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A Haven For Cats

Chachi’s Haven is a cat shelter located in Tel Mond Israel that has been run for over 20 years by animal advocate Gail Joss. It all began when Gail met a stray cat, who she later named Chachi, on a factory grounds in South Africa many years ago. She began feeding Chachi and the other cats at the factory, eventually moving them to a cottage she rented to keep them safe. She had no experience with cats prior to rescuing Chachi and the others but soon learned to care for them and began a life long mission to help stray, abandoned and injured cats. Gail now resides in Tel Mond Israel in a warehouse where she currently cares for approximately 150 cats, most neglected and abused, plus another 300 street cats. The next major step for Gail includes moving from the current warehouse location to a new property that will eventually become a clean and safe shelter for both her and the cats. To find out more about her work, the move and what life is like for street cats in Israel, I reached out to Gail who took time from her extremely busy schedule to answer some questions.

How many cats are currently in your shelter and how many street cats do you care for?
There are currently 140 cats in the shelter, which varies as we lose some cats and new ones come in. This years kitten season has been particularly bad with a lot of kittens being dumped on the street to die (sometimes with their mothers, sometimes not). I take in every single one that needs help. Outside the shelter I was feeding about 250-300 street cats in about 28 colonies, however it will be more now because I have 2 new colonies. An elderly man died 10 days ago in Tel Mond and he fed 2 colonies plus an additional 20 cats. I am now feeding them.

What is your daily routine like?

My day generally consists of cleaning, washing, feeding, vets trips (for TNR), treatment of kittens/sick cats. For my street cats the routine is different, for my own and the cats safety, I set off at 2 am with 50kg of dry food, come rain or shine to feed them, and this will increase because of the 2 new colonies I have taken over. Saturday is a religious day in Israel and people cannot drive cars so I walk 17 km carrying the heavy bags of food. The street cats are always there waiting for me as they know I won’t let them down. In 22 years I have only missed feeding the street cats once when I was in hospital. New street cats constantly appear and the colonies get larger as word gets out, sadly I lose a lot of street cats.

There is little time for anything else, including eating, and I tend to go with 3-4 hours sleep a day. With the expenses mounting to cover our day-to-day needs, I have had to borrow money and work outside the shelter to cover the debt.


Describe what the general attitude is like towards cats and street cats in Israel

I face a lot of adversity for my work and sadly do not receive support from the community at large. Israel has a massive population of unwanted cats (in the region of 2 million – a large number for such a small country) and the government fails to fund its TNR programme. Generally cats are not regarded highly by the majority of Israeli‘s and are often abandoned, abused, killed and poisoned. People have set their dogs on me, I have even been verbally and physically abused for helping the cats, and the street cats, they will go round after me and throw away food and turn over tubs of water. Some people have even put poison in the food. There are laws to protect cats and street cats in Israel but they are not enforced. The police do NOTHING even when you have photo’s or video’s, so the abuse towards animals and those who care for them continues.

What has been your biggest challenge in gaining support for your work?

I think it is hard to get help because cats in general are often considered vermin and a nuisance. I desperately need donations, local volunteers to help with the daily running of the shelter, anyone willing to help out with maintenance, repairs of the shelter and with TNR.

Please tell me why you were looking for a new location for you and the cats

The warehouse that I am currently in is ₪3000 (Israeli Shekels) a month, approximately £625/$820 a month, and the place is literally a death trap that is falling down. It has massive cracks down the walls, the electrical is extremely unsafe, the windows and doors don’t shut properly, it’s boiling hot in the summer, it floods when it rains and it’s full of mold – all of these things have had a detrimental effect on myself and the cats health. The cats as a result often have colds, sinus and respiratory problems which all impact my workload and medical expenses.

In addition my current landlord is an uncooperative and can be abusive, he often turns off the water supply, leaves dogs loose outside that terrify me and the cats and, he refuses to fix the problems in the warehouse. The general area outside the shelter is not safe either, we have vipers around and 2 cats Lovey and Doogy have been bitten. Fortunately I was able to act fast and luckily they both survived. 4 other cats, Vivi, Freddy, Bubbly and Elsa were all poisoned while they were inside the shelter and sadly only Elsa survived.

I understand a new location has been found, what is the best way people can help you?

