The Risk of Captive Carnivores

I would like to share with you a very interesting article written by the The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) about the risk of keeping carnivores in captivity and the bussiness behind. Many so-called NGO`S, Charities, etc which argue to work for carnivore conservation are part of one of the most unethical bussiness. Not only they keep wild animals in captivity as pets but also translocated what they call “problem animals” to new areas without monitoring the translocation, without a scientific protocol and viability study and sometimes (most of the times) without even a permit.. Please read and share the article, it would help you to identify who are this so called NGO´s and Charities:

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Picture above: Captive adult cheetah male showing submissive behavior

The Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) is growing increasingly concerned about the proliferation of captive facilities holding a range of carnivores in South Africa for the sole purpose of tourism and financial gain. We urge the public to consider a few facts when visiting any of a number of these facilities that hold lions, Cheetah, Leopards, Wild Dogs, hyena and even some exotic (non-native to South Africa) species such as tigers and panthers.

* No captive carnivore facility is breeding carnivores for release into the wild, despite what they may claim. Captive carnivores do not contribute to the conservation of free roaming populations; they are not releasable and they do not form part of any registered conservation or management plan for any carnivore in Africa.

* In many carnivore facilities, petting and bottle feeding of cubs is offered, for a fee. These cubs are often taken away from their mothers to stimulate faster reproduction and provide aconstant supply of petting carnivores. Visitors pay to pet the animal and have their photograph taken with it, as well as with their slightly older tame carnivore siblings.

* These carnivores become human imprinted, they do not grow up in a natural social group, and this makes it impossible to release them into a natural habitat for the long-term. This, coupled with the disease risk posed by captive bred animals, as well as their potentially dubious genetic lineage renders them a risk for release to not only themselves, but to other free roaming carnivores.

* Frequently the situation of a ‘paying volunteer’ is exploited for further financial gain, with volunteers being told that the carnivore mothers are not able to care for their offspring and that once they are old enough, hand-raised carnivores will be returned to the wild.

* “There are approximately 6 000 captive lions in South Africa bred for a variety of economic purposes”, as opposed to approximately 2 300 free roaming in reserves and parks. [Draft Biodiversity Management Plan (BMP) for Lions, 2015]. In fact the BMP defines Captive Lions as being “lions [that] are bred exclusively to generate money. Managers actively manipulate all vital rates and demographics.”

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Picture above: Captive adult cheetah male showing both aggressive and defensive behavior

The EWT’s concern relates to the public’s understanding of the role and the purpose of captive carnivores and these facilities in carnivore conservation and we urge the public to better understand the role of these facilities as well as the risk that these animals may pose to the public:

* Captive bred carnivores are always more dangerous than their wild counterparts. They lose their fear of humans and tend to associate humans with food providers. Their social structures are heavily interfered with and their natural cycles are often manipulated. A wild carnivore will usually steer away from humans but a captive bred carnivore may not feel the need for such caution.

*  A facility breeding carnivores will usually have to sell their offspring; it stands to reason that they cannot always have cubs and youngsters if they do not sell ‘excess’ animals.

* The captive bred lion hunting industry in South Africa has increased rapidly in recent years and South Africa is increasingly supplying captive bred lion bones for export to Asian markets.

* The Department of Environmental Affairs released figures in December 2013 that stated that “South Africa officially issued permits for the export of nearly (if not more than) 1 300 dead lions from South Africa to China, Lao PDR and Viet Nam from 2011 to 2012 inclusive.” BMP, 2015.

* “The so-called ‘canned hunting’ industry for lions has also increased in recent years and the total value generated from hunting captive lions amounted to about R98 million in 2006/2007.” Lion BMP, 2015.

* This raises the question: where do all these lions come from or go to? In South Africa, a thriving canned hunting industry can, in many cases, be linked to an equally thriving industry based on cub petting and commercial captive breeding centres.

Some may argue that there is educational value in allowing people to handle wild animals. Howeverthis kind of education provides the incorrect message that wild animals exist for human entertainment, that they can be petted like domestic animals. They also do not learn much about the natural behaviour, social structure or role of free roaming carnivores.
It is important to note that captive breeding is not a conservation recommendation for any carnivore species in South Africa. Carnivores in fact breed extremely well in the right conditions and for almostall our threatened carnivore species, the conservation priorities include reducing human-wildlife conflict, securing suitable habitat, reducing illegal offtake and maintaining balanced, functioning ecosystems. Without these in place, captive breeding leads to an over-supply of non-releasable animals which often end up as trophies. We also question that any funding generated from captive carnivore breeding goes to support the conservation of free roaming carnivores.

