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Cat Defender

Exposing the Lies and Crimes of Bird Advocates, Wildlife Biologists, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Exterminators, Vivisectors, the Scientific Community, Fur Traffickers, Cloners, Breeders, Designer Pet Purveyors, Hoarders, Motorists, the United States Military, and Other Ailurophobes

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Chinese Mountain Cats Are Under Assault from Fur Traffickers, Farmers, Global Warming, and Wildlife Officials

"If our only legacy is a dead planet, what does that say about us as a species?"
-- Samuel Turvey, Zoological Society of London

The reclusive Chinese Mountain Cat was photographed for the first time in the wild back in July by the Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) of Los Altos, California. Responding to eyewitness sightings near the rural Sichuan village of Rongrah, the WCN set up heat-activated remote cameras at an elevation of 3,750 meters on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and was rewarded with eight images of the cats. (See photos above and below.)

"These pictures will call attention to one of the rarest and most beautiful small cats," the WCN's Jim Sanderson told National Geographic on August 30th. (See "Rare Chinese Cat Captured on Film.") "Until now even cat specialists had only seen this animal as skins or in less than perfect shape in zoos."

Felis bieti are stocky cats that weigh between ten and twenty pounds and measure three to four feet in length. They have thick fur that is pale-gray in the winter and dark-brown in the summer. Their short tails are characterized by five or six dark rings with black tips while their ears have small tufts.

These solitary animals live in burrows and are found in the provinces of Tibet, Qinghai, and Gansu as well as in Sichuan. Hunting primarily by night, they subsist upon a diet of pikas, voles, and pheasants.

They breed once a year between January and March with between two and four kittens arriving in May. The offspring remain with their mothers for the first seven or eight months of their lives before striking out on their own. Their life expectancy is between ten and twelve years.

Although the cats are believed to have been around for millions of years, a recent DNA analysis conducted by the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland concluded that they are one of five subspecies of Felis silvestris. If that is indeed the case, their scientific name will likely have to be changed to Felis silvestris bieti.

The other four clades are the European Wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), the Central Asian Wildcat (Felis silvestris ornata), the Sub-Saharan African Wildcat (Felis silvestris cafra), and the Middle Eastern Wildcat (Felis silvestris lybica). All domesticated cats, ferals and strays included, are descended from the Middle Eastern subspecies which is believed to have split from the other branches of Felis silvestris around one-hundred-thirty-one-thousand years ago. (See New Scientist, June 28, 2007, "DNA Shows Domestic Cat Had Origins in Near East.")

Even though Chinese Mountain Cats are officially listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), nobody knows how many of them remain in the wild or even the health of the species. There are also a few of them imprisoned in zoos. (See photo below of one of them at a zoo in Beijing.)

Compounding matters further, nothing is being done to save the cats. "Pandas go for a million dollars a year to rent and are very well protected by Chinese law, but there is virtually no protection for this cat," Sanderson told National Geographic in the article cited supra. "There is no interest in its conservation because it's poorly known, but now perhaps this will change."

While it is possible that WCN's photography work will elevate Felis bieti's profile amongst conservationists and Chinese officials, it is highly unlikely that this will lead to anything positive. Au contraire, the WCN's next foray into the woods will probably involve the repeated trapping and radio-collaring of the cats so that it can turn them into research specimens.

If it is willing to squander four-years worth of work and money just to obtain eight photographs, it is surely capable of devoting considerably more resources to enslaving the cats. (See Cat Defender posts of September 21, 2007 and May 4, 2006 entitled, respectively, "FDA Is Suppressing Research That Shows Implanted Microchips Cause Cancer in Mice, Rats, and Dogs" and "Scientific Community's Use of High-Tech Surveillance Is Aimed at Subjugating, Not Saving, the Animals.")

It is not the least bit surprising that National Geographic is so willing to assist the WCN in its plot against the Chinese Mountain Cats in that it has long been an enemy of all cats. For instance, the magazine's unscrupulous Maryann Mott is infamous for her hate-filled anti-cat diatribes. (See Cat Defender post of April 15, 2005 entitled "National Geographic Trying to Exterminate Cats.")

Although she and National Geographic vociferously maintain that homeless cats have no right to live whatsoever and that all domestic cats should be imprisoned indoors, she fully supports butchering and killing both domestic and wild cats in order to create exotic breeds. (See Cat Defender post of April 23, 2007 entitled "Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers.")

The magazine's support for the WCN's remote photography project is just another gambit in its all-out war against cats. Furthermore, even if it is serious about saving certain species it will only permit them to survive on terms that it dictates.

