Many of the world's cat species are suffering drastic population declines and some face a significant risk of extinction. Cat species face multiple threats, the most formidible of which are poaching, habitat destruction, and illegal trade. The stories listed here explore the ongoing threats to cats around the world and the conservation efforts that are underway to ensure their safety in the future.
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On Russia's eastern coast lies one of the world's most unique temperate forests. The region, nestled against the Sea of Japan, plays host to an extraordinary mix of species, including two of the most endangered cats in the world—the Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) and the Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis). These extraordinary panthers have been slipping towards extinction for many decades. During that time, they have faced a number of growing threats.
A team of conservationists recently captured a female Amur leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis) from the rugged Primorsky Krai region of Russia's Far East. The scientists gathered detailed health information for the leopard, including blood analysis, electrocardiogram, and weight measurements. After the medical data was collected, they released the leopard unharmed, back into its home territory. The team is now in the process of evaluating the data they collected to determine the cat's overall health and look for any signs of inbreeding.
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Deep in the icy, snow-packed woods of Siberia, tigers prowl. It's an odd place to envision tigers—majestic and black-striped, these felines are more often associated with the humid jungles of India than with the wintry stretches of eastern Russia. But this is no ordinary tiger, this is the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica). Siberian tigers are a critically endangered subspecies of tiger that once roamed the wilds of Russia, China, Mongolia, and the Korean Peninsula. Today, they inhabit small remnants of their former range. They have disappeared entirely from South Korea and survive only in small numbers in North Korea and China.
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A recent study by TRAFFIC, the World Wildlife Fund, and the International Snow Leopard Trust has revealed a sharp decline in the snow leopard population. Snow leopards live in the mountains of central and southern Asia. They inhabit scrublands and grasslands that occur at altitudes between 2000m and 6000m. The research revealed that hunting throughout their range was the main cause of the observed population decline. Snow leopards (Panthera uncia) are targeted for their pelts, for use in traditional medicines, and in retaliation for killing livestock.
Abnormal weather conditions in the Primorski region of eastern Russia pose a serious threat to Russia's endangered Siberian tigers (Panthera tigris altaica) and Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis). Heavy snowfall has buried vegetation under two feet of snow. Many grazing animals such as dear and wild boar are challenged to find adequate food resources. The Siberian tigers and Amur leopards—predators that rely primarily on healthy deer and boar populations to survive—are now also facing the pressures of food shortage.
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The leader of CITES (Conservation on International Trade of Endangered Species), Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers, is to meet with Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to increase coopoeration between CITES and India in support of stronger tiger conservation. Topping the list of concerns to be discussed is the impact of poachers and other wildlife criminals.
Photo © Adalberto Rios Szalay and Sexto Sol / Getty Images.
Jaguars (Panthera onca) are once again reclaiming parts of their former habitat in the southwestern US. Motion sensing cameras have captured images of at least four jaguars that have roamed across the Mexico border into areas of New Mexico and Arizona during recent years. Although no breeding populations are thought to exist in the US, male cats occasionally roam northward from established ranges in Mexico in search of new territory. Now conservationists are working on both sides of the border to find ways to protect the endangered animal.