Cat News Nr 46


Cat News - quo vadis?

Well-intended ideas sometimes backfire. We have been sitting so many times with the Jackson’s in their house above Lake Geneva, with a cup or a glass in our hands, listening to Adrienne’s war secrets, Peter’s stories about birds and tigers or about his expedition to Everest to get the first interviews with Hillary and Tenzing in 1953. Our reaction was – probably like many other friends enjoying the hospitality in Bougy-Villars – always the same: “You should write this down”. Some weeks ago, Peter, who now lives in London, let us know that he intends to resign as the news editor of Cat News, which he founded in 1984, because he wants to concentrate on writing the family history…

Cat News is part of the Jackson family history, and the (hi)story goes on. A leopard can’t change his spots, and we are optimistic that Peter’s and Adrienne’s traces will still be found in the forthcoming issues of our newsletter. Nevertheless, Cat News will change. When we took on the responsibility for the journal some years ago, we were very aware of the fact that, as we are not professional writers and not even of English mother tongue, we would need more support from our members, friends and readers, and that we would have to reduce the editor’s contribution in favour of submitted papers. Now, we will also need more outside support for the news section, which is an important part of Cat News and must be carried on.

The response in regard to authors’ contributions has been encouraging. More papers are submitted, and we are already facing a backlog in editing and publishing them. One consequence of this is that this issue has 56 pages instead of the usual 40. Another consequence is that we are getting a bit more selective and reject papers beyond the strict scope of Cat News. The goal of the newsletter is to advance cat conservation, and contributions adding to our understanding of cats and their preservation are welcome. It is not our intention to make Cat News a high-ranking scientific journal, but to provide practical information that facilitates the work of those who take care of the free-living cat populations.

We have also started a new series, the Special Issues. The first one, published last winter, summarised the status of the leopard on the Arabian Peninsula. The second Special Issue, distributed with this number of Cat News, covers the same species for another region – the Caucasus. More publications on specific themes are in preparation, e.g. an issue on cheetahs in southern Africa and one on a revised cat taxonomy. The classification of the Felidae is an important topic for the Cat Specialist Group, e.g. for the Red List assessment. The systematic that we use at present is the one featured in Wild Cats (Nowell and Jackson 1996). Since the release of the Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, new findings on genera, species and subspecies of cats have been published. To review these new findings and to propose an updated classification of the cats, the Cat Specialist Group is establishing a task force chaired by Andrew Kitchener. More on this important task will soon be published on our website ( and, of course, in the next issues of Cat News.

Cat News would not be possible without the input and help of our members who submit articles, the Friends of the Cat Specialist Group who support the newsletter through their subscription, many of our colleagues who act as reviewers or guest-editors, and, last but not least, the small speedy hands working in the background. A big “thank you” to all of them!

Urs and Christine Breitenmoser

Cheetahs in Central Asia: A Historical Summary by D. Mallon

The historical distribution of the cheetah Acinonyx jubatus extended from Africa through the Arabian Peninsula into Iran and Afghanistan. From there, the range continued eastwards to Pakistan and India, and northeast through Central Asia: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan (Nowell & Jackson 1996). During the Middle Ages, cheetahs also occurred to the west of the Caspian Sea, in Transcaucasia, and according to Vereshchagin (1959) they may have survived in the Kura- Araks lowlands of Azerbaijan until the 18th century.

Conserving the Asiatic Cheetah in Iran: Launching the First Radio-Telemetry Study by L. Hunter, H. Jowakar, H. Ziaie, G. Schaller, G. Balme, C. Walzer, S. Ostrowski, P. Zahler, N. Robert-Charrue, K.Kashiri and S. Christie

Popularly considered a wholly African species, the cheetah Acinonyx jubatus once had a distribution that extended across the Middle East and Central Asia, extending north into southern Kazakhstan and east into India. Today outside of Africa, the cheetah has been extirpated from its entire Asiatic range except for a small and critically endangered population in the Islamic Republi of Iran. Estimated at 200 animals in the 1970's, the last Asiatic cheetahs are now thought to number around 60-100 animals restricted to the arid central Iranian plateau (roughly 30- 35º N, 52-60º E).To investigate the detailed ecology of the cheetah in Iran, we plan to capture eight cheetahs and fit them with GPS collars.

Observatoire du Guépard en Région d’Afrique du Nord (OGRAN), 2nd Meeting in Tamanrasset, Algeria by R. Berzin and F. Claro

As announced at the inauguration meeting in Paris (IUCN/ SSC Cat Specialist Group 2005), the second OGRAN annual meeting took place in Tamanrasset, Algeria, 20 to 25 November 2006, following the invitation of the Ministère de l'Agriculture et du Développement Rural (MADR) of Algeria. This second meeting concretized the OGRAN objectives, the increase of knowledge on cheetah in North African Regions for its conservation and the carrying out of conservation actions through the reinforcement of the relationships between the partners involved in exsitu and in-situ cheetah conservation within a coordinated network

Range-wide Conservation Planning for Cheetah and Wild Dog by S. Durant

In early February this year the first eastern Africa conservation planning workshop for cheetahs Acinonyx jubatus and wild dogs Lyacon pictus was held in Kenya. This workshop is part of a series aimed at developing accurate maps of populations of both species and establishing regional conservation strategies to encompass their entire range.

