Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation ~ March 2024 Newsletter - Wild Cat Family

Small Wild Cat Conservation Foundation ~ March 2024 Newsletter

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Small wild cat news from the Tiger Cat Initiative, a Güiña conservation NGO, Fishing Cat and Pampas Cat Working Groups.

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

Republished with kind permission from Jim Sanderson, SWCCF.

Introducing the Clouded tiger-cat, a new species of Tiger-cat
by Jim Sanderson, SWCCF

My long-time colleague, fellow small cat aficionado and University of Florida Gator, leader of the Tiger-cats Conservation Initiative, organizer and participant in domestic dog and cat vaccination and neutering campaigns, Brazilian Professor Tadeu de Oliveira did all the heavy lifting to pull together and publish in Nature: Scientific Reports our new paper demonstrating that the Tiger-cat found in the Andes from northern Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, and an isolated population in the Talamanca mountains spanning Costa Rica and Panama is a unique species unto itself. And what a beautiful Tiger-cat this new species is! Stunning, even if I do say so myself. But first a brief history.

In the beginning, there was just one species of Tiger-cat that occupied the blue, yellow, and green areas in the above map. The sole Tiger-cat was also called Small-spotted cat and Tigrina. A few years ago, a re-analysis of all the information showed the southern-most Tiger-cat (green on the map) was a distinct species. We changed the common names to Northern tiger-cat (blue and yellow on the map) and Southern tiger-cat (admittedly not very creative). Those of us that observed the Tiger-cat living in the cloud forest of the Andes suspected this species too must be different from the Northern tiger-cat inhabitating savanna grasslands and the Southern tiger-cat found in Brazil's Atlantic forest.

Tadeu invested years of effort herding cats and urging everyone working and interested in Tiger-cats to contribute their knowledge to a multi-dimensional analysis of all that was known and filling in what was unknown. Our hunches were rewarded. Evolution had indeed crafted a unique species we now call the Clouded tiger-cat because it lives in cloud forest and reminds us of the Clouded leopard of Asia. We also revised the common names of the other two Tiger-cat species to include their habitat: Savanna tiger-cat and Atlantic forest tiger-cat. Much more satisfying.

Tiger-cats Conservation Initiative

New Tiger Cat Species Distribution

Clearing skies and overcoming prejudice in Chiloé island, Chile
by Melanie Kaiser
 & Patricio Muñoz, Chile

Con Garra

Guina Chile
iNaturalist Observation · Guina Chile · © Denisse del Campo · CC-BY-NC

Last night, a storm raged over Chiloé, a beautiful island in southern Chile [where Jim did his Ph.D.]. Heavy rain and strong winds kept people indoors. When the skies cleared in the morning, Mrs. Hectolia, a small-scale farmer and Master of Peace of the Huilliche indigenous community, put on her rubber boots and ventured outside to see her hens. All the hens were dead.

Mrs. Hectolia is one of the beneficiaries of Fundación Con Garra's threat mitigation strategies to resolve the ongoing conflict between poultry owners and Güiñas, the island's only native wild cat. As a local NGO, Con Garra assists in the improvement of poultry infrastructure to end retaliatory killing of Güiñas, raises awareness about other threats faced by this Vulnerable wild cat species and implements additional mitigation measures such as road signs, vaccination and deworming campaigns, spaying/neutering of domestic cats and dogs, and environmental education.

When the storm raged over Chiloé and Mrs. Hectolia's land, her chicken coop and run had been considerably improved, but repair work had not yet been finished. Because we involved her in our trail camera monitoring activities, she knew Güiñas were living close by, and indeed, her first suspicion was that her hens must have fallen prey to a Güiña.

