Enjoy this short but important clip! Spread the message!
Enjoy this short but important clip! Spread the message!
So as you may or may not know, big cats are clumped into this nebulous category of “big cats” mainly due to the fact that they are, well, bigger than other cats (domestic or wild), are apex predators, and can roar- except for the Clouded Leopard, Snow Leopard, Cheetah, and Puma (aka Cougar).
Many of these big cats face endangerment. Some subspecies even face critical endangerment, such as the Sumatran Tiger with only 300 left in the wild!
They are all unique, distinct, and beautiful, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a favorite. So let me know which cat is the “coolest” to you!
Although they may be beautiful, unique, and captivating, these striped and maned creatures are testimony to the cruelty of human involvement in taking creatures from their natural habitat. What creatures am I referring to? I am talking about Ligers (lion fathered and tigress mothered) and Tiglons (tiger fathered and lioness mothered). Ligers tend to be a little bit larger than their parents of either species, whereas tiglons are usually the same size of a tigress. In fact, the liger is the largest cat in the world. The lack of regulated genes, which would normally be controlled by genetic imprinting, or genes expressed in a parent-of-origin-dependent manner, is absent in some genes when breeding different species together. But if they are such a fascinating anomaly, why is it so bad for these two species to breed? (more…)
They’re sleek, but not as sleek as the cheetah, and they’re strong, but not as strong as the lion. They’re successful in the wild for being very secretive, making it hard for prey and poachers to find them. So which kitty could I possibly be referring to? (Drum roll) The Leopard!
What is the leopard? How are they unique? Once upon a time, people (notably the famous Carl Linnaeus) used to believe that the leopard was a cross between a lion and a panther. In Latin this would create the name Leo-pard (lion= “leo” and panther= “pard” in Latin). Today they are considered their own species from the generic rank of Panthera and not just a subspecies. The last common ancestor of leopards with lions, tigers, jaguars, snow and clouded leopards is believed to be ~6.37 million years ago.
Let’s compare the leopard with other cats just to get them straight, as their similar patterns and builds can be confusing:
1) Leopards vs Jaguars: leopards will not naturally be found near jaguars, so this is one easy way to recognize them in the wild based solely on geography. (Jaguars are found in South and Central America). The jaguar has these polygonal rosettes with small spots inside of them, while the leopard has rounder and smaller rosettes. (Rosettes, by the way, are a “rose-like” marking that forms on the skin and fur. They can appear as blotches or spots.) In comparing their build, leopards are a little bit smaller than jagauars.
2) Leopards vs Cheetahs: cheetahs and leopards, in some regions, do overlap geographically. But they are fairly easy to tell apart being that cheetahs have round solid spots (except the extremely rare king cheetah) that are evenly distributed across the body in comparison to the description above of the leopards’ rosettes. Also, leopards are more muscular and have a more dominant frame to that of the more delicate, willowy cheetah.
Leopards can survive in a world of extremes: from the grasslands, woodlands,and forests of eastern and central Africa/sub-Saharan Africa and the Indian subcontinent/Southeast Asia/China to the temperate forests of the Russian Far East that reach temperatures in winter as low as -13 degrees F (or -25 C)
But does anyone know what colour leopards can be? The most common is the one at the top of this post, which is the African leopard. There are several subspecies of leopard that are actually critically endangered. These endangered cats range in colour patterns and variation. But have you ever seen a black leopard, also known as a melanistic leopard? What you may not know, if you have seen or heard of them, is that not only is the fur of the melantistic leopard black, but if you shaved off their fur (let’s say because you needed to do surgery on one), you’d find that their skin is black, too! In most areas the melanistic leopard is very rare, as this “black-skinned” trait is the recessive allele (which is a gene, like blue eyes in humans, that will only appear if both parents provide the DNA to their baby for their “black-skinned” trait) to the more common golden/white-bellied appearance. In forests, mountainous regions, and in Asia the melanistic leopard has a higher frequency. In fact, ~50% of leopards in the Malay Peninsula are black. These melanistic leopards are sometimes called “black panthers” erroneously. In fact, other species of wild cat, such as the jaguar and serval, also possess “melanistic” alternatives. Big Cat Rescue saved a melanistic leopard, Jumanji. This little star in the operant conditioning programme even caught the attention of People Magazine, which wonderfully exposed more awareness for big cats (and wildlife as a whole).