The EWT does not allege that any specific facility is breeding carnivores for the lion bone trade or forthe practice of ‘canned hunting’ but we do urge the public that visit these facilities to ask at the very least these critical questions:
· What is the plan for the long-term future of the animals in this facility?
· Where are the cubs’ mothers?
· Why are cubs not being raised by their mothers?
· What happens to the facility’s cubs when they grow up?
· If they are released into larger wildlife areas, where are these and can the facility provide documentation to prove a viable, ethical and successful release process?
· If the facility is breeding, do they have a management plan that determines responsible husbandry and management of all stock?
· Do any of the ‘stock’ have the opportunity to live out their natural lives, or are they hunted or bred with again?
· What happens to the facility’s surplus animals?
· Can the public inspect the record books of the facility and follow the life cycle of an individual animal?
· If these animals become part of another breeding programme, for what purpose?

The EWT calls for a more active participation from the public in questioning the role of all captive carnivore facilities and the management of the animals in their care. We also call on the tourism sector to recognise the role that they may be playing in supporting some facilities that cannot account for the conservation claims that they make. Find a pdf of the article HERE

Contact: Kelly Marnewick
Carnivore Conservation Programme Manager
The Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
kellym@ewt.org.za

Yolan Friedmann
CEO
The Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
yolanf@ewt.org.za
Lillian Mlambo
Communications Manager
The Endangered Wildlife Trust
Tel: +27 11 372 3600
lillianm@ewt.org.za

To this words, I would like to add a few links:

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v425/n6957/full/425473a.html

http://www.catsg.org/cheetah/05_library/5_3_publications/I_and_J/Jule_et_al_2008_Effect_of_captive_experience_on_reintroduction_success_of_carnivores.pdf

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Large carnivores’ tough life: Lion and Buffalo fight to death

I usually hear people saying that herbivores are prey and are vulnerable to be killed at any moment. They have fear, and while grazing/browsing are vigilant and ready to run if anything similar to a predator has been spotted or smelled in the surroundings. They are seen as the weakest against the powerful predators armed with sharped claws and muscled jaws that hold an army of threatening canines.

From my point of view, the truth is slightly different. Predators do not have an easy life neither. They have to compete with other powerful and armed carnivores of their same and other species for food, space, access to reproduction, survival, etc. They also have to cope with diseases, human persecution (their biggest challenge in life!) and always have to be in good shape. They must be successful hunters which required skills and techniques that need to be constantly improved throughout their life.

Quite a difficult task too… who is afraid now?

Next pictures were published in the Daily Mail two weeks ago. They were taken by Matt Armstrong-Ford, who works as a safari guide in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

I thought interesting to share them as they well illustrate the predators’ tough life.

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Desesperate six-year-old male lion suffering from mange was waiting nearby a waterhole for a meal when the lone female buffalo appeared in the scene.

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The feline is tossed around in the air as he attempts to mount his adversary.

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The amateur photographer said that the fight lasted up to an hour. The buffalo managed to shake the lion itself off several times but instead of trying to escape just stood there. Both animals stared at each other both too exhausted to move. After a few minutes of rest the lion then went for the buffalo and another ten-minute battle ensued.

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As it looked like fortune was favouring the exhausted but ravenous lion a member of the buffalo’s herd came to its aid and delivered a deadly blow.

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After this the lion managed to drag himself under a bush to lick his wounds. Both animals were covered in blood by the end. Two days later the lion succumbed to his injuries, while the buffalo’s carcass was found two weeks later having failed to fight off infection

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2945904/Battle-death-Buffalo-lion-endure-epic-hour-long-fight-leaves-animals-fatal-injuries.html

Movements of African White-backed Vultures

This Google image reveals the movements to date of 9 tracked African White-backed Vultures of varying age that were captured and fitted with GSM tracking in the north of the Kruger National Park during 2014. The tracking of their movements are part of a study to assess the role these birds play as vectors of disease in the region and is done in partnership with the State Veterinary Department and the University of Pretoria. No doubt that they must rank as one of the most mobile resident species of birds out there!

Copyright: Andre Botha

Other links:

http://projectvulture.org.za/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture 

How the zebra got its stripes?

A very interesting paper has been published by Brenda Larison and her colleagues in the Royal Society Open Science Journal to answer common and frequent questions:
Why Zebras has got stripes? Why are their role?

