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Category — Cats

Tiger News: Changing our Stripes

If you’ve visited Cat Canyon over the past month or so, you may have noticed the absence of the Malayan tiger brothers, Taj and Who-Dey. We bid a fond farewell to these boys in November and wish them well in their new home at the Sunset Zoo in Manhattan, Kansas (where they will be known by the names Hakim and Malik).

Farewell Taj and Who-Dey! (Photo: DJJAM)

Farewell Taj and Who-Dey! (Photo: DJJAM)

While they will certainly be missed, we are excited to announce the arrival of a new pair of Malayan tigers, two-year-old female, Cinta, and 14-year-old male, Jalil.

Jalil was actually born here at the Cincinnati Zoo back in 2001. He spent a few years at the Jackson Zoo before returning to Cincinnati in 2007 and siring our most recent litter of cubs in 2009. When Cat Canyon underwent renovation in 2011, Jalil was transferred to the Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield, Missouri. With Jalil’s return and recommended pairing with Cinta through the Malayan Tiger Species Survival Plan, we are excited about the prospect of having tiger cubs at the Zoo again.

Jalil (Photo: Melinda Arnold Dickerson Park Zoo)

Jalil (Photo: Melinda Arnold Dickerson Park Zoo)

That is, of course, as long as Jalil and Cinta are compatible. Cinta comes to us from Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida. This will be her first pairing. The pair is currently settling into adjacent quarters off exhibit in the Night Hunters building. The next step will be to provide them visual contact with each other, followed by physical introduction when Cinta is reproductively receptive.

If all goes well, the pair will go on exhibit together in Cat Canyon this spring when the weather warms up a bit, and we could hear the pitter patter of tiny tiger paws as soon as this summer. Keep your fingers crossed!

Cinta (Photo: Busch Gardens)

Cinta (Photo: Busch Gardens)

Meanwhile, the Zoo continues to support Panthera’s Tigers Forever initiative to study and protect tigers in the wild. Do you ever wonder who is actually on the ground in the forests where tigers roam, installing camera traps and monitoring illegal human activities? Meet Wai Yee, a young Malaysian woman who does just that in her role as a Project Manager with Tigers Forever in one of Panthera’s recent blog posts.

We are proud to play a role in maintaining a healthy tiger population in zoos while also supporting field research and conservation in the wild. And you can take pride in knowing that your support of the Zoo is helping to save tigers.

January 12, 2016   3 Comments

A Journey to Nepal to Participate in Fishing Cat Conservation

Guest blogger, Linda Castenada, Cat Ambassador Program:

Last month, fishing cat conservationists from around the world gathered to participate in the first ever Fishing Cat Symposium in southern Nepal.  The symposium was organized by the Fishing Cat Working Group and was sponsored by various conservation organizations, including the Cincinnati Zoo.  I helped raise funds to support the symposium through the Fishing Cat Fund and was fortunate to be able to make the journey to Nepal to deliver funds and present the status of the fishing cat population in North American zoos.  My goal was also to see where the Zoo could play a role in global conservation of the fishing cat.

Fishing cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

Fishing cat (Photo: Kathy Newton)

I arrived in Nepal a week before the symposium to help out with last minute preparations and also to see the sights. After a few days in the fast-paced and colorful city of Kathmandu, I boarded a bus to Sauraha, located just outside of Chitwan National Park. Many moons ago, the Cincinnati Zoo had a greater one-horned rhino (also called an Indian rhino) named Chitwan and I could not pass up the opportunity to possibly see an Indian rhino, and maybe a tiger or even a fishing cat!

I spent three days going in and out of the park to explore, each time crossing a river via canoe.

I spent three days going in and out of the park to explore, each time crossing a river via canoe.

Chitwan National Park was an amazing adventure.  The rhino population is doing quite well there as they do not face the same poaching issues as do the rhinos in Africa. Despite the heavy vegetation of the jungle, they are commonly seen around the park. During my three days in Chitwan, I was fortunate enough to see three rhinos!

