Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 42 – The Iranian or Asiatic Cheetah

Iranian or Asiatic cheetah with cubs

Source: Unknown

As opposed to being hunted by man, these magnificent animals were once used as man’s hunting companions.  Known then as the ‘hunting leopard’, Indian princes kept Asiatic cheetah in captivity (in very large numbers) and trained them, as they did birds of prey, to hunt.  With the cheetah, they hunted various antelope. The royal families, and their multitudes of ‘sporting guests’, would wander off with these wonderful creatures in tow and the hunt would begin.  This practise began over five thousand years ago and continued until the first half of the twentieth century.  [1]  Part of the reason for this species being endangered today relates to the mass, ill-managed, live capture of cheetah for the pleasure of those aristocratic folk, so long ago.  Though this was not the sole reason for the decline, it played a huge part.  For example, Akbar the Great, Mogul Emperor of India, had an eye-watering collection of an estimated six thousand cheetah. Not many left in the wild after that sort of extraction.  By 1950 the species had become extinct in India, and most other places as well.

Despite the many wrongs of this, I cannot help but wonder how long it took to train these cheetah to surrender their kill.

These fabulous cats are just built for hunting.  Their bodies are svelte and their legs long and strong.  They have semi-retractable, blunt claws to grip the ground as they travel at speeds of up to eighty miles an hour.  They have a tail which acts as a balancing tool, when cornering sharply; and their eyes, high on their small heads, have a 210-degree field of vision.   Asiatic cheetah  (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus)  are also excellent stalkers and are able to get extremely close to their prey before they are seen.  Once caught, strong jaws can suffocate the prey within minutes.

When fully grown, the Asiatic Cheetah is about four to five feet in length, and weighs up to fifty-four kilos.  As is so with most animals, the male is larger than the female.  Both sexes chirp when they call.  The strange sound is more like a tiny, yapping puppy than a fierce big cat, and can be heard up to a mile away.

Breeding is thought to take place in mid-winter.  Gestation lasts up to ninety-five days, after which one to four cubs are normally produced.  Sadly, many do not make it past twelve weeks.

The name cheetah comes from the Hindi word “chita” meaning spotted.

Semi-desert areas and small plains where prey is available.
Most are in Northern Iran with lesser numbers being found in Sub-Saharan Africa
What they eat
Ungulates such as gazelle, wild sheep and goats.  But, they have also been forced into hunting cattle because of the loss of their primary prey species, due to poaching.
Alteration of the grasslands to farmland, overgrazing of domestic livestock, habitat fragmentation and degradation.  Hunting and poaching of the cheetah’s prey.
Status: Critically Endangered
The Asiatic cheetah is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Critically Endangered.  The total population may only be 50 to 100.  Exact numbers are difficult to obtain.  Three separate bodies, the Iranian Department of Environment , the United Nations Development Programme and the Global Environment Facility, partnered to found the Conservation of the Asiatic Cheetah Project (CACP). The intention being to preserve and rehabilitate the Asiatic cheetah’s remaining habitat in Iran.
“The second phase of CACP was initiated in January 2009 to run as a four-year project, with a budget of $4 million funded by national and international organizations. Recently, it was announced that the project will be extended until 2015”. [2] 

Let us all hope this extremely beautiful animal can be saved by all of this.  I know I am certainly rooting for them, and perhaps you should too.

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Partnership to Save the Elephants to dedicate $80mil on ending elephant poaching

This is incredible news.

Teal Environmental

On Thursday, the Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action announced that seven countries in Africa have come together with environmental groups to help save the continent’s majestic animals. The project was committed to by the Wildlife Conservation Society, African Wildlife Foundation, World Wildlife Fund, Conservation International, and International Fund for Animal Welfare, along with numerous other partners. The funding will be used to “stop the killing, the trafficking, and the demand.”

The partnership’s website states that 2012 was the worst year for elephant conservation, as 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered. They are determined to end this tragic practice by 2016 through many different means that target each of the three aspects. They will focus on 50 protected areas, enhancing the current anti-poaching methods, through upgraded equipment and technology, and more comprehensive training. In addition, they are looking to hire 3,000 more anit-poaching park guards to…

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 41 – The Hainan Gibbon

Hainan gibbon swinging through the trees

Source: Unknown

The Hainan gibbon is one of the rarest monkeys in the world, possibly on the brink of extinction.  There are only twenty-six left in existence;  including three babies born this year.  And, all of these are all living within the confines of the Bawangling National Nature Reserve on the tropical island of Hainan in the South China Sea.