Donations for the move in addition to cover our daily expenses are going to be needed even more now! Currently only a small number of followers donate regularly. The rent in the new location will be double – ₪7000 a month, approximately £1500/$1900 a month. The renovations are ridiculously expensive and are over double what I planned on but I have no choice because the basics such as electricity, plumbing etc…all need to be fixed. Phase one of the renovations are underway and it is going to be a massive improvement with fresh air, lots of space and no mold! Once it is done it will be worth it.

Although the Facebook page has over 14,000 likes and Instagram nearly 2,000 followers it’s getting harder and harder to get the posts visible. As you know posts are restricted because they want people to pay for them to be boosted, but this is something I do not have the money for.

Once the new shelter is ready I will be bringing about 80-100 street cats there, they will be from the Moshav we are on now because they will not be safe once we leave here. Some will be from another ‘religious’ Moshav because they are in the most danger daily.

Is there anything else you would like people to know?

Chachi’s Haven is a registered charity with an accountant and a board that I am accountable to. In addition to TNR and helping the street cats I also campaign to raise awareness for animal welfare in Israel.

How you can help

  • Please share this post and help spread the word about Chachi’s Haven, especially if you have friends or family that are cat lovers – you never know who will be in a position to help, or perhaps know someone who can
  • Donate to Chachi’s Haven directly on a monthly or one time basis to help Gail and the cats in their new location, with food, medical care or supplies
  • Virtually adopt a cat or physically adopt one of the cats from the shelter
  • Volunteer  – especially for those who are in the area. Gail is always looking for and in need of dedicated people to commit to helping her on the ground

Chachi’s Haven can be followed on Facebook and Instagram, please like, donate if you can and spread the word!


Cats in Hats

Whimsical and artistic are words that could be used to describe the work of Japanese photographer Ryo Yamazaki and his wife Hiromi Yamazaki. The cat loving husband and wife team have created a social media sensation with images of their 3 adorable cats wearing hats. These feline fashion accessories are beautifully crafted out of 100% cat hair that is shed naturally in their house. Ryo, also known as rojiman, is in charge of the photography while his talented wife Hiromi makes the actual hats.

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Mugi – Image © rojiman

I absolutely love this Instagram account so I reached out to Ryo who was kind enough to answer a few questions about their work.

Please tell me when you started to photograph your cats in hats?

We got our first cat 11 years ago and he showed us many interesting expressions. So, in order to document his various expressions, I started photography. Basically my wife Hiromi makes the hats and I take the pictures of the cats in hats. I started doing this about 2 years ago.

Ryo Yamazaki, rojiman, cats in hats, cat hair, Japan, scottish folds

Mugi with Pearl – Image © rojiman

How did you and your wife come up with the idea to make hats from cat hair?

Our project began when the hashtag #trumpyourcat started trending on the photo-sharing app Instagram during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. We just imitated his hair style using the cats hair and I posted the picture on my Instagram.

Where does your inspiration come from?

It comes from many places like the TV news, online web news, movies etc…

Ryo Yamazaki, rojiman, cats in hats, cat hair, Japan, scottish folds

Maru Princess Leia – Image © rojiman

What is your favorite hat?

I really love the Japanese robot anime, Gudam’s hat series.

How do you make the hats?

We have an instructional video on our Instagram that shows how they are made.

Are the hats art or fashion?

It is cat fashion, by the cats, for the cats.

Ryo Yamazaki, rojiman, cats in hats, cat hair, Japan, scottish folds

Nya in top hat and tie – Image © rojiman

Do your cats enjoy wearing the hats?

Yes, when they are relaxing, that’s the best time to take pictures.

Please tell me about your cats Nya, Mugi and Maru

All of my cats are Scottish Fold boys. Nya is an 11-year-old blue tabby pampered boy, Maru is a White 9-year-old glutton and, Mugi the red tabby is a hyperactive 4-year-old who loves his two big brothers.

Ryo Yamazaki, rojiman, cats in hats, cat hair, Japan, scottish folds

Left to right Mugi, Maru and Nya – Image © rojiman

What do you love most about cats?

They live at their own pace. They are what we call in Japan Tsundere, meaning they are sometimes cold but sometimes lovey-dovey.

Ryo Yamazaki, rojiman, cats in hats, cat hair, Japan, scottish folds

Mugi Rabbit ears – Image © rojiman

Is there anything else you would like to tell people about your work?

Please try making fur hats for your own cats!

If you would like to see more of their cats and fantastic hats, there is a 2019 calendar coming out, however if you need an immediate fix be sure to follow Ryo and his wife Hiromi on Instagram.


