Cat News Nr 60


Lions under pressure...

A geographic review of conservation status affecting cats was opened by Dr Brian Bertram, Curator of Mammals at the London Zoological Society, who has carried out several years research on lion and leopard in East Africa. He pointed out that the national parks of Kenya and Uganda were based primarily on tourism, which was a fickle industry and could not be counted upon. Tanzania, on the other hand, saw its parks as part of the national heritage, a more difficult philosophy to convey to unsophisticated people, but, if accepted, it could provide a stronger base for wildlife protection. The tremendous human population increase was a major threat to wildlife, he said, and many wildlife areas, being suitable for agriculture or cattle raising, were likely to face pressure to take them over. While there were probably several thousand lions in East Africa, the population was likely to decline in the face of spreading agriculture. … Judith Rudnai, known for her research on lions in Kenya, also drew attention to the danger that a decline in tourism could be a serious threat to the parks, which were regarded locally as "merely playgrounds for rich foreigners." Dr Alan Rodgers, formerly at the University of Dar es Salaam and now at the Wildlife Institute of India, said that lion, leopard, cheetah, serval, caracal and wild cat were all widely distributed in Tanzania, and the parks, which covered 20 per cent of the country had viable populations of both cheetah and caracal. However, he expressed concern that the deteriorating economic situation was leading to less field work and anti-poaching patrols.

The text above is a quotation from the first article in the first issue of Cat News, written and published by Peter Jackson in 1984. It was a report on the Cat Specialist Group workshop in Kanha National Park in India, 9–12 April 1984. Today, 30 years and 60 Cat News later, the lion is again assessed as Vulnerable (like in all Red List assessments before), however with huge differences between countries and regions. While lion populations increase in southern Africa, they are Critically Endangered in Central and West Africa (see article on page 44). In most countries, the situation is ambiguous: lions are (still) doing well in fenced protected areas, but are continuously losing ground outside the fences. The “tremendous human population increase” continues. The three east African countries Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania have seen a population increase from 52 million people to 127 million since the first issue of Cat News (Fig. 1), the pressure on the land continues and increases, and the dispute over the best conservation approach continues also thirty years later: Strict protection and fencing? Generate local income through tourism or sustainable hunting (see article on page 45)? A new approach – especially propagated by SSC – is the participatory development of conservation strategies and (national) action plans (see e.g. article by de Iongh et al. on page 8-11). It is today a commonplace that we cannot conserve a species without the support of local people, but we still struggle with how to gain and secure their support.

Clearly, the pressure on lions (and on other large felids across the world) depends on the growth of the human population. But the dependency is not straightforward. Lions in East Africa have (likely) not decreased linearly to the human population increase. Likewise, a growth of the gross national product must not automatically lead to a loss in biodiversity. On the contrary: As Alan Rodgers pointed out thirty years ago, that the deterioration of the economy often leads to even more pressure on wildlife and habitats.

The conservation status of the lion in Africa is unequal, and the responses must be variable. Paul Funston (see article on page 4-7) describes the conservation challenges in one of the largest potential lion conservation regions, the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) shared by Angola, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. According to an MoU between the five countries, a network of protected areas should promote the socio-economic development of the entire KAZA. That’s an excellent idea and shows how conservation should work. But will it work…?

By the way: Brian Bertram is still involved with Cat News as one of the journal’s Associate Editors. Thank you, Brian! 

Urs Breitenmoser

The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area - critical for African lions by P. Funston

The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area KAZA is the largest conservation landscape in Africa (approximately 440,000 km²), and includes 36 protected areas. Four of its national parks support regionally important lion Panthera leo populations. KAZA probably contains about 3,500 lions, and is one of the most important regions for lion conservation in Africa, probably the most important in southern Africa. However, no landscape level lion population estimates have been published for KAZA, and there is no literature on maintaining connectivity between key lion populations. Human population growth, leading to rapid rates of land conversion and bushmeat poaching, threatens lions even in core protected areas, and in at least three national parks lion populations are substantially reduced. Furthermore connectivity between respective key populations is threatened by human development. In order to develop a Strategic Conservation and Action Plan for lions in KAZA it is vital to collate all current estimates of lion abundance and evaluate these along with the threats within the key protected areas, while also assessing the connectivity potential within the region.

