line of duty, while 10 have been seriously injured or disabled.

The Guardians of the wild project has a multi-pronged strategy abbreviated as TEAM, which stands for Training, Equipment, Awareness and Morale Boosting. In Collaboration with India’s state forest department, the project provides rangers with in-depth training in the basics of investigation, preparing and filing legal cases against offenders, current threats to wildlife and human- wildlife conflicts, and crime prevention techniques. Upon successful completion of the program, personnel are given kits to help them in field work. The kits are assembled based on the needs of the field work area. Since the project was introduced, over 16,000 forest personnel have been trained and equipped, in more than 150 protected areas across India. Because of its success, the governments of Bhutan and Nepal have requested the assistance of the project in their own countries, where rampant poaching threatens tiger survival. In the areas where Guardians of the Wild project has been introduced, many wildlife populations have increased and wildlife crimes have decreased.

Read more about the Guardians of the Wild Initiative here:  http://www.wti.org.in/projects/wildlife-crime-control-division/

Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy

The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy is a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving land, protecting natural areas for birds and wildlife and providing access and education to their local communities.

Disruption of landscape connections for species movements and range changes is one of the greatest stressors to ecosystems. Movement is essential to species survival, whether it be day-to-day movement of individuals seeking food, shelter or mates, juvenile dispersal, seasonal migration or recolonization after a local population is eliminated. Maintaining and enhancing connectivity is essential to support ecosystem functions, such as predator-prey relationships and gene flow.

The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy established the Hahamongna to Tujungi Wildlife Corridor Initiative, with a goal of linking the San Gabriel Mountains at Hahamongna Watershed Park to the San Gabriels at Big Tujunga Wash for Wildlife Passage, a 20-mile long corridor. This project will bring to life an additional 13,400 acres of habitat by connecting with the 700,000-acre Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains. Predators such as Mountain Lions and Bobcats can then live in these urban hills with ready access to others of their species in the abundant range of the San Gabriels, assuring genetic diversity. Los Angeles is one of only two megacities — Mumbai, India, is the other — where large predatory cats live in an urban setting. Threats to the Los Angeles metropolitan area mountain lion population are growing. Typically, a mountain lion requires 200 square miles of habitat to support it, but they are living in dramatically closer quarters in these urban islands. This leads to inbreeding in these isolated genetic pools.

The Arroyos & Foothills Conservancy is seeking funding to:

  • Track collared & tagged mountain lion
  • Establish GIS capacity to update maps and database information
  • Use their biological study and data to set priorities for conserving land within the corridor
  • Engage partners from the conservation community
  • Educate about the corridor
  • Reach out to educate communities near the corridor about the wildlife living among them, the benefits of habitat restoration and human-animal conflicts

Read more about their work here: http://www.arroyosfoothills.org

BORNEO NATURE FOUNDATION

The Borneo Nature Foundation is a not-for-profit conservation and research organization that works to protect some of the most important areas of tropical rainforest, to safeguard wildlife, the environment and indigenous culture in Borneo. They support and empower community-led initiatives to protect forest and biodiversity, including anti-logging patrols, fire-fighting teams, environmental education and the replanting and restoration of damaged forests. All field programs include high-quality scientific research as a basis for protecting and managing the forests. In addition they providing training and capacity building for local students, researchers, conservation-area managers and local partners to implement successful conservation projects.

The Borneo Wild Cat Initiative was started in 2008, focusing on key questions about wild cat density and abundance in an under-studied habitat,  whilst investigating and mitigating threats facing them. The Bornean tropical forest contains a guild of five felid species: Sunda clouded leopard, bay cat, marbled cat, flat-headed cat and leopard cat . Two are endangered, two threatened, and their presumed primary habitat is rapidly being lost and/or altered in the region.

To date their research has confirmed that the Sabangau Forest supports populations of four of the five Bornean cats, including the largest predator on Borneo, the clouded leopard; plus the leopard cat, flat-headed cat and marbled cats. It has been estimated, from camera trap sightings, that there are around 128 clouded leopard individuals in Sabangau. This means that the population in Sabangau makes up over 5% of the total world population. Conducting studies on Borneo provides the chance to study clouded leopard and small felid guild in the absence of tigers and large canids. The Borneo Wild Cats Initiative is the first long-term, intensive camera-trapping study of clouded leopards and other felids in Indonesian peat-swamp forest aiming to increase knowledge on ecology, behaviour and conservation status.