These delightful apes are sexually dimorphic.  Mature males are almost totally black, with occasional pale cheeks, and mature females are a pale golden colour with odd dark patches on the body and a black crest on the head.  Both have long arms and legs and no tail.

They swing through the trees using a movement known as brachiation;  something gibbons seem far more skilled at than any other species.  They swing hand over hand, carrying their long, slender bodies forward.  With their powerful muscles and supple joints, they do the job rather well.  When on the ground, they possess the ability to walk upright.

Moreover, gibbons are extremely well-known for their singing.  A throat sac below the chin allows them to issue a  series of notes in rapid succession.  Their truly enchanting voices not only allow for bonding and mating, but primatologists are able to locate and track these agile monkeys as they travel at speeds of up to fifty-five miles per hour through the branches.

Notwithstanding their numbers have recently been increased with the birth of the three babies, twenty-six is not a big number.  Were the Hainan gibbon to become extinct, it would be the first known ape to do for 12,000 years.  It would be a terrible shame to lose these beautiful primates simply because of man’s greed and neglect.

Tropical rainforest, tropical lowland and hillside rainforest
Bawangling National Nature Reserve, Hainan Island, China.
What they eat
Sugary fruit such as figs, leaves, flowers and insects
Severe loss of habitat due to illegal logging, illegal plantations, illegal and legal pulp paper plantations.  Water levels have been depleted in some areas because of the moisture needed for pulp trees.   As a result, the habitat of the Hainan gibbon has suffered greatly. The rainforests in Hainan have disappeared at an alarming rate over the past decade and reforestation has not been practised in the concerned areas.
Status: Critically Endangered
Listed as Critically Endangered on the  IUCN Red List of Endangered Species,  this species is also listed on CITES Appendix 1.  There are no recorded Hainan gibbons in any other parts of the world, and none are known to be kept in captivity.  Greenpeace has called upon the Hainan government to uphold their laws relating to the protection of the Hainan gibbon  (Nomascus hainanus)  and its habitat.  The species has already lost more than 99% of its original habitat.
This species has had international legal protection since 2003, and been a Class I Nationally Protected Species under the Chinese Wildlife Protection Law since 1989. Bawangling National Nature Reserve was established in 1980 and expanded in 2003. [1]

“Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal”
Edward O. Wilson

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 40 – The Giant Panda

Giant panda eating bamboo

Photo: Fernando Revilla – Smithsonian National Zoological Park

Large, gentle-looking and seemingly approachable, the giant panda has become one of the most iconic emblems in the world.  The forefront of wildlife preservation, it holds widespread appeal.  Its black and white markings, large white head with black eye-patches and huggable appearance, make it instantly recognisable to all.

Giant pandas spend two-thirds of their day feeding and the other third resting.  Resting being anywhere they happen to be at the time.  They simple lie down on the spot.  They are, however, skilled climbers and will soon shoot up into the trees if they sense predators.  Climbing is aided greatly by the huge fur-lined paws with long retractile claws.  Swimming can also be added to their list of abilities.

The males weigh in at anything up to one hundred and twenty kilos with the females slightly less heavy.  They both have muscular jaws and huge molars which are broader than those of other bears, and perfect for tearing and crunching tough shoots.  They also have an additional molar.  These are their secret bamboo munching weapons. Fascinatingly, they possess a special adaptation for grasping the bamboo as well – an extra ‘thumb’ (a modified sesamoid bone derived from the wrist).  A layer of mucus in their stomachs protects against shards of bamboo.

Pandas do not hibernate in winter as other bears do.  As opposed to ‘digging in’ when the cold weather descends, they sensibly up sticks and march down the mountainside to more clement elevations.

Adults are solitary until the mating season begins (March to May).  Females give birth only once a year, following a gestation period of approximately five months, and usually a single cub is born.  Twins occur, but are rare.  By now the father will be long gone.  These extraordinary babies weigh about 1/900th of the mother’s weight.  They are born pink, almost bald, about seven inches in length and with closed eyes.  They also makes a lot of noise, crying and squealing.  The cub’s eyes will remain shut for up to forty-five days.  The cub will remain in the mother’s care until eighteen months to two years of age.

Although their diet is made up of various species of bamboo, and little else, giant pandas are still classified as carnivores.

