Good News for World’s Endangered Big Cats
Last week the double good news of the comeback of the American chestnut and the unexpected thriving numbers of Antarctic penguins (revealed by a breakthrough mapping technology) added cheer amid current environmental concerns. Now good news rings cheerful bells again, this time for two of the world’s endangered big cats: the world’s rarest wild cat, the Amur leopard, and the world’s most endangered cat, the Iberian lynx. WWF Russia reports the establishment of the 262,000 hectare-wide Land of the Leopard National Park in the southwest area of Primorsky Province,Russia.
The protected territory contains 60% of the Amur leopard’s habitat and breeding ground. The new park also contains protected cedar trees, which provide food for wild boar population, a prey of the Amur leopard.The Amur leopard only numbered about 30 individuals in past decades, making it the world’s rarest wild cat. The National Park will support 50 Far Eastern leopards at present, with additional 10 key Amur leopards for China’s Changbaishan population. In addition there are reportedly ten Siberian tigers in the Land of the Leopard National Park, which will also benefit from the protected area. There are only about 450 Siberian tigers in the world. The establishment of the National Park is a huge success, bringing to fruition almost twelve years of work and effort by WWF Amur branch and other organizations and individuals pushing for the protection of the rare wild cat. The news was announced at the Russian Geographical Society meeting in St. Petersburg last week.
Another beautiful big cat, and the world’s most endangered, recently celebrated a breakthrough. BBC News Science and Environment reports that the first captive-born Iberian lynxes have been selected for release into the wild in Sierra Morena, Spain. The Iberian lynx was declared the world’s most endangered cat out of 36 wild cat species when its numbers sharply dropped to a mere 150.
The director of Lynx Life project, Miguel Simon, shared that only two populations were left in the wild. Conservationists stepped in to stop this beautiful wild cat from disappearing completely and decided to take some wild Iberian lynxes to breed in captivity. This was seen as a drastic intervention, in case the populations left in the wild didn’t make it.
With diligent study of the cats behavior and untiring care, populations in two breeding centers in Spain grew to 100 cats. Efforts to conserve the Iberian lynxes‘ habitat also paid off, where wild cats’ populations steadily increased to 300.The releasing of captive born and bred Iberian lynxes into the wild was an event of mixed emotions for the conservationists. On one hand, concern about the cats’ safety and survival was a source of anxiety. The cats wore radio collars so that their progress can be tracked but still, the anxiety came only as a natural reaction after years of hard work by the conservationists. The triumph and the achievement of the conservation project for the Iberian lynx was symbolized by the event. Their release was both a reward and an inspiration for the Lynx Life project and for conservationists around the world.
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