Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 106 – The Kodkod


Kodkod

“Whatever befalls the earth, befalls the people of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life;  he is merely a strand in it”
Chief Seattle

Kodkod Found primarily in Chile and thinly in bordering parts of Argentina, with others located on the islands of Chiloé and Guaitecas, this elusive and endearing little cat is the smallest felid in the New World, and with the smallest known distribution. Known also as the guiña or Chilean cat, and roughly the size of an average domestic cat, the extremely rare kodkod is very similar in appearance to Geoffroy’s cat.

The kodkods’ diminutive size may have spared them the horror of being hunted for their fur, but, as fate would have it, they tend to get caught in traps laid for foxes, Kodkod ultimately causing the same sad death. Occasionally their pelts have been seen in markets, but it is not a common occurrence. Farmers, however, have considered kodkods as pests in the past and thus killed them. This opinion was not entirely without foundation as kodkods have always had a penchant for chicken meat and are still known to occasionally prey on domestic stocks, the farmer’s livelihood.

Such persecution has been partially ameliorated with research and education, though some humans still remain a threat, as do the kodkods to the poultry, of course. The studies of Dr. Elke Schüttler show the kodkod does not feature heavily in Mapuche legend and it has been possible to ascertain that the people of the Araucaría region are coming to value ecotourism. Children in schools were also found to have a positive attitude towards the little cats. All of which bodes well for the few remaining kodkods.

Kodkod kittenBut, by far the biggest threat to the kodkods is the wanton destruction of their habitat and prey base. Due to logging, the over planting of pine plantations and human settlement, the kodkods are now confined to a narrow mainland coastal strip of mixed forest, with a few more populations on the nearby islands. Although, they are tolerant of altered habitats and can be found in secondary forest and shrub and near cultivated areas, as well as the forests they prefer. In particular they favour Valdivian and Araucaria forests, where there is a notable presence of bamboo in the understory.

Kodkods have bushy tails, small heads, relatively large, round ears, short legs and large feet and claws for climbing. They can measure up to a length of thirty inches from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. and weigh as much as six-and-a-half pounds.

Kodkod Creative CommonsTheir beautiful coats are yellowish-brown to greyish-brown on top and covered with dark spots. This affords incredible camouflage. The underside is pale and the tail is ringed. They have very distinctive facial markings around the nose and eyes. Melanistic kodkods are not unusual.

Largely arboreal, kodkods are also superb climbers. They are active both day and night but only expose themselves to open areas under cover of darkness. They spend their days well-hidden in dense vegetation and other parts of the forest offering heavy cover.

Kodkod 2Very little is known about the breeding habitats of the species. They are rarely seen and none are kept in captivity. Available information suggests there is a gestation period of up to seventy-eight days after which a litter of one to three cubs will be born. There is some suggestion kodkods may be polygamous. As with other cats, parental care will probably fall to the mother, who may also teach them to hunt. The cubs will reach maturity at about two years of age and can expect to live for roughly eleven years.

Kodkod is the Araucanian Indian name for this felid of which there are two subspecies: Leopardus guigna guigna, which can be found in Southern Chile and Argentina, and Leopardus guigna tigrillo, which inhabits the forests of Central Chile.

Distribution kodkodNatural Habitat
Moist temperate mixed forests.
Where
Argentina and Chile.  It can also found on the Isla de Chiloé and the Isla Grand Guaiteca  off the southern coast of Chile.
What they eat
Small mammals, especially rodents; reptiles, birds and insects.
Threats 
Habitat loss with much of their native habitat being cut down and replaced with pine plantations, agriculture and human settlement. Persecution; kodkods have occasionally been killed when seen raiding chicken coops. Humans and their dogs are the only known predators of kodkods. They are often caught in traps set for foxes.
Status: Vulnerable
The kodkod (Leopardus guiana) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Vulnerable (at high risk of endangerment in the wild). It is also included on Appendix II of CITES and protected by law in Chile and Argentina.
There are various conservation plans in action including involving local people in field projects and visiting local schools. There are currently no captive kodkods in zoos. 

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Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 92 – The Asiatic Golden Cat


Asiatic golden cat via Wikimedia Commons.

Photograph: Karen Stout

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of the spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected”
Chief Seattle

Known as the ‘fire tiger’ (Seua fai) in certain parts of Thailand, this enigmatic forest dweller is surrounded by legend. Thai people Asiatic golden cat believe that burning the Asiatic golden cat’s pelage will drive tigers away and that cooking and eating the whole cat will protect against tiger attacks. Those of the peaceful and nature-loving Karen tribe, the largest of the major tribes of northern Thailand, maintain a single hair will do the same job, but how they come by this one hair is not disclosed. The Asiatic cat is also believed, by most indigenous peoples, to be ferocious. Though few signs of this have been demonstrated in captivity.

