February 2011 Newsletter

Panthera Contest: Name the “60 Minutes” Jaguar

As featured on CBS’ “60 Minutes” program, our team of jaguar experts recently collared Panthera’s first female jaguar in the Brazilian Pantanal – and now we are asking you to help us name her! Through February 14th, you can submit one, or multiple, name(s) for this female jaguar, currently known as “F7271,” for a small, minimum donation of $5.

After the four finalist names have been selected by our staff, you will have a chance to vote for your favorite name from March 1st-7th. Finally, once the votes have been tallied, we will announce the winning name on March 10th!

Submit your name now and support Panthera’s conservation programs that are saving the world’s wild cats.

Here is the latest update on Jaguar “F7271” from Panthera’s Jaguar Program Executive Director, Dr. Howard Quigley

Since the collaring of our now nameless female jaguar during Panthera’s trip to the Brazilian Pantanal with “60 Minutes,” “F7271” has really been on the go! In order to monitor her movements, the collar fixed to “F7271” sends data to a server pinpointing her location four times a day. This information is then transmitted to Panthera’s jaguar scientists by email, allowing our jaguar team to see where this jaguar is moving, if she is moving, and how far she is moving.  So far, we know that she has made some very interesting movements in the areas north of our research station.

Since her collaring in September, our researchers have been eagerly conducting a “den watch” to determine whether “F7271” is expecting cubs. Our team had good information suggesting that “F7271” was in the company of two male suitors just prior to being collared, and that these suitors were fighting, suggesting that “F7271” was most likely reproductively receptive, or in estrus. 

The gestation time for jaguars is about 100 days, so from mid-December to early January, our jaguar team followed “F7271’s” movements closely to see if she would reveal the location of a den site where cubs are birthed and raised in their early months. As no den site has been identified, our jaguar team has concluded that “F7271” has not yet given birth and that the mating with one or both of her suitors was unsuccessful. 

However, our researchers will continue to monitor “F7271’s” movements and begin more intensive on-the-ground tracking as soon as the rainy season ends in a month or two. Stay tuned for more updates on “F7271!”

Learn why we use GPS collars and how they operate.

Get a behind the scenes look at CBS' "60 Minutes" coverage of Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar Project


Panthera’s Role as ‘Expert Witness’ in Wildlife Trafficking Case, Gabon

Photo: Phil Henschel/Panthera

Just weeks ago, Gabon's water and forestry and defence ministries arrested five vendors at Mont Bouët market in the Gabon capital of Libreville after attempting to sell 12 leopard skins, 1 piece of lion skin, 1 African golden cat skin, the head and hands of an endangered gorilla, 12 chimpanzee heads, 30 chimpanzee hands and five elephant tails. Intelligence about the vendors had been provided by the local wildlife law enforcement NGO Conservation Justice, and as the arrests were made, Panthera's Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Dr. Philipp Henschel, who is based in Gabon, was called in to help identify the confiscated felid skins.

Chief Makapa, a traditional healer, is shown here wearing a necklace made of leopard canine teeth. Chief Makapa was leading a dance for the President of Gabon, who was visiting the Chief’s village - Massengalani - in Central Gabon at the time.
Photo: Josh Ponte

In Gabon, leopard body parts are traditionally revered as powerful symbols; leopard skins adorn ceremonial houses across rural Gabon while its canine teeth are worn as necklaces by the most revered and powerful spiritual healers. More recently, however, there are also indications for a growing international trade in leopard skins originating from Gabon and neighboring Republic of the Congo. Both countries are sparsely settled, and leopards are still widely distributed and present in all larger protected areas. In contrast, leopards are absent from most protected areas in the neighboring countries such as Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Nigeria.

The main players in the leopard skin trade appear to be West African traders, who smuggle skins from Gabon and Republic of the Congo through Cameroon into Nigeria – a known regional hub for illegal wildlife traffic, and, increasingly, Chinese road workers and loggers who smuggle skins into Asia. The latest reports have confirmed that the 5 vendors arrested in this case are, in fact, from West Africa, including 4 Nigerians and a woman from Benin.

