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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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cuddles Saves a Saskatchewan Family from a Blaze in a Faulty Fireplace That Destroys Their Home

"Who hath a better friend than a cat?"
-- William Hardwin

Twelve-year-old Jennifer Powder was busy pecking away on her PC at around 11:30 p.m. on October 12th when the family cat, Cuddles, inexplicably started raising a ruckus.

In particular, the normally sedate four-year-old multicolored tabby was growling and meowing while simultaneously staring intently at the fireplace. Soon thereafter a crackling noise was heard, the lights dimmed, and black smoke started billowing out of the flue. The house was on fire.

Jennifer quickly alerted her parents and brother, who were preparing to retire for the evening, and together they and Cuddles filed safely out of their East Hill home in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

The stubborn blaze, which took nine firefighters two hours in order to subdue, quickly consumed the attic, rumpus room, and a good portion of the roof. An estimated $40,000 worth of damage was done to the house and the Powders were forced to temporarily bunk with relatives.

Cuddles, who as raised by the Powders from a kitten, is described by Jennifer as a wonderful cat. (See photo above of the happy duo.) "I love my cat," she told The Prince Albert Daily Herald on October 15th. (See "Cat Alerts Family to Fire.")

The heroic actions of Cuddles, Bacon in Ottawa, and Winnie in New Castle have again demonstrated the sagacity of William Hardwin who once asked, "Who has a better friend than a cat?" (See Cat Defender posts of October 31, 2007 and April 23, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Bacon Shows His Appreciation and Love for His Rescuer by Awakening Her from a Burning Apartment" and "Winnie Saves Indiana Family of Three from Dying of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.")

Photo: Karen Longwell of The Prince Albert Daily Herald.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lovable Ollie Finds a Home at Manchester International Airport After Workers and Vendors Come to His Aid

"Air crews give him a feed early in the morning and staff from the airport and its service partners look after him throughout the day. He's a big talking point around here. Everybody likes him."
-- Bob Molloy

No one is quite certain where Ollie came from before he arrived at Manchester International Airport. He could have gotten lost in transit, wandered in on his own, or been cruelly dumped there by a traveler unwilling to continue to care for him.

When he was first spotted by workers at the facility he was scraggly-looking and had lost most of his left ear in either some sort of fracas or accident. The officials could have taken the easy way out by calling in Animal Control which would have promptly trapped and killed the ginger tomcat. (See photos above and below.)

Instead they fell in love with him and decided to care for him. Now, he has all the food and water that he needs and even a cat box in which to sleep that has been appendaged to the side of the administrative office in Olympia House.

"Air crews give him a feed early in the morning and staff from the airport and its service partners look after him throughout the day," Bob Molloy of Olympia House told the Manchester Evening News on November 20th. (See "World Fame for Airport Cat.") "He's a big talking point around here. Everybody likes him."

Molloy's coworker, Hazel Williams concurs. "He's a very special cat and a lucky one, too." Retailer Jane Barber, who brings him biscuits, describes him simply as a "lovable cat."

He is in fact so popular that a sandwich delivery man even feeds him and workers come in on their days off in order to ensure that he has food and water. Thanks to having his own page of Facebook, he also receives food parcels from as far away as Paris, New York, and Chicago.

Manchester International's kind and considerate care of Ollie stands in stark contrast to JFK's ongoing roundup and systematic slaughter of its cats. (See Cat Defender post of November 5, 2007 entitled "Port Authority Gives JFK's Long-Term Resident Felines the Boot and Rescue Groups Are Too Impotent to Save Them.")

It is conceivable that officials at Angleterre's fourth busiest airport would be considerably less sympathetic if they, like JFK, were dealing with dozens of homeless cats as opposed to only Ollie; nonetheless, the Port Authority's (PA) failure to recognize the inalienable right of all cats to go on living is inexcusable. Humane solution are readily available but the brutes at the PA are only interested in killing cats.

Named in honor of Olympia House, Ollie has enriched the lives of everyone who works at the airport and that is a sentiment that is without doubt shared by the caretakers of JFK's cats. Regrettably, the PA has instituted a feeding ban on those cats remaining at the Queens facility and is threatening to have violators prosecuted. (See Queens Chronicle, November 21, 2007, "Rallying Animal Activists: Change Cat Policy at JFK!")

Photos: Manchester Evening News.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mime Eschews Her Owner's Chinese Fare in Order to Dine with the Queen's Corgis at Windsor Castle

"Mime's part of the furniture. Everyone looks forward to her visits."
-- Windsor Castle spokesperson

Most cats would be delighted to dine on Chinese food but not Mime. She instead prefers the fare served up at Windsor Castle.

Every day the black and white moggy strolls fifty yards or so across the cobblestones that separate the Chinese restaurant where she lives from Queen Elizabeth II's medieval digs in order to have lunch alongside the royal corgis at the queen's apartments. (See photos above and below.)

"She won't eat any of our leftovers," Mime's sixty-nine-year-old owner, Kevin Lam, told The Sun on November 17th. (See "Meet the Royal Cat Burglar.") "She's been going for about four years."

At first, her presence was resented by the dogs but after a considerable amount of barking and hissing an uneasy truce was agreed upon by both sides and it appears to be holding. The Sun woefully neglects to inform its readers what she is fed but it obviously suits her refined palate far better than Lam's leftovers.