Many explanations have been suggested, including social cohesion, thermoregulation, predation evasion and avoidance of biting flies. Identifying the associations between phenotypic and environmental factors is essential for testing these hypotheses and substantiating existing experimental evidence.

In contrast to recent findings, we found no evidence that striping may have evolved to escape predators or avoid biting flies. Instead, we found that temperature successfully predicts a substantial amount of the stripe pattern variation observed in plains zebra.

Figure 2. Predicted levels of hind leg stripe thickness (left) and torso stripe definition (right), from a random forest model based on 16 populations. Hind legstripethickness is best predicted by BIO3 and BIO11. Torsostripe definition is best predicted by BIO3, BIO11 and BIO13.

The full article is available to download HERE.

The Guardians

Across Africa today wildlife is disappearing, and its story is grim. Yet there is one powerfully bright spot, Namibia, where its people have made the commitment to live with and protect their wildlife. “The Guardians” tells the story of Jantjie Rhyn, a farmer from one of Namibia’s vibrant communal conservancies. Despite the dangers of living with lions and other free-roaming wildlife, Jantjie and his community are committed to their protection because responsible tourism and national pride make his wildlife worth more alive than dead. He represents one in five Namibians that today are directly involved in conservation, making him a true guardian of Africa’s natural legacy. Namibians like Jantjie are showing the world how to improve wildlife and a community’s lives all at once.

Coexisting with Carnivores—Why It’s Not a Zero-Sum Game

It was late in the summer, and the two young lions had been on a camel killing spree. Over a period of three months, they had entered the villages of the Samburu people at night and killed ten prized camels.

It wasn’t long before they paid the price. One hot, hazy day in early September, when the male lions were napping under a scraggly acacia tree, a group of five young men came upon them. The men fired their AK-47s. Lguret, whose name means “cowardly,” ran off. Loirish, who was the more aggressive of the pair, may have stood his ground. He may even have tried to fight back, but he was no match for the rifles.

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Samburu warrior Letoiye mourns the loss of Loirish, a lion he had been tracking.

Then the men butchered Loirish. They used their knives, adorned in colorful plastic as all Samburu warrior knives are, to cut off the lion’s head and feet. Then they took Loirish’s head and burned it in a small fire, an unusual act that was probably meant to destroy the GPS tracking collar we had placed on him to track his movements so we could warn herders. By the time we got to the grisly site, Liorish’s feet were missing. The men had taken them, perhaps to be sold on the growing black market for traditional Chinese medicine.

Letoiye, a member of the Samburu tribe and a part of our field team which had been tracking Loirish up to that day, stared at the blackened head in the pit and asked no one in particular, “Why did they kill my lion?”

Warrior Watch

Liorish unfortunately shares his fate with a growing number of large carnivores around the world who have clashed with humans and didn’t survive. Of the 31 large carnivores species like him—including lions, tigers, cougars, wolves, and snow leopards—most live not in some pristine wilderness, as we’d like to believe, but in landscapes dominated by humans and their activities. As a result, these animals are caught in a struggle between two sides of humanity—the one that wants large carnivores preserved and the other that would like to see them eliminated.

Letoiye is a Samburu moran, or warrior, a group that has traditionally been neglected in conservation. He never went to school and instead roamed the countryside tending to his family’s livestock while keeping a watchful eye on the land around the village. Despite their lack of formal education, Letoiye and his fellow moran possess skills that are the envy of many biologists and wildlife authorities. Because their job is to ensure their community’s security—which in rural East Africa often involves watching for predators—the moran know an impressive amount about lions and other predators.

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A lioness gazes over the plain at Buffalo Springs National Reserve in Kenya.

Warriors like Letioye inspired us to set up Warrior Watch four years ago. They offer an intimate knowledge of the landscape and how lions and other wildlife move throughout it. In return, we teach Letioye and his peers how to identify each lion’s unique whisker spot pattern and how to discuss carnivore issues with fellow Samburu. We also offer weekly lessons on reading and writing in English and Kiswahili.

Before Warrior Watch, it wasn’t uncommon for moran to hunt and kill lions without question from their peers. But now, this program and others in Kenya are proving that attitudes towards lions and other large carnivores can change. A recent study of the program showed that participating warriors and their communities had a higher tolerance of lions and better understanding of their value.

