Predators, Dreams, and Extinctions — chasing sabretooths

From one of my favorite blogs, prehistoric cats and beautiful illustrations from paleo-artist Mauricio Antón. I love his work and this piece in particular has an important and timely message!

“Now as you look to the assembly of magnificent carnivorans from the Miocene of Batallones, just imagine your grandchildren facing a similar illustration, but showing the lion, leopard, wolf, lynx, polar bear… by then completely extinct in the wild. Imagine the desolation of knowing that there is nowhere in the world where lions or tigers reign as sabertooths reigned in the distant past. Today those places still exist but if one day they disappear it will be, at least in part, because of our own idleness. Just by having a clear opinion and making it heard, or through our vote, we can make a difference. But trying to convince ourselves that extinction doesn´t matter is perhaps the ultimate sign of cowardice, and thinking that future generations will not be aware enough of their loss to reproach us is the farthest thing from a consolation. We need the fossils in the museums and the living predators out in the wild. Each thing in its place!”

I remember well the first excavations at the fossil site of Batallones-1, over a quarter of a century ago. After some teeth of the saber-tooth cat Promegantereon appeared at the site it seemed likely that, for the first time ever, a complete skull of the mysterious animal could be found. Back then, that possibility excited […]

via Predators, Dreams, and Extinctions — chasing sabretooths

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A Bride and Her Cat

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have your cat included in your wedding celebration? Not the actual ceremony of course, but something more permanent, and agreeable to the cat, that would last beyond the actual day and remain frozen in time along with all of the other wonderful memories. Marianna Zampieri, a photographer and cat lover based in Italy, started offering her clients this very service and the opportunity to share their special day with their beloved feline family member.

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© Marianna Zampieri

After Marianna included her own adopted cat Arthur, whom she describes as her “greatest passion and favorite model”, in a series of her own wedding photos her friends fell in love with them and soon started requesting the same experience at their own weddings.

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© Marianna Zampieri

There are no rules and Marianna never forces a cat to do something that it does not want to do. The photos are all spontaneous and the cats do what pleases them at the moment.

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© Marianna Zampieri

Marianna says that she can never predict the outcome of her photo shoots so she simply becomes a spectator that documents what unfolds. To ensure that her cat clients always feel comfortable she goes to the clients home and, by looking at her pictures you can clearly see that comfort as well as the deep love of the human-cat bond that exists.

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© Marianna Zampieri

Marianna’s photography encompass more than weddings and she has many wonderful galleries showcasing her different projects including one on stray cats and those who volunteer to help them. In addition Marianna manages a Facebook page dedicated to adoptions and food collection for the colonies in her area.

To see more of her photography, which I highly recommend, please visit her photography website and her Facebook page Cats in Venice.

Photo Ark

There is something special about wildlife photography and for many reasons it has always been my favorite genre of photography. Capturing the essence of wildlife on film is both magical and powerful, the images can help convey a message as well as connect people to wildlife by inspiring awe, action, and even empathy. It’s these elements that help make wildlife photography and in particular conservation photography an important tool for teaching people about wildlife conservation. In a world where many species are now rare, endangered, or in many cases headed for extinction, each photograph taken has become a portrait or permanent record, in essence a type of living digital fossil that tells a story while there is still time to save the species.

Joel Sartore Wildlife photographer, National Geographic Photographer and National Geographic Photo Ark founder has taken the task of documenting the worlds most rare and or endangered species to the ultimate level by creating thousands of portraits of animals that reside in human care in zoos and sanctuaries around the world. This multi-year project hopes to continue to document, raise awareness and find solutions to some of the most pressing issues affecting wildlife and their habitats. Photo Ark aims to do this by inspiring “action through education” and by helping to save wildlife by “supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts”. Joel’s work with the Photo Ark began over a decade ago and to date he has photographed over 7,000 species. Once the Photo Ark is complete he will have created portraits of an estimated 12,000 species, but importantly the project will serve as a  “record of each animal’s existence and a powerful testament to the importance of saving them.”

The photos are instantly recognizable as each animal from the smallest to the largest and most charismatic are represented equally with nothing more than a simple black or white backdrop. With no distractions the viewer must focus on the intended subject as well as the message that lies behind the eyes staring back.