National lion action plans and strategies in Benin, Cameroon and Senegal by H. H. de Iongh, H. Bauer, P. Tumenta, M. Schoe, E. Sogbosossou, M. Gueye, I. Kirsten and C. Sillero-Zubiri

Lions Panthera leo in the region of West Africa are threatened with extinction. As a contribution to a major conservation effort three related Lion Conservation Workshops in Benin, Cameroon and Senegal were organised with funds from the National Geographic Big Cat Initiative to develop National Conservation Action Plans for lions. These three countries harbour (parts of) the three main Lion Conservation Units in West Africa; (A) W-Arly-Pendjari, (B) Benoue-Gashaka Gumti and (C) Niokolo Koba and adjacent parks. The workshops were bilingual (English and French). For each country national lion conservation strategies were developed and are now in the process of approval. In addition after each workshop, eco-guards have been trained in camera trap techniques, track surveys and large carnivore ecology. All countries were given a Bushnell digital camera trap for experimental purpose. Additional objectives included were: (1) where relevant include other large carnivores (2), and to convene regional carnivore conservationists (3) under the umbrella of the Regional Carnivore Initiative for West and Central Africa with the aim to strengthen conservation efforts directed at lions, leopards Panthera pardus, cheetah Acinonyx jubatus, African wild dogs Lycaon pictus and hyaenas Crocuta crocuta and Hyaena hyaena.

Camera trap study of Persian leopard in Golestan National Park, Iran by A. Kh. Hamidi, A. Ghoddousi, M. Soufi, T. Ghadirian, H. Jowkar and S. Ashayeri

Golestan National Park has long been believed to be the reserve holding the highest number of Persian leopards Panthera pardus saxicolor in Iran and the world. The park has also been recognized as being under intense pressure from rampant local poaching. In 2011, we initiated a survey to 1) ascertain the status of this top predator, and 2) shed light on the challenges and pressures within the park. After 2,777 trapnight efforts of camera trapping, we identified 20 leopards comprising 10 males, 7 females and 3 of undetermined sex. We estimated 27.0±4.61 leopards using CAPTURE software and calculated a population between 23 and 42 leopards with 95% accuracy. The population density was determined to be 2.63 individuals per 100 km². Low numbers of prey species were recorded through the camera trapping survey (except for wild boar). Further research on poaching leopard and its prey is underway to better understand the conservation problems.

First photographic record of twin Arabian leopards in the wild by H. al Hikmani and K. al Hikmani

Evidence on Arabian leopard Panthera pardus nimr reproduction in the wild is very scarce. Very few records are available and most of them are of single Arabian leopard cubs. However, a camera-trap record of 8 February 2013, from Jabal Samhan Nature Reserve, was remarkable as it provided the first photographic record of twin Arabian leopard cubs in the wild.

Poisoning of endangered Arabian leopard in Saudi Arabia and its conservation efforts by M. Zafar-ul Islam, A. Bough, A. As-Shehri and M. al Jaid

Many killings of leopards can be attributed to livestock protection. When catching goats, sheep, young camels or other domestic animals, leopards interfere with human activities and are seen as straight competitors. With the decrease of natural prey species, they have to more and more shift their diet to livestock, which increases their unpopularity. In most cases, they are also considered as a threat for human. As a result, leopard is hunted across its range, with different methods (trapping, poisoning, shooting). Poisoning using anticoagulant rat killer was common in the eighties, which was stopped in 1985 unlike trapping. A total of only five known incidences of poisoning of Arabian leopards Panthera pardus nimr have been recorded in Saudi Arabia between 1965 and 2014. Shepherds poisoned the carcasses of sheep, goats, camel thought to have been killed by a predator such as Arabian wolf Canis lupus arabs, striped hyena Hyaena hyaena or stray dogs and unfortunately, the predator in these instances was the elusive Arabian leopard.

First record of Pallas’s cat from Fars Province, Iran by L. Joolaee, B. Moghimi, M. Ansari and A. Ghoddousi

On 21 November 2012 an observation of a Pallas’s cat Otocolobus manul was reported to the Abadeh office of the Department of Environment (DoE) in the north of Fars Province, I. R. Iran. It was the first confirmed record of Pallas’s cat from this province, while there are only a few records of this species from Iran. It confirms that Pallas’s distribution extends further to the south of Iran than previously thought.