The Mighty Coastal Cat

Small but mighty, the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a wetland-dependent feline that for the most part, still remains a mystery to researchers. Distributed discontinuously through south and southeast Asia, the fishing cat is considered “Vulnerable” and is declining rapidly throughout most its range. Larger than your average domestic cat, their long stocky body, short legs and tail, broad head and extremely dense water proof fur make them perfectly adapted for living in and around water based habitats.

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Contrary to belief, fishing cats do not have specially webbed claws for catching fish, in fact their feet are no more webbed than any of the other cats.
Image – Fishing cat at water’s edge

To find out more about what makes these small cats so remarkable Dr. Anthony J. Giordano, founder and director of S.P.E.C.I.E.S., is back to discuss his organization’s work with the fishing cat and explain why more emphasis needs to be put on this unique species that calls the wetlands of Asia home.

Why highlight the fishing cat?

I have always been personally interested in the ecology of the fishing cat for many of the same reasons as you or your readers are – simply put, there wasn’t a lot of information on them. To address this back in 2008 we began a fishing cat project in Bangladesh, right before they were listed as “Endangered” by the IUCN. This status change occurred mostly because fishing cats were not showing up in survey areas where many thought they should have been and, because there were few records or pictures – it was like an alarm bell going off for researchers. Since S.P.E.C.I.E.S. was already well positioned to lead fishing cat research efforts this change in status allowed us to make a stronger argument for funding the work.

Unfortunately it is frequently difficult to make an argument to protect a species and gather critical information about it unless it is threatened or endangered. This often leads to smaller samples due to the animal’s rarity and this often happens at the expense of being able to do good science. I do think these type of shortcomings underscore the need for greater financial investment, as there are only a handful of funding options out there to support work like this in conservation research. In particular, better funding is needed to support information-gathering on potentially declining species before they’re officially on the radar as a threatened species and, to support the proper development of an effective conservation strategy.

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“It’s now commonly understood that fishing cats are the only true wetland-dependent species of felid, and in this case by wetland I mean lakes and ponds, as well as mangroves and coastal estuaries…” – Anthony J. Giordano – Image female fishing cat

What are the projects S.P.E.C.I.E.S. has worked on?

A few years ago we finished a project in eastern Bangladesh where we conducted the first region wide surveys among an interesting region known as Sylhet. Bangladesh hosts the world’s largest Delta and Sylhet has some interesting geology which permits the formation of seasonal lakes or wetlands called haors (pronounced how-er), which can grow large after the region’s seasonal monsoons and then quickly dry up later in the year. We verified the presence of fishing cats at several haors and, in some places fishing cats were relatively common making it possible to observe them in the open where they seemed indifferent to our presence. In other areas where they occur, fishing cats were elusive and sometimes near impossible to find.

Another important aspect of our work was trying to understand how local people interacted with fishing cats. There is a major protected wetland sanctuary near one of the haors where local residents manage commercial tilapia ponds and their fish were frequently reported as being taken by fishing cats. In other areas fishing cats were killing people’s ducks, so overall most of these areas were experiencing some kind of conflict or coexistence issue with fishing cats.

We quickly learned there wasn’t a lot of regard for fishing cats in eastern Bangladesh. In fact, the local people also remarked that the cats had a very strong scent. I finally got wind of one at one point – imagine a musky, wet cat that also smells of sun-bleached fish! It is possible that their habitats, in and around urban areas of south Asia, could contribute to that smell or maybe it is a combination of that and their quick drying, insulating hairs which also help them to do well in the colder parts of their range.

After completing some pretty extensive surveys we concluded that fishing cats were broadly-distributed in that region. I even found fishing cat sign near a national park not very far north of Dhaka, the country’s capital and another overpopulated south Asian urban center, that is an extremely degraded secondary forest. This suggests a certain amount of adaptability by fishing cats in these regions.

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“Most tilapia from this region makes its way to the U.S. as frozen white fish, so people should be aware of where their tilapia comes from”. – Anthony J. Giordano – Image – Fishing cat catching fish

In the seasonal forests of Sri Lanka’s hill country S.P.E.C.I.E.S. has a multi-species carnivore project in full partnership with the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society. In contrast to Bangladesh, it took us over a year to verify the presence of fishing cats at this study site. This central north part of the country is seasonally dry and has no natural lakes instead, it has man-made reservoirs that date back to ancient kingdoms. Survey after survey we found leopard tracks and the occasional rusty-spotted cat track, the smallest of the world’s cats, but we found NO evidence of fishing cats. Even with camera-traps inside and outside the nearest protected area no photos of fishing cats even as photos of everything else poured in and yet, we were collecting convincing reports that fishing cats were killing people’s chickens.