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© Photo by GRAHM S. JONES, COLUMBUS ZOO AND AQUARIUM
‘After a photo shoot at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio, a clouded leopard cub climbs on Sartore’s head. The leopards, which live in Asian tropical forests, are illegally hunted for their spotted pelts.’  Image © Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark natgeophotoark.org

Being a fan of Joel’s work, one of my personal favorites is the portrait of Uno an endangered Florida Panther who was blinded by a gunshot wound, I was excited to have the chance to hear him speak recently at the Royal Ontario Museum as the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Keynote. Joel has a reputation for being a phenomenal speaker and he did not disappoint, he was engaging, entertaining, passionate and extremely inspirational.

His talk included stories full of humor and hope while others were more serious, the conservation stories of species that we still may have time to save and others that it is already too late for. Some of his portraits would be the last the world would see of these animals and that, a profound message, should resonate deeply on an emotional and spiritual level with anyone concerned for the state of biodiversity on our planet.

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© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark
‘An endangered Malayan tiger, Panthera tigris jacksoni, at Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo.’             Image National Geographic Photo Ark natgeophotoark.org

His photography for The National Geographic Photo Ark involves captive animals so there is a strong affiliation with zoos and, as the topic of zoos has become extremely controversial I did appreciate Joel acknowledging this in his talk, however I personally did not agree with the statement that zoos are necessarily better at providing for wildlife than proper wildlife sanctuaries. This is one point I really wished he had somewhat expanded on considering that there has been such a strong backlash against zoos with stories of healthy animals being killed or evidence that many have inadequate and inhumane conditions in which their animals are kept. Perhaps zoos in some cases provide a purpose in conservation of some species for future re-introductions, but ultimately preserving habitat and ways of keeping species alive in that habitat currently should be an equally important message or at least included in the discussion.

I was however pleasantly surprised to hear Joel comment on the impact of livestock when talking about some of the biggest threats to wildlife conservation, perhaps one the least talked about issues, after human population. This was the slide he used to demonstrate his point, which is just as powerful as any of the animal portraits. It is a reminder that everything is connected and clearly our choices have a lot of power so talking about our eating habits on top of the other issues, must be part of the discussion as it has a direct connection to the loss of wildlife and wildlife habitat.

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Photo taken at the ROM Wildlife Photographer of the Year Keynote: Photo Ark – Image © Photo Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

A few things I have always strongly believed in were mentioned as well, one is that he suggests people would also benefit by doing their own research on the issues. The other is that change really comes from within and he encourages everyone, adults and young people, to do something – to find something they want to do to help and do it.

The National Geographic Photo Ark is meant to inspire and to get people to think more critically which is important if humanity wishes to save wildlife, our planet and ultimately ourselves. It shows us that the beautiful art of photography can help save wildlife but it must also be accompanied by a shift in how we view our role in their survival.

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© Photo by Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark
‘A federally endangered Florida panther, Puma concolor coryi, at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.’    Image National Geographic Photo Ark natgeophotoark.org

With the thousands of rare and endangered animals photographed you may wonder what Joel could possibly have to look forward to when he has already seen so much? No need to worry he has not lost his enthusiasm and remarked at the end of his talk that he is always excited about the “next animal to photograph”.

To find out more about Joel and The National Geographic Photo Ark, how to help or get involved visit NatGeoPhotoArk.org

Holiday Greetings

Possibly one of the cutest and charming Holiday Greetings, sent out by Big Cat Rescue, involves birds and a lynx with some serious skills. I absolutely fell in love with this and had to share. The animated video is by Blue Zoo Animation and was done for Big Cat Rescue and Felidae Conservation Fund to bring awareness to the work the organizations are doing to help wildcats.

Lynx and birds is a timely story about love triumphing over fear, we created a short festive animation that would rival any Christmas advert in the cuteness stakes!

Wishing all humans and wild creatures a wonderful Christmas and holiday season!

Let’s Talk About Your Cat!

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To help bring 2017 to a close Let’s Talk About Your Cat features three famous internet cats and my friend Laura Kicey of Olive & Rye Cat Art. Laura currently lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia with her partner Michael and her three cats Olive, Rye and newest addition Fig. When she isn’t busy being the social media manager for her feline trio, Laura works as a freelance graphic designer, photographer and illustrator. In addition she is also the creative force behind Kittydelphia, an annual cat-themed pop-up shop event in Philly.

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Left to right: Olive, Fig and Rye

How did Olive & Rye Cat Art come about?

