The Felid TAG supports a wide range of felid conservation and research projects around the globe. The Felid TAG’s main purpose is to provide a genetically diverse breeding captive population of a number of threatened and endangered species of cats to educate visitors about their wild counterparts and also possibly one day be reintroduced into the wild. On top of this, Felid TAG and its member zoos provide funds, personnel and direction to in situ and ex situ conservation and research projects.
In Situ Felid Conservation and Research projects:
Cats play an important role as predators in the wild, helping to regulate populations of prey species and their impact on the environment. Predators require large spaces that support a healthy prey population. By helping to conserve felid species, zoos are also contributing to the support of entire ecosystems and many other wildlife species.
There are many challenges to the conservation of wild cats. As the human population grows, wild spaces become smaller and more fragmented, increasing the potential for conflict and competition between people and predators. The black market trade in felid skins, bones and other body parts poses another major threat. The ever-changing political environment in range countries makes establishing and enforcing legislation protecting wild cats and their habitats even more difficult.
The first step towards conserving a species in the wild is assessing its status and its situation. Studying and protecting cats in the wild can be a tricky business. Just finding the cats in the first place can be a challenge! Many cat species avoid humans, are most active at night, have large home ranges and live in terrain that is difficult to traverse. Tracking and studying even one cat can be a challenge, much less an entire population. Modern technology, including radio-tracking and camera trapping, has proven to be extremely useful in conducting field research.
Conserving wildlife involves working with people just as much, if not more than, working with the animals, and often includes:
For a detailed list of all of the conservation organizations and research projects with which Felid TAG member zoos work, visit http://felidtag.columbuszoo.org/ Just a few of these projects are highlighted below:
Map of world with key to show where the following projects take place. Select the corresponding tab number to read a brief description of the project, photo and link to website
The Lion Species Survival Plan (SSP) established the Lion Conservation Campaign to connect both zoos as organizations and individual people with conservation organizations working in Africa to protect and promote wild lions. The campaign focuses on six projects and allows people to donate directly from the website. One of their featured projects is the Ruaha Carnivore Project (RCP) (https://www.ruahacarnivoreproject.com/). RCP works with local villages in Tanzania around Ruaha National Park. This area of Africa holds the second largest African lion population in the world, along with significant populations of other carnivores like cheetahs and wild dogs. RCP works with local villagers to protect people and livestock from predator attacks and provide benefits in return for protecting predators.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) (https://cheetah.org/) works in Namibia, Kenya, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Iran, and Algeria. CCF funds research projects on cheetahs throughout their wild range and educates the local farmers on agricultural and land management practices. CCF is best known for its efforts in breeding and training Anatolian Shepherd dogs to guard livestock from predators. These dogs live with livestock herds, scaring away predators, thus protecting the predators from retaliation from local farmers.
The Tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP) (http://support.mnzoo.org/tigercampaign/) created the Tiger Conservation Campaign, to highlight conservation projects for each of the three subspecies of tiger bred in AZA zoos (Amur tiger, Malayan tiger and Sumatran tiger). Funds are distributed to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which organizes these conservation projects. In Malaysia, for example, WCS lobbies for stronger laws against poaching and educates and supports rangers that patrol tiger conservation areas. WCS also educates the local population and works with the local media, government officials and schools to secure support for tiger conservation.
The Clouded Leopard Project (CLP) (http://cloudedleopard.org/) works to raise awareness about clouded leopards around the globe. CLP provides an informational website and printed education materials, and sponsors workshops in range countries. CLP also provides funding for researchers studying clouded leopards in Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra, Vietnam, Taiwan, India, and Nepal, as well as for zoo-based research in the United States.
The small population of ocelots that exists in southern Texas is dwindling due to isolation from the Mexican population of ocelots and reduced habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (https://fws.gov/) works with the Ocelot Species Survival Plan, zoos and conservation organizations in Texas and Mexico to plan for the recovery of this population. The plan includes translocating ocelots from Mexico to Texas to boost the genetic diversity and health of the Texas population, while also improving habitat and implementing wildlife road crossings. For more information, visit https://www.fws.gov/southwest/es/Documents/R2ES/Plan%20for%20Translocation%20of%20Northern%20Ocelots%20in%20Texas%20and%20Tamaulipas.pdf