I think this rhino was somewhat surprised to see us when it emerged from the tall grasses.

I think this rhino was somewhat surprised to see us when it emerged from the tall grasses.

After my time in Chitwan National Park, I met up with the conservationists to travel to the symposium location, a resort on the other side of the Narayani River. Conservationists had come from fishing cat range countries including Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Cambodia and Bangladesh, as well as non-range countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Germany.  Most people have no idea what a fishing cat is, so it was exciting to be in a room of fishing cat experts and enthusiasts.

Fishing Cat Symposium participants

Fishing Cat Symposium participants

On the first day, each participant gave an update on the status of their fishing cat population, habitat and project. I learned that while we generally say that the fishing cat’s range is “Southeast Asia”, we really are learning that the range can include any of the southern tropical Asian countries. Some Southeast Asian coutries have little traces of fishing cats and some outside of Southeast Asia have populations that are thriving.  The dense habitats that fishing cats may inhabit, as well as their elusive nature, makes determining their population numbers quite a challenge.

Sagar Dahal of the Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation presents the status of the fishing cat in Nepal.

Sagar Dahal of the Small Mammals Conservation and Research Foundation presents the status of the fishing cat in Nepal.

The next two days centered on strategic planning.  Participants brainstormed the various threats across the fishing cat’s range and what they think are the main issues hindering conservation of this species.  Here is where the real challenge began.  Conservation of any species is a multi-faceted issue.  In many range countries, the fishing cat competes with people for food sources (fish), and in other countries, people depend on fishing cat habitat (mangrove forests) for firewood to heat their homes and cook their food. How do you prioritize who needs a resource more? How do you approach a local community who may be struggling to subsist and get them on board with conservation of an animal that they may perceive as a threat?  These are the same questions that many conservationists must answer. Fishing cats face the same threats as many other carnivore populations – habitat loss to agriculture, urbanization and/or industrialization, human-carnivore conflicts, poaching for meat or medicinal products, retaliatory killings, collisions with cars and habitat fragmentation. Three groups formed to take on the specific topics of ecological knowledge, socio-cultural themes and policy issues.

The socio-cultural group works to identify the biggest threats to fishing cat conservation.

The socio-cultural group works to identify the biggest threats to fishing cat conservation.

In the end, each group formed objectives to add to the larger Strategic Plan.  Symposium participants agreed to the objectives and assigned themselves a contributing role to any objective where they can make a positive impact.  We pledged to implement the Strategic Plan and reconvene in five years to evaluate our progress.  The area where I feel that I can make the greatest contribution is to increase the global education and understanding of fishing cats. My first goal is to work with the conservationists to create multi-lingual literature that highlights the habitat and conservation of the fishing cat.  I hope to integrate the expertise of the Zoo’s education, signage and graphic teams to create a children’s book that can be translated into the various languages of fishing cat range countries.

Jungle trekking

Jungle trekking

We trekked through the jungle in the search of local wildlife. Mostly I just saw leeches, but the jungle teemed with potential.  In addition to fishing cats, Chitwan National Park is home to jungle cat, leopard cat, clouded leopard, leopard and tiger. So many cats!

While we did not see any cats, we found these very clear tiger tracks along the river.  We had been warned that a man-eating tigress inhabits the area, so there was some apprehension about seeing proof that she has been around the area recently.

Tiger tracks!

Tiger tracks!

While our jungle trek did not yield much wildlife, it gave us another opportunity to spend time together and discuss best practices in the field and among our communities.  Connections were made, contacts were exchanged and friendships were created, bound with the common love of fishing cats and the commitment to their conservation.

Twenty-six participants spanning nine countries from three continents met in Nepal with a common goal, to save the endangered fishing cat.  It was a rare privilege to participate in the process, to see the inner workings of a conservation planning organization and to be included in a Strategic Plan designed to take action to save a species.