It really started to develop not long after I made an Instagram account for Olive and Rye, in October 2014, about two months after we adopted them. I just wanted to post photos of them and not overwhelm friends who followed my other (non-cat) photography work. Their account following took off pretty quickly and by June 2015 we had 10k followers. I was also building my business as a cat portrait artist around their account and meeting clients through other cat accounts on Instagram. It grew over the years and I attended many cat-centric events and met lots of fellow cat enthusiasts as well as people who were also in the “cat biz” who became great friends.

I was meeting people and drawing their cats for fun and other people saw them on Instagram and asked me to draw their cats as well. It was getting a bit overwhelming so I decided to open an Etsy shop to accommodate the requests and it took off. I’ve probably drawn around 350 cats since I started and, though it is a bit hard on my heart sometimes I still find it very special to be able to do memorial portraits. Making something that moves people, especially through a shared love of kitties is pretty awesome. In addition to custom portraits I make other cat art and housewares, apparel, and accessories featuring my art.

Tell us about your cats

Our oldest cat Olive is about 4 to 5 years old. We suspect she was raised by dogs or maybe by possums because she doesn’t know how to be a cat or even meow. Olive is very gentle, rather awkward, a bit nervous and bewildered by everything. She is also extremely lazy except for an hour per day when she is activated, during that time she is a complete maniac, galloping around the house, attacking rugs and waving her paws around dramatically. She doesn’t really like being held but she is very into sitting on laps, in particular my lap, and receiving belly rubs.

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Olive is a small calico alien although she is often described as a domestic shorthair, but she is definitely mostly alien.”

Our middle child cat Rye is about 3 and a half years old now. Rye is a tortoiseshell domestic shorthair and the biggest of all our cats at the moment. Of all the cats I have ever had in my life, she is the most “normal” and also is incredibly sweet, chatty, and gentle.

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“She loves being held and hugged and riding on shoulders.”

Our newest and youngest Fig, is about 7 months old now. Fig is also a tortie domestic shorthair and looks like she is aiming to be gigantic as she is already 8lbs 8oz.  She is obsessed with water and loves to watch me in the shower from the edge of the tub or from between the shower liner and curtain. She will jump in the tub when I am done to play with the water dripping and puddles, then she enjoys getting a blow-dry. She is completely fearless and very chatty – always has something important on her mind she needs to share.
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“For a still-kitteny-cat, Fig is pretty calm and loves to cuddle, but it turns out she is a huge drama queen. She has the biggest mouth and is always chatting and whining – such a little showboat!”

How did your cats come into your life?

I had my first cat, Maggie, for 14 years when she died at age 17 back in 2014. I adopted another cat, Hazel, right after losing Maggie, but sadly Hazel died from cancer six months after we adopted her. It had been a very bad year and while it was extremely difficult, I still wanted to have a cat in my life. We started looking at adoptable cats online and I was hoping to find a cat around 3 to 4 years old. Michael showed me a photo of Olive (then Minnie) on the Philly PAWS site and I was taken, but we saw some others that we thought were cute too. I applied to adopt through PAWS and planned on keeping an open mind.

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“I had always been very drawn to calico cats, my previous cats Hazel and Maggs both were calicoes, and Olive was just so unique looking with her huge green eyes.”

Olive was estimated at 1 to 2 years old when we met her, she was napping and very calm. Michael had been wandering around looking at other cats when he was literally grabbed by a little tortie from between the bars of her cage, he begged me to take her to the back room so we could meet her. Even though Rye (then Nittnay) was only 6 to 8 months old, she was also pretty calm but still playful. Michael suggested we take both of them and, when they met each other briefly at PAWS Rye was a bit hissy but we decided to take the plunge. They had to be kept apart for several weeks while we treated Olive’s URI and herpes-related eye issues but they couldn’t stop tickling each others paws under the door. When we finally introduced them, they took to each other straight away.

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“They were both a bit younger than I was looking for but they were both irresistible.”

Inspired by the cat centered events I had attended, I decided to make a local event for cat lovers last year and Kittydelphia was born. I invited Philly area cat-stuff makers to be vendors, I also sold my own work and merchandise there. There were also guest celebricats and daily raffles. I named PAWS as the recipient of all donations from the event and they had adoptable cats available throughout the weekend as well as kittens in foster. On the last day of Kittydelphia, I had gone into the back room and saw Michael holding a tiny tortie kitten from the foster litter attending the event. He put her in my arms as I walked by and I was done. As I was holding her, I said, this is a Fig if ever I met one! After some discussion we applied to adopt her, her foster mom had said no one else had been interested in adopting her, and were accepted. We had to wait a few weeks until after her spay to bring her home but she fit in straight away.