Photo: C. Packer

Panthera is collaborating with ministries and wildlife law enforcement NGOs across this region in their efforts to halt the illegal trade in skins of leopards and lions. By taking samples of seized leopard and lion skins for genetic analysis, and comparing the population genetics of illegally traded skins with wild populations across the region, Panthera aims to identify poaching hotspots and to help trace the routes of the illegal skin trade. Of particular interest in the current seizure will be the origin of the large piece of lion skin, as lions are very likely extinct in Gabon, and have not been documented there in 15 years.

More Information

Read a report on the latest lion surveys co-conducted and co-authored by Phil Henschel - Lion status updates from five range countries in West and Central Africa.

Read Phil Henschel's scientific publication on The status and conservation of leopards and other large carnivores in the Congo Basin, and the potential role of reintroduction.

View a Map of the Trafficking

Read a BBC article about this wildlife trafficking case.

Read Panthera's Lion Report Card: The State of the Lion.

Learn more about Panthera's Lion Program Survey Coordinator, Philipp Henschel.

Panthera's Leopard Program

Munyawana Leopard Project | Informing Policy and Effecting Change

Panthera’s Lion Programs

Project Leonardo | Saving Africa's Lions

Lion Guardians | Partnering with the Maasai to Protect Kenya's Lions


Study confirms cheetahs in Iran are the last living Asiatic subspecies:

A new study has confirmed that the world’s remaining 70-110 Iranian cheetahs are the last living subspecies of the Asiatic cheetah, and genetically are notably distinct from the African cheetah. This news underscores the significance of conservation projects like the CACP in which Panthera is involved to save the Iranian cheetah from extinction. January 17, 2011


Panthera Press Release

NEW STUDY CONFIRMS NEED FOR CONSERVATION OF ASIATIC CHEETAHS

Findings will have profound and far-reaching implications for the conservation of cheetahs in Northern-East Africa and Asia, which differ markedly from cheetah populations in Southern Africa.

Very few cheetahs exist in the wild in Asia, where the species is now reduced to an estimated 70-110 individuals, all of them in Iran. It has long been believed that cheetahs show relatively low levels of genetic variation, although previous studies have not examined the entire geographic range. Now, a new study led by Pamela Burger and Pauline Charruau of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Austria shows that cheetahs in Northern-East Africa (Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti) and those in Asia differ markedly from the populations in Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo). The results are the first to include specimens from Iran, and are published in the journal Molecular Ecology.

“This important study clearly confirms that the cheetah habitat continues to fragment, and emphasizes the uniqueness of the Asiatic cheetah which is now critically endangered,” said George Schaller, Vice President of Panthera. “Only Iran can now save it, and the country is fully dedicated to doing so as part of its natural heritage and that of the world.”

Burger and her colleagues at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna collaborated with groups in Portugal, Germany, the United States, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, France and South Africa to investigate a large number of cheetah DNA samples. The researchers even included in their study DNA that they extracted from bones found in mediaeval sites in north-west Iran. By means of sophisticated statistical methods to compare the sequences of certain pieces of the DNA, the scientists were able to assess the greatest range of diversity in the species assessed to date.

The study showed that Iranian cheetahs are the last representatives of the Asiatic subspecies and quite distinct from their African relatives, placing even greater urgency on their conservation. Through its CACP programme, a joint initiative between the Iranian Department of Environment (who cooperated on the paper) and United Nations Development Programme, the conservation of the Asiatic cheetah has been made a national priority.

“We are running out of time to save the Asiatic cheetah,” stated Alireza Jourabchian, the Director of the CACP in Iran. “We have been successful in stabilising the numbers in Iran but there is still a long way to go before we can consider this unique sub-species secure. We are hopeful these new findings bring even greater attention to their plight.”

Through its cooperation with the CACP, Panthera is helping protect the last remaining Iranian cheetahs, and their prey base by; utilizing camera traps and radio-collars to collect critical data on the ecology of cheetahs. The CACP-Panthera partnership resulted in the first radio collared cheetahs in 2007-2008, and hopes to deploy more radio-collars in 2011.

“The Asiatic cheetah is a fantastic animal,” said Luke Hunter, Executive Vice President of Panthera. “It has been part of Persian culture for 2000 years, and deserves to be for 2000 more. We’re delighted to be part of the effort led by CACP to conserve the very few remaining individuals.”