2005 Amur Tiger Census by D. G. Miquelle1, D. G. Pikunov, Y. M. Dunishenko, V. V. Aramilev, I. G. Nikolaev, V. K. Abramov, E. N. Smirnov, G. P. Salkina, I. V. Seryodkin, V. V. Gaponov, P. V. Fomenko, M. N. Litvinov, A. V. Kostyria, V. G. Yudin, V. G. Ko

The first survey of Siberian (Amur) tigers Panthera tigris altaica in nine years was conducted in 2005 in the Russian Far East. Since nearly all remaining individuals of Amur tigers survive in Russia, such a survey should provide an excellent indication of the status of the entire subspecies. Tiger surveys in Russia are conducted in winter, when tracks deposited in the complete blanket of snow provide long-lasting evidence of their presence. Fieldworkers canvass the vast region of the Sikhote-Alin Mountain Range and associated nearby pockets of habitat on foot, skis, snowmobiles, and vehicles to confirm presence and density of tracks of tigers and their prey.

Sighting of Asiatic Wildcat in Gogelao Enclosure, Nagaur in Thar Desert of Rajasthan by S. Dookia

The population of Asiatic Wildcat Felis silvestris ornata, known as Desert Cat in India, is under severe threat for various reasons. Interbreeding with the domestic cat is the main cause, along with habitat destruction and poaching for the illegal pelt trade (Kankane 2000). In the past, this cat was known to occur at various places in the Thar Desert of Rajasthan and Gujarat in India.

Sighting of Rusty Spotted Cat from New Localities in Central Gujarat by V. R. Vyas, J. J. Lakhmapurkar and D. Gavali

During our routine night surveys for small mammals in the eastern part of Central Gujarat rusty-spotted cats Priolainurus rubiginosus were sighted from two different locations. The species was identified from the distinct mark of the head and fur colour, which is typically ruddy grey, with rust coloured spots on the body and the bushy tail. 

Human Attitudes Toward Wild Felids in a Human-dominated Landscapte of Southern Chile by E. A. Silva-Rodríguez, G. R. Ortega-Solís and E. Jiménez

We evaluated human attitudes toward the guigna Leopardus guigna and the cougar Puma concolor in a rural landscape of southern Chile. Most people had negative attitudes toward both species, arguing livestock and poultry losses. However, it appears that losses are infrequent, and thus, negative attitudes could be justified by popular knowledge and believes rather than by actual losses. Highlighting the services provided by cats will be key for educational programs and for the long-term conservation of these species.

First Study of Snow Leopards Using GPS-Satellite Collars Underway in Pakistan by T. McCarthy, J. Khan, J. Ud-Din and K. McCarthy

Snow leopards Uncia uncia are highly cryptic and occupy remote inaccessible habitat, making studying the cats difficult in the extreme. Yet sound knowledge of the cat’s ecology, behavior and habitat needs is required to intelligently conserve them. This information is lacking for snow leopards, and until recently so was the means to fill that knowledge gap. Two long-term studies of snow leopards using VHF radio collars have been undertaken in Nepal (1980s) and Mongolia (1990s) but logistical and technological constraints made the findings of both studies equivocal. Technological advances in the interim, such as GPS collars which report data via satellite, make studies of snow leopards more promising, at least in theory.

Binational Population of Jaguars Confirmed by Camera-Trapping in the American Gran Chaco by A. Romero-Muñoz, A. J. Noss, L. Maffei and R. A. Montaño

Jaguars, Panthera onca, are known to have large spatial requirements. For this and other attributes, they are considered focal species for conservation. Here we document cases of individual jaguars of one population crossing not only protected area boundaries but also international borders.

A New Old Clouded Leopard by A. Kitchener, D. Richardson and M. A. Beaumont

The clouded leopard, Neofelis nebulosa, was described scientifically by Griffith in 1821 based on an animal from Canton in China, which was in the Exeter ‘Change, a notorious menagerie in London. However, the year before Sir Stamford Raffles (1820) had first brought this cat to the world’s attention based on animals from Sumatra, but failed to give it a scientific name, using only its local name of Rimau-Dahan. Interestingly, there is a painting by Jean-Laurent Agasse dated to about 1825, which shows Sumatran clouded leopards in the Exeter ‘Change. Later in 1823 Georges Cuvier described a new cat, apparently from Java, Felis diardi, which had been collected by Diard and Duvaucel, but the collecting locality was mistaken and was later corrected to Sumatra.

