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
SATPUDA LANDSCAPE TIGER PROGRAMME
The Satpuda Landscape Tiger Programme was established in 2005 and is the largest NGO working on tiger and habitat conservation in India. Satpuda Landscape Tiger Programme, developed by the Born Free Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit at Oxford University, brings together a network of Indian conservationists who are working in six tiger reserves across this very important tiger range. The Satpuda forests of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra offer perhaps the best hope for India’s remaining wild tigers. A handful of small organizations and committed conservationists work hand in hand with government officers and local communities to deliver long-term solutions for the protection of Satpuda’s biodiversity, both directly protecting wildlife and addressing some of the most urgent needs of the people that live close to tigers.
At one time there were 300,000 tigers across India and SE Asia. By 1916 this had dropped to 100,000, and by 2008 there were an estimated 3,500 tigers left in the wild. Numbers have recovered slightly to approximately 4,000 of which 2,500 are in India. With pressures, such as habitat loss, prey loss, poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, still remaining, the survival of the wild tiger is hanging by a thread.
Throughout the entire Satpuda landscape, grazing has become one of the most serious threats to tigers. In Melghat alone, over 125,000 cattle graze each day inside and around the fringes of the reserve. Forest fires, illegal logging, and the collection of fire wood and non-timber forest products (NTFP) all add to the existing pressure. In addition, indigenous peoples residing in the Satpuda range are also known to hunt wildlife – usually the same species on which tigers prey – for meat.
These pressures result not only in the degradation of habitat, but also in a sharp increase in human-wildlife conflict. In Tadoba-Andhari and its peripheral forests, 53 people have been killed by tigers in the last four years alone.
The key to saving the remaining cats and successful conservation will be finding solutions that align the interests of peoples with those of wildlife in the critical buffer zones and corridors of tiger habitat. The Satpuda Landscape Tiger Programme implements a variety of conservation activities to protect tiger habitats, mitigate tiger/human conflict, tackle wildlife crime, and monitor tiger ranging activity.
Read more about their work here: http://savingindiastigers.org
THE RAINFOREST TRUST
Rainforest Trust is a US-based nonprofit environmental organization established December 8, 1988 in New York and focused on the purchase and protection of tropical lands to strategically conserve threatened species.
The Rungan River Peat Swamp Forest is a vast mosaic of threatened peat swamp and lowland rainforest in southern Borneo. The area supports substantial populations of imperiled endemic species, including all five species of Bornean wild cats. One of these species is the elusive Borneo Bay Cat; a camera trap recorded video of the extremely rare species, one of only a few recent records.
The Rungan River landscape is one of the largest regions of lowland forest in Kalimantan, Borneo, that is currently unprotected and at risk of destruction. In addition, the Kalimatan lowlands have been extensively cleared during the past quarter-century, primarily to expand plantation agriculture for palm oil and acacia plantations, so immediate action is required to protect this key area. These landscape changes have led to serious pressure on both habitats and associated species.
Nearly all protected areas in the Central Kalimantan lowlands are in peat swamp habitat. This habitat is important, carbon-rich and under serious threat from annual forest fires, exacerbated by drainage, encroachment and climate change. Protecting more non-swamp (dryland) rainforest habitat is essential to ensure both that a range of habitats are protected and to avoid placing all conservation hopes on peatland protection. Despite this, there are no major protected areas in either the lowland dryland rainforest habitat-types (e.g., nutrient-poor kerangas forest) that occur between the northern coastal peatlands or the southern mountain chain, such as by the Rungan River landscape.
Rainforest Trust and local partners are seeking funding to permanently designate 385,000 acres as permanent protected area. At present an acre of Rainforest costs $2; The Rainforest Trust has a match for four times the impact, meaning for every $1 donated, an additional $3 is added. The $1,000 donation from this SAVE award, plus the additional $3,000 match means 2,000 acres of rainforest will be contributed and protected by Big Cat Rescue for this initiative.
