If you haven't been following the Bengal and Sumatran tigers who are now BFFs at the San Diego Zoos Safari Park, START NOW! I'll catch you up...
Two tiger cubs, each of whom ended up in their own isolating predicament on opposite sides of the country, have been brought together in one great best friends story!
Although unfortunate, their circumstances were quite timely and have brought together the cutest pair in town. Check out some the videos of their journey and be sure to follow the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on Twitter and Instagram to keep up with their adventures.
For the second year in a row, I am a recipient of the Dan L. Duncan Scholarship presented by the Houston Safari Club and the American Conservation and Education Society. This year, 24 students with a desire to protect and promote hunting and the principles of conservation were given the award in front of Houston Safari Club members at their September monthly meeting. Gary Rose (far right) did a remarkable job introducing us all, bragging about all our various accomplishments like a proud parent.
This was my last year of eligibility for the award but so far during my tenure as a recipient, I've met many interesting people and have learned a lot about the industry. Thank you to Houston Safari Club for supporting me and my goals of African lion research and conservation!
Other news on the funding front, my project received 2 grants from Dallas Safari Club! An anonymous donor through the organization is paying for the Freezer/Mill I need to process all my bone samples and I received their general grant, highlighted on the grants page of their website with a photo of a lion!
Coupled with the money you all graciously donated through the Experiment.com Cat Challenge crowdfunding campaign (for which I came in 2nd), my project has enough funding to get me through the year!!!
The Challenge is 2-fold:
The project with the most BACKERS will receive an extra $1,000 added to their GOAL.
Our GOAL is $5,000 and we must receive 100% of our GOAL to get any of the money donated by the BACKERS.
Go to Experiment.com/liondiversity and show some support by making a donation. Any little bit helps! The more people who make donations the better. You can also help by spreading the word.
The Challenge (# of BACKERS) runs from today to Friday, June 10 @ 6PM ET
The Campaign (100% of GOAL) runs from today to Saturday, June 18
Your support is much appreciated! THANKS!!!
It was too cloudy in College Station to see the eclipse. It's nice that someone was able to capture a magical moment!
The lions have been almost fully "reintroduced". They have been awakened in Rwanda and initial introductions have been made in the form of quarantine bomas. They will spend 14 days in these bomas acclimating to their new Rwandan home and getting used to the sites, sounds and smells of their new home. Apparently, the local baboon troupe isn't too happy about it.
The non-profit African Parks, an organization charged on taking total responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments, wildlife organizations and local communities, was responsible for the management of the translocation efforts. They are a management organization with a focus on the generation of sustainable income streams to pay for running costs and capital replacements. Although they seem to have an economic focus, they do have a conservation approach and mention long-term biodiversity restoration in their model. This seems like a great organization, taking on the financial burdens that often plight national parks, my only concern is that with this move of South African lions into Rwanda rather than eastern African lions into Rwanda is that the individuals making the decisions regarding long-term biodiversity restoration may not fully understand what biodiversity and biodiversity restoration means.
Lions went extinct in Rwanda 15 years ago after the 1994 genocide when the Akagera National Park went unmanaged and cattle herders poisoned many of the animal species. And this week, in a big conservation effort, seven lions, 5 females and 2 males, are being relocated from the South African province of KwaZulu Natal to repopulate Rwanda with lions. They are starting their journey from OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg to Rwanda today!
7/1/2015 - While doing a bit more research combing through article after article reading the same shpeal over and over I finally found something that somewhat confirmed my suspicion but with no real concrete evidence... there is political mumbo jumbo afoot....
The Christian Science Monitor (um, the what?) says that Kenya offered to donate eight lions to Rwanda last year but Kenya's wildlife conservation groups fiercely opposed the plan saying "Rwanda had not sufficiently addressed issues that resulted to the loss of its own lion population."
There isn't much genetic research on the puma (FYI: puma, cougar, mountain lion, catamount, panther... all the same thing, just depends on where you are and who you talk to). The scientific community seems to be quite torn about taxonomic assessment and there has been much debate around subspecies distinction, particularly in the case of using cougars in Texas to repopulate the Florida panther population. Some say they are distinct enough that they shouldn't be hybridized while others say they are the same so one can successfully repopulate the other. According to the Federal Register, "the best available information continues to support the assignment of the eastern taxon to Puma concolor couguar as distinct from other North American subspecies" based primarily on biology and life history.