Lifting China’s Tiger Trade Ban Would Be a Catastrophe for Conservation by K. Nowell and Xu Ling

China was formerly the world’s leading consumer of tiger products, primarily tiger bone medicines. In the early 1990s, over 200 companies were manufacturing some type of tiger one product, and it is likely that the primary source of supply was wild tigers poached in other range states. Around this time, the Government of China invested in the world’s first “tiger farm” – a breeding center in Heilongjiang which aimed to raise tigers commercially for their parts (Martin et al. 1991). However, as international alarm grew over the decline of the tiger, in 1993 China banned domestic trade in tiger parts and products, and did not allow the tiger farm to use its tigers for commercial purposes (other than tourism).

Diet of Leopard and Caracal in the Northern United Arab Emirates and Adjoining Oman Territory by C. and T. Stuart

Nothing has been recorded on the diet of the leopard Panthera pardus and caracal Caracal caracal in south-eastern Arabia, more specifically the United Arab Emirates and the Musandam territory of the Sultanate of Oman.

A Framework for the Conservation of the Arabian Leopard by J. A. Edmonds

The Arabian leopard Panthera pardus nimr is critically endangered and has been listed as such on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species since 1996. One of the criteria for this classification is that there are less than 250 animals remaining in the wild, a figure that is widely agreed upon by experts from the region.

Photos of Persian Leopard in Alborz Mountains, Iran by M. Farhadinia, B. Nezami, A. Mahadavi and K. Hatami

Ranging across the southern border of the Caspian Sea in a west-east direction, the Alborz Mountains are home to the largest population of the endangered Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor in Iran. With more than 3,500 km2, the Central Alborz Protected Area (CAPA) is one of the oldest and largest reserves in the country and holds a number of Persian leopards roaming across the Hyrcanian forests. However, because of the dense forests and low density of the species, there is an extremely low number of direct observations by game guards and local people. During a survey launched in September 2005 in the area, a family of a mother with 2 adolescents has been photographed using a camera trap in March 2007 outside of the core area of CAPA.

High Elevation Record for Occurrence of the Manul or Pallas Cat on the Northwestern Tibetan Plateau, China by J. L. Fox and T. Dorji by M. Farhadinia, B. Nezami, A. Mahadavi and K. Hatami

Current distributional information for the manul or Pallas cat Otocolobus manul reports its highest elevation occurrence as 4,800 m on the Tibetan Plateau (Feng et al. 1986), with the comment that it is not found at as high elevations as the snow leopard. On 29 October 2005, we observed a lone manul at 5,050 m in northeastern Gertse County in Ngari Prefecture of the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China.

Six Species of Cats Registered by Camera Trap Surveys of Tropical Dry Forest in Bolivia by R. Arispe, D. Rumiz and A. J. Noss

The records of six species of wild cats (Leopardus pardalis, L. wiedii, Oncifelis geoffroyi, Herpailurus yaguarondi, Puma concolor and Panthera onca) coexisting in relatively small areas of forest is unique for the Neotropics. Within the economic context of eastern lowland Bolivia, national parks together with protected areas in forestry concessions and ranch properties best conserve forest cover. The camera trap surveys described here confirm the value of both types of private reserves in also conserving biodiversity, as represented by wild cats, within these forests. The surveys also confirm the value of the technique for recording cryptic or evasive species such as felids, and its value as an efficient noninvasive alternative for evaluating ecological interactions in relatively short time periods.

Indian Government Acts to Conserve Last Asiatic Lions by P. Jackson

The Indian government has called for some Asiatic lions Panthera leo persica to be moved from Gujarat State to Kuno-Palpur reserve in Madhya Pradesh following the poaching of lions in the Gir sanctuary, the sole home of Asiatic lions that once ranged from Greece through Palestine, Iraq and Iran to India.

Update on the Iberian Lynx Conservation Breeding Programme by A. Vargas, F. Martínez, A. Rivas, J. Bergara, A. Vázquez, J. M. Rodríguez, E. Vázquez, J. López, Maria José Perez and I. Sánchez

An update on the 2007 breeding season of the Critically Enangered Iberian lynx, about the new Breeding Centre La Olivilla that was opened in Jaén, and about linking ex-situ and in-situ conservation efforts for the future of this species.

Could Water Buffalo Presence Facilitate Jaguar Conservation in the Neotropics by R. Hoogesteijn and A. Hoogesteijn

The fact that the jaguar Panthera onca and the puma Puma concolor are opportunistic predators results in a challenge for wildlife management and ranching practices, calling into questions  whether it is possible to preserve these predators in livestock producing areas.

International Tiger Symposium in Kathmandu, 17-18 April 2007 by U. Breitenmoser and K. Nowell

From 16–18 April 2008, the government of Nepal hosted an International Tiger Symposium, under the auspices of the Global Tiger Forum GTF and chaired by Dr S. Lieberman (WWF International). Seven sessions covered the most important topics in tiger conservation.