Read more about their work here:
CONSERVATION SOUTH LUANGWA
Conservation South Luangwa is a non-profit community based organization committed to the conservation of the local wildlife and natural resources. They aim to offer high quality support services to the Zambia Wildlife Authority and to South Luangwa community resource boards targeted at supporting the realisation of excellence in wildlife management and law enforcement in the South Luangwa National Park and optimization in the utilization of natural resources.
Special attention needs to be given to anti-snaring patrols in South Luangwa. The park and surrounding areas face rapid encroachment from human settlement and agriculture. Human populations have more than doubled over the past twenty years and as a result, there is a high demand for protein in the form of bush meat as well as opportunistic and planned commercial hunting forays. Snaring is easy, generates high returns and presents a very low risk to the poacher.
Over 10,000 snares have been removed from the bush by CSL supported scouts and more than 160 elephants, 25 lions, 20 hyenas have been immobilized and treated for snare wounds since 2005. To address this CSL has set up a specialized wild dog and lion anti-snaring team who use GPS locations provided by ZCP to determine where best to deploy effective anti-snaring patrols.
Read more about their work here: https://cslzambia.org/wildlife-rescue-and-desnaring
BIG LIFE FOUNDATION
In 2018 Big Cat Rescue continued support of Big Life Foundation, an organization dedicated to, using innovative conservation strategies and collaborating closely with local communities, partner NGOs, national parks, and government agencies, to protect and sustain East Africa’s wildlife and wild lands.
The raising of livestock in Maasailand is a vital activity for the community’s subsistence. Predators are under constant threat from livestock owners who view them as a danger and kill them in retribution for livestock losses. Retaliatory killing is the major threat to Africa’s lion population today – the population is currently suffering a precipitous decline in numbers. Recent estimates show that, 20 years ago there were 200,000 lions in Africa and today there are less than 25,000 lions, with no more than 2,000 of these individuals residing in Kenya.
In 2003, in response to an imminent – and virtually certain – threat of local lion extinction, Maasailand Preservation Trust (MPT), in close collaboration with the local community, conceived a first-of-its-kind predator compensation Fund (PCF). The intention was to better balance the costs and benefits of living with wildlife and thereby replace conflict and retaliation with tolerance and cohabitation.
This novel conservation strategy remains one of the most far-reaching and effective projects yet conceived by MPT, the first project of its kind implemented in Maasailand.
One of many key aspects of the Predator Compensation Fund (PCF) is that it acts as an umbrella of protection – not only preventing lion extinction but also providing coverage for other persecuted species, such as hyena, cheetah, leopard, wild dog and jackal.
Since inception, lion killing has virtually stopped on Mbirikani Group Ranch within a Maasai community of 10,000 individuals. Only 6 lions were killed by livestock owners on Mbirikani Group Ranch during the first nine years of the project, while, during that same period, more than 200 lions were killed on the neighboring group ranches where the PCF programme did not exist (at that time). The same Mbirikani Group Ranch community that now protects lions killed 22 in just 18 months prior to introduction of this innovative project. A key factor to PCF’s success is the requirement that the entire community must support the objectives of the programme or compensation will cease for everyone.
Read more about the project here: https://biglife.org/predator-compensation
MOUNTAIN LION FOUNDATION
In 2018 Big Cat Rescue continued support of The Mountain Lion Foundation, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting Cougars and their habitats. The Foundation works closely with legislative, governmental and conservation groups to heighten public awareness and educate policy makers on conservation issues such as hunting, habitat loss, workable wildlife corridors, harmonious human/mountain lion interactions, and the vital role of the mountain lion in a healthy ecosystem. MFL works to continue growing knowledge about the species, ecology, habitat use and threats and uses it in an effort to influence cougar management plans, laws and regulations.
One of many important specific initiatives headed by the Mountain Lion Foundation, is Secure Livestock Enclosures. In the United States more cougars are killed as a result of preying on domestic livestock than for any other intentional reason.