The first physical evidence the project we had for fishing cats in the area came more than a year into the project when a friend of the project was driving home one day late at night and they saw some movement at the side of the road. They started filming with their cell phone camera and sure enough it was a fishing cat which proceeded to run across the road right in front of the car! However, more time would elapse before we got our first official photo of a fishing cat on a camera-trap. In these environments the seasonal contraction and expansion of water bodies drive a lot of the challenges in conducting surveys for fishing cats so it is incredibly interesting to see how populations adapt to these ecosystems. At the other end of the spectrum fishing cats frequent coastal habitats on the edge of the city of Colombo, another of the most densely populated cities in southeast Asia, and they are not particularly secretive there either. I don’t know another cat where regional populations can be so different in this regard.

Usually, one can get a feel for the ecology and behavior of species across its range and what you might expect from it, but with fishing cats each population is a bit unpredictable and so that only adds to the mystery.

As for the fishing cat in Java, the last time it was seen was in 1930 and it is believed to be extinct. An expedition in the 1990’s was able to record fishing cat sign in a handful of locations in western Java, but there is no conclusive evidence that they still exist there.  There are rumors and reports that still persist to this day and to know for sure I am hoping to launch an expedition that will retrace the steps of an earlier expedition. If it is still alive it would probably be the rarest cat in the world.

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IUCN Map of fishing cat range

Wetlands and the fishing cat go hand in hand

The evolution of the fishing cat was more or less to specialize in foraging among wetlands and coastal areas, and this is what makes them unique among modern cats. They are not shy about swimming completely submerged underwater when they want or need to, head and all. They are known to sit by the water’s edge and scoop out a fish or dash in after one as well as swim up underneath waterfowl resting on the water’s surface. One could argue that the fishing cat is a top predator in these Asian ecosystems which are not particularly suitable habitat for other larger carnivore species.

What is their connection to shrimp farming?

In many ways the conservation challenges that fishing cats are enduring make it the face of wetland conservation in south Asia. Whether through development, agriculture, or aquaculture, south and southeast Asia’s unique wetlands and mangroves are disappearing more rapidly that its rain forests if you can believe that? In southern Thailand for example, shrimp farming is displacing natural wetland habitat that would normally be suitable habitat for fishing cats, otters, numerous birds, reptiles, amphibians, and of course freshwater fish that would be found nowhere else.

Much of that shrimp is largely exported to western markets including the U.S., which unfortunately loves it cheap frozen shrimp. The average person should be aware of what they purchase and from where and maybe consult the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program as each choice we make can have an impact, whether negative or positive. A mindful consumer is the best weapon against wanton environmental degradation and I always say that if it costs a little more to compensate someone, or an industry for that matter, for doing the right thing, wouldn’t it be worth it?

What is so unique about the distribution of fishing cats? 

Today fishing cat distribution likely represents what the distribution of water bodies were like tens of thousands of years ago perhaps when that particular part of the earth was wetter and when lakes and rivers were more contiguous with one another. Since that time the distribution of these active watersheds changed which means the fishing cat’s range has also become fragmented with many populations becoming isolated from one another.

This is consistent with the idea that the habitat in between these populations does little to facilitate cat movement or dispersal. Tropical forests might be incredibly important overall for supporting biodiversity but a conservation strategy for fishing cats must include wetlands and mangroves in places like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Nepal where we’ve just begun a brand new initiative focused on fishing cats. More importantly one cannot assume anything about a local population that hasn’t previously been studied as their ecology might be very different from that of the next closest population.

What would surprise people most about the fishing Cat?

They are tough and scrappy! Wild individuals don’t particularly care for people and have a generally bad attitude particularly large males, the females weigh about 15-18 lbs and are generally only about half the size of the males. They actually might be even tougher than a bobcat! One account that interested me from around the turn of the 20th century was of a male fishing cat, caught during a collecting expedition in India, that had managed to kill a female leopard through a cage placed near its own. Not a cat you want to mess with!


With expanding human settlement in south and southeast Asia is the fishing cat on the decline due to habitat loss?