I had an amazing journey to Nepal and my last moment of awe came on the airplane as I was leaving the country.  The Himalayas appeared on my side of the plane, reminding me once again that we live in a dynamic world filled with beauty and wonder, a world worth conserving. I am proud to be a part of an organization like the Cincinnati Zoo that teaches the value of conservation and supports programs that work toward global conservation and understanding of our incredible planet.

The Himalayas

The Himalayas

December 11, 2015   4 Comments

Supporting Wild Cat Conservation Education in Tamaulipas, Mexico

Mexico is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world thanks to its large size, variety of habitats, and position as a transition zone between North America’s temperate and Central America’s tropical regions. However, little is known regarding the distribution and status of Mexico’s wildlife, including the iconic and endangered jaguar. Relatively little government land in Mexico is dedicated to conservation and most of its wildlife survives outside of protected areas. In northern Mexico, much of the land is owned by private cattle ranchers. Thus, cattle ranches have a critical role in conserving the country’s wildlife.

Jaguar (Photo: Mike Dulaney)

Jaguar (Photo: Mike Dulaney)

In 2012, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge commissioned a non-profit organization, Conservación y Desarrollo de Espacios Naturales (CDEN), to conduct a monitoring study. CDEN used motion-sensitive cameras to determine the status of the ocelot on ranchland in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas with the hopes that the population would be healthy enough to allow the transfer of an ocelot to South Texas to boost its endangered ocelot population.

One of the most exciting results of the study was a visual record of an amazing variety of wildlife in the area. The cameras captured images of over 20 mammal species, including five wild cats: jaguars, pumas, ocelots, jaguarundis and bobcats. CDEN established the Wild Cats of Tamaulipas Binational Conservation Program (WCT) following the initial study to continue to monitor wild cats in the area and work with the local community and government to conserve them.

Wild Cats of Tamaulipas Poster

Wild Cats of Tamaulipas Poster

With support from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, the Gladys Porter Zoo, and San Antonio Zoo, WCT established an environmental education and outreach component in 2015 to provide educational programs and materials to local communities in Tamaulipas. The goal is to make people aware of the presence of wild cats in the region and convey the importance of protecting their populations. Wild cats play important roles as predators, maintaining balanced ecosystems by keeping prey populations in check.

Between July and October, approximately 1,600 people were reached through WCT education events including:

  • an education booth at the Tamatan Zoo in Ciudad Victoria,
  • a Biology Conference at the Technological Institute of Altamira,
  • a festival at Laguna Del Carpintero Bicentennial Park in Tampico,
  • another festival in Tampico during Workforce Security, Hygiene and Environment Week,
  • and presentations at two local businesses during their annual environmental awareness week activities.

    Presenting to Biology students (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

    Presenting to Biology students (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

Activities at these various events included presentations and activity stations where people could talk to CDEN leaders, Francisco Illescas and Rossana Nuñez, about wild cats and get a good look at a camera trap and various cat skulls.

CDEN leaders, Francisco Illescas and Rossana Nuñez (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

CDEN leaders, Francisco Illescas and Rossana Nuñez (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

People could also make rubbings of jaguars and take a reusable bag of educational materials with them. The bags included crayons, jaguar activity booklets, and WCT brochures/field guides to the five wild cats, which the Cincinnati Zoo helped to create.

Educational materials (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

Educational materials (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

People could also take their picture in a large stand-in of one of the scenes from the jaguar booklet.

Photo opportunity (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

Photo opportunity (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

And, of course, the star of each event was Alan, the new jaguar mascot.

Alan, the jaguar mascot (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

Alan, the jaguar mascot (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

WCT also created and printed 10 Wild Cats of Tamaulipas posters featuring camera trap images to use at the events.

Poster featuring a camera trap image of an ocelot (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

Poster featuring a camera trap image of an ocelot (Photo: Wild Cats of Tamaulipas)

The events were successful in increasing the general public’s awareness of the rich biodiversity still present in Tamaulipas, particularly the presence of five wild cat species. In addition to continuing public education events in the future, WCT plans to meet with and present to ranch owners at livestock association meetings to garner their support.

November 19, 2015   1 Comment