Temperate montane forests with altitudes of up to four thousand metres.  In the cold of winter they move to the lower and warmer elevations.
South-central China
What they eat
Nothing but bamboo. The shoots, the leaves and the stems. –  Subsequent to further information received, please note the following adjustment to this statement since the post was first published:

A wild giant panda’s diet is almost exclusively (99 percent) bamboo.  They have been known to eat meat, but it is very rare. They are hopelessly slow when it comes to hunting, and any meat they may have consumed would probably have been carrion.
Restricted and degraded habitat. Forests have been cleared depriving the panda of its food base.  Periodically, die-backs occur in bamboo.  Forest clearance has prevented the panda from migrating from one source to the next when these die-backs befall the plant. Farmers grazing their livestock can also be a problem.  When habitat is used as such, the bamboo cannot always regenerate.
Status:  Endangered
There are now an estimated sixteen hundred mature giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in the wild.  Due to declining numbers and continual loss of habitat, the giant panda has been listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.
A great deal has gone into the preservation of this species, including the founding of sixty or so reserves.  There are over three hundred pandas in captivity around the globe. Captive breeding programmes, in most cases, have been successful, and plans are in place to release captive pandas into the wild in the hope of strengthening those populations.  This has not been entirely successful.  There are opposing views relating to the money spent on captive pandas;  and some feel it would be better spent improving their environment instead. [1]

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love.  We will love only what we understand and we will understand only what we are taught”
Baba Dioum

Leopards in Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan

Dear Kitty. Some blog

This video is called In the Balance: The Caucasus Leopard.

From Wildlife Extra:

Assessing suitable leopard habitat in Iran, Armenia and Azerbaijan

Mapping the Persian leopard habitat connectivity in the Iranian sector of the Caucasus ecoregion

September 2013. Drastic declines in the Persian leopard population in the Middle East and particularly in Caucasus, has attracted attention of researchers and conservationists to the status of this subspecies in the region.

Consequently various countries in the Persian leopard range in the Caucasus have launched an attempt to address the status of leopards in the area. However, the major population of the Persian leopards are known to inhabit in Iran. As a result, leopard status in Iran and particularly in North-west of the country plays an important role in survival of the Persian leopards in the region.

Iran’s Persian leopard project

The three bordering provinces of West Azerbaijan, Ardebil and East…

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 39 – The Javan Slow Loris

Javan slow loris

Photo by Iing Iryantoro

Often referred to as the gremlins of the jungle, these adorable creatures are being subjected to the most wanton cruelty imaginable.  Heartless illegal pet traders, who not only wrench them away from their families and natural environment, are gratuitously ripping their teeth out with wire clippers or cutting them down with nail clippers (in order to protect themselves from being bitten), causing untold anxiety and other complications. Often this leads to a slow and painful death with few making it to their intended destinations.

Some animals have been confiscated from illegal traders, and, in some cases, returned to the wild.  However, those who have had their teeth extracted are unable to defend themselves in their natural environment.  Per force, these unfortunate creatures must remain in captivity for the rest of their lives.

Remarkably (and apparently the reason for such cruel acts as teeth cutting), this shy little creature is the only living primate with a toxic bite.  And, in self-defence, it does bite.  It produces an oily substance from a gland in the elbow which, when mixed with saliva becomes poisonous.  There is no antidote for the poison, consequently locals have described it as being more dangerous than the leopard.

The Javan slow loris is nocturnal and arboreal,  moving slowly across vines and lianas in quadrupedal mode and  sleeping on exposed branches.  When foraging for food, baby lorises are left clinging to the branches alone.  All of these things render the species vulnerable to capture, and unscrupulous humans have been very quick to take advantage of this.

Javan slow lorises can be distinguished by their facial markings and features; long marks from the sides of the mouth to the top of the head, a white central stripe from the nose to the forehead, and huge, bulging brown eyes.  They also have soft, silky fur and human-like hands with opposable thumbs.  The tail is no more than a stump and is hidden by fur. They weigh in at less than two kilos, when fully grown, and can reach a length of roughly thirteen inches.

Little is known about the mating activities of the Javan slow loris in the wild.  Whatever sparse information there is available, has come from observations of those kept in captivity, and is as follows:  they give birth to a single infant  (all 50 grams of it!)  after a gestation period of just over six months.  Both parents take turns to carry the infant. Infants are weaned at five to six months of age.

I may be preaching to the converted, but the best way to help these lovely little creatures is by not supporting the pet trade market and buying one to take home.

Both primary and secondary forest including bamboo forest; mangroves and various plantations (especially cocoa).
Western and central Java  (Indonesia)
What they eat
Sap, flowers, fruit, insects, small mammals such as lizards, and birds and bird’s eggs.
The illegal exotic pet trade, hunting for research in traditional medicine and severe loss of habitat. The illegal pet trade is now the main cause of the decline of the species.
Status: Endangered
The Javan slow loris (Nycticebus javanicus) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered.  It is also listed on CITES Appendix I.  International Animal Rescue  has established a facility specialising in the care of the slow loris in Ciapus, West Java. [1] Many other organisations, too numerous to mention here,  are also involved in the care and protection of this species. Although fully protected by Indonesian law, the illegal pet trade continues to flourish and enforcement of the laws is very lax.