Read more about their work here: http://www.borneonaturefoundation.org/enresearch-in-action/borneo-wild-cats/

OSA CONSERVATION – COSTA RICA

Founded in 2003, Osa Conservation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting globally significant biodiversity of the Osa Peninsula, in Costa Rica, through the implementation of ecosystem stewardship, enhancing scientific understanding, providing education and training, and creating sustainable economic opportunities.

Osa is one of the last landscapes in Central America that can still sustain five species of wild cats in the region: Margay, Ocelot, Jaguarundi, Cougar and Jaguar. The incredible region of the Osa, with its intense diversity and endemism is at risk, with old forest growth declining, putting pressure on biodiversity, as the forests become increasingly fragmented and degraded. Within the Osa forest, these cats face threats from habitat fragmentation, decrease of natural prey and increasing conflicts with humans and livestock. In 1999 the Osa was declared one of ninety “Jaguar Conservation Sites” of the world and one of the most important places for conservation of this species, which is critically endangered in Costa Rica.

To better understand the conservation needs of wild cats and their prey, Osa Conservation initiated the Camera Trap Network for the Osa Peninsula in collaboration with National University of Costa Rica (UNA).  This monitoring program is comprised of camera traps placed on properties throughout the Osa Peninsula- ranging from Corcovado National Park, local eco-lodges, private landowners and Osa Conservation properties and Piedras Blancas National Park. As part of the Osa Camera Trap Network, the cameras are placed in areas with high probability of cat presence. They take pictures based on a motion sensor so every time an animal passes by photographic evidence is obtained that we can be used to learn about population trends.

The aim of the Camera Traps was to identify the key priority conservation areas in addition to estimating the current density of Jaguar in the Osa Peninsula, estimating abundance of terrestrial mammals among the different protected areas in the Osa Peninsula, Identifying anthropogenic and environmental factors affecting the distribution and abundance of terrestrial mammals in the Osa Peninsula and evaluating the biological corridors in the Osa Peninsula.

Read more about their work here: http://osaconservation.org/projects/wildlife/osa-camera-trap-network/

INTERNATIONAL TIGER DAY 2018 BENEFICIARIES

For International Tiger Day 2018, a fundraiser was held to raise money for two organizations doing great work for cats in the wild. The first was the Corbett Foundation, who we have donated to on a recurring basis over the years, supporting there open wells initiative in India. The second was a new project headed by WWF & TRAFFIC. Big Cat Rescue matched the profit of purchases of our International Tiger Day Merchandise, along with any donations made on the merchandise page, dollar for dollar up to $5,000. A total of $4,793 was raised, but we made up the difference, to donate a total of $10,000 between the two projects. Learn more about the WWF/TRAFFIC Initiative below:

WWF/TRAFFIC “Super Sniffers” Initiative

The illegal wildlife trade is a rapid growing global industry, run by highly organized criminal networks, with an estimated worth of $19 billion per year. India plays a significant role in this illegal network, particularly as a source of tiger bones, used traditionally for Chinese medicine, and tiger skins, that command a high price on the international market. Illegal trade is often perceived as a lower risk Illegal activity by poachers and traders but puts the population of Indian tigers at high risk.


Since 2008, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade and monitoring network, and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), have embarked on an important journey to help raise and train sniffer dog squads to strengthen anti-poaching and anti-trafficking measures, of forest departments and other enforcement agencies, concerned with wildlife protection in India. Dogs have an extraordinary sense of smell that is almost one thousand times more sensitive than a humans, often giving them the ability to discriminate between the faintest odors and detect smells from both living species and raw materials, despite smugglers efforts to mask them. The dogs not only increase efficiency and detect hard-to-find substances but their presence also provides a strong deterrent to traffickers and helps raise awareness in the public about the illegal wildlife trade.

Sniffer dogs are often employed at airports, shipping ports, transport centers and national parks, working alongside trained handlers, to quickly scan cargo, luggage, packaging, vehicles or desired areas for illegal contraband. The dogs undergo grueling training to be able to detect not only wildlife products, but to also locate animals that have sustained injuries, which helps authorities get hold of poachers swiftly. Once trained the dogs, popularly known as “Super Sniffers”, are deployed into one of seven states in India that are home to large tiger populations.

Up until the end of 2017, 56 dogs were successfully trained and deployed through this program. Read more about the great work being done, here: https://support.wwfindia.org/super_sniffer/index.php

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

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.

Volunteers helping to carry out surveys on the island

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/

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