Overall, yes it most certainly is. The global trend is downward. However, local populations differ in their adaptability and for some, some degree of human development might be something they can adapt well to. Whereas others might be negatively impacted rather quickly. As I said Colombo has a fishing cat population on its coast, but who is to say that this coastal region might not be further eroded, developed or paved over in the near future assuming that process hasn’t already begun? No fishing cat population, no matter how adaptable, can survive that.

With the expanding human population comes greater settlement in more remote areas and more roads which means more fishing cats are getting killed on roads, something we’re starting to see in Sri Lanka, India and other areas. In addition to this there is the previously mentioned more general but widespread rapid pace of wetland and coastal development. Although our organization consistently communicates the importance of protecting tropical forests, particularly in Asia, we are trying our best to tell the stories of wetlands and mangroves considering they are the lungs of the ocean and the nurseries that supply the ocean’s creatures and us with food. They are critical to how a lot of ocean life begins so it’s no surprise that fishing cats have also come to depend on them. Therefore when we protect those fragile ecosystems, we are also protecting fishing cat populations.

Do you see poaching as a major threat to the species?

Hunting and trapping is an issue more in the context of ongoing conflict over the killing of poultry, the taking of fish, etc… than for commercial purposes. I see these problems as two different things – one is about solving a problem that has nothing to do with the cat’s value, and so doesn’t warrant necessarily the killing of the cat, the other is about valuing a dead animal for its parts. Perhaps the smell from the musk and oils plays a role in discouraging commercial trade or maybe the skins are not as gaudy as those of other Asian felids. I have seen skins locally yes, but likely the result of local conflict and opportunistic killings. This doesn’t mean that there is no commercial poaching occurring, rather it means that currently our understanding is that among the many threats fishing cats face it is likely not in the top three which are: wetland/coastal development and degradation, persecution from conflict and roadkill.

What would be the best ways to get local communities involved in saving the fishing cat?

It is all going to depend on what the local issues or threats are – they vary considerably so custom strategies might be warranted for each region. Most local people in most areas I’d argue currently don’t see the value in protecting fishing cats like they might inherently see for other species. In Bangladesh for example tigers inspire awe in many people, and are the national animal, this despite the fact they’ve been eradicated from much of the country. In contrast, fishing cats are considered nothing but pests. If people better understood how important their local population was or learned about how the rest of the world valued fishing cats, many might be at least open to non-lethal strategies for co-existing with fishing cats. In some parts of Bangladesh fishing cats are persecuted directly, whereas in other areas local communities have cited their Islamic faith as a reason they won’t or shouldn’t kill fishing cats. This is similar to some Sri Lankan communities, which cite their Buddhist philosophy for non-lethal practices. I would say that across their range local people don’t necessarily have to be excited about fishing cats, but maybe they would be more proactive about reducing conflict or avoiding lethal retribution and just let fishing cats be. This would be a very positive change for some local fishing cat populations, one we are leading the fight to make to happen.

Do you see zoos playing a role in helping the species?

I think most modern zoos are extremely committed to animal health and well-being, and are doing more and more for the conservation of wild populations. S.P.E.C.I.E.S. owes a tremendous amount of gratitude to zoos that have supported us financially to so that we are able to do conservation in the wild. We’ve even gotten some support for our fishing cat work from zoos. For example, support from the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo was critical to helping us launch the Bangladesh Fishing Cat Project years ago while most recently, we are indebted to the Phoenix Zoo for their support of our latest fishing cat initiative in Nepal.  In addition to zoos supporting conservation some zoos are where the wonder happens and it is sometimes the very first place for us that it does. How many of today’s conservation professionals, ecologists, naturalists owe their passion and inspiration to early experiences they had or observations they made at zoos? Would I really care about protecting fishing cats today, for example, if I’d only seen a video about them via my smart phone? Zoos invoke more than a “click to care” response, their presence helps lead to the next generation of professionals that work hard to protect the world’s endangered species.

What are your final thoughts on fishing cat conservation?

One of the things about protecting small cats is the potential to communicate their stories to the public. There is a certain familiarity or connection one can make to their own small cat sitting on their couch, purring on their lap, or hiding under the bed. Like the fishing cat, many of the world’s small cats have their own interesting tales to tell and I think there has largely been a missed opportunity to connect more people with their stories.

