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Oceans2Earth strives to assist with local solutions to global problems. O2E was founded in Melbourne, Australia in 2010 for the purpose of providing resources and financial assistance to animal welfare and conservation projects including elephant sanctuary land in Kenya, cat and dog rescue in Africa and community recycled product projects in Asia and Africa. The O2E Foundation aims to facilitate people’s awareness of the impacts of animal tourism, trade and human intervention on the welfare, sustainability and general health of wildlife populations.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Breeding program saving wild cats

At O2E we generally don't support breeding programs. It's such a controversial topic. We have seen projects that breed for bushmeat or commercial trade. We have also seenprograms that breed with all good intention only to find they have no resources or habitat to release into. Subsequently these animals live in captivity their entire lives, requiring constant care and attention. Some may say, 'well at least they are not extinct'. Is that good enough? To my mind, it's kind of like a living museum....or dare I say...a zoo, albeit without the kids and ice cream.

This article makes me think a little harder about the subject.

In April 2011, three young cats from the world’s most endangered species have been released into the wild in Spain from a captive breeding program at the La Olivilla breeding centre in Juan .
The Iberian lynx, once widespread across Spain and Portugal, were down to just 150 by 2005 — there were 4,000 in 1960. Scientists were forced to take drastic action and captured many from the wild population and put them in a captive breeding program.

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Miguel Simon, director of the Lynx LIFE project, said:
“The situation was really dramatic: there were only two populations left in the wild. In order to preserve this species, we had to create a captive population in case the wild population became extinct.”

The Lynx LIFE team admits that radical intervention like this is a last resort. But if it works, these cats could be the first of many to roam free once again.

If the lynx went extinct it would be the first cat extinction (that we know of) since that of the saber-toothed cat at the end of the ice age.

"The cat’s decline was down to habitat loss, poisoning, road casualties, feral dogs and poaching. Its habitat loss is due mainly to infrastructure improvement, urban and resort development and tree monocultivation, which serves to break the lynx’s distribution area. It has also suffered the loss of its main food source: rabbits, which were wiped out by disease.

That breeding program has proved successful and there are now around 100 cats bred at the centre.
Concurrently, work to protect the habitat in Jaen and the Donana National Park in Andalucia,over the past decade has commenced and the wild population is now believed to be up to 300.

Dr Simon said: "The Iberian lynx is a key species in the Mediterranean ecosystem. It is a top predator, and if we preserve this species, we are preserving the whole ecosystem."

"It is our heritage, and we have to preserve it for future generations."

The Spanish Environment Ministry, Fundación CBD Hábitat and Ecologistas en Acción, supports the work of Lynx LIFE and together they have implemented a range of important projects including lynx supplementary feeding, habitat improvement, rabbit repopulations and awareness campaigns with the local human population.

The three lynx were released in early April into a protected area in Sierra Morena, a hilly, forested region, packed with shade for the cats to sleep in when the sun becomes unbearably hot — and it has plenty of rabbits.
Radio collars will help researchers monitor the released lynx

The cats received a careful pre-release check-up to ensure they are in good health then they were fitted with radio collars, allowing the conservationists to track their every move.

As the cats were released, they were a little confused at first, unsure of their new surroundings.
But after tentatively taking a few steps, they bound into the wild, ready to explore their new home.

Dr Lopez said: "Just a few years ago, everything seemed so difficult, and now we are approaching the successful conservation of the species."

A total of 15 releases have taken place this year, and if new wild populations begin to establish, more and more of the captive cats will be introduced to the wild.

When you are looking to support an animal program, do your research. Do they have a breeding program? What happens to the captive bred population?

Information by Paul Canning and BBC News
Paul Canning is a long-standing LGBT and human rights activist and the Editor of LGBT Asylum News. He contributes to a number of other publications, including Care 2 Make A Difference.

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