Despite the loss of all her hens, Mrs. Hectolia (above with her spouse Osvaldo) adopted a pro-active attitude towards completing and even enhancing much-needed repairs. She also decided to inaugurate her predator-proof chicken coop in a very special ceremony called "Medán". This is an ancient tradition of Chiloé and the Medán's central idea is that the guests bring what the host lacks and in return spend a pleasant, entertaining afternoon. We were invited to bring chickens and we did indeed spend a pleasant time with Mrs. Hectolia and her family. Money may be scarce in her household, but there is never a shortage of kindness nor self-produced food. We ended the evening sitting around the kitchen table, listening to folk songs played on an accordion and guitar.

Framed photographs hung on the kitchen wall which we knew from previous visits and which mostly showed laughing children and grandchildren. This visit we noticed a new picture. It showed Mrs. Hectolia laughing next to the trail camera she set with us, and a photo record of her beautiful Güiña.

Con Garra

Con Garra Chile - Guina Conservation

Yanadi tribes contribute to Fishing Cat conservation
by Giri Malla, India

Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance

Fishing cat swimming in river (Prionailurus viverrinus)We have successfully initiated the trail camera exercise in a few non-protected mangrove areas as part of our ongoing efforts to conserve the habitat of the Fishing cat. The initial results are promising with significant records of Fishing cats utilizing these fragmented landscapes. The captured images provide valuable insights into the presence and behaviour of Fishing cats in these specific areas. This information is crucial for our conservation efforts and will aid in formulating effective strategies to protect and preserve their habitat.

We also commenced community conservation programs in collaboration with the local Yanadi tribes where we work. Their active involvement is instrumental in our endeavour to identify suitable areas where Fishing cats are present and to initiate successful habitat restoration projects. The local Yanadi tribes, with their deep understanding of the region, are invaluable partners in this conservation journey. Their insights into the dynamics of the landscape and their commitment to the cause enhance our ability to identify key areas for conservation efforts and ensure the sustainable coexistence of the Fishing cat and the local community.

Lastly, we identified around 50ha of suitable areas for mangrove restoration in these areas. We are in discussions with the local forest department and the local communities who will be helping us restore the wetlands.

Many thanks to all our financial partners for supporting our efforts.

Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance

Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance

Reducing diesase transmission with our vaccination campaign
by Cristian Barros, Ecuador

Pampas Cat Working Group

Pampas Cat - Chile
iNaturalist Observation · Pampas Cat Chile · © Franco Elgueta · CC-BY-NC

A fundamental element is often overlooked by our mission to conserve and protect biodiversity - the care of our pets. We know that small wild cats suffer from diseases passed by our pets. The sterilization and vaccination of domestic dogs and cats is not only an act of love for our faithful companions, but also an essential pillar in the conservation of wildlife. By preventing the spread of disease and controlling the pet population, we contribute significantly to the protection of vulnerable wildlife species and habitats.

With funding from the Pampas Cat Working Group (PCWG), we vaccinated 300 dogs to protect against a wide range of diseases and also rabies. Cats received the rabies vaccine. These actions were carried out in three communes adjacent to the Loma Alta Communal Reserve, a biodiversity sanctuary that we manage. We worked in four villages of Loma Alta Commune, as well as the communes of Dos Mangas and Ayangue.

This year, we reinforced our initiatives with a special focus on sterilization, targeting mainly females. On February 3, Fundación Japu, with the support of the PCWG, organized a sterilization event in Comuna Loma Alta. We sterilized 27 female dogs, three female cats, five male dogs and two male cats. We also vaccinated 55 dogs against rabies and distemper at the same event. This project not only focused on animal health, but also integrated the conservation of the Loma Alta Ecological Reserve, which in turn is located within the Chongón Colonche mountain range, part of the Tumbes-Chocó-Magdalena diversity hotspot. These actions are vital not only for the health of our pets but also for the conservation of the flora and fauna that coexist in these protected areas.

Thanks to the Pampas Cat Working Group, we will undertake more campaigns in the coming months.

Pampas Cat Working Group

Pampas Cat Working Group

Wildlife Conservation Network

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