Fishing Cat, Prionailurus viverrinus,Small Cats, Wildcats, Asia, Southeast Asia, endangered species, wetland species, water cats, mangroves, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Thailand, aquaculture, shirmp farming, wetland loss, mangroves, swamp cats,

“Even today we’re still trying to map their basic distribution and understand their ecology so they remain an enigma like few other cat’s” – Anthony J. Giordano – Image – Kelinahandbasket (Fishing Cat) Wikimedia commons

The fishing cat’s story lies in its dependence of fragile wetland and coastal ecosystems and no other cat’s story is so tied to these places. There is at once a lot that is unknown about the fishing cat, but a lot that is familiar. It’s that juxtaposition, and the fact they are such bad ass cats, that make them so intriguing. Hopefully this, along with the support of people locally and elsewhere, will keep us leading the charge to protect fishing cats!

Yellow Eyes

The focus of this review is on a book that I read as a child, picked up in my grade school library because the cover caught my attention. It was also my first introduction to mountain lions. Yellow Eyes, originally published in 1937, by American writer Rutherford George Montgomery is a fictional story of a young cougar called Yellow Eyes who is orphaned along with his litter mates when a hunter kills their mother. The book follows Yellow Eyes from a young kitten to an adult cougar as he fights to survive and escape the hunter called Cougar George who relentlessly pursues him after a pack of hunting dogs kill his siblings.

Getting my hands on a copy of the classic and rare book was quit a challenge but the public library was finally able to locate it and have it transferred to Toronto from the University of New Brunswick. Although this is considered a kids book Montgomery writes in a style that is often brutally honest recognizing that kids really do understand more than they are given credit for. I recall finding some of the realism shocking when I first read it and now as an adult I can see that the story is not all fiction and could be somewhat based on the actual historical accounts of the persecution of the species, and extermination campaigns, by government and the first settlers.

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This is the paperback copy that I read as a kid, the cover image changed over the years to this stereotypical and fierce image of a cougar. It seems to be the standard cover for printings in the 70’s and onward.

As a kid I was unaware of trophy hunting, but this book made a huge and lasting impact on me in that regard as I instinctively knew it was wrong. The story of Yellow Eyes deeply saddened me, I remember crying at some parts, but I also found myself cheering for him as I turned the pages. Early on the book says that his kind was considered nothing more than “varmints to be slaughtered”, but I could not understand the hatred and cruelty directed towards these animals by humans who enjoyed causing so much suffering

The about the author page in the book says that as a child Rutherford Montgomery had listened to stories told by hunters, but that he was a “watcher, not a hunter” so it is very likely the stories he heard growing up influenced this book from the human perspective.  Montgomery takes the reader on step further and into the mind of Yellow eyes so we also get to see what happens from his perspective. The book does anthropomorphize parts but this functions as a way to create a sympathetic connection between reader, Yellow Eyes and the harsh world he lives in.

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Early hard cover version of the book portrays Yellow Eyes in a more neutral and less threatening manner.

There are many themes in the book that can be considered relevant today. Besides the condoned extermination campaigns there is the acknowledgment that man had “waged a ruthless ware” against predators like cougars, coyotes and the wolf. We see Yellow Eyes through hunter Cougar George his sworn enemy and, we are introduced to a more sympathetic character who understood the animals and role they played in nature, a Native American man named Treon who wants to help Yellow Eyes survive. Yellow Eyes learns that not all humans are like the hunter and the two develop a mutual respect for one another.

Through Yellow Eyes we see the struggle of his kind and we also see his joy at finding a mate, the sorrow of losing her and their kittens. The harshness of life teaches him to be strong and smart which earns him the reputation of a cunning and fierce animal. Are his experiences and instinct enough to help him survive in a world that humans are rapidly encroaching on? For that answer and more, you will have to read the book.

Although out of print Yellow Eyes should be available from your local library or online from rare and used book dealers. One of my childhood favorites for many reasons it also makes my Recommended Reading List.

Arizona’s Wildcats

The Arizona ballot initiative and campaign to end trophy hunting and trapping of Arizona’s wildcats came to an abrupt end recently when it was suspended. If you aren’t familiar with the campaign, run by the group Arizonans for Wildlife and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), you can read the background here. I was a huge supporter of the initiative which launched last fall, so when I first heard it had been suspended I was in disbelief.

Unfortunately the official statement sent to supporters and volunteers via email from Acting President & CEO for the HSUS, Kitty Block, confirmed the end to what could have been a precedent setting campaign. “Facing an increasingly competitive state and national landscape, we are suspending efforts on our citizens’ initiative to ban trophy hunting of wild cats in Arizona. This difficult decision is the result of a perfect storm of local obstacles and emerging national issues and does not reflect Arizona voters’ enthusiasm for this proposal to ban inhumane trophy hunting practices.”