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“Rye especially took to her and now they are quite inseparable.”

What is your first memory or experience with cats?
 
Besides college I don’t think I have gone more than a few weeks without having a cat in my life. When I was very young, my mother had a big ginger tabby named Pistachio, Pooh for short. I have little memory of him but I have seen photos of us together. My main childhood cat was May, a 6lb ginger tabby girl who was my best buddy growing up. We never had multiple cats in the house so having this crew was all new for me and I love it. I’m not sure I could go back to being a one-cat girl.

Anything else people should know?

I intend to do Kittydelphia again in 2018 and I am really looking forward to growing the concept a bit. I am waiting until 2018 to make any major planning moves on that though! I am always adding things to my Etsy shop, whenever I finish up a new piece of cat art. I am really hoping to complete the alphabet cats series I started in 2017 as well!

If you would like to have your cat/s featured on Let’s Talk About Your Cat, feel free to contact me at purrandroar(at)gmail(dot)com

Saving Arizona’s Wildcats

Trophy hunting has plagued wildlife for generations and, it is a hot topic that elicits intense reactions from people regardless of what side you are on. While people tend to associate trophy hunting with African wildlife like lions, many are shocked to find out that right here in North America our own wildcats like the mountain lion continue to experience heavy and often extreme persecution. Despite the fact that we now have the knowledge, science, and the common sense to know that the practice of hunting undermines true conservation and wildlife protection, in many places these animals continue to be viewed and treated in the same manner as they were centuries ago.

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Early photo shows a cougar hunter when a bounty was paid for killing the cats in the U.S. Photo is undated but possibly from the early 1900’s.

There are those that cling to the idea that it is their right or part of their culture to kill for sport and, any move made to end the practice or even discuss ending it, is seen as a threat. The other side looks at it as evolving and adapting to the times we live in, when it makes sense to end a particular tradition or practice that no longer serves us or wildlife. For example, in Kenya it was a long-held tradition and part of the culture for a young Maasai Warrior to spear a lion as proof of his manhood. Today the Maasai have acknowledged that Africa’s lions are on the verge of disappearing, there are only an estimated 15,000-20,000 left, and have made the move to partake in the Maasai Olympics instead of killing lions.

Even though the true status of mountain lion populations is unknown, some will argue that they are not endangered or in danger of extinction, but must we wait until they are in the same predicament as the African lion before we do something? Do we not have a moral obligation to end a cruel practice that is clearly not beneficial to the species?

The time has come to make the move towards ending hunting and trapping of mountain lions and all wildcats. Here in North America we have seen some progress made in places like Colorado where a federal wildlife killing program, that called for the death of bears and mountain lions, has been halted and more recently in California where the U.S. Appeals Court upheld the States ban on killing mountain lions for trophies. Now, in Arizona, a new ballot initiative has been introduced in hopes of restricting trophy hunting and trapping of Arizona’s wildcats including bobcats, mountain lions, jaguars, lynx and ocelots.

Arizonans for Wildlife is spearheaded by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and is backed by numerous organizations, groups and individuals who support progress and conservation that does not involve the killing of their wildlife. Advocates of the proposed initiative will have to gather more than 150,642 valid signatures on petitions to get the issue on the ballot by July 5, 2018 to quality for the November 2018 election.

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While the Arizona ballot has a tremendous amount of support behind it, it also faces opposition by those who will do everything in their power to keep the status quo. To find out more about the ballot, and address some of the misinformation being spread, I interviewed Kellye Pinkleton, the Arizona State Director for the HSUS and project lead on the Arizona ballot initiative.

What are the origins of the Arizona ballot and how did the coalition, Arizonans for Wildlife, come together?

Due to the lax hunting regulations around mountain lions and bobcats in Arizona, we began looking at this issue long before filing the committee. We do not move forward with a statewide initiative without listening to the concerns of Arizonans and groups that protect wildlife. We ensure that it is given thoughtful consideration, we gauge in-state support as well as citizen attitude’s and current legislative culture. In addition, significant time is also spent reviewing the best available science and talking with experts on the issue well in advance. More on the state of the mountain lion can be read in a thorough commissioned study that was published by the HSUS in 2017.