“Human nature will find itself only when it fully realizes that to be human it has to cease to be beastly or brutal”
Mahatma Gandhi

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 38 – The Bengal Tiger

Bengal tiger

Photography by Nikolay Tonev

One of the most persecuted creatures on the planet,  the Bengal tiger is also one of the most beautiful.  But greed and misguided myths are pushing the species to the brink of extinction.  Notwithstanding, it is still the most numerous tiger sub-species.

The Bengal tiger is a powerful killing machine.  One reported kill demonstrated this power when a Bengal took down, killed and dragged away a gaur  –  the largest living bovine.  These beasts weigh over a ton, so that’s quite some feat.  Bengals, like other tigers, hunt at night, killing their prey by severing the spinal cord, via a bite to the nape of the neck, or suffocating the prey by a bite to the throat.  Death is usually quick and painless.  Once dead, the prey is dragged to cover for consumption.  Tigers can gorge their way through sixty pounds of meat in one go.  If any is left, they cover the kill and save it for later.  Not known for their efficiency in hunting, they need to get as much down as possible before the next meal, which may elude them for several days.  They also have the longest canine teeth of any extant big cat, three to four inches.

They are swift runners, excellent swimmers, hugely successful climbers and can leap great distances of over thirty feet.  Like domestic cats, they purr.  Purring can either denote happiness or pain.  Their almighty roar can be heard over a distance of two miles, allowing for communication with other tigers.

The largest of all living cats, there is no doubt these animals are a considerable size.  The male of the species can grow to ten feet in length and weigh up to six hundred and fifty pounds.  The females are slightly smaller and less heavy.  The unique appearance makes the tiger instantly recognisable. It has an orange coat with black stripes (no two have exactly the same stripes) and white patches on the face and neck with a white underside.

There is no specific mating season for tigers, it’s an all year round event, but November to April seems quite popular. The gestation period is one hundred and three days, after which a litter of up to six cubs are born.  Sadly, there is a very high mortality rate within the first year of their lives.  Those that do make it will stay with their mothers until they are about eighteen months old.

Both tropical and subtropical rainforests, deciduous forests and scrub forests, alluvial grasslands and mangroves.
Most are found in India with lesser populations in Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar.
What they eat
Larger prey such as deer and wild cattle, and smaller hoofed prey including antelope, wild pigs and boar.  Though not strictly part of their natural diet, they have also been known to eat humans.
Poaching:  The tiger has been slaughtered for centuries because, according to the tenets of Chinese medicine, their bones and other parts have extensive healing properties.  As a result they are in high demand.  Skins are traded on the black market and fetch a considerable amount, as do the body parts.   Habitat loss due to illegal logging and plantations building is also playing a large part in their dwindling numbers.  Human/tiger conflict arises frequently.
Status: Endangered

The Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Endangered, and on  Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora  (CITES).   In the 1970s game reserves were created.  These worked well for a short period of time and numbers became more stable. But, the potential profit involved in poaching is so great, it took hold once more, putting the Bengal at risk again.  Unless extensive and robust support is put in place, this species will no longer survive in the wild.   The World Bank is currently, amongst others, addressing this and making a significant contribution to the future of tigers in general.

“The first law of ecology is that everything is related to everything else”
Barry Commoner

Recommended reading:   As Tigers Near Extinction, a Last-ditch Strategy Emerges

Eco Preservation : Sheperd Dogs helps for Cheetah Conservation


sheperd dog3

Winding through the parched Namibian farmland, Bonzo, an Anatolian shepherd dog, has a singular focus: protecting his herd of goats from lurking predators.

sheperd dog5

He pads along, sniffing the air and marking the scrubby landscape, just like a bodyguard ready to ward off any threat to his charges, which he considers family.

sheperd dog2

“They’re not pets. They’re not allowed to be pets,” said Bonzo’s owner farmer Retha Joubert.

The breed descends from ancient livestock dogs used thousands of years ago in what is now central Turkey. And they not only save sheep and goats, but have handed a lifeline to Namibia’s decimated cheetah numbers by reducing conflicts between farmers and predators.

sheperd dog4

“The dogs are protecting the flock in such a way that the farmers don’t have to kill predators,” said Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) which breeds the dogs near the northern city Otjiwarongo.

“It’s a non-lethal predator control…

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