Pallas’s cat in disturbed habitat on the Tibetan Plateau by R. Webb, D. Pain, D. McNiven and S. Francis

Most records of Pallas’s cat Otocolobus manul come from remote, undisturbed upland habitats. Here we report on a sighting in 2012 of Pallas’s cat from a heavily disturbed area of the Tibetan Plateau in Sichuan, China.

Pallas’s cat photographed in Qurumber National Park, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan by S. Hameed, J. Ud Din, K. Ali Shah, M. Kabir, M. Ayub, S. Khan, R. Bischof, D. Ali Nawaz and M. Ali Nawaz

Camera trapping in Qurumber National Park QNP and the adjacent Community Managed Conservation Area CMCA in northern Pakistan yielded the first photographic evidence of the Pallas’s cat Otocolobus manul in Gilgit-Baltistan Province. Although widely distributed in Central Asia, little is known about the status of Pallas’s cat in Pakistan. This was the first camera trap study in QNP area and our results highlight the need for further studies targeting Pallas’s cat and other rare species in northern Pakistan’s mountain ecosystem.

Nepal’s first Pallas’s cat by B. Shrestha, S. Ale, R. Jackson, N. Thapa, L. Prasad Gurung, S. Adhikari, L. Dangol, B. Basnet, N. Subedi and M. Dhakal

We report the first record of Pallas’s cat Otocolobus manul, from Nepal. The discovery occurred in Manang valley of Annapurna Conservation Area in Midwestern Nepal during the course of snow leopard Panthera uncia monitoring using remote camera traps. This is the first documented record in the country and produced 14 images (11 full and 3 partial images) in three capture events at two camera locations, Thorkya (4,200 m) and Angumila Lapche (4,650 m). The chance discovery of this small cat has sparked a wave of interest among Nepalese conservationists to undertake status survey and conservation initiatives in the entire Annapurna Conservation Area, the largest community-based conservation undertaking of the National Trust for Nature Conservation.

Supporting Online Material:

Table 1 - Table 3

Breeding population of sand cat in the Southern Kyzylkum Desert, Uzbekistan by R. J. Burnside, M. Koshkin and P. M. Dolman

We report sighting records of the sand cat Felis margarita in Uzbekistan, and present the first photographic evidence of a breeding female in the Southern Kyzylkum Desert west of Bukhara. Data were acquired from opportunistic observation and motion sensitive camera data.

Supporting Online Material: 

Figure 1a, b

An undocumented record of a clouded leopard captured in Chitwan district, Nepal by Y. Ghimirey, R. Acharya and S. Dahal

Video evidence of the rescue of a mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa was provided by a villager during a wildlife conservation awareness programme on 29 September 2012. The adult clouded leopard was captured near Bhandara town, Chitwan district, in the middle of a human settlement in February 2007 and later released in Chitwan National Park.

Camera-trap record of felid species from Kanchanjuri wildlife corridor, Assam, India by Lalthanpuia, S. Dey, T. Sharma, P. Sharma, J. Deka, P. Jyoti Bora and J. Borah

We used camera traps in Kanchanjuri, one of the four wildlife corridors linking Kaziranga National Park and the foothill forest of Karbi Anglong district, to understand the use of corridors by wildlife and their movement patterns. We obtained photographs of tiger Panthera tigris, leopard P. pardus (both normal and melanistic morphs) and Asiatic golden cat Catopuma temminckii. These are the first photographic records of the use of the Kanchanjuri corridor by these three species of felids. We present our findings to emphasise the importance of these corridors and the adjoining habitats so that they can receive priority for protection and conservation.

Roads emerging as a critical threat to leopards in India? by S. Gubbi, H. C. Poornesha, A. Daithota and H. Nagashettihalli

Leopards Panthera pardus face severe threat from poaching, loss of habitat and killing in retaliation to conflict. However, in India a new threat appears to be emerging in the form of vehicle accident mortalities. In the past 60 months 23 leopards have been recorded as killed due to road accidents in the southern Indian state of Karnataka alone. When roads overlap with important wildlife habitats, considerable scrutiny and critical conservation planning is urgently required.

