Thursday, 24 January 2019

NEWSLINK: Tiger kills and eats tigress' body at Kanha National Park

Wildlife officials are still attempting to figure out what might have led to brutal infighting between tigers at the Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh. The matter came to light when a patrol team discovered the scattered carcass of a tigress at Mundidadar prompting them to probe her death. While some animals attack and eat their own, this sort of behaviour is extremely rare in tigers. In fact, Kanha's field director K Krishnamurthy told Times of India that that animal the got killed seems to be a tigress, adding that the cannibal is a tiger. While asserting that the fight is most likely to be a territorial fight, Krishnamurthy said that the incident falls in the 'rarest of rare' categories.

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NEWSLINK: British zoo's race to save abused circus lions facing homelessness in no deal Brexit

The ongoing uncertainty of Brexit is threatening the final stage of a complex rescue effort of circus lions in Spain. Brothers Vigo and Kumba, five, are currently being held at a rescue centre in Alicante after they were saved from a lorry where they lived with three other cats.

But they can't stay at the rehabilitation centre AAP forever, as the sanctuary must make room to save more abused animals. The lions were due to be rehomed at the Isle of Wight Zoo where they would join the five tigers rescued by Chris Packham and Mirror readers, but time is running out.

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Wednesday, 23 January 2019

NEWSLINK: Was Kanha tigress really eaten by a tiger?

On Monday, news reports suggested that in a suspected act of cannibalism, a tiger may have killed and eaten a tigress in Kanha Tiger Reserve of Madhya Pradesh. The news agency PTI quoted Kanha field director K Krishnamurthy as saying that “circumstantial evidence suggests that the tiger, during a territorial fight, dragged the tigress for about 700 metres”. How frequently do animals feed on their own? First thing first. The deceased Kanha tigress was unlikely to have been the victim of a tiger. A male tiger has no reason to eliminate a mating option, unless she was defending her cubs.

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SIGHTING, UK: Man swiped at by 'panther-like' big cat in Cornwall

A man from Cornwall has sparked rumours of a big cat on the loose after claims he was attacked by a “panther-like” creature. Matthew Wild said he was visiting his girlfriend’s house in Porthleven when he spotted a large feline pressed against one of the windows. The 30-year-old said he tried to the shut the window but was swiped at by the animal. He described it as looking like a domesticated cat crossed with a panther. "It was very intent on getting in,” he said.

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Wednesday, 16 January 2019

ARTICLE: Save the Lions with a Quick Annual Payment of $1-2 Billion

The African lion is on the ropes. Lions numbered close to 100,000 in 1960 and have since dropped to around 20,000, according to conservation experts. And this trend likely is accelerating, as people continue to convert wildlife habitat into grazing commons and croplands, poach lions for claws and bones to supply the illicit international animal parts trade, and poison big cats and other predators to protect their livestock. There’s been much discussion about just what it’d take to save lions. Now we have a pretty good idea: around $1 billion to $2 billion a year. That’s the conclusion, at least, of new researchpublished in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences and supported by several conservation organizations.

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NEWSLINK: Turns out, an Indiana 'cougar' seen on video was just a fat cat

A video of a "cougar" sighting in Indiana that went viral this past weekend is not ... fur real.  

Turns out, it was just a "well-fed domestic cat," the Indiana Department of Natural Resources told Indianapolis TV station WTHR 13.  The video, which was posted by Facebook user Cole Ranker, claimed to be a "Cougar sighting in Noblesville, Indiana," on Saturday morning.  

"This video is from about 250 yds with my IPhone," Ranker posted.  It quickly exploded, amassing more than 9,600 shares and 697,000 views.   


CARL WRITES: 4/1/19 - St Albans, London

Read the original story here.

