CatSG

Cat News Nr 53


Editorial

The Tiger Summit in St. Petersburg

“Of the long menu of important activities needed to bring about the recovery of the tiger, one stands out as being of paramount importance. Before the tiger can recover, the ongoing decline must be stopped. This can only be achieved by sternest protection, anti-poaching and law enforcement on the ground, in the core sites where the vast majorities of the remaining tigers survive.” Simon says at “the most significant meeting ever held to discuss the fate of a single non-human species”. Simon Stuart, SSC Chair, was presenting the IUCN position and support to tiger conservation and the Global Tiger Initiative at the International Tiger Forum (see www.catsg.org for the entire version of the IUCN Council Statement).

The “Tiger Summit” took place in St. Petersburg in Russia on 21–24 November 2010, and brought together some 500 representatives of the13 Tiger Range States, the partner organisations of the World Bank’s Global Tiger Initiative (www.globaltigerinitiative.org) and further institutions important for the conservation of tigers. The global population of free living tigers today is estimated to be only 3,200–3,500 – living in less than 7 percent of the historic range – and has seen a rapid decline in recent years. This alarming news has finally found the attention of high-ranking decision makers.

The high-level segment at the Forum was attended by five Heads of Government (Russia, China, Bangladesh, Lao PDR, Nepal). Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, chaired the segment. Monique Barbut, CEO Global Environmental Facility GEF, was the only person not representing a government to give a speech. The US Under-Secretary of State also attended. Russian Prime Minister Putin gave a passionate talk about wildlife conservation, presenting the tiger as the flagship species for species and nature conservation in general. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao called for a change of the economic model to make it work for the environment. Both Robert Zoellick and Monique Barbut mentioned SOS (Save our Species, a joint initiative of IUCN, GEF, and the World Bank; www.sospecies.org). The evening event was a most remarkable conservation show. The American actor Leonardo DiCaprio attended the concert and made a US$ 1 million contribution through WWF and will appear in a tiger campaign next week. Top singers from Russia, China, and Malaysia performed and the Master of Ceremony was the famous model Naomi Campbell.

The goals of the International Tiger Forum were (1) to establish a global system to preserve and restore tigers in the borders of its historical range, and (2) to mobilise world public opinion in favour of tigers. Taking the media attention as an indicator, the second goal seems easy to be reached.

The first goal, however, will take a bit more and a bit longer. To achieve it, the GTI has developed the Global Tiger Recovery Program (GTRP; www.globaltigerinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Global-Tiger- Recovery-Program-Nov-4 .pdf). The GTRP intends to empower the Tiger Range States to address the entire range of threats, which were identified to be loss of natural habitats, degradation and fragmentation, depletion of prey animals, and poaching to supply an illegal trade. The goal of the GTRP is to stabilize tiger numbers within five years and to double them by 2022, the next year of the tiger in the Chinese calendar. Range Countries have put together a portfolio of 80 priority activities to reach these goals. The costs for their implementation are estimated to be US$ 350 million for the first five years.

This is, after all, not a huge sum for saving a charismatic species as widely distributed as the tiger. As one participant at the Forum said: “If we can afford billions to save a bank, why should we not be able to afford millions to save a species?” But the money is, at present, not yet available. And though the first push during the Forum was impressive, it will take a while to find it. But the time of the tiger is running out. I agree with Luke Hunter, who said in a Panthera statement commenting the St. Petersburg summit: “Once we have been successful stopping the killing, only then can we examine larger, overarching issues that will help tigers spread and prosper”. In a forum paper published recently, we proposed first and foremost to concentrate efforts to efficiently protecting the most important remaining tiger core populations (Walston J, Robinson JG, Bennett EL, Breitenmoser U, da Fonseca GAB, et al. 2010. Bringing the Tiger Back from the Brink – The Six Percent Solution. PLoS Biol 8(9); www.plosbiology.org). None of the authors would deny that in the long term tigers need to regain lost ground, and this requires a wide variety of approaches and conservation activities. But at the moment it is imperative to halt the decline caused by poaching of tigers in protected areas with sufficient prey.

While the International Tiger Forum in St. Petersburg has convinced me that the tiger has a future, I remain extremely worried about its present.

Urs Breitenmoser

Do ocelots use riparian corridors to move across a fragmented landscape? by F. Michalski, D. Norris and J. P. Metzger

Remote camera trapping (RCT), although successfully used to estimate the abundance and density of ocelots Leopardus pardalis in continuous neotropical forests, has not been used to study habitat use and movements by ocelots in fragmented landscapes. Using RCT, we examined ocelot abundance and movement in 14 riparian corridors that were semi-connected (n = 5) or fully connected (n = 9) to forest fragments and compared them with five riparian corridors located inside continuous forestsites. We found that the relative abundance of ocelots was higher in continuous forest sites, followed by connected and semi-connected corridors. These patterns of abundance combined with two events of individual ocelot movement along riparian corridors highlight the importance of forest connectivity in fragmented landscapes for the conservation of ocelots and other wildlife.