Part apology, part explanation a shocking and upsetting disappointment for supporters, endorsers and dedicated volunteers. The backlash and negative comments on social media against the campaign and the HSUS was immediate. For those who opposed the ballot this defeat is seen as a huge win for them, but is this really the end for advocates fighting to help Arizona’s wildcats?

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“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” ― William Wilberforce – Image Arizonans for Wildlife courtesy photo

What we do know is the movement against trophy hunting is not only growing in Arizona but throughout North America and the world. Another very recent article appropriately called The Cult of Hunting and its Timely Demise, by David Mattson, serves to reinforce this.

“The American public is, in fact, evincing increased alienation from the precepts of current wildlife management. A recent nationwide YouGov survey showed that 71% of those who were polled thought that sport hunting was morally wrong; 76% thought that killing animals for furs was unethical; both within a 3% margin of error. I’m not saying here that a super-majority of the American public “did not support” or “skeptically viewed” sport hunting. They felt something stronger. They thought it was unethical, even morally repugnant. And this objection, even revulsion, was exhibited across all age groups and political perspectives.”

Arizonans for Wildlife, mountain lions, bobcats, jaguars, ocelots and lynx, trophy hunting, trapping, animal cruelty, wildcats, ban trophy hunting, ban trapping, ban hounding, endangered species, The Humane Society of the United States, conservation

“Animal advocates must get to know the rules and be aware as it impacts the tools that they have.”– Image  Arizona Game & Fish Department

With this in mind I touched base with Kellye Pinkleton, the Arizona State Director and project lead on the ballot initiative, who spoke candidly on a our recent call about the end of the campaign and what comes next. She stressed that the decision to end the citizens initiative was not easy and there were many variables that had a hand in that decision. “The HSUS doesn’t start an initiative like this with the intent of suspending it and we knew by doing so, in one of the toughest states on the issue of trophy hunting, that it would have a domino effect.” If the Arizona ballot had been successful it meant the possibility of future similar initiatives elsewhere. However the political landscape, which plays a much bigger role than many realize, changed drastically. It impacted the cost of media buys for advertising and paid secured signature gathering which are integral parts of any state-wide ballot initiative especially where there is strong special interest forces of opposition.

While the HSUS was criticized for starting the campaign when the two bills that eventually had a huge impact on it, HB2244 and HB2404, were introduced months prior Kellye told me that sometime things are not as simple as they appear such as the impact they had on secured signature gathering which brought costs beyond what was predicted. “The HSUS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and that means there is a lobby spending cap that you can use for certain things – but when your cost increase you can’t go over that cap.” Though they knew the law had changed compliance and even with budgets and planning there were many changes that could not have been anticipated. Kellye said that she sees bills like the ones recently introduced as part of a larger plan and trend and, as opponents recognize that organizations like HSUS have a powerful tool in the grassroots movement “they will do anything they can to roll back citizen initiatives.”

Kellye said that currently the best way for the public to help is via the November elections and stressed that “people need to know who they are voting for and who those members alliances are with.” The public must continue to stay vigilant, public input and comment is vital for wildlife management agencies and policies. “Currently there is not a supportive commission and that’s part of the problem. Why is policy geared towards a small minority? Lets not pretend it’s management – it’s for the anglers and hunters.”

Besides politics it can’t be forgotten that there is another important element to this story in the form of 1,700 volunteers who invested their time for a cause they believe in. Kellye got emotional when we spoke about this and told me that in her 3 years as the Arizona State Director she has had many inspiring moments, but nothing so much as during this particular campaign. She told me that during the weekend they suspended the campaign she didn’t want the volunteers to just get a statement. All the people she spoke to including the dedicated diehards as she calls them were saddened and devastated, but they quickly said to her What’s next? What else do we need to do? How can we stay engaged?”