Supporting Online Material

Table 1

Sighting of a rusty-spotted cat in Anaikatty Reserve Forest, Tamil Nadu, India by A. Mukherjee and P. Koparde

A solitary rusty-spotted cat Prionailurus rubiginosus was sighted on 16 September 2013 in the campus of Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History, Tamil Nadu, India. Although widespread across India and Sri Lanka, the locality specific data on the species is scarce.

Supporting Online Material 

Figure 1

First record of a clouded leopard predating on a binturong by W. Y. Lee, L. Hedges and G. R. Clements

We present the first known record of a mainland clouded leopard Neofelis nebulosa predating on a binturong Arctictis binturong. This finding provides valuable insight into the diet of this wildcat species, which has been known to predate on a wide variety of species across its range states.

Borneo bay cat and other felids in a logging concession in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo by J. Mathai, L. Buckingham and N. Ong

Four notionally independent detections of the Borneo bay cat Catopuma badia were recorded from the Sela’an Linau Forest Management Unit, a logging concession located in the Upper Baram, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo. This is only the second site in Sarawak outside a protected area where the species, listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List and endemic to Borneo, has been recorded. Four of the five cat species known to occur in Borneo were recorded at this site from survey effort totalling 8,986 trap-nights. More information on the adaptability of these species to modified habitat is crucial for the formulation of effective conservation strategies in logging concessions as these areas could play a vital role in the conservation of wildlife in Sarawak.

Supporting Online Material

Table 1

First camera survey of wild felids in Cerro Hoya National Park, Panama by J. L. Fort, C. K. Nielsen, E. Donoso, R. Samudio Jr. and G. A. Duran

Although Panama is an important global hotspot for biodiversity, basic information on wild felid distribution is unknown. Cerro Hoya National Park CHNP, Panama, is an isolated remnant of tropical rainforest habitat separated by 125 km from the closest tract of contiguous mature rainforest (Santa Fe National Park) in the Panamanian Atlantic Mesoamerican Biological Corridor PAMBC. We conducted the first camera survey for wild felids in CHNP from February to April 2012 and documented four of the six species of wild felids known to inhabit Panama, including observations of jaguar Panthera onca, an important umbrella species for conservation. Cerro Hoya National Park appears to serve as an important refuge for wild felids in relatively close proximity to the PAMBC.

Jaguar records from the south-central Paraguayan Chaco by A. J. Giordano, N. M. Cameroni, F. Ramirez and C. K. Nielsen

The range of the jaguar Panthera onca has contracted significantly in recent decades. The local disappearance of the species across its range has occurred concurrently with range constriction, which is the subject of continued conservation attention. We report on the occurrence of jaguars in the transitional dry Chaco of Paraguay near the southern edge of their distribution, where information on its general status is lacking. Such occurrence records are important to the guidance of future transboundary surveys along the Paraguay-Argentina border, and can inform cooperative conservation planning efforts in international border regions across the jaguar’s range. We believe these activities are essential to stemming the decline of jaguar populations, particularly for or near fringe populations, and to prevent the further contraction of their range.

Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund wild cat funding: an overview by N. Heard, F. Launay and J. Sanderson

We present a review of all funding provided to wild cat conservation projects by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund since the fund began making donations in mid-2009. Our objectives were to assess the projects which have a felid named as the primary target species, and are to enlighten readers and thus to encourage more proposals covering more species, to increase the quality of proposals, and to encourage work on threatened and overlooked species. In the interest of transparency we provide a list of each species and the amount of funding that has been provided by the fund. We found that from 2009 to April 2014 US$ 683,583 was provided to 56 wild cat conservation projects. Approximately 69% of the total amount invested supported species or sub-species listed as EN or CR by the IUCN Red List. The most successful proposals were on behalf of leopard and tiger conservation efforts. US$ 124,000 went to 8 tiger projects, around 18% of cat funds allocated, and US$ 117,970 to 10 leopard projects, around 17% of funds allocated. Over 78% of all funds went to support conservation efforts for seven big cat species.

Supporting Online Material

Table 1