Endangered Andean cat distribution beyond the Andes in Patagonia by A. Novaro, S. Walker, R. Palacios, S. di Martino, M. Monteverde, S. Cañadell, L. Rivas and D. Cossíos

The endangered Andean cat Leopardus jacobita was considered an endemic of the Andes at altitudes above 3,000 m, until it was discovered in the Andean foothills of central Argentina in 2004. We carried out surveys for Andean cats and sympatric small cats in the central Andean foothills and the adjacent Patagonian steppe, and found Andean cats outside the Andes at elevations as low as 650 m. We determined that Andean cats are widespread but rare in the northern Patagonian steppe, with a patchy distribution. Our findings suggest that the species’ distribution may follow that of its principal prey, the rock-dwelling mountain vizcacha.

Ocelots as prey items of jaguars: a case from Talamanca, Costa Rica by J.F. González-Maya, E. Navarro-Arquez and J. Schipper

The diet of jaguars includes several prey items, but they have been shown to prefer large ungulates and other species such as sloths and iguanas, depending on the area and season. Ocelots Leopardus pardalis, and in general Leopardus sp., have rarely been reported as jaguar prey in the literature, and have never been listed as the main, or one of the main items. A total of 15 jaguar scats were collected at Finca Las Alturas de Cotón in Talamanca, Costa Rica. Four prey items were identified, and collared peccary was the primary prey item, followed by ocelots. A higher than expected level of overlap was found between activity patterns of jaguars and ocelots in the study area. During follow-up surveys no ocelots were found in the jaguar’s diet. Based on these findings, we suspect that during the rainy season ocelots represent an important prey item for jaguars in mountain ecosystems of Central America.

Possible first jungle cat record from Malaysia by A. Sanei and M. Zakaria

Here we report a probable first evidence of jungle cat Felis chaus from Malaysia. A specimen thought to be a jungle cat was frequently detected in a highly fragmented secondary forest from February 2008 until April 2009, while a study on the status of the leopard Panthera pardus was undertaken.

Preliminary results of a long-term study of snow leopards in South Gobi, Mongolia by T. McCarthy, K. Murray, K. Sharma and O. Johansson

Snow leopards Panthera uncia are under threat across their range and require urgent conservation actions based on sound science. However, their remote habitat and cryptic nature make them inherently difficult to study and past attempts have provided insufficient information upon which to base effective conservation. Further, there has been no statistically-reliable and cost-effective method available to monitor snow leopard populations, focus conservation effort on key populations, or assess conservation impacts. To address these multiple information needs, Panthera, Snow Leopard Trust, and Snow Leopard Conservation Fund, launched an ambitious long-term study in Mongolia’s South Gobi province in 2008. To date, 10 snow leopards have been fitted with GPS-satellite collars to provide information on basic snow leopard ecology. Using 2,443 locations we calculated MCP home ranges of 150 – 938 km2, with substantial overlap between individuals. Exploratory movements outside typical snow leopard habitat have been observed. Trials of camera trapping, fecal genetics, and occupancy modeling, have been completed. Each method exhibits promise, and limitations, as potential monitoring tools for this elusive species.

The fate of snow leopards in and around Mt. Everest by S. B. Ale, K. Thapa, R. Jackson and J. L. D. Smith

Since the early 2000s snow leopards Panthera uncia have re-colonized the southern slopes of Mt. Everest after several decades of extirpation. Are they now beginning to disperse to the adjoining valleys that may serve as habitat corridors linking the Everest region to other protected areas in Nepal? We conducted a cursory survey in autumn 2009 in Rolwaling lying west of Mt. Everest and detected snow leopard presence. We conclude that in these remote valleys snow leopards must rely upon livestock given the low abundance of natural prey, Himalayan tahr. Livestock-rearing is unfortunately declining in the region. Rolwaling requires immediate conservation attention for the continued survival of the endangered snow leopard and other high altitude flora and fauna.

Records of cats in Diahng-Dibang Biosphere Reserve in northeastern India by A. Choudhury

Dihang-Dibang (Dehang–Debang) Biosphere Reserve in Arunachal Pradesh in northeastern India covers part of Eastern Himalaya and Mishmi Hills. The elevation in the reserve ranges from 500 m to above 5000 m a.s.l. allowing a diverse habitat ranging from tropical rain forest to snow. A survey for mammals and birds was conducted in 2002-04 and 2008. Among 26 species of carnivores, eight species of cats were recorded during this study. The major conservation issues in the reserve and its vicinity are poaching for meat and trade in body parts, intrusions by poachers from Tibet (China), habitat loss owing to shifting cultivation and felling of trees, and construction of mega dams. Other issues are lack of adequate enforcement and awareness. Easy availability of firearms has greatly enhanced the rate of poaching/hunting.