Polling was conducted and we met with groups that were also concerned about this issue. We strongly supported a bill introduced in the state legislature this past 2017 session that would prohibit the trophy hunting of wildcats, but it did not even receive a committee hearing. The legislature was not willing to open a process for hearings or public comment to consider the measure.

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“What we overwhelmingly found was that the current AZ model of hounding and trapping of our wildcats was not supported.” Image – Arizona Game & Fish Department

We found that in recent years wildlife groups, conservation nonprofits and outside (in-state) interest groups that wanted to protect our state’s wildlife from cruelty have been consistently ignored by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, the state agency. There seems to be a reluctance for the department to actively work with groups beyond hunting and sportsmen organizations. Additionally, the best available science was found not to support the current management plans being implemented in AZ.

Discussions and polling demonstrated that Arizonans do NOT approve of the cruel hounding and trapping of our wildcats currently permitted in the state. Over two-thirds support prohibition on hunting wildcats and interestingly, 65% thought it was illegal. In general, we know that nationally, the public does not support senseless trophy hunting or killing primarily for the purpose of displaying a body or body parts or simply for bragging rights. Finally in late Sept, 2017, the Arizonans for Wildlife committee filed with the AZ Secretary of State’s office.

What is the main reason mountain lions and other wildcats are targeted in Arizona?

Hunters that hunt our wildcats are not hunting them merely for subsistence. These cats are hunted for several reasons, primarily as trophies whether for their bodies/heads or with bobcats, for their fur. Livestock predation is rare, as well as any attacks on humans.

Why it is so important to address the inherent cruelty of trophy hunting, trapping and hounding of wildcats in Arizona?

It is important for citizens of the state know how their wildlife is being “managed” and often, we find, citizens just do not realize the methods and the cruelty involved.  65% of Arizonans thought the practice of hunting wildcats was illegal and we find people are shocked when they learn how mountain lions and bobcats are hunted.  Wildlife is not just the property of a state agency, it is a resource for all citizens and we all have an obligation to protect wildlife and not needlessly or cruelly kill them. Hunters represent a very small portion of the population in AZ and nationally, yet wildlife management is geared towards the hunting community.

Currently, Arizona places NO limits on the number of bobcats that can be killed. In fact, an average of over 4,000 bobcats have been killed each year over the past five years. Although Arizona voters resoundingly said “no” to the use of steel-jawed leghold traps, body-crushing traps, and snares on public land with Proposition 201 in 1994, thousands of bobcats are still trapped every year using these barbaric devices on private land, and with cage traps on public land. Trapping mountain lions is prohibited in Arizona, but records show that mountain lions are routinely trapped inadvertently in other states where trapping them is illegal because these devices do not discriminate between species. While in the trap, animals sustain serious injuries, including broken limbs and broken teeth, dislocated shoulders, lacerations, fractures, amputation of paws or whole legs, or even chew off their limbs trying to escape, or die from exposure. Because trappers are only required to check the traps once a day, animals could be stuck in excruciating pain for hours.

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Bobcat in trap. A quick internet search will bring up numerous disturbing images of bobcats and other animals suffering in traps – Image Wyoming Untrapped

Mountain lion mothers spend up to 24 months raising and provisioning for their kittens. If a mother is killed by a trophy hunter, her kittens will likely die from predation, dehydration, starvation or exposure. As biologists have found, kittens are unlikely capable of dispatching prey until they are 12 months of age. This means that trophy hunters routinely kill not only the mother, but also her orphaned young kittens, who cannot survive on their own until they are one year old.

I do want to address the cruelty and set up the context. Specifically, that mountain lions and bobcats are legally killed using extremely cruel and inhumane methods.”

The Arizona Game and Fish Department also permits hounding of our wild cats. An unlimited number of radio-collared, trailing hounds are permitted to chase mountain lions or bobcats. Both the hunted animal and the dogs can be exhausted by the extreme heat in Arizona during the high-stress chase. In addition to being cruel, this method of hunting puts the dogs at risk of being mauled, and if dogs get lost during a hunt, they are often abandoned and left to be killed by other animals or dumped into shelters.

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Mountain lion hunting with hounds, a cruel and sadistic practice. Click here to see video and images of hounding by an Arizona outfitter. One look and you will understand why this blood sport must be banned.

