Saving Africa’s Dappled Beauty

On my trip to Africa last year I had the amazing fortune and privilege to see a handful of leopards which are unbelievable in person with their relaxed, enigmatic, graceful beauty even in the extreme heat. I will be posting more photos of my trip at a later time but wanted to share this one of a lovely young female from Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. She had just had her Impala stolen by the famous resident one-eyed male known as Kataba – more on him later as well, who was sitting in a tree not more than five feet from her!

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Right now Panthera pardus needs your help, they have been over-hunted and persecuted to such an extent that South Africa has extended the ban on hunting them into 2017. This means there is a zero quota which has stayed in place since last January. While it doesn’t protect them from illegal hunting, retaliatory killings, poisoning, poaching etc…eliminating at least one form of mortality is a decent step. Leopard numbers are not known and to continue to allow these animals to be killed for sport is just not acceptable.

How you can help

Until midnight on January 30, 2017 the USFWS will be taking comments on leopards. We are asking to protect them from both hunting and the trade in their body parts. What the leopard needs is a reclassification to an Endangered status. If you could take a few minutes to visit the link and leave comments based on the following below.

Please try to modify with your own words but include some of the scientific facts and references as the USFWS will only consider comments if they include this important information. You may leave your comments with your name or as anonymous. Just click the blue ‘Comment Now’ button on the upper right corner! We urgently need more comments before the deadline – please share!

I strongly support the reclassification of the Leopard (Panthera Pardus) to Endangered Species. I support this for the following reasons:

  • First, scientific data shows that leopards are the most persecuted cat species in the world and that there is a major lack of data on the actual number of leopards remaining. Camera trapping surveys conducted during a study period indicate that leopard population in Southern Africa is declining rapidly and at a very concerning rate.
  • One of the major causes of leopard mortality, trophy hunting, can be stopped immediately. It is known that trophy “off take rates” are exceed and that corruption in the release of permits for trophy hunting occurs on a frequent basis making hunting these big cats for sport simply unsustainable.
  • Along with Trophy hunting there is illegal hunting, trapping and snaring, poisoning, killing for skin, legal destruction, farm livestock protection, revenge killings all pushing leopards to the brink of extinction. Leopards are also victims of Climate change and drought, which has an impact and threatens the leopard population worldwide.
  • Leopard habitat has greatly decreased which also threatens the leopard population worldwide; this creates conflict with growing agriculture, livestock farming and urbanization. Fences and fragmentation of the leopard habitat will in turn reduce the reproduction rate of the species.
  • Unreported and illegal killing of leopards is widespread across Southern African countries all of which have inadequate legislation and poor control to persecute illegal killings and manage the leopard population.
  • Another growing problem is the illegal trading of leopard parts – like with other big cats the trade is not adequately punishable or discouraged by the countries where the leopard is an indigenous species.
  • Finally enforcement is weak, incompetent, under-staffed and dysfunctional. Conservation departments are simply unable to monitor a particular elusive species such as leopard.
  • For these many legitimate reasons I am asking that Leopards be immediately reclassified as an Endangered Species and all hunting and trade of this highly imperiled species cease.

For your reference I am providing the following references:

  • Kahler & Gore, M.L. 2005, Local Perceptions, Human-Wildlife conflicts in Namibia
  • Minin-Fraser-Slotow-McMillan, Understanding the preference of tourists for big game species. Implication for Conservation, 2013
  • Nadal &Aguaio, A review of the Economic Analysis of wildlife trade, 2014
  • Richardson-Loomis, The total economic value of threatened, endangered and rare species, 2009
  • Ripple-Estes-Beschta, Status and ecological effects of the world’s largest carnivores, 2015
  • St John-Keane, Identifying indicators of carnivore killing, 2012
  • Swanepoel-Lindsey-Somers, Extent and fragmentation of suitable Leopard habitat in South Africa, 2013
  • Thorn-Green-Scott, Characteristics and determinants of human-carnivore conflict in South African farmland, 2013
  • Wilson-Spaeth, Governments are not doing enough to stop wildlife crime, 2017
    http://city-press.news24.com/…/governments-are-not-doing-en…
  • Cameron, Bustling trade in illegal wildlife products at Johannesburg market, 2016
    https://www.biznews.com/…/watch-bustling-trade-in-illegal-…/
  • THE COMPREHENSIVE STUDY PRESENTED TO THE FWS ON THE 25TH OF JULY 2016 BY HUMANE SOCIETY INTERNATIONAL –USA
    https://drive.google.com/…/0BxP8B7Q8gpNZeEZjTm5ia3FDZ2M/view
  • EMS Foundation Comments to the Department of Environment Affairs/Leopard Trophy Hunts
    https://www.dropbox.com/…/EMS%20Foundation%20Comments%20on%…

Big Cat in The Backyard

In July of 2014 a family in Grafton Ontario spotted a rather big cat enjoying their backyard.

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Cougar tracks in the garden – all images Toronto Sun unless otherwise stated

The Wilson family spotted the Cougar in their backyard, resting under their deck and taking in a shady spot when these stunning pictures were taken. The Cougar had been seen wandering around the area for a week and was thought to be domesticated by the way he had been acting.