Why are leopards particularly efficacious in the wild compared to other big cats? They not only are able to hide well from other predators, but they can compete for food extremely well. While large predators such as lions, tigers, spotted hyenas, and African wild dogs eat larger prey, leopards subsist on smaller mammals, medium-sized antelope, birds, reptiles, and other carnivores such as cheetahs and bat-eared foxes. They are efficient when exerting energy to capture prey due to their secret-agent stealth: they can stalk behind their soon-to-be-lunch up to 2 metres (!) before making their mad, cold-blooded kill.
In some regions leopards (especially subspecies) are dwindling due to (cough) humans that are inducing habitat loss, killing them off as nuisances when they attack their livestock, and “sport” hunting them down. In fact, leopards are considered one of the “Big Five” most highly rated prey in Africa. The other four in this list are lions, buffalo, elephant, and rhino. Fortunately, because people so love them, tourism is helping keep them protected. Thus national parks in places such as Namibia are being built to increase conservation efforts. So keep it up, wild lovers! It’s through the individual that culminates the results we see!
More to come from the wild!
As implied in the 1st blog about Big Cat Rescue, a few of the stories I wish to share with you will and should make you sad, some more than others. You perhaps will furrow your eyebrows in disgust, narrow your eyes in anger, tighten your jaw in frustration, shake your head in disbelief, and/or cry in pity of the human race. While I love sharing my knowledge about all these beautiful creatures in upbeat posts, the truth is that wildlife isn’t doing too well. It’s actually doing pretty terribly, and there are many factors to this. These blogs about Big Cat Rescue are vital, though! If you’re a true animal lover, you need to know what some people are doing to these animals. Thus, I’ll tell you some sad stories that have mostly happy endings. Hopefully through them we can try to learn just a few lessons so they don’t repeat.
The first tale of abuse is about a regal lioness by the name is Nikita. She was found famished, groaning with excruciating hunger pains, and painfully covered with raw, blister-like swells on her elbows and back joints when the police found her shackled like a prisoner of war to a concrete floor. She had been chained for what seemed to be months. Nikita was so thin, she could be carried under one arm without ever needing the other for support. This was not just animal cruelty, this was animal sadism.
So why was Nikita rolling around in excrement, pain, and misery until the police found her? The answer: because she was a “guard dog” for a crack house in Tennessee. Had it not been for the police busting the place for drugs, they never would have found her, and she very well may have been dead soon thereafter.
Where these drug dealers got Nikita is a mystery, but as you can see from online exotic pet stores and wacko exotic breeders for mostly people who don’t understand what they are doing by purchasing one of these creatures, it isn’t all that hard get an exotic pet like this.
Right after her rescue, she was taken to the Nashville Zoo at Grasmere, but when authorities at the zoo saw that she had been DECLAWED, they realized that they couldn’t keep her around other lions- she would have no way of adequately protecting herself should they fight. (By the way: declawing a cat is similar to taking the the first knuckle off of your finger. Ouchers, right?)
Nikita’s issues were even worse that all this: she was barely eating because she was so weak. And when she did eat, she only would eat white rabbits. Her very picky appetite were signs of previously huge nutritional inadequacies from her abuse and neglect. Needing great attention medically, nutritionally, and emotionally, Big Cat Rescue saved the day and took her in.