The range of the golden cat covers parts of some of the most rapidly developing countries in the world. Their habitat is being destroyed at a terrifying rate to accomodate man, who is also managing to destroy the cat’s prey at the same time. Added to that, Asiatic golden cat caught in a trapthey are hunted for their beautiful pelts and body parts – no surprise there then! Evidence of this appeared in four separate markets in Myanmar between 1991 and 2006. Parts and skins from one hundred and ten individual cats were reported. These markets can still be found on the borders of China and Thailand, and are still trading in this very rare creature and other animals. The markets are well-attended by international buyers. The fact that the golden cat is fully protected in Myanmar does not seem to be helping it at all here.

The Asiatic golden cat is also known as the Asian golden cat and Temminck’s golden cat (named after the Dutch naturalist Coenraad Jacob Temminck. Temminck first described the related African golden cat in 1827). There are three subspecies of golden cat: C.t.dominicanorum – South China, C.t.temminck – Himalayas to Sumatra and C.t.tristis – Southwest China Highlands.

Asiatic golden cat at Edinburgh Zoo 2010Asiatic golden cats are quite solid creatures and tend to resemble the domestic cat in all but size. They typically weigh about twenty-five to thirty-five pounds and can reach up to forty-one inches in body length. Males are usually larger than females.
They have a dense, coarse coat ranging in colour from dark-orange to brown, dark-brown to cinnamon, and dark-grey to black. Melanistic, panther-like morphs also exist. Coats are sometimes spotted or have rosettes, or have vague stripes. Black and white lines run along the side of the face.

These elusive Asiatic golden cats were once thought to be mainly nocturnal, but studies now reveal they are diurnal and crepuscular. They can climb trees if needs be, though they do prefer to be at ground level. Their vocalisations, like their appearance, again resemble the domestic cat, with purring, meowing, growling, spitting and hissing.

Asian golden kittenMost of the information on reproduction in golden cats is derived from observations of the species in captivity. There is apparently no specific breeding season for the golden cat, and if one litter is lost another will be produced within four months. After a gestation period of up to eighty days, the female will give birth to one to three kittens, each weighing about eight and a half ounces. The kittens will grow very quickly and have tripled their size by the age of eight weeks. Their coats are already patterned at birth, but their eyes will be closed for the first six to twelve days. Males play an active role in rearing their young. The kittens will be fully weaned at six months and fully mature at eighteen to twenty-four months, depending whether male or female.

Natural Habitat
Subtropical and tropical forest with rocky areas, bamboo forest, grasslands and shrub.
Where
From the Himalayan foothills of Tibet into China, across to India and down through to Sumatra.
What they eat
Mainly rodents with some birds and reptiles. They are capable of bringing down much larger prey such as small deer and buffalo calves.
Threats
Deforestation, loss of prey species, indiscriminate snaring, poaching for its fur and bones, poaching for the illegal wildlife trade, and human conflict.
Status: Near Threatened
The Asiatic golden cat (Pardofelis temminckii) is listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as Near Threatened (likely to become endangered in the near future). It is also listed under CITES Appendix 1 (as Catopuma temminckii).
The species is fully protected over most of its range with the exception of Lao People’s Democratic Republic where hunting is regulated, and Bhutan where it is only protected in certain areas.
In Myanmar, pelts have been found in various markets catering for international buyers. The general consensus is that CITES laws are not adequately enforced here.
It is not known how many Asiatic golden cats still exist in the wild, but it is thought their numbers are declining rapidly. A limited number of individuals are kept in zoos around the world. Captive breeding programs exist in some.

Related Articles
Malaysia rescues rare golden cat from pot (2010)
Sensational offspring of Asiatic golden cats, Allwetter Zoo – Germany (May 2013)
Six cat species found in Eastern Plains Landscape  (WWF February 2013)
 

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 58 – The Zanzibar Red Colobus Monkey


Red colobus and baby by David Edric

Photographer: David Edric

Description
Visualise someone leaping upwards fifty feet into the air carrying a twenty-five pound weight.  That is the equivalent of a female Zanzibar red colobus monkey travelling upwards with her clinging baby.  These colourful and friendly primates are Old World semi-brachiators, moving through the trees with a combination of leaping and brachiation. They are also quadrupedal, and can scamper on all fours across the top of the branches.  Above all, they are very athletic.  And, they are very endangered.

Zanzibar red colobus have pale-grey undersides with reddish-brown on the head and lower back.  They wear a mantle of black across the shoulders extending down the arms as a stripe.  They have black faces with white chins and foreheads.  Their legs have darker grey patches and their tails are brown.  Both male and female share these colours.  They are also very similar in size.