The proposal to remove the eastern cougar from the endangered species list does not affect the status of the endangered Florida panther subspecies, a cluster of conservation genetics issues to discuss in more detail at another time. But, although the extinct animals will no longer be protected under the Endangered Species Act, which is intended to save animals and plants that still have a recorded population, it will also no longer be able to be used to protect similar animals, such as the Florida panther. Not sure if that matters since the Florida panther is already protected (and possibly diluted with Texas cougar) but its interesting nonetheless.
A ban on the hunting of big cats in Zambia, which has been in effect since January 2013, was officially lifted a few days ago. Hunting of leopards will resume at the end of this year/beginning of next and hunting of lions will return about a year after that.
Zambia, however, is one of 5 countries to have lion populations 1000+ individuals strong and, in areas with thriving lion populations, a hunting ban could actually have potentially deleterious effects (and not just on eco-tourism). Studies have shown that the presence of hunters deters poachers, providing protection for the habitat and other animals. Revenue brought in by hunters also contributes to anti-poaching efforts as well as community assistance by providing jobs and other resources.
So, after the realization that a continued full ban in Zambia on hunting for big cats could be damaging for the population (and economy), the government decided to reinstate hunting under the pretense there will be “cautionary quotas.” Tourism and Arts Minister, Jean Kapata, said "safari hunting was profitable and good for off-take of wildlife and could benefit the whole country if well nurtured." The study I just submitted for publication will (hopefully) be used to help with decisions for setting quotas and implementing management to prevent loss of diversity while big cat hunting is permitted.
I just wanted to share this nifty little pictorial example I found of trophic levels (aka what Mufasa talks to Simba about in the Lion King fondly referred to as "The Circle of Life"). Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba!
A white lion cub, a very rare color morph, has been causing quite a stir amongst visitors a Kruger National Park in the Republic of South Africa (mostly because he's so darn cute). This little rarity is a member of the Satara Pride and is one of only 13 wild white lions. White lions are so rare that none were seen in the wild from the early 1990's until 2006. And since 2006, only 16 white lions have been born and in only 5 lion prides, all in the Kruger/Timbavati region.
Why are they so rare?
White lions are a result of leucism, or lack of pigment which results in light coat and eyes. In lions, leucism is caused by getting a copy of a gene which has a recessive mutation from both mom and dad. For two tawny lions (the typical brown/tan color) to have a white lion cub, both lions would have to be carriers of the recessive allele, meaning they have the recessive copy but they display the dominant one.
It is quite possible that the statistics are way more complicated and that there may even be more than one way to be 'white.' It has been speculated that light coat in white lions with yellow eyes may we caused by a different gene than in white lions with blue eyes (the TYR gene versus a gene similar to what creates white cats and white tigers). Genomic analysis of big cats is just beginning but don't you worry, we're getting to the bottom of it!
So follow in the paw-steps of a lion this Valentine’s day and show some affection (not just because according to a Today Show survey 52% of people would end a relationship because they didn't get anything for Valentine’s day – extreme – but because everyone could benefit from a little nuzzle).
Don't think that just because you live in a big city you are exempt from wildlife. On November 29th a mountain lion was spotted in Beverly Hills, the second recent sighting of a big cat east of the 405 Freeway. Mountain lions call the Santa Monica Mountains and Topanga State Park, west of the 405, and the Angeles National Forest, north of Pasadena, home. This particular cat wasn't collared so they don't know if it's a State Park cat on holiday or if it's a cat that has a knack for keeping cryptic in the fancy digs of 90210.
Although the sighting was originally a tweet made by a Beverly Hills local (right), I was made aware of this sighting from a post on the Urban Carnivores Facebook page. Urban Carnivores is a website dedicated to keeping people informed on the carnivores you might run into in Los Angeles and Ventura counties with up-to-date news and the latest in local scientific research on mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, etc. The fact there is a need for this type of website goes to show you need to stay alert wherever you are. So, keep in mind, though you may be somewhere urban, there may be something wild lurking around the corner and wild will not give way urban so step aside.
I am a biologist and my life is crap!