Anomalous big cats have been continually reported from Hertfordshire for many years, therefore I doubt the animal captured in these photographs has much to do with the overall mystery, as it is undoubtedly nothing more than a red fox Vulpes vulpes with a parasitic skin disease, possibly Sarcoptic mange. A fox identity is more readily discernible in the second photograph taken by Cameron.   Canine scabies or Sarcoptic mange is caused by a mite called Sarcoptes scabiei var. Canis. Although extremely small, these mites can cause severe itching and skin irritation that will decrease an animal’s quality of life significantly. The female mites dig into the superficial layers of the skin to lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae migrate nearby and then dig deeper into the skin to mature as adults. The mites burrow into the outer layer of skin, forming tunnels into which they deposit several kinds of unwanted material such as their eggs, faeces, shed shell and digestive secretions. This process causes severe inflammation, irritation, itching, rashes and eventually hair loss. With a 21 day life cycle, the mites can replicate quickly, causing a rapid increase in numbers, more skin irritation, and hair loss over large areas.   If not treated in the early stages, mange can often be fatal, especially for wild foxes as during the final stages open sores develop leading to septicaemia. Lightly infected individuals may suffer only short-term effects (it is rarely fatal in domestic dogs), whereas heavily infected individuals suffer from severe hair loss and develop a thick crust of parasite wastage on the skin surface.   The disease is intensely irritating, and in extreme cases animals have been known to chew their own tails off trying to relieve the discomfort. At advanced stages of the disease, infected individuals are often seen wandering around during the daytime, especially in cold weather; the infected animals vainly try to maintain their body temperature seeking warm places, such as abandoned buildings.   This is what I believe we are seeing here. It is clearly the same fox in both photographs and it appears to be in a fairly advanced stage of the disease. Death may arise from a wide variety of causes, including starvation and hypothermia. It is clearly looking for shelter within peoples gardens.   Mange is a common disease in foxes and has caused population crashes around the world, including Britain and Scandinavia. In Bristol, populations declined by >95% just two years following the arrival of mange and long term data indicate that populations take at least 15-20 years to recover.   Thousands of urban foxes are infected with the disease, though it is actually more common in wild populations. Elaine Pendlebury, a senior veterinary surgeon at PDSA, said mange is widespread in urban fox populations.

“Its a real problem for foxes and can kill an animal in under four months.”  

“It’s definitely quite prevalent, especially in the winter time when foxes are out of condition.” She added.  

At the moment there are no official figures on how widespread mange is among urban foxes in Britain. Readers taking part in The Daily Telegraph Urban Fox Count have reported seeing foxes with mange countrywide, with an almost hairless fox spotted in Manchester.   As previously stated, the infected fox photographed respectively by both Sara and Cameron probably has little to do with the Hertfordshire situation as a whole, as foxes, as opposed to domestic dogs, do not typically live very long once severely infected and reports have been coming in of ‘big cats’ in and around Harts for some time. Nonetheless, it might have much to do with recent localised reports being made from more built up areas of St Albans.  

As apex predators with little, if any environmental competition, I find it extremely unlikely that genuine British big cats would bother risking entering urbanised areas looking for easy meals. This would be a far more likely activity for a scavenging omnivore such as foxes are known to do. This, and the fact that the animal photographed is clearly acting in a distressed manner; like that of a desperate fox suffering from the final debilitating effects of Sarcoptic mange, makes this identity all the more probable. Also, anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of feline anatomy can see this is not a cat of any species!     I would bet my own money that this animal is a fox displaying either Sarcoptic or Demodex mange, the former probably being the more likely.   A course of homeopathic mange treatment and a warm dry bed could still save this unfortunate fox if someone can capture it as soon as possible.   

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

NEWSLINK: National Zoo and Aquarium's last remaining snow leopard Sheva has died

For 16 years Canberra was home to two of the world's most secretive big cats. But last month Sheva the snow leopard, who arrived at Canberra's National Zoo and Aquarium in 2002, passed away aged 19.

After arriving from Mogo Zoo, Sheva and her brother Bhutan quickly became crowd favourites with the zoo's visitors, despite being notoriously tricky to spot. Snow leopards are listed as vulnerable with about 6000 left in the wild, but that number could be as low 3900, Ms Ness advised. Their elusive nature makes them difficult to study. There are about 10 left in captivity in Australia.

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Thursday, 10 January 2019

NEWSLINK: ‘Wounded rare tiger seeks human help’ at remote border post on Russian-Chinese frontier

In an extraordinary incident a long-living endangered male Amur tiger defied efforts by Russian border guards to scare it away. The predator - believed to be at least 15 years old and a senior citizen of the big cat world - killed and ate two guard dogs at the frontier post with China. But it refused to move on, and in the words of Sergey Aramilev, general director of the Amur Tiger Centre, the animal had came to humans ‘for help’.

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SIGHTING? UK: What is this animal? The supposed ‘St Albans big cat’?

Earlier this week, in a continuing series of reported big cat sightings around the district, this newspaper published a video taken of an animal scampering down Hall Place Gardens. The photographer, a woman named Sara, said the “disorientated” and “strange-looking” creature did not look like a dog or a house cat. Another resident, a man called Cameron who would prefer to only use his first name, saw the animal around Grange Street this week and managed to capture much clearer pictures.