The situation in the United States is not much different from the Samburu in Kenya. In California in 2013, for example, the state’s Department of Fish and Game issued 148 permits to eliminate cougars that had killed livestock and pets. As the suburbs expand out into once-wild areas, cougars are becoming more common in people’s backyards, where they occasionally kill goats and pets. While our livelihoods don’t always depend on our animals in the same way that the Samburus’ rely on their livestock, cougar-human clashes in California illustrate a broader point. The U.S. and Kenya share a bond that is at the heart of human-carnivore conflict: we both kill carnivores when we perceive them as threats to things we value.

Population at Risk

The reality is, of course, that we are a far greater threat to carnivores than they are to us. The cougar, for example, was all but eliminated from the eastern half of the United States during the 20th century. And in Africa, in the last half a century, the number of lions roaming in the wild has declined from 200,000 to fewer than 35,000. That’s mostly due to habitat destruction by humans. Lions used to roam most of the continent. Today, they occupy just 20% of their original territory, scattered across the continent and separated by cities, highways, villages, and farm fields. Some live on reserves, but that protected area isn’t enough to cover lions’ still expansive home ranges.

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moran scouts the savannah

A large number of conservationists favor creating more protected areas like national parks and reserves. After all, the largest intact populations of lions live in Selous and Ruaha National Parks, giant expanses of land under protection in Tanzania. These parks not only protect lions, they also support the entire ecosystem, fostering healthy savannahs that nurture gazelles and other prey species that keep lions sated. They also generate income through tourism, a not unimportant fact in many impoverished regions.

But protected areas haven’t been a panacea for large carnivores. As in the U.S., most African parks do not offer complete protection. Poachers have infiltrated many parks specifically to go after lions, while herders grazing their livestock inside park boundaries inadvertently take resources away from lion prey like gazelles and wildebeest.

Which is why some conservation biologists are suggesting that the only way to truly protect lions is to fully enclose reserves in fences. Yes, this would trap lions inside the parks, but it would also create a physical barrier between them and us. Such a move certainly has the potential to reduce poaching and limit human-animal conflict, but it could also reduce the viability of individual lion populations inside. Large carnivores like lions require expansive ranges to meet their daily needs. Plus, they can suffer from a phenomenon known as bottlenecking when overcrowded, which can lead to higher incidence of genetic disease and inbreeding. Fencing in lions to creating carnivore islands is one tool that might be effective in some cases, but given the potential for problems, it is not a “one size fits all” solution.

Building Tolerance

A better solution is to raise the tolerance of the land—and the people—living around protected areas. Lions, cougars, and other large carnivores will be able to live with people if they have safe refuge and as long as we keep ourselves and our property at a safe distance. Yet carnivores don’t belong in every human landscape, so we also need to carefully manage the areas where they can be supported.

That’s why we’re working hard in northern Kenya to create these landscape mosaics where local people can tolerate carnivores. We use a combination of high-tech research activities combined with low-cost community-sourced education programs like Warrior Watch. This year, we are fitting GPS-enabled tracking collars on ten young adult male lions. By mapping lion movements through the landscape, we can identify key corridors and refuges that might be prioritized for lions. The tracks also let us know which communities are in the lions’ territories so we can reach out to them with programs like Warrior Watch.

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One of the lions collared and tracked as a part of the Warrior Watch program

At the same time, we’re also using the GPS collars to tell herders where the predator hot zones are. That way they can keep their livestock clear, avoiding unnecessary confrontations and losses. We can also track lions like Loirish that are known for killing livestock. When we locate one, our warriors go in to tell the villagers to be especially vigilant.

We can apply these lessons here in the U.S., too. As cougar and other carnivore populations make a comeback, a mixed approach is key. Protected areas are certainly important, since they provide carnivores and their prey with crucial strongholds. But we also need people to develop a tolerance to carnivores if we are to sustain that coexistence.

It’s starting to happen in places like the Santa Cruz mountains where conservation groups, state agencies, academic institutions, and landowners are working together to improve tolerance of cougars. Homeowners are learning how to properly fence their goats to keep them safe from cougar attacks, which can reduce the need to kill cougars in retaliation. And local governments are installing culverts under roadways to let cougars cross highways without risking dangerous collisions with vehicles. There are other innovative measures, too, like the protection of a forest behind a cement plant that cougars took a liking to. Portions of the plant grounds are open for recreational hiking while the important cougar habitat is being left intact. There’s something for everyone.

Additionally, we need programs that educate hikers and pet owners as well as ones to work with groups, like the Samburu warriors, that haven’t been a part of traditional outreach programs.