The intention of this ballot is not only to protect mountain lions and bobcats, but also other wildlife like the ocelot, jaguar, and the Canada lynx

Ocelots and jaguars are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and lynx are listed as threatened. While these cats have federal protections, they still face serious threats from trophy hunting and trapping. Some hunting dogs will target species other than mountain lions or bobcats. Arizona’s rare cats may also be accidentally chased or killed by hounds during state-sanctioned mountain lion and bobcat-hunting seasons along with other vulnerable wildlife, like ungulates such as elk or mule deer, who are killed or startled and flushed by hounds. As hounds do not understand boundaries, many stray on to lands where they do not belong including private property or on National Park Service lands.

Traps are notoriously indiscriminate and often catch other non-target animals, including endangered species or even livestock or wild ungulates. Because of the inherently indiscriminate and cruel nature of hounds and traps, jaguars, ocelots and lynx remain at imminent risk of being accidentally caught and/or killed by hounds or in steel-jawed leghold traps set for bobcats on private lands.

Additionally, we wanted to ensure protection of these animals and not simply leave their potential delisting up to the whim or politics of any federal administration. By including them it will help uphold the ban on killing them.

Why is it important for all Arizonans, not just those who hunt or trap, to have their say in wildcat conservation?

Wildlife in Arizona is for ALL citizens.  Every Arizonan has an interest in protecting our rich resources, including the animals that inhabit our lands. Wildlife watching far outweighs hunting in participation and revenue generated so there is a financial incentive to citizens to protect wild animals.  We find in poll after poll in the state, whether on trophy hunting or general animal issues, that Arizonans care deeply about our animals.  Non hunters are the majority of citizens in this state.

The campaign is still in the early stages, what has the response been like to date from the community?

Yes, we just launched at the end of September and held public kick-off events in October.  We have been overwhelmed with the response, especially from many organizations in the state and nationally.  We currently have over 75 endorsers and daily we are hearing from groups that believe in this campaign and want to help. We are hearing from folks across Arizona that want to not only support this measure, but to actively volunteer to gather signatures to get this on the ballot in Nov. 2018. As we talk to citizens, we find they are outraged that hounding is actually legal. Like us, they view this type of hunting as un-sportsman and unethical. People are shocked that steel-jawed leg hold traps are permitted on private land. They recognize that this is a cruel method of hunting and support the prohibition of this type of hunting.

The campaign is endorsed by some very well respected organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Born Free USA, The Cougar Fund, Jane Goodall Institute and Panthera – just to name a few

We are grateful to the support we have received from so many well respected organizations.  We recognized early on that to launch a successful campaign, we needed a broad coalition of supportive groups and leaders.  To have these groups lend their name and provide resources, such as volunteers, or whatever they can was critical to this effort.  We have a broad spectrum of groups nationally and in Arizona that represent wildlife interests, environmental, companion animals, wildcats specifically and boast memberships of all types of citizens and supporters.  We are so thankful to the groups that have already supported this and know that many more will continue to join this effort.

Do you feel that local politicians are generally receptive to the campaign and what it is trying to accomplish?

We are honored to have the support of some of our local elected officials. We know that some will not support this because they fear the retribution of hunting groups and the NRA during election time. We also know, that as the campaign moves forward, to expect others to join whether during the signature gathering phase or once we qualify for the ballot.  We have some State Representatives, State Senators and a few local officials/candidates that very early on endorsed us and said, “Yes, I believe in this.”  Politicians can face extreme pressure from pro-trophy-hunting lobby groups and the NRA (which opposes this effort) and other well-financed special interest organizations. To have elected officials and candidates this early in the campaign step up to support us speaks to their willingness to stand firm on the right side of history and not bow down to a small, but vocal community.

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“We celebrate more citizens becoming engaged in animal protection issues and believe that it is our obligation to raise awareness, educate and whenever possible be a conduit to push for changes in policy that reflect these values when they are also matched by sound science.” A mountain lion in Arizona – Image Arizonans for Wildlife

Many of those who oppose the campaign are saying it is simply based on emotions, but organizations backing the initiative are clearly knowledgeable about the species and the science

Frankly, these are typical tactics used by opponents of common-sense measures like what we are proposing. Their consistent argument is that wildlife should be managed by the state only and that we are merely being emotional.  What this argument fails to realize is that ALL citizens have a responsibility to our wildlife, and when the state is not appropriately managing wildlife or sanctioning cruel practices, it is imperative that we seek alternatives and actively engage communities that have an interest in protecting our wildcats.