Arizonans for Wildlife, mountain lions, bobcats, jaguars, ocelots and lynx, trophy hunting, trapping, animal cruelty, wildcats, ban trophy hunting, ban trapping, ban hounding, endangered species, The Humane Society of the United States, conservation

Arizonans for Wildlife Volunteers signature gathering. – Image Arizonans for Wildlife Facebook

To say in the worst of times we often see the best in people is no different in this case. In the worst moment Kellye said she looked at the volunteers and knew what kind of character they had. “I never knew how strong our movement was until I think going through that…so in many ways the worst weekend for the campaign was also the most inspiring. I got to really see people’s passion at a moment when you don’t expect it.” Without the volunteers hard work the citizen education could not have been done. Each time a volunteer had a conversation with someone at a signature gathering event or with friends or family people became aware of the issue, surprisingly 65% of people didn’t know that it was legal to kill these animals or trap bobcats, in the same way that Cecil the lion captured an international community.

The Arizona campaign didn’t end the way they wanted in a November victory, but what was accomplished in terms of education was tremendous. It inspired others to get active, become advocates for wildlife and other issues and this will continue on Kellye tells me. “The fact is unfortunately the successes that this campaign had and will continue to have isn’t easily quantified by votes and an election, nonetheless it’s important and it happened. Anyone that thinks otherwise does a disservice to our 1,700 volunteers.”

The HSUS will continue to be active on this issue, monitor and submit recommendations to Arizona Game & Fish as they did even before the campaign was suspended. Volunteers will also continue to be engaged on the issue, but moving forward it will look different from the formal campaign. Despite what anyone thinks, the movement is not going away as the issue still exists whether there is a campaign or not. The war on wildlife continues but each step made to help end it, even those seemingly small, is important. Unification among advocates, education and perseverance will be tools that help us ultimately win that war one day. In the meantime Kellye said Arizona is now “on the map for issues like this” and the fact that it had support from other states as well as other countries says a lot about a growing global movement towards a more humane approach to living with wildlife.

Reader’s Choice

Hi everyone, I need your help to decide the focus of an upcoming post. In the next month I will be talking to founder and director of S.P.E.C.I.E.S, Anthony Giordano, about the work his organization is doing to help the world’s wildcats.

I thought it would be fun to let my readers decide which wildcat we will discuss. Below are images of two species that the organization works with. The cat with the most votes, from the blog poll and Facebook poll combined, will be featured. Reader’s choice wins!

Please vote in the poll below for your favorite cat and, let me know if you have any questions on the species you vote for in the comment section. If your cat is featured, I will pick a few questions to include in my interview with Anthony.

Fishing Cat, Endangered Species, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Deforestation, Poaching

Choice 1 – Fishing Cat

Jaguars, Chaco, Paraguay, Gran Chaco, South America, habitat loss, endangered species, big cats, livestock wildlife conflict

Choice 2 – Jaguars of the Chaco

Thanks to everyone who participates, the poll with be active for the next week so be sure to get your vote in!

Cat Village

Cat Island in Japan is famous for its feline residents as well as being a popular destination for tourists from all over, but while many flock there for the cats it is far from the ideal place most have imagined it would be. Hannah Shaw, aka Kitten lady, took a trip there a few years back and she shows us that it sadly falls short of what true cat lovers would expect.

Houtong, Taiwan has taken a different approach to capitalizing on their cats and it is one that ensures the well-being of their four-legged residents is a priority.

The former mining town, which is now referred to as the Cat Village, was taken over by cats that were left behind when all but a few people moved on. A local women and cat lover was the first to notice the cats and she organized other volunteers to help care for the now estimated 200 plus, ensuring that all are vaccinated, micro-chipped and spayed or neutered. The few remaining residents declared themselves a cat friendly sanctuary complete with cat cafes, shops and restaurants making Houtong the perfect mecca for cat lovers.

While the volunteers and residents have made great efforts with the cats, unfortunately there have been reports of people dumping or stealing cats as well as disease which was introduced by abandoned cats – the only apparent downside to the feline paradise. It is acknowledged that there is great potential to teach visitors the value of cats, but officials admit there may be much more work to do in that area.

Cat Villiage, Houtong, Taiwan, Cat lovers, travel, spay and neuter

Cats of Houtong – Image By P1340, from Wikimedia Commons

A place with many cats means temptation, the type the every cat lover can easily fall prey to so with that in mind and knowing that people want to ‘touch’ the cats, those who are tasked for caring for them have made sure that there are plenty of signs and rules asking people to respect and not harass the animals. Getting people to obey all the rules may be another story.

Cat Villiage, Houtong, Taiwan, Cat lovers, travel, spay and neuter

Houtong Cat Village, Photo provided by Anne Cooper – Animal Bliss

If you find yourself in Taiwan, or will be planning a visit just so you can see Houtong’s Cat Village directions on how to get there can be found here.