The paper Phylogeography, genetic structure and population divergence time of cheetahs in Africa and Asia: evidence for long-term geographic isolates by P. Charruau, C. Fernandes, P. Orozco-terWengel, J. Peters, L. Hunter, H. Ziaie, A. Jourabchian, H. Jowkar, G. Schaller, S. Ostrowski, P. Vercammen, T. Grange, C. Schlötterer, A. Kotze, E-M. Geigl, C. Walzer and P.A. Burger is published online and will be available in a forthcoming issue. The digital object identifier is: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04986.x.

More Information

Read a USA Today article about this discovery.

Learn more about

Iranian Cheetah Project | A Species Under Threat

Click here to: Meet the Cheetah


2011 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation Awarded to Omar Figueroa

Omar Figueroa (L) and his field assistant Wilber Martinez (R) evaluate botfly infestation on a sedated jaguar.  Photo credit B. Jansen.

Each year, Panthera awards the Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation to an individual under 40 years of age representing the next generation of up and-coming conservationists, scientists, policy developers, politicians and planners who have made an important contribution to wild cat conservation.  The Prize seeks to foster the efforts of early-career individuals who intend to devote their ongoing professional efforts towards the common goal of wild cat conservation.

This year, the $15,000 Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize for the Next Generation in Wild Cat Conservation is awarded to Omar Figueroa for his ongoing contribution to jaguar conservation in Belize. A native Belizean, Omar Antonio Figueroa serves as a Biological Field Scientist for Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative program in Belize. In 1997, he began his career in wildlife ecology as the National Coordinator for the Birds Without Borders-Aves Sin Fronteras Project, an international research, education and conservation project focusing on neotropical migratory birds. Later, in 2005, he obtained his Master of Science degree in wildlife ecology and conservation from the University of Florida.

Omar Figueroa examines a snare trap. Photo: Carol Foster

His thesis project represents the first and only Global Positioning System study on Belize’s regionally imperiled Jabiru Stork. Through Panthera’s Kaplan Graduate Scholarship Program, Omar is currently completing his Ph.D. at the University of Florida, with a particular focus on jaguar ecology. When he graduates, Omar will be the first Belizean to obtain a PhD on jaguar studies. 

“Omar is one of those few people who understands field research, and the innovations like radio-telemetry for answering our jaguar questions, and he moves this information directly to policy applications”, said Howard Quigley, Executive Director of Panthera’s Jaguar Program. “He’s an inspiration to all of us”.

In addition, Omar has been awarded various other international fellowships and research grants, including the Fulbright/Organization of American States, Dexter and Compton Fellowships, Jennings Scholarship, Disney and Columbus Zoo Conservation Grants, International Foundation for Science, Foundation for Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas Conservation Trust Research Awards. Omar gives frequent lectures on jaguar ecology at international and regional conferences within Central and South America and in July of 2009, was nominated to serve as a Government Senator by the Prime Minister of Belize.

About the Rabinowitz-Kaplan Prize

Candidates for the prize are reviewed by Panthera’s Cat Advisory Council, which votes to determine the final award recipient. Past recipients include Ivan Seryodkin, honored for his work on monitoring the population status of the far eastern leopard and Amur tiger, Dr. Gianetta Purchase who helped to establish a cheetah conservation project aimed at mitigating conflict between farmers and cheetahs, and Ms. Bayarjargal Agvaantseren, Executive Director and founder of the Snow Leopard Conservation Foundation (SLCF), a national conservation NGO that works closely with the Snow Leopard Trust and Panthera to implement conservation and research programs in Mongolia.

 


Make a statement this Valentines Day with a Panthera e-card.

Do you need a Valentine’s Day gift for that special someone?  This year, you can tell your loved ones how much you care, about them – and – about saving big cats - with a Panthera Valentine’s Day e-card! Personalize one or more of our ten e-cards that feature stunning photographs of endangered cats with meaningful Valentine’s Day messages, for just a minimum donation of $5 per e-card.

To make a more substantial donation to Panthera, please visit our Action Center.  100% of your donation will go directly to the field, where it matters most.


Grants

Panthera’s March 2011 grant round is now open. Applications will be accepted until March 1, 2011. For more information and to apply, visit http://www.panthera.org/grants‑and‑prizes.