It also doesn’t hold up when we look at the best available science, which we have made available on this issue to anyone that cares to read it. To paint supporters of this measure as simply “emotional,” attempts to ignore the science that supports ending trophy hunting but it also seeks to diminish citizen voices and values. This measure also upholds the public safety concerns of Arizonans – there are exemptions for personal safety, property and legitimate conservation purposes.

Our opponents will use fear, they will use misinformation and they will seek to delegitimize supporters by any means necessary. They recognize that public support of cruel, unsporting and unethical hunting practices is not on their side and they also know that the numbers of hunters, especially big-game hunters, are declining. They are protecting their own interests, certainly not the interests of the state’s wild cats. Surely they know that trophy hunting is increasingly coming under scrutiny and as Americans become educated on this issue, they will not support the killing for parts, bragging rights, or a selfie with a hunter and carcass from a mountain lion from a recent kill.

Do you see the ballot being part of a movement towards a more compassionate conservation model in AZ?

Yes, I think we definitely see that in Arizona, nationally and certainly internationally.  When Cecil the lion was mercilessly killed by a wealthy American in Zimbabwe in 2015, we recognized that this was a transformational moment and the horrors of trophy hunting were becoming much more known by everyday Americans.  People could not fathom this type of cruelty inflicted of our majestic creatures. It propelled people to become more educated not only of trophy hunting abroad, but also right here in their own backyards.  Collectively, the citizenry seems much more aware of these issues and no longer will stand idly by as animals suffer from cruel hunting practices so that someone can have bragging rights or take the head or hide of an animal. It is not sustainable, it is not ethical and it goes against the values of many.

Do you believe that if this ballot passes it can help set a precedent to reform hunting and trapping policies outside of Arizona?

Certainly, our focus is on Arizona, but we do know that nationally, there is a movement from scientists, advocates and American citizens who want to change current hunting practices and put an end to the needless suffering of animals, specifically they want policies that do not support hunting for trophies.

How can people help support this initiative?

Currently, we need 150,642 VALID signatures to qualify for the Nov 2018 ballot which means we have to gather more signatures to ensure we have enough. We are building an army of volunteers but need more help. People can:

  • Sign up to Volunteer
  • Visit and like our Facebook page
  • Donate – an initiative like this take significant resources to be successful
  • Share information about the campaign with friends, family, circles of influence- especially those in Arizona.
  • Endorse – we would love the support of more organizations that wish to join this movement.
  • For anyone outside of Arizona, they can donate, share, endorse us or contact the campaign at info@azforwildlife.com for more information or ways to help

Wildlife Art

On my trip to Jackson Hole in September I managed to get a few hours to explore the National Museum of Wildlife Art. I was pleasantly surprised with the extensive collection of works that centered around the cats, making this visit one of my best museum experiences to date. I fell in love with so many sculptures and paintings that it is hard to list them all, but I recall a few of my favorites here.

The museum building, which is inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is surrounded by an incredible sculpture trail and houses a permanent collection of over 5,000 cataloged works focusing primarily on European and American painting and sculpture. If you love and appreciate art and wildlife, then this museum is a must.

The first piece of work, that I have essentially become obsessed with, is a massive bronze sculpture that greets you as walk into the gallery. At the top of the stair case on a rock wall a puma crouches ready to pounce. The work is titled Silent Pursuit by artist Kenneth Bunn.

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Kenneth Bunn, Silent Pursuit (1994), Bronze – National Museum of Wildlife Art

The National Museum of Wildlife Art, pumas, sculpture, cats in art, mountain lion, wildlife, Kenneth Bunn, bronze sculpture, wildlife art, Jackson Wyoming, travel, big cats

The angle and lighting do not do it justice in these pictures but you can get an idea of how powerful and animated this sculpture is, in the photo below you can make out the eyes and muzzle detail along with the strong musculature of the cat. This is a prime example of why his work is held in such high regard. Imagine being greeted with this at the top of your stair case every day!