The Mountain Lion foundation provides vital assistance and guidelines for locals who want to protect their livestock, by giving them free construction plans, instructions and material lists for cougar proof enclosures, they also provide hand on assistance in their construction. By decreasing livestock, it decreases the human-cougar conflict and thus decreases the number of retaliatory killings.
Read more about their work here: http://mountainlion.org/index.asp
THE THIN GREEN LINE FOUNDATION
In 2018 Big Cat Rescue continued support of The Thin Green Line Foundation. Partnered with the International Ranger Federation and are the only organizations dedicated to protecting rangers. Every day, Park Rangers risk their lives to protect wildlife and wild places from poaching and other threats. Sadly, it’s estimated that over 1,000 park rangers have been killed in the line of duty over the past 10 years – a large percentage of these are due to commercial poachers and armed militia groups. Park Rangers are generally under-equipped, underpaid, and often under-appreciated. We think they are heroes. And we work tirelessly to to provide them with the support they need to continue to protect threatened species around the world.
The Thin Green Line Foundation Protects Nature’s Protectors by providing vital support to Park Rangers and their communities who are the front-line of conservation. They work predominantly in developing nations and conflict zones, and with Indigenous Park Rangers within Australia and abroad.
The Thin Green Line Foundation is highly successful at delivering much needed support to Rangers, with a wide range of effective programs worldwide – from Kenya to Tanzania, Costa Rica to Guatemala, Thailand to Indonesia, and in many, many more places around the globe.
In the sad circumstance of a Ranger losing his or her life in the line of duty, TTGLF helps to ensure the widows and families are looked after into the future.
Through our work we aim to ensure that:
- Park Rangers are valued for their vital role at the front line of conservation
- Park Rangers, when in contact situations with poachers, have the ability to defend themselves
- Park Rangers are provided with decent working conditions and a living wage
- Park Rangers are provided with the skills and tools they need
- Park Rangers families and communities have on-going support when Rangers are injured or killed in the line of duty
Read more about their work here: https://thingreenline.org.au/story/
THE CONSERVATION FUND
The Conservation Fund is an American environmental non-profit with a dual charter to pursue environmental preservation and economic development. Since its founding in 1985, the organization has protected more than 7 million acres of land and water in all 50 states, including parks, historic battlefields, and wild areas.The Fund works with community and government leaders, businesses, landowners, conservation nonprofits and other partners to create innovative solutions that integrate economic and environmental objectives. The Fund also works with communities to strategically plan development and green space and offer training in conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.
In 1999, The Conservation Fund, purchased 12,600 acres which became part of the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. Most recently, in 2014, The Conservation Fund, in partnership with USFWS and the Friends of the Wildlife Corridor, purchased a conservation easement on more than 7,400 acres where the presence of eight ocelots has been documented. Funding for the purchase of the conservation easement came from the sale of other, less strategic USFWS lands, as well as from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, America’s premier land conservation program.
The Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is home to one of the two remaining ocelot populations in the nation, making it integral for conservation and recovery efforts for these endangered cats. Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is the largest protected area of natural habitat left in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
Read more about their work here: https://www.conservationfund.org/
On November 3rd 2018 Big Cat Rescue had our annual Wildcat Walkabout event, where money raised by admission prices, was donated to 5 worthwhile big cat conservation projects. Each project was devoted to a different cat species; Lion, Jaguar, Cougar, Leopard & Black Footed Cat. The event raised $15,200 total! Below are descriptions of each project and links to read more about the organizations we supported.
NORTHERN JAGUAR PROJECT
The Northern Jaguar Project is a bi-national non-profit organization initiated by conservationists from Arizona and Mexico, with the aim of preserving core Jaguar populations and essential Jaguar habitat through the establishment, care and expansion of protected areas in the Northern Sonoran Desert in Mexico and the southwestern United States. Their aspiration is to restore habitat suitable for Jaguars and other threatened and endangered species, support wildlife research and educational programs, and to reduce conflicts between carnivores and humans. Habitat loss, hunting, federal anti-predator programs, and conflicts with livestock have precipitated rapid declines of the world’s jaguar populations, and the species is today considered endangered throughout its entire range. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands where, within the last 100 years, the jaguar has been virtually eliminated. While individual jaguars continue to be documented in the mountains of southern Arizona and New Mexico, recent field investigations have determined that the nearest breeding population of 80 to 120 jaguars exists in Sonora, Mexico, approximately 125 miles south of the border.
