On this Earth Day (or as Luna might say, “erfday”), we turn our attention to the big world outside the window.
Climate change is of course the big issue this Earth Day, and we encourage everyone to read the stats about climate change published earlier today. For Weeked Cat Blogging, we present some of the world's most endangered wild cats. The Cat Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union maintains information on the status of the 36 species of wild cat. We only have room for a few of them here.
Among the most endangered is the Iberian Lynx. According to IUCN CSG:
The decline of the lynx population since the 1960s has been primarily caused by habitat loss and a decline of their main prey species, the European rabbit…Nevertheless, there are some areas where habitat quality and rabbit density appear sufficient, yet no lynx are found. Particularly in these areas, it seems that humans are directly responsible for an appreciable level of lynx mortality (Delibes 1989).
Certainly, the policy of Fascist-era Spain of paying a bounty for killing lynxes didn't help. As if there weren't already enough resons to despise fascists.
In the Andes of South America, we find the gato andino or Andean mountain cat. This odd little cat (look at that tail!) is quite rare, living only the high-altitude rocky and semi-arid sections of the Andes. There is not a lot of information known about it, but the low population and specialized habitat would suggest that it is quite vulnerable to climate change.
The U.S. is not without its endangered cats. Perhaps the most endangered is the Florida Panther. Yes, it's not just the name of a hockey team, but a subspecies of cougar that were almost wiped out by development and bounty hunters, and now the few remaining panthers live in southwest Florida, one of the areas of the U.S. most threatened by global warming, tropical storms and rising sea levels.
The tiny fraction of ocelot habitat that remains is largely fragmented, leaving most ocelots stranded on the 45,000-acre Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge and on a handful of private lands, with very little new habitat for the cats to raise future generations. Because the south Texas ocelots are found in such small and isolated groups, they tend to inbreed, making them increasingly vulnerable to extinction.
There are numerous groups working to protect wild cats from the many threats they face, climate change, habit loss, hunting, etc. The links throughout this article take you various agencies and private groups. Another is the International Society for Endangered Cats. And throughout the U.S., there are wild cat sanctuaries for displaced and/or abused animals.
We are happy to report that felis silvestris domesticus is doing quite well, and you can see many happy examples of this species at Weekend Cat Blogging #98, hosted this week by the three lovely striped kitties at Pet's Garden Blog.