Today she is one of the largest lionesses in the US. Standing next to her, I felt particularly like the pip-squeak I am, in constant awe of her prowess. More amazingly, you would never know that this beautiful creature had been so abused because Big Cat Rescue fastidiously worked to heal her and provide her with serenity. It takes $5,000 a year to keep her well fed at Big Cat Rescue- you think those well-to-do drug dealers could have managed that much for her? Big Cat Rescue takes care of their animals, such as Nikita, through public donations! Check them out on my charities links if you are interested in sponsoring Nikita or any kitty.
More tales of adversity and triumph to come!
Until then, Stay Wild,
Exotic animals from kangaroos to kinkajous are sold as easily as online underwear through web-based “pet-stores”, internet “marketplaces”, and classified ads, generating a revenue of $2 BILLION each year in the US and $20 BILLION worldwide- making revenues second only to the illegal drug and gun trade. The exotic animal ownership market is propelled by legislation that allows “exotics”, for short, to be kept in private hands in many states. This legislation, of course, varies from state to state ranging from ease in obtaining exotic animal ownership to flat-out prohibiting the ownership of exotics. Scarily many states have large loopholes in their regulation, such as requiring that the exotic animal keeper claim ownership of the animal prior to a certain year or requiring a permit. Classification of these exotic pets as mere property according to most legislation that permits their ownership gives these exotics no more rights than a picnic table. Not only is this disgustingly unfair to the creatures who are stolen from their wild homes and forced to be caged and alienated for the rest of their lives, but it also poses a health risk to everyone in the United States.
Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans. 5/6 diseases considered a “top threat” to national security according to the Center for Disease Control are zoonotic. Approximately 50 million people worldwide have been infected with a zoonotic disease and ~85,000 have died from them since 2000.
Why are we more afraid of zoonotic disease transmission from these exotic animals than from your own household pets? Because they bring in NEW diseases. Your domesticated dog that has been bred to be what it is today was not trekking the wilderness of Africa where few humans has been before and getting exposed to diseases we have never even heard of. Take, for instance, bird flu. Asian bird flu reached us here in the West from eagles that were smuggled aboard a plane to Europe. Not fair to for those who had to die for someone’s illegal act, not fair to the eagles who never got to fly freely again.
Now let’s stop being selfish and talking about our health, and let’s focus on the animals. Do you know why they are being purchased or, in some cases, smuggled? The reasons are sick: to be someone’s pet, to be a circus act, to serve captive in a zoo (not all zoos do this, though), to be used for someone’s economic benefit (i.e. so that you and your kids can take pictures with a tiger cub and pay a nice penny for it!!!), and to be KILLED for their fur! (There are many other reasons now mentioned, but these are big ones because they are the biggest money makers.)
So where does Big Cat Rescue tie into all of this? Big Cat Rescue is part of the solution, as it serves as the haven for exotic cats such as lions, tigers, bobcats, ocelots, cougars, and many more that have been saved from the terrible life of being someone’s pet, toy, or coat. Situated in Tampa, Florida, Big Cat Rescue is a sanctuary, defined as a place that does not buy, sell, trade, breed, and provides no public contact with animals. The sanctuary is nestled within beautiful trees and looks as much as a home in the jungle to these beauties as a safeguarded heaven look. In fact, these wild cats remain protected by this 501(c) charity for the remainder of their lives. Furthermore, Big Cat Rescue is force of education. They don’t want to take in more cats- they’d rather see all of them free in the wild. They thus teach about conservation and about fighting the illegal trade.
Big Cat Rescue is the WORLD’S LARGEST accredited sanctuary with the MOST DIVERSE collection of rescued exotic cats. There are more than 100 exotic cats representing 14 species and subspecies. The facility consists of 55 acres of lushness, with each cat separated by nonabrasive but very withstanding fencing. Only cats that have a unique history with one another, and thus may offer one another emotional support, remain housed together.
More to come on Big Cat Rescue, heart-shattering stories from big cats at the rescue, and ways you can help!
Until then, Stay Wild,