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Cougars, Mountain Lions, Ontario, Canada, Cougar in the backyard, Grafton Ontario, Port Hope Ontario, First Cougar live trapped in Ontario, Cougar trapped in Ontario was a pet, Zoo sauvage de Saint-Feelicien in Quebec

The Ministry of Natural Resources were called in to set a live trap which was baited with steak and chicken. The trap was set up in the Wilson’s family yard and eventually hunger got the better of the cat as he headed right into it.

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The Wilson family stayed clear of the trap to keep the cat calm while Ministry officials were called.

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Cougars are notoriously shy and do not like to be around people but this cat was exhibiting behavior that showed he was used to being around humans. Ministry officials concluded that he must have been captive and it was suspected he belonged to a man who had a number of wild animals and operated a private sanctuary in the area.

Cougars, Mountain Lions, Ontario, Canada, Cougar in the backyard, Grafton Ontario, Port Hope Ontario, First Cougar live trapped in Ontario, Cougar trapped in Ontario was a pet, Zoo sauvage de Saint-Feelicien in Quebec

It was later confirmed the Cougar, named Charlie, was a resident of the private game reserve near Grafton and had “escaped”. After being trapped and checked out Charlie was sent to the Zoo sauvage de Saint-Feelicien in Quebec where he had two root canals, due to broken canines, and was released into a 4,000 square foot enclosure with other Cougars.

Cougars have been making a comeback in Ontario and one was photographed, after years of reported sightings, by trail cam on Lake Huron’s Manitoulin Island in 2014. Rick Rosatte, senior research scientist and cougar specialist with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Ontario told The Muskokan online that “There has never been a confirmed attack of a cougar on a human in Ontario, however, if a person encounters a Cougar they should slowly back away from the animal, stand tall and try to look as large as possible. If necessary, throw objects and yell at the animal.” and Despite having more Cougars around, Rosatte said there is no reason to believe your cat, dog or livestock is in particular danger.

The species is native to Ontario but was all but wiped out over a century ago because of hunting and habitat loss. Despite their recent growth, the Cougar is still considered an endangered species in Ontario.

Throwback Thursday Lion Around

Throwback Thursday – Lions doing what Lions do best. All photos taken in Moremi Game Reserve – Okavango Delta Botswana

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Lions, Africa, Botswana, Lion cubs, Save Lions, Ban Trophy Hunting, Ban Canned Hunting, No cub petting, No walking with Lions, Lions belong in the wild, African Lion Endangered, Extinction is forever. Ethical Toursim, Lions are not Trophies, Lioness in the grass

Over the past 50 years Africa’s lion populations have plummeted from over 200,000 individuals back in the 1960’s to fewer than 25,000 today.”

Time is quickly running out for Lions and one day soon all that may be left are images like these ones. January 27 is the final day to ask the USFWS to list the African Lion as endangered and to ban importation of all Lion trophies into the USA, please take a few minutes to leave your comments The online form can be found here.

Book Review: Making Rounds With Oscar

Making Rounds with Oscar The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat is a book by Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician who works with dementia patients at Steere Nursing Home in Rhode Island where a cat named Oscar resides and became known for his unique abilities to predict the death of a patient.

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Before Dr. Dosa wrote this book he had written an essay on Oscar that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. After a huge amount of public interest and media blitz, I remember reading about Oscar in People Magazine, Dr. Dosa decided to write a book about his experiences working with the intuitive Brown and White Tabby.

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Dr. Dosa and the staff at the nursing home realize that Oscar is not just randomly picking patients to visit, but has a clear motive.

The book chronicles the experiences of patients at the nursing home and the interactions they have with Oscar, who foretells their passing with a visit. While the idea of death is not a happy one, the story is very uplifting and positive in its message which is made clear as you read. Some patients and families embraced the comfort that Oscar brought to them in their final hours or days, and some wanted him shut out of the room. Oscar wasn’t right every time, but his presence was a predictor of death so many times that the media created headlines like “If Oscar’s in your bed, you’re dead!”

The story demonstrates the benefit of animal companionship to elderly people and how animals are aware of much more than we give them credit for. A biological explanations is offered as to how a cat could know someone is dying, that Oscar is simply able to detect the chemical compounds given off by the body as an odor as cells die.

While a cats sense of smell is amazing I also feel they poses a different level of awareness and like most animals, are in touch with abilities that humans have long-lost or pushed aside. In this case I see Oscar providing patients with his own brand of treatment one that included comfort, compassion with his presence and a purr.

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Making Rounds with Oscar is a lovely book and is on my Favorite Cat Themed Books List. You can also see an interview here highlighting Oscar at work.

Throwback Thursday – My First Leopard

I have been fortunate to visit Kenya a few times over the years and have been thinking of going back again. All this thinking brought back memories of all the amazing wildlife I have been privileged to see there, especially the Big Cats. Lions, Serval…and the elusive Leopard. It was on my second trip to Kenya that I was blessed with seeing this beautiful cat for the first time.

Leopards, Kenya, big cats, travel, tourism, conservation, wildlife

My first Leopard – Masai Mara

She was a well known female who had been raising her one male cub, who was quit large and gorgeous himself. We were lucky enough to spot her out and about, while her cub stayed safely among the bushes.

Masi Mara - Kenya - Supu's cub 1Curious but lacking the confidence of his mom, he stayed safely inside his den of trees watching us until she returned. Once the female disappeared behind the canopy of green we left, Leopards to their solitude and me with an amazing memory…one of the many reasons Why I Love Kenya.