Finally, the most important thing to remember is that everyone’s point of view needs to be included in the process. It’s useful to keep in mind that the Samburu don’t need to be told how to live with lions—they’ve been doing that for tens of thousands of years—or that Americans don’t like being pandered to. Together, we can figure out how humans, livestock, pets, and wild carnivores can live together in increasingly crowded landscapes.

Not Alone

Back in Kenya, Letoiye remains troubled by the killing of Loirish. In some respects, his new way of thinking clashes with the old ways that many of his people still follow. He no longer sees lions as a threat, but as a unique part of his identity. He feels a responsibility to protect them, and he works everyday to convey a message of coexistence. But not everyone wants to listen. Loirish’s death is perhaps the most vivid reminder of that.

Fortunately, Letoiye’s not alone. Another warrior on our team, Jeneria, once said something that gives me hope: “Lions are in my blood now.” Losing lions is something Letoiye, Jeneria, and their fellow warriors are no longer willing to accept.

Collapse of the Sahara’s megafauna

By Dr. Sarah Durant, Zoological Society of London, Wildlife Conservation Society, and National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative

There are few landscapes more evocative and beautiful than the sweeping sands and majestic mountains of the Sahara desert. This land used to be widely populated by large animals uniquely adapted to the harsh and unpredictable desert environment. Their ability to roam freely across a vast landscape following sparse rainfall and forage is key to their survival in an unforgiving habitat.

However, over recent times, there has been a catastrophic decline in wildlife in the Sahara. In a new article  that documents the status of large animal species in the region, we show that, out of 14 species historically found in the Sahara, most have been eradicated from 90% or more of their historical range.

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Species such as the Addax used to roam widely across the Sahara, but now number only a couple of hundred individuals – the recently established Termit and Tin-Toumma National Nature Reserve in Niger is one of their last strongholds. Photograph by Thomas Rabeil/Sahara Conservation Fund.

Several species have disappeared entirely. The last known photograph of the iconic Scimitar horned oryx was taken in 1982 by John Newby (photo below), and the species was declared extinct in the wild in 1999 (it only survives now in captivity).

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This photo, taken by John Newby from the Sahara Conservation Fund in 1982, is thought to be the last of scimitar-hornedoryx in the wild. Photograph by John Newby/Sahara Conservation Fund.

Less information survives on the precise time of disappearance of another three species that have been eradicated from the region: the lion; bubal hartebeest;  and the African wild dog. Critically endangered addax, dama gazelle and Saharan cheetah cling on in tiny fragmented populations, while endangered populations of slender-horned and Cuvier’s gazelles are not faring much better.

You might think that such a catastrophic collapse of an entire megafauna would be making headlines, and that something would be done to stop it, but it has gone ahead largely unnoticed and unreported.

Deserts have become almost invisible on the conservation agenda. World attention has, understandably, focused on the rich biodiversity found in hotspots, which are often in tropical forests. However, deserts actually harbour surprisingly high levels of biodiversity, able to thrive in a harsh and highly variable environment.  This biodiversity hides a wealth of adaptations that enable species to tolerate water stress and extreme temperatures; information that may prove critical as we are forced to adapt to a changing climate.

Unsustainable hunting and past and ongoing insecurity have undoubtedly played a key role in the loss of Saharan wildlife, but it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that more attention might have helped prevent some of the declines. Rare antelope and Saharan cheetah can still be found in remote and inaccessible corners of the Sahara, in vast landscapes possessing a silent peace and unforgettable beauty.

There are also some good news stories—Niger has just established a massive 97,000km2reserve—Termit and Tin Toumma National Nature Reserve, which harbours most of the world’s 200 or so remaining wild addax and one of a handful of surviving populations of dama gazelle and Saharan cheetah. While there is hope that we may yet see scimitar horned oryx back in the wild in the Ouadi Rimé-Ouadi Achim Game Reserve, with the support of the Chadian government.

2014 is the halfway point in the United Nations Decade for Deserts and the Fight against Desertification and the fourth year of the United Nations Decade for Biodiversity. It is an opportune time for the world to focus on securing the sustainable management of desert ecosystems, to the benefit of people and wildlife. The world will be a poorer place if the unique biodiversity of the Sahara and other deserts is allowed to disappear.

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Saharan landscapes, such as found in the Ahaggar Cultural Park photographed here, are stunningly beautiful. Photograph by Sarah Durant/Zoological Society of London.

Source: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/03/117914/

Access to the scientific paper:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ddi.12157/abstract

More about it:

http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/11354/20131204/catastrophic-decline-in-sahara-s-wildlife-population-study-cautions.htm