As far as the Chinese Mountain Cats are concerned, the threats that they are facing are certainly not mysteries that require the wonders of trick photography to expose. First of all, their dense furs, which protect them from the harsh Chinese winters, are also coveted by greedy fur traffickers. Consequently, they are being killed by hunters who peddle their hides so that they can be converted into winter hats and souvenirs. (See photo below of a pelt from a Chinese Mountain Cat.)

Since the Chinese also have a taste for feline flesh and a penchant never to waste anything, the hunters are most likely marketing the cats' flesh to either connoisseurs or practitioners of folk medicine. (See Cat Defender post of February 8, 2006 entitled "Stray Cats Rounded Up in Shanghai, Butchered, and Sold as Mutton in Restaurants and on the Street.")

Despite the dictates of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and progressive legislation recently enacted by the European Union (EU), the trafficking in pelts and other body parts of endangered species continues unabated. (See Cat Defender posts of February 5, 2007 and December 15, 2005 entitled, respectively, "Fur Traffickers and Vivisectors Suspected in the Disappearance of Berlin's Katzen" and "Heather Mills Asks EU to Ban the Sale of Cat and Dog Fur; Paul McCartney Calls for Boycott of Chinese Goods and Olympics.")

Americans blow a lot of smoke about the horrors of fur trafficking but they are unwilling to do very much in order to put an end to this odious practice. (See Cat Defender post of March 1, 2007 entitled "Top Retailers and Fashion Designers Are Caught Again Selling Dog Fur but U.S. Officials Continue to Look the Other Way.")

Secondly, Chinese farmers are poisoning pikas because they eat grasses and wildflowers that they want for their livestock. This in turn not only diminishes the Mountain Cats' food supply but some of them die from ingesting poisoned pikas. (See photo below of a pika in Sequoia National Park.)

Global warming is also a serious threat to the cats. With the Chinese economy roaring along at a growth rate of almost twelve per cent a year, greenhouse gas emissions will eventually destroy the cats' habitat and kill off the pikas as well.

This is already occurring in California. On August 22nd, the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition with the state's Fish and Game Commission requesting that it invoke California's Endangered Species Act in order to save the pikas from global warming. (See Center for Biological Diversity's press release of August 22, 2007, "Global Warming Could Drive California's American Pika Extinct: Endangered Species Act Protection Sought.")

On October 1st, the Center filed a similar petition with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service requesting that pikas be granted protection from global warming under the federal Endangered Species Act. In the past, the Center has sought the same protection for polar bears, penguins, and coral reefs. (See Center for Biological Diversity's October 2, 2007 press release, "Endangered Species Act Protection Sought for American Pika: Global Warming Threatens Alpine 'Boulder Bunny'.")

Temperatures above eighty degrees Fahrenheit are lethal for Ochotona pinceps and biologists fear that the species could become extinct before the end of this century if temperatures continue to rise. Already approximately one-third of the pikas in Nevada and Oregon have gone extinct.

In addition to heat-related mortalities, global warming is, inter alia, shortening the time frame available for pikas to gather food, shrinking their habitat, disrupting the types of vegetation that they eat, and reducing the insulating snowpack. A similar impact can no doubt be expected on China's various species of pikas who are already listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.

Instead of converting all of nature into an outdoor zoo where cameras, traps, radio collars, and guns allow wildlife proponents and the scientific community to control and abuse animals at will, all money and expertise should be directed toward stopping the slaughter of Chinese Mountain Cats for their fur and the poisoning of pikas. Moreover, unless the citizens of this planet get serious about curbing greenhouse gas emissions, development, and population growth all animals, man included, are doomed.

In particular, on a remote Japanese island the Iriomote Wildcat is imperiled by developers and motorists. (See Cat Defender post of November 27, 2006 entitled "After Surviving on Its Own for at Least Two Million Years, Rare Japanese Wildcat Faces Toughest Battle Yet.")

Scottish Wildcats and ocelots in south Texas also are facing long odds in their battles to ward off extinction. (See Cat Defender posts of June 25, 2007 and July 26, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Scottish Wildcat Born in Captivity May Hold the Key to Saving Critically Endangered Species from Extinction" and "Tottering on the Brink of Extinction, Texas Ocelots Must Overcome a Myriad of Obstacles If They Are Going to Survive.")

Commenting upon the reported extinction of the Yangtze River Dolphin (Baiji), Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London poignantly asked The Independent on August 9th, "If our only legacy is a dead planet, what does that say about us as a species?" (See "The Big Question: Should We Worry About Extinctions or Are They Just Part of Evolution?")

Survival is certainly of paramount importance, but both man and the animals are entitled to their freedom and dignity as well. Unfortunately, these are the very rights that the scientific community and wildlife proponents are determined to usurp even as they preach the gospel of conservation.

Photos: Jim Sanderson, Yin Yufeng, Drubgyal, and Aheu (Chinese Mountain Cats) and Justin Johnsen (sic) of Wikipedia (California pika).