International conservationists founded the Small Wild Cat Network during the First International Small Wild Cat Conservation Summit. Participants included small wild cat specialists, biologists and conservationists from Chile, Peru, Brazil, USA, Scotland, England, Germany, France, Spain, Uganda, Iran, Nepal, India and Sri Lanka. They represented 27 small wild cat species occurring in South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. The meeting was held from 11 to 14 September 2017 at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park, United Kingdom.
“Conservation strategies do not yet exist for the majority of small wild cat species. Small wild cats are special and require special conservation approaches. Wherever they live outside protected areas, they face loss of natural habitats, depletion of prey base and mortality due to conflict with humans. This summit was conceived to establish a platform for sharing information and experiences about successful conservation approaches and to promote and optimize conservation efforts,” explained Angie Appel of Wild Cat Network who organised the meeting.
“This meeting was an exciting and timely event to highlight the need for more focus on small cat conservation and to recognise the many dedicated people working for small wild cat conservation,” said Susan Cheyne of the Borneo Nature Foundation who has been involved in conservation and research of Sunda Clouded Leopard, Bay Cat, Marbled Cat, Sunda Leopard Cat and Flat-headed Cat in Borneo since 2008.
“Small wild cats in Africa are known at different levels of intensity, however all in need of much more awareness in the public, scientific and conservation communities. Although there is an ongoing long-term study on Black-footed Cats, a broader range of studies in other parts of its distribution are lacking,” said Alex Sliwa of Cologne Zoo who founded the Black-footed Cat Working Group. Grégory Breton of Panthera France explained: “For the Sand Cat we are only starting to gain basic ecological and thus conservation data from the Sahara desert.”
“The Caracal has received modest research attention in the African savannah. But we are barely scratching the surface for the African Golden Cat living in Africa's shrinking equatorial forests,” added Badru Mugerwa of the Institute of Tropical Forest Conservation who has worked on this elusive cat since 2014.
“Bringing together a group of dedicated conservationists working around the world to reduce threats to small wild cats has been my dream for more than five years,” said Jim Sanderson of Global Wildlife Conservation.
“For the first time, small wild cats received the undivided attention they desperately needed. Little is known of the several species that occur across the globe, and this summit was indeed very encouraging,” commented Shomita Mukherjee of the Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History who presented her recent work on Clouded Leopard, Marbled Cat, Asian Golden Cat and Leopard Cat in India. She added: “Although the Jungle Cat is considered common in South Asia, little is known about how land transformation and other threats impact the species. Conservation needs of the Rusty-spotted Cat in India, Sri Lanka and southern Nepal are not clear.”
“Connecting with like-minded people gave me lots of energy to continue my efforts in protecting Pallas's Cat in the world's most difficult terrain. The cat is not well studied in the Himalayas, and some ecological studies exist only from grasslands in Mongolia and Russia,” explained Ganga Ram Regmi from Nepal. Niloufar Raeesi from Iran added: “With Iran being the Pallas’s Cat's westernmost range country, it is an important site for continued research on the species. This meeting and the newly formed Small Wild Cat Network has opened doors for sharing experiences, collaboration and support, which are great assets for the long-term research and conservation of small wild cat species.”
“The formation of the Small Wild Cat Network is an important step in increasing the capacity, knowledge, expertise and conservation efforts to small wild cat species across the globe. Whether it is reintroduction plans for Wildcats in the Highlands of Scotland, or camera-trapping for Pallas’s Cat in Central Asia, there are similarities and shared goals between them all,” said David Barclay of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.
“The Iberian Lynx was at the brink of extinction at the beginning of the century. Thanks to a wide range of conservation actions, it is now "Endangered", and we are working to get the still fragile population downlisted to "Vulnerable" during the next decade. We enjoyed to share our experience gained in all those years with the summit participants and are convinced that the Small Wild Cat Network is a huge step forward in the conservation of small wild cats,” said Miguel Simón and Luis Barrios of the Iberian Lynx Conservation Project, Junta de Andalucía.
“This meeting was a much needed gathering of small wild cat researchers and conservationists from around the world to discuss common issues and future plans. For young conservationist like us, this was a great opportunity to meet new people and share ideas that will contribute to strengthening our local projects”, said Ashan Thudugala and Anya Ratnayaka of Small Cat Advocacy and Research who presented their efforts to protect the Fishing Cat in Sri Lanka.
“It was amazing and very gratifying to meet a group of experts for the very first time and exclusively discuss the conservation issues of the often-neglected small cat species. They are as threatened or even more so than their famous larger cousins. Brazil holds most of the geographic range of some of the neotropical small wild cats that require challenging conservation approaches,” stated Tadeu G. de Oliveira who coordinates the long-term country-wide Projeto Gatos do Mato of Universidade Estadual do Maranhao and Instituto Pro-Carnivoros. He presented some of the work of 13 years of conservation-oriented research of his team on the Northern and Southern Tiger Cats, Margay, Jaguarundi, Ocelot, Pampas Cat and Geoffroy’s Cat.
Álvaro García Olaechea of the BioS Research Center of Biodiversity and Sustainability added: “The Pampas Cat is widely distributed in South America, but to date little is known about the species in Peru.” “This summit was a milestone to advance small wild cat conservation worldwide. Jim Sanderson has been inspiring and supporting the next generation of small wild cat conservationists around the world since 2004, and his encouragement has surely been decisive for many of us,” explained Constanza Napolitano of the Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity, University of Chile, Andean Cat Alliance and Guigna Working Group. She presented her research and conservation efforts for Andean Cat and Guigna in Chile.
“The mission of our Network is to ensure that small wild cat populations are viable across their native ranges and habitats”, summarised Tony King of The Aspinall Foundation.
The summit was supported by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund and The Aspinall Foundation.
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