The NJP has acquired land, through donation and purchase, to not only protect jaguar habitat but to preserve migratory routes. The Northern Jaguar Reserve now covers 70 square miles of consistently rough, steep terrain, sculpted by hundreds of canyons and cliffs – ideal for jaguars, bobcats and mountain lions. The lands surrounding the Northern Jaguar Reserve form one of the largest unbroken expanses of wildlife habitat in northern Mexico. NJP is working to identify safe-passage corridors to return Jaguars to former U.S habitat along the international border, and the NJP Reserve is the major source for cats moving north, it not only provides a crucial safe zone but is the link between protected areas in Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora. On the U.S side of the border, jaguars are protected on more than 800,000 acres of national forests, wildlife refuges, and private ranches with conservation agreements that prevents their killing. As NJP continue to seek land to provide connectivity for the Jaguar to travel northward, it appears their efforts are working, with male Jaguars being photographed on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border in recent years.
In addition to land purchase the NJP has established a group known as Jaguar Guardians, who are employed to reside on the Reserve, to provide protection for Jaguars and other wildlife by maintaining a consistent physical presence deterring encroachment, poaching and theft. They are also the ones regularly retrieving data from the field, which includes managing a series of motion-triggered cameras to determine jaguar, deer, and javelina densities, monitoring felid tracks, collecting scat, recording wildlife sightings, and determining the cause of death of any carcasses that are discovered. A total of $2,500 was donated to this project.
Read more about their work here: https://www.northernjaguarproject.org
SRI LANKAN CARNIVORE PROJECT
The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) is a non-governmental organization committed to developing sustainable models for wildlife conservation in Sri Lanka. SLWCS aims to develop practical solutions that mitigate human-wildlife conflict, environmental damage, climate change, biodiversity loss and rural poverty issues. All of these are intertwined and must be addressed simultaneously to achieve lasting and meaningful conservation.
SLWCS has partnered with the Society for the Preservation of Endangered Carnivores & their International Ecological Study, to uncover the world of Sri Lanka’s medium-large carnivore communities. Work is currently underway to evaluate the status of seven carnivore species, including one greater and 3 smaller felines, the leopard, rusty-spotted cat, fishing cat and jungle cat.
The teams work includes updating the population and conservation status of the Sri Lankan Leopard, an IUCN “Endangered” species and thus a high priority species for conservation in the country. Compared to other Leopard species in Asia and Africa, the Sri Lankan Leopard has been subject to few rigorous surveys and field investigations.
With urban and agricultural development pressure advancing more rapidly in Sri Lanka, the need to know more about the threats faced by the islands carnivore populations is more urgent than it has ever been. The more learned about the ecological requirements of these carnivores, like the Sri Lankan Leopard, for example, one of the islands largest terrestrial predators, the more effective the development of conservation strategies used to create and connect protected areas. Similarly, smaller carnivores like fishing cats and rusty-spotted cats can also serve as flagship species for the protection of sensitive habitats, such as the country’s numerous reservoirs and coastal mangrove wetlands, or indicate a decline in ecological health.A total of $3,500 was donated to this project.
Read more about their work here: https://www.slwcs.org/carnivore-project
MARA PREDATOR CONSERVATION PROGRAMME
The Kenya Wildlife Trust is Kenya’s principal predator conservation trust, focused on creating sustainable predator populations. Through tried and tested methods, they aim to ensure that lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs not only survive, but thrive. Since 2007, they have been raising money to help protect these iconic species and the landscapes that make Kenya truly unique.