They do, however, have two notable features which single them out from other primates. Firstly, their tails are used as a balancing tool, whereas in other species the tail is used as an additional limb to aid forward movement.  Secondly, they lack opposable thumbs (colobus, is derived from the Greek word ekolobóse, meaning cut short).  Instead, they have four very long fingers which wrap around the branches enabling them to swing through the canopy with consummate ease.  On average, they weigh just under six kilos for males and five and a half kilos for females.  The mean length is twenty-two inches. Their tails are almost two feet long.

Within groups there is always a dominant male, determined by levels of aggression.  The hierarchy dictates the higher members of the group receive a larger distribution of food, social activities such as grooming, and females.  Groups can consist of as many as eighty individuals, though some are much less.  Females are usually more numerous within the groups.

There is no specific breeding season for the Zanzibar red colobus.  They mate throughout the year, but the inter-birth interval can be up to three years or more.  When the female falls pregnant, the gestation period lasts between five and six months, after which only one baby will be born.  The babies are born altricial and will be nursed for about eighteen months if female, and three to four years if male  (often males continue to nurse until they reach maturity).

The red colobus has a somewhat unusual predator in the chimpanzee.  Chimpanzees occasionally form large hunting parties and go on a killing spree for a few weeks.  They seem particularly fond of the red colobus.  When the marauding monkeys descend upon them, the red colobus males form a defence group, while the females collect their offspring ready to flee.  Sadly, the chimps manage to kill quite a lot of their fellow primates when on these missions and have been credited with contributing to the declining numbers.  The purpose is not solely to feed themselves, but also to acquire a nutritionally valuable item of trade.  With it, the chimpanzees are also able to show off their prowess to other males and their dependability to females.

Habitat
Gallery forest, scrub forest growing on coral rag and mangrove swamps.
Where
Endemic to Zanzibar  –  An island off the coast of (and part of) Tanzania,  East Africa
What they eat
Leaves, leaf buds, flowers and unripe fruit. On the ground, they eat charcoal to aid their digestive system.
Threats
Habitat destruction by way of logging, charcoal production, agricultural clearance and bush-burning.   They are sometimes shot for food, sport or as crop  pests by the locals, though these practice are now in decline and tourism is recognised as a valuable option. Illegal pet traders target the babies and will kill those around it who try to protect it. This can be a lot of monkeys.  Deaths on the roads happen from time to time.  Last of all, they fall prey to chimpanzees.  Those adorable little monkeys will eat meat, if given the chance, and are said to be responsible for killing up to one hundred red colobus every year.
Status: Endangered
The Zanzibar red colobus is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.   It is also listed as Class A under the African Convention, and protected under  Appendix I of CITES.   It is thought less than twelve hundred Zanzibar red colobus survive  in the wild.   Conservation funding has been provided by the WWF in the past, but little seems to have come of it.   In fact, there does not seem to be very much going on at all.   Although, awareness is being raised and farmers are now compensated by the government for damages to crops.  The majority of Zanzibar colobus live in the Jozani Chwaka Bay National Park

“All things share the same breath – the beast, the tree, the man. The air shares its spirit with all the life it supports” Chief Seattle

Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species 17 – The Iberian Lynx


Iberian lynxDescription
These beautiful, and sometimes quite comical-looking, creatures may well be on the verge of extinction – a sad indictment of the world we live in. Their other claim to fame is that they are a single prey species.
Also known as the Spanish lynx or Pardel lynx, their most distinguishing feature is their ‘beard’, which I think can make them look quite scary. They have tufted ears and large wide feet thickly covered with fur, long legs and a short tail.
They are nocturnal during the summer months, but in winter they can be seen hunting throughout the day.
Litters are born between March and April with usually three kits to a litter, but unfortunately a high mortality rate exists and few reach maturity.

Habitat
Woodland and open scrubland
Where
The Iberian Peninsula
What they eat
Rabbit (they are a single prey species), but they will supplement the rabbit with small game birds, ducks and young deer, if needs must.
Threats
Loss of habitat due to land conversion, decline in rabbit numbers, illegal hunting and accidental death (traps set for smaller animals, poisoning and road accidents)
Status: Critically Endangered
The Iberian lynx (lynx pardinus) is the world’s most endangered wild cat species. In 2008, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) stated that “Current numbers are not sufficient for the survival of the species in the long term”, showing the Iberian Lynx to be on the verge of extinction. Should this become a reality, it will be the first wild cat to achieve this status for almost 2,000 years. What a very sad thought!

“If all the beasts were gone, men would die from a great loneliness of spirit, for whatever happens to the beasts also happens to the man. All things are connected”
Chief Seattle