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:

captive cheetah

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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What you don´t learn at University (Part 1)

Dear followers,

This post starts a new episode in this blog where we wish to share not only wildlife research but our own experiences as wildlife researchers that live and work in the bush.

So, there is a picture of wildlife biologist Vera Menges’ legs after checking leopard kill-sites and looking for their prey remains. Despite of the scratches (that after 4 months are still visible), she had a successful day and found prey remains at seven different locations and I am pretty sure that the thorny bushes did not have a better ending…

Leg scratchs

This is the kind of girl that you don´t mess with!

Probably, during your studies you were never taught that fieldwork and legs do not always get on well, specially if you work in the thorn-bush savanna…

Some of you may wonder why she is not wearing long trousers. To put it in her own words:

It is freaking hot here and if I have to choose between melting or being scratched. I’d rather choose the later!

This is only one of the challenges that you will face during fieldwork. Those of you who are doing it every day and enjoying it as much as me, are most likely thinking that nothing will never erase the smile that the field put on our faces.

Enjoy the nature fellas!

P.S. Want to find out more about her research? Join the Leopard Project Facebook page.

Leopard vs Crocodile

The astonishing spectacle of a leopard savaging a crocodile has been captured for the first time on camera. A series of incredible pictures taken at a South African game reserve document the first known time that a leopard has taken on and defeated one of the fearsome reptiles. The photographs were taken by Hal Brindley, a wildlife photographer, who was supposed to be taking pictures of hippos from his car in the Kruger National Park.

The giant cat raced out of cover provided by scrub and bushes to surprise the crocodile, which was swimming nearby. A terrible and bloody struggle ensued. Eventually, onlookers were amazed to see the leopard drag the crocodile from the water as the reptile fought back. With the crocodile snapping its powerful jaws furiously, the two animals somersaulted and grappled. Despite the crocodile’s huge weight and strength, the leopard had the upper hand catching its prey by the throat. Eventually the big cat was able to sit on top of the reptile and suffocate it. In the past, there have been reports of crocodiles killing leopards, but this is believed to the first time that the reverse scenario has been observed.

Mr Brindley said: ‘I asked many rangers in South Africa if they had ever heard of anything like this and they all said NO. ‘It just doesn’t make sense. The meat you get out of a crocodile is just not worth the risk it takes a predator to acquire. The whole scene happened in the course of about 5 minutes. Then the leopard was gone.

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Source: http://uk.pinterest.com/duncanmoon/leopard-attacks-crocodile/

Wildebeest fights off leopard

The Mara North Conservancy is well known for its big cats, but even regular observers were surprised by the series of events that unfolded last week near Kicheche Mara Camp.

A large and hungry male leopard stalked and successfully caught a large wildebeest calf. However things took an unusual turn when the calf’s mother took umbrage to her offspring being killed and eaten, so she turned on the leopard, hoisting it into the air before chasing him off.

Mother and calf then trotted off across the plains to live happily ever after, or until next time anyway. I believe the leopard’s pride was badly hurt, but nothing else seems to have suffered.

What is on the menu for Leopards?

Leopards are not picky when it comes to their diet, eating over ninety different species. While the carnivore’s preferred food sources are ungulates like antelope, gazelles, and impalas, they feed on many animals that might surprise us. Baboons, hares, rodents, birds, lizards, porcupines, warthogs, fish, and dung beetles are all part of the leopard’s extensive menu. This eclectic diet has helped leopards survive in areas where other large cat populations have diminished. When food is scarce, leopards will hunt less desirable, but more abundant prey. This flexibility also enables the big cat to thrive in a variety of ecological settings, adapting its taste buds and hunting techniques to match whatever food sources are native to that particular region.

In the grasslands of a savannah, where the leopard is most commonly found, its primary prey is medium-sized ungulates, though by no means is that the only type of animal it devours. In mountain regions, a leopard will often feed on rock hyrax, an animal that resembles a guinea pig, and also on porcupines. In a rainforest habitat, a leopard will feed mostly on small antelopes or small primates. On Mount Kilimanjaro, leopards feed primarily on rodents. Interestingly, leopards populating islands generally survive on fish.

leopard_prey_sm

The leopard’s hunting style is quintessentially feline. It is a patient stalker, relying on stealth and camouflage. Its rosette-patterned coat blends with the landscape so it can pounce from short distances, leaving its prey little time to react. And although it has a relatively small body, a leopard can pursue prey larger than itself, a result of its skull shape that provides incredibly powerful jaw muscles. A leopard will kill larger prey by suffocating the animal with a bite to the neck. However, it can adjust its hunting style to the task at hand. Dung beetles are defeated with one fast paw swat. Since remaining undetected is key for the leopard, it does most of its hunting at night, relying on nocturnal vision; but they will also hunt during the day – giving them access to a wide range of animals.

If confronted, a leopard will often sacrifice its food rather than fight for it. But athleticism and climbing ability sometimes help prevent a leopard from losing its kill to other predators like lions and hyenas. Almost immediately after a successful kill, using its strength and strong jaw, a leopard will carry the animal up a tree, away from where other scavengers can get to it. Leopards have been known to carry giraffe calves weighing an estimated 275 lb – 2 to 3 times its size.