Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation ~ February 2024 Newsletter

Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation ~ February 2024 Newsletter

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Small wild cat news from the Pampas Cat, Fishing Cat and Ocelot Working Groups.

Copyright © 2024 Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation (SWCCF), All rights reserved.

Republished with kind permission from Jim Sanderson, SWCCF.

How a Billboard saved the life of a Muñoa's Pampas Cat
by Flavia Tirelli, Brazil

Pampas Cat Working Group

In the heart of the Pampas, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of a simple yet powerful message—a billboard showing a picture Muñoa's Pampas cat, a highly endangered small cat. Together with my colleagues Felipe Peters and Marina Favarini, Felinos do Pampa Project and Instituto Pró-Carnívoros, our billboard aimed to mitigate the threat of road strikes by attracting the attention of drivers. The decision to install the billboard in a region known for the existence of a population of Muñoa's Pampas cats was urgent and strategic. Despite their elusive nature, Muñoa's Pampas cats were often the victims of vehicle strikes near the place where we chose to install our billboard.

Last December, our billboard, together with local police officers, saved the life of a young Pampas cat in a state of shock by the roadside. The officers observed the stunned cat, confused it for a domestic cat, and continued on their journey. However, one officer, recalling our billboard, insisted on returning to the distressed cat. Recognizing the importance of their discovery, the officers picked up the stunned Pampas cat and transported it to the nearby Federal Highway Police office. They had indeed rescued Muñoa's Pampas cat.

After the Pampas cat recovered, the officers returned to the location where they had found the cat. They carried the Pampas cat away from the road and, with reverence for the natural world and a deep sense of responsibility, released the cat. The cat quickly disappeared into the tall grass.

This poignant encounter serves as a powerful reminder of the impact a simple billboard can have in preserving the delicate balance between humans and the natural world. The next day, one of the officers that rescued and released the cat contacted me for more information about Muñoa's Pampas cat. By raising awareness, our billboard inspired action that saved the life of a Muñoa's Pampas cat. The billboard stands as a silent sentinel—a beacon of hope that humans and wildlife, with a little bit of help now and then, can coexist.

Pampas Cat Working Group

Pampas Cat Working Group

Hariyali Handicraft Group
by Ganesh Puri, Nepal

Western Terai Fishing Cat Conservation Project

Over the past few years, Sakuntala's face had been devoid of happiness. The loss of three goats due to predation within the last year jeopardized her livelihood. Sakuntala earns a living by raising and selling goats and chickens to support her family, including her children's education. The situation was dire but the women of the Hariyali Handicraft Group met the challenge.

In a heartening gesture, the women presented Sakuntala with a goat. To fund conservation efforts, Hariyali Handicraft Group sets aside 5% of profits from the sales of handicrafts. Additionally, Hariyali Handicraft Group repaired her old chicken coop. Their actions served as a reminder to Sakuntala about the importance of coexisting with small cats and safeguarding her livestock and poultry without causing harm to the feline predators.

The Hariyali Handicraft Group, comprising skilled Tharu women crafting beautiful items from natural resources, joined forces with the Western Terai Fishing Cat Conservation Project in October 2023. Initially facing resistance from some women who held a negative attitude towards wild cats, efforts were made to bridge the gap between conservation and their handicraft skills.

Eventually, the women embraced the concept, with 5% of profits directed towards Fishing cat conservation. In a collaborative effort, an equal contribution was made to this fund, resulting in NPR 34,000 available for conservation work in the village, with NPR 17,000 collected from the sale of handicrafts and a matching amount we added. This financial support will be reinvested in the community, funding initiatives such as chicken coop maintenance and compensating for chicken losses—an issue addressed proactively by our project. Over the past three months, the Hariyali Handicraft Group has evolved and actively promotes coexistence between small cats and humans, marking a positive step forward in their journey.

Western Terai Fishing Cat Conservation Project

Fishing Cat Working Group

Water to the rescue: Reducing human-wildlife conflict in Mexico
by Mariam Weston, Mexico

Ocelot Working Group

The Ocelot Working Group is excited to share the latest developments from our conservation project in Calakmul, Mexico. In response to severe droughts impacting small cats and other local species in the Mayan Jungle, our project, led by Dr. Thelma Arenas and Carlos Delgado, in collaboration with the Conhuas community, is designed to mitigate several threats faced by beekeepers. While searching for water during droughts, wild cats and other animals negatively impact bee farms. Our solution supports the conservation of local species and also enhances perception, increases tolerance, and reduces human-wildlife conflicts.

A significant milestone in our journey has been the successful installation of six water troughs benefiting 10 regional beekeeping families. These troughs play a crucial role in mitigating the impact of severe droughts on local wildlife while concurrently promoting sustainable beekeeping practices. Going beyond this, we have organized workshops on alternative uses of honey, empowering the community with additional skills in honey-related production, such as sustainable beauty products and candle making. These workshops diversify income sources and actively engage local families in our conservation efforts. By showcasing the added value of their involvement, we aim to instill a sense of ownership and pride in contributing to preserving their environment.

Trail camera traps offer insights into our project's impact on the local ecosystem. The reduction in small cat presence in apiaries is a testament to the success of our conservation efforts. Equally significant is the increased tolerance among beekeepers towards small wild cats. Moreover, we documented the presence of Pumas and Jaguars utilizing the water troughs, highlighting the broader positive impact of our initiatives.

This year we will construct more water troughs and rainwater capture systems. This expansion aims to enhance project efficiency while extending our reach to additional communities in Calakmul, further advocating sustainable practices that benefit both people and wildlife.

Our heartfelt gratitude extends to the community, our SWCCF partners, and all those involved in this transformative journey. Together, we are making a meaningful difference in the environment, fostering coexistence between humans and wildlife, and supporting the livelihoods of local beekeepers.

Ocelot Working Group

Ocelot Working Group

Wildlife Conservation Network

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