CARL WRITES: 25/12/18 - Stroud, Gloucestershire

Read the original story here.

Over the past five years there have been quite a few intriguing sightings of cougar-like animals reported from both Gloucestershire and Worcestershire, and possibly for good reason as both counties are situated reasonably close to the Forest of Dean which seems to be something of a hot spot for anomalous big cats apparently traveling across from South Wales. Worcestershire is located roughly North East of Hereford, which itself is located just North of Gloucestershire.

Watledge, where the observation took place, is approximately 35 miles South East of the Forest of Dean lying in one of the Stroud Valleys in the Cotswolds, itself a very rural and relatively unpopulated geographical area (the most credible eyewitness I have ever interviewed concerning British big cats (a wildlife biologist) also made an observation in the Cotswolds). I think the report made by Anna Terranova and her companion, and published by the Mirror, is certainly convincing enough to warrant further investigation. Although, it must also be possible they could have witnessed a debilitated fox (emaciated by illness or lack of food) and slightly overestimated its stature due to the distance of the observation, however, when taken at face value doesn’t seem very likely. Anna Terranova, a self proclaimed wildlife enthusiast from Nailsworth, Gloucestershire, stated that she and her friend had to do “a double take” as they couldn’t believe their eyes when they first observed the strange animal, which might imply this is a genuine observation of something unusual, as they both reacted in the same way and then independently came to the same conclusion while having sufficient time to make viable observations. “I had to strain my eyes at first...” Said Anna (implying a significant distance from their point of observation), and went on to describe the animal’s movements as “padding”. She reported the creature they observed was at least two to three feet tall which would make it large, even for a dog fox if it were one – this seems unlikely. Both witnesses also had the opportunity to compare the mystery animal’s dimensions with a rabbit observed close by, suggesting it was quite large, much larger than say a domestic cat and probably larger than a fox. Anna went on to say that they both stood and watched the animal for at least five minutes as it prowled about near a fence that is approximately waist height, again confirming to them the dimensions of the animal and giving them ample time to observe its feline behaviour. “From that distance it looked a dark chestnut brown” 

Foxes are often a chestnut colour, meaning colouration alone doesn’t confirm a cougar identity (Puma concolor), and it should be noted it would be difficult to be certain of any animal’s precise colouration from such a long (undisclosed) distance. They continued to watch the unknown mammal until it disappeared into some nearby woodland. We would certainly expect a fox to have a much shorter tail length than a cougar (though both often have noticeably bushy tails) and unfortunately the published article doesn’t suggest what aspect of the tail appeared feline. However, I presume it was very long in relation to head and body length and therefore quite un-fox like. It certainly doesn’t sound much like the average fox in winter months! I believe this is possibly a genuine report of a wild roaming cougar. It might even be the same animal that I investigated four years ago in Animals & Men (issue 52) though admittedly this is entirely speculative. Cougars are well know to travel great distances with individual males wandering anywhere from 50 – 150 square miles during their lifetimes, thus an individual roaming across three or four heavily wooded rural counties almost undetected over four years, is not unreasonable when we take into account expansive ranges and the notoriously illusive nature of P. concolor. Of course, it’s also possible this could be a completely different cougar (likely another escapee or illegal release) and maybe even a potential mate for the first! I’m prepared to suggest it’s possible this might be a genuine report and that a professional field investigation providing sufficient evidence, preferably biological, is required before making any further claims.
I will try and visit this location in the new year.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

ARTICLE: 'America's lion' needs wild space, less hunting, for a Northeast comeback

Keep wilderness intact and stop the killing of them in the West. Then, maybe mountain lions will make a real comeback here, according to one expert. Ecologist Susan Morse, who studied mountain lions for 20 years in the western states where they are established, says a true recovery of the species in the Northeast will require enough wild space for the big cats to have the privacy "to do what they do unmolested by people or livestock." She says this would be a good thing, since the cats would control deer populations that are "ruinous for our woods." Morse, founder and director of Keeping Track, a Vermont-based nonprofit that trains people to record and monitor wildlife, says politically, restoring predators isn't popular.

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SIGHTING, UK: Cougar 'spotted prowling through English countryside' by two walkers

Two walkers claim to have spotted a cougar on the loose in Britain as they took a stroll in the countryside. Anne Terranova, 57, was out walking with her friend when they deviated from their usual route. 

As they paused to take in the new view they both say they did a double take as they couldn't believe their eyes. Before them they say was a real-life cougar, in broad daylight, walking through the countryside near Stroud, Gloucestershire.