The National Museum of Wildlife Art, pumas, sculpture, cats in art, mountain lion, wildlife, Kenneth Bunn, bronze sculpture, wildlife art, Jackson Wyoming, travel, big cats

The next work is one of the many paintings that feature the African lion. This is by Wilhelm Kuhnert a German painter who specialized in animals, of which lions were one of his favorites. There was something about the simplistic scene and pure detailed quality of the subjects that drew my eye. It resembles a familiar image that could have been captured during a photographic safari.

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Wilhelm Kuhnert, African Lions, 1911, Oil on Canvas

This piece by James Northcote struck me for an altogether different reason. The stark portrayal and dark beauty of two tigers imprisoned in a zoo, miserable and doomed for life deprived of all things natural. It elicited a powerful feeling of sadness and could easily reflect the reality of many zoo animals around the world today. The image of the second tiger looms in the dark and you can just make out its face in the painting. A Tiger’s Den could also be considered a snapshot of what the worst zoos were like for animals in the early days. The painting is of two boys, viewing tigers for the very first time at the Royal Menagerie in the Tower of London.

James Northcote, A Tigers Den, The National Museum of Wildlife Art, cats in art, tigers, wildlife, paintings, wildlife art, Jackson Wyoming, travel, big cats, captivity, zoos

James Northcote, A Tiger’s Den, 1816, Oil on Canvas

In contrast to the above work The Enchantress by Arthur Wardle, a British artist known for his animal paintings and studies, is romantic, whimsical and bordering on mystical. I see the subjects connection to the cats and control, notice the placement of her hand and how she holds the rope. The more you look the more you question the relationship between women and animal, it is definitely an image that is open to interpretation.

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The Enchantress, Arthur Wardle, 1901, Oil on canvas

Tiger Observing Cranes by French artist Jean-Léon Gérôme is bright and cheerful with an almost surreal quality. The tiger is regal, aloof, contemplative and exudes an overall calmness against a crisp blue sky and ocean background which would not normally be habitat that you would find this species in. Is he out of place here, or exactly where he should be?

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Tiger Observing Cranes, Jean-Léon Gérôme,1890, Oil on Canvas

Instantly recognizable Andy Warhol’s bright, colorful work is appealing and pleasant to the eye even when the subject is an endangered species. This is one of ten color screen prints in the Endangered Species Portfolio, which also includes animals like an elephant, panda, rhino and zebra. The signature style is memorable and raises the individual animal to the same celebrity status of Warhol’s human subjects. The endangered Siberian Tiger has become pop art.

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Endangered Species: Siberian-Tiger, Andy Warhol, 1983, silkscreen print

There were many works depicting mountain lions at the museum and this bronze sculpture titled Panther and Cubs by American artist Edward Kemeys, was wonderful to see as it depicts a tender and loving moment. The beautiful and gentle expression of the mother and content kittens is captured in an almost painterly fashion, details seen better in the second image, which help soften the hard material allowing the subjects personality and life to come through.

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Panther and Cubs, Edward Kemeys, Bronze, cast 1878

The National Museum of Wildlife Art, Edward Kemeys, cats in art, pumas, mountain lions, bronze sculpture, wildlife, paintings, wildlife art, Jackson Wyoming, travel, big cats

Moving on to more modern works, this particular painting was another piece that I would have loved to been able to take home as I would never grow tired of looking at. Mountain Lion, by Britt Chauncey Freda is the perfect combination of abstract and realism all in one – all these factors along with the colors, had me going back to this painting a few times during my visit. I wasn’t the only one who liked it, I noticed that there was a sealed bid which meant some lucky person would soon be taking this beautiful painting home.

Britt Chauncey Freda, The National Museum of Wildlife Art, cats in art, pumas, mountain lions, wildlife, paintings, wildlife art, Jackson Wyoming, travel, big cats

Mountain Lion, by Britt Chauncey Freda , Acrylic and graphite on panel, 2017

My final favorite piece is another gorgeous bronze sculpture of a tiger by American artist Gwynn Murrill who sculpts amazing abstract animals without detail. She is known for her animal forms and very distinct pieces that portray movement and character in a beautiful simplistic form.

I was first introduced to her work a number of years ago while traveling through the Toronto airport where two of the tiger sculptures were displayed, but seeing this again reminded me how much I loved her work. She has a huge portfolio of cats big and small all of which are fantastic, so be sure to check out the link to her work. Some of the sculptures are even small enough to fit inside your home, although I would have a very hard time deciding on which one I would want to have.

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Tiger 2, Gwynn Murrill, Bronze, cast 2012