At present Kenya’s predators are in trouble with big cat like lions, facing ever increasing threats from habitat loss, life threatening human animal conflict and an ecosystem under pressure. In 2018 KWT created the Mara Predator Conservation Programme, an initiative that brought together two flagship predator conservation projects, focusing on lions and cheetah, into one long-term conservation commitment. The Mara Predator Conservation Programme is based at the Tony Lapham Predator Hub in Olare Motorogi Conservancy, which borders the Maasai Mara Game Reserve with a study areas of more than 3000km².
With a focus on scientific research the Mara Predator Conservation Programme is able to identify and implement sustainable solutions to emerging conservation challenges and collect data relating to large predator population trends, predator mortality, predator dispersal, general ecology, wildlife and human behavior, predator genetics, endocrinology and epidemiology. Wildlife GPS Collars are one of the tools used to collect this data, sending information back on individually collared animals at regular intervals. A total of $3,500 was donated to this project.
The Mara Predator Conservation Programme has three overarching goals:
- To ensure that community members and landowners demonstrate increased understanding and appreciation of the role of predators in the ecosystem.
- To ensure that key stakeholders in the Greater Mara Ecosystem consistently utilize sound scientific information to inform conservation strategies.
- To support stable, healthy predator populations in the Greater Mara Ecosystem by providing scientific evidence for conservation action
Read more about their work here: http://www.marapredatorconservation.org
BLACK FOOTED CAT WORKING GROUP
The secretive and retiring Black footed Cat is the rarest of the African felids, listed in the IUCN Red list as vulnerable. In the larger part of their range they are protected, but hunting them is prohibited only in Botswana and South Africa. The total effective population size is less than 10,000 mature breeding individuals. Due to loss of its prey base through habitat degradation by overgrazing, indirect persecution by poisoning and predator control, the population is declining.
The Black-footed cat Working Group has the goal of furthering awareness and research for this rare cat, bringing together multidisciplinary expertise on the species biology. In 2008 the Black footed cat working group was formed to publish and share their findings. The group consists of 7 biologists and veterinarians and acts as a central information source for the species.
With 24 years running, it is one of the longest running small cat projects. More than 60 cats have been caught and collared over 100 times and what is known today about the species has been found during this field study in South Africa. The study collects data on the ecology of the species, like home range sizes, home range usage, social organization, food habits but also mortality, longevity, dispersal and reproduction of the population. The cats are captured using both netting and live trapping techniques. Once caught they are anesthetized and covered too with a blanket to shield them from light and sounds. Upon immobilization all cats are measured, weighed, examined for general body condition, parasites, and when possible blood is drawn. After fitting a small radio collar, the cats are placed in a safe area for recovery. All captured cats are released back into a den close to their capture location.
Big Cat Rescue first donated to this project in 2016. A total of $2,700 was donated to this project.
Read more about their work here: http://www.black-footed-cat.wild-cat.org
SANTA MONICA MOUNTAINS FUND
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.
A known threat for these cats is Habitat Fragmentation. A single male mountain lion uses about 100,000 acres of natural habitat, about the size of the entire Santa Monica Mountains! If mountain lions cannot move between natural areas, their population will not survive, therefore it is essential to keep open spaces connected and create new wildlife corridors where needed. Recent studies also showed threats from rodent poisons. Eleven out of twelve mountain lions tested positive for two or more rodent poison toxins. Researchers found higher levels of toxins in wild cats that spent more time in developed areas.
Since the spring of 2002, park scientists have studied mountain lions in and around the park. The more known about their behavior, the better equipped they are to protect them. Mountain lions are radio-collared and then scientists use GPS to monitor their movement. A total of $3,000 was donated to this project.
Read more about their work here: https://www.samofund.org
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
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 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 More InSitu Work Funded by Big Cat Rescue
See the current year of InSitu work here: https://bigcatrescue.org/insitu/
See InSitu work from 2020 here: https://bigcatrescue.org/insitu2020/
See InSitu work from 2019 here: https://bigcatrescue.org/insitu2019/
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/