Range extension of rusty-spotted cat to the Indian Terai by M. Anwar, H. Kumar and J. Vattakavan

Little is known about the northern most distribution of the rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus. During camera trapping to estimate the tiger population in Pilibhit forest division, this cat was photo captured four times at three different trap stations. Camera trapping was carried out in an area of 150 km² over 30 trap stations for 40 trap days. This is the first record of rusty-spotted cat from the Indian Terai region. A species targeted study is recommended to generate information for the conservation of this vulnerable cat in its range.

New distribution record data for rusty-spotted cat from Central India by K. Patel

A record of rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus is reported from Nagzira wildlife sanctuary in Maharastra, India. This is the first record not only for the wildlife sanctuary, but also for Central India.

Rusty-spotted cat more common than we think? by V. Athreya

The rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus is the smallest wild cat species that occurs only in India and Sri Lanka. Available information relies on a few sightings across its range and the species is thought to be rare. In this short note, I report a breeding population of rusty-spotted cats from a human dominated agricultural landscape in W. Maharashtra. I propose that we should also focus on agricultural landscapes, which are likely to have high rodent densities, to study some of the smaller wild cat species of India.

Lions in the Mole National Park in Ghana, Northern Region by F. M. Angelici and F. Petrozzi

At present the lion Panthera leo population in Ghana is declining. According to all available data, it seems that just a small population survives in the Mole National Park MNP, and there may possibly be some other small prides or individuals near the borders with Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast. MNP (9°15’ N / 2°0’ E) is the largest (about 4,840 km2) and most important national park in Ghana. In November 2005, during a general survey in the most important Ghanaian parks and reserves, the idea of studying the lion population in MNP was developed. Thereafter, three additional expeditions were carried out in the field during 2007-2009. Some anecdotal data were gathered, and all visual records provided by park rangers in the period 1968-2009 were reported. Finally, standardized questionnaires were submitted to selected people from different categories. The most important record consisted of the sighting of a pair of lions in May 2009, providing some hope for the future of these animals after 11 years during which lions were not seen. Questionnaire results showed that only a minority of people interviewed confirmed lion presence in the area. Lions, however, must be extremely rare and sparse within the park borders.

Distribution and conservation status of the Eurasian lynx in Iran – A preliminary assessment by E. M. Moqanaki, M. S. Farhadinia, M. Mousavi and U. Breitenmoser

The Eurasian lynx Lynx lynx is widely distributed in Asia, but is one of the leastknown cats. Despite being the largest small cat in Iran, general information about lynx previously consisted of a few historical records (>15) and anecdotal observations from various sources. From 2006–2009 we conducted surveys by means of literature reviews, questionnaires and interviews, and examined museum specimens to determine the species distribution in Iran and document major threats to its persistence. We collected 167 new geographic records mainly from the past three decades, here used to describe the actual and probable distribution of the Eurasian lynx in Iran. We found confirmed and probable presence (category 1 and 2 records) in 19 out of 30 provinces and possible presence (category 3) in an additional 6 provinces, mainly in the south and east. Our results indicate a larger distribution of lynx in Iran than previously published (confirmed presence in 3, unconfirmed in 9 provinces). However, we can at present not yet assess the development and potential fragmentation of the distribution range and therefore advise judging the species conservation status with caution.

Conservation model for the Persian leopard by M. S. Farhadinia, A. Mahdavi, F. Hosseini-Zaverei, K. Baradarani, M. Taghdisi and R. Habib

The endangered Persian leopard Panthera pardus saxicolor has recently attracted numerous research efforts in Iran; however, it is highly important that research projects support and improve the conservation status of the cat’s habitats. Established in 2005, the Project Persian Leopard in Sarigol National Park is the oldest, but still ongoing, effort in Iran to save the species. It is composed of three main strands which aim to promote conservation of the area. Ecological research was mainly conducted within the national park to explore population parameters, food habits, reproduction, and prey demographics. At the same time, research was carried out in local communities, a partnership was formed with local stakeholders and educational programs were implemented. Finally, the project results were reported to the Department of Environment for consideration in formulating protection measures.

Leopard conservation in the Caucasus by U. Breitenmoser, I. Shavgulidze, E. Askerov, I. Khorozyan, M. Farhadinia, E. Can, C. Bilgin, N. Zazanashvili by J. Borah, T. Sharma, S. Lyngdoh and T. Tapi

The leopard Panthera pardus is a Critically Endangered flagship species of the Caucasus. In 2007, conservation experts and institutions from all six Caucasian countries joined to develop a Strategy for the Conservation of the Leopard in the Caucasus Ecoregion, based on a review of the status of the leopard population and its prey (Cat News Special Issue 2, 2007). Now, three years later, the IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group, WWF and NACRES organised a discussion group at the annual conference of the International Bear Association IBA in Tbilisi, Georgia. The meeting was part of the symposium “Large Carnivores in the Caucasus”, organised and supported by the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). The leopard is listed as a strictly protected species in Appendix II of the Bern Convention. The aim of the meeting was to discuss the status of the leopard, the implementation of the Strategy and next steps with wildlife conservationists from the Caucasian countries.