Perhaps even more astonishing than her grudging acceptance by the corgis is the manner in which her presence is tolerated by officials at the castle. "Mime's part of the furniture," a spokesperson told The Sun. "Everyone looks forward to her visits."

This could be because the queen seldom stays at her Berkshire retreat. In addition to her extensive foreign travels, she also has residences at Buckingham Palace in London, Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Sandringham House in Norfolk, and Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. That is just as well since she is known to prefer dogs and horses to cats.

Even on occasions when the guards lock the Henry VIII gates, such as on the celebration of the Queen's birthday each June, they obligingly unlock them for Mime. Once she has had her repast she leisurely strolls back to the restaurant where she promptly goes to sleep by the fire.

Of course, it is nothing new for cats to hobnob with the high and mighty. Not only have they been doing it for thousands of years but in ancient Egypt they were even worshiped as gods.

Some of their detractors attribute what they perceive to be a haughty attitude to the divine treatment that they have received in the past. This is most likely an incorrect assumption, however.

Cats are far too egalitarian to care on whit about either royalty or gods. Mime's conduct is more likely explained by an old English proverb which maintains that "in a cat's eye, all things belong to cats."

To put it succinctly, Mime simply does not see any good reason why all of that high-brow royal chow should go, well, to the dogs.

Photos: The Sun.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tizer Lands a Job Working for the Police After Ending Up at a Shelter Following the Death of His Previous Owner

"PC Tizer is an essential member of the team. Since we got him we haven't seen any mice in the building. He doesn't catch them, but he must be scaring them away. Prior to his arrival we were spending a fortune on pest control and it wasn't really working."
-- Inspector Roy Sloane

Thirteen-year-old Tizer had had a good life until his world was turned upside down with the sudden death of his guardian back in August. He then wound up in a cage at a north London shelter operated by Cats Protection.

He very well could have remained there indefinitely were it not for the fact that mice had pretty much taken over the rail station at King's Cross. Consequently, when Inspector Roy Sloane of the British Transportation Police visited the shelter in September he selected Tizer to become the station's head mouser.

The cat has since been made an honorary constable and works out of Sloane's office. He also has unfettered access to all areas of the three-story building, including the debriefing room, mess hall, and reception area.

"PC Tizer is an essential member of the team. Since we got him we haven't seen any mice in the building. He doesn't catch them, but he must be scaring them away," Sloane told the Islington Gazette on October 17th. (See "Rodents Beware...Tizer's on Paw-Trol!") "Prior to his arrival we were spending a fortune on pest control and it wasn't really working."

Sloane's admission just goes to show how valuable cats still are today in keeping the rodent population in check. In spite of their exorbitant costs and the deadly poisons at their disposal, pest control companies are not always up to the job.

Back in the 1990s, officials at 10 Downing Street were praising John Major's cat, Humphrey, for his prowess at catching mice while they were simultaneously excoriating Rentokill for never catching anything. (See Cat Defender post of April 6, 2006 entitled "Humphrey, the Cat from 10 Downing Street Who Once 'Read' His Own Obituary, Passes Away at 18.")

By hiring PC Tizer, Sloane and his colleagues got more than a mouser, however, Since his arrival, the cat has also helped to boost morale as well as to reduce stress. (See photo above of Tizer and Sloane.)

"Everyone is always asking after him, and he is probably the most popular member of staff," Sloane told the BBC on November 16th. (See "Cat Recruited to Patrol Station.")

PC Tizer is a natural for the job in that he is both friendly and energetic. "He loves being around people, and likes nothing more than playing fetch with his toy spider," Alex Davies of Cats Protection told the BBC in the article cited supra.

"He has charmed the socks off all the officers," he added for the Islington Gazette. "Roy has overall responsibility for him, but he is spoilt rotten by the officers. He shares Roy's office, so he has got rather a senior position within the station."

The idea of a cat working for the police does, admittedly, take a bit of getting used to for some ailurophiles. Most cats come from the other side of the tracks and therefore make much better free-spirited rogues than they do establishment types. Darby Conley's Bucky Katt, Peter Gallagher's Heathcliff, and Booth Tarkington's Gipsy from out of the pages of Penrod and Sam are but three examples that readily come to mind.

It is not unusual, however, for cats to melt the hearts of even the most jaded cops. For instance, officers of a Philadelphia station house were left heartbroken back in May when their beloved Corporal Cuffs disappeared. (See Cat Defender post of May 29, 2007 entitled "Corporal Cuffs, Beloved Station House Mascot, Is Abducted Right Under Cops' Noses.")

Many individuals associate the bald eagle with freedom but the true standard bearer for freedom, individuality, and nonconformity has always been the cat. As long as they are revered for the exquisite and valuable creatures that they are and their freedom of movement is not impinged upon, there will always be a measure of hope that freedom and equality will live on in the hearts of at least some men and women.

Finally, the unexpected death of Tizer's previous owner calls attention to the pressing need for all animal caretakers to make provisions for their charges' continued care after they are either dead or become incapacitated in some unforeseen fashion. This could include something as simple as asking a family member to assume responsibility for a pet or the drafting of elaborate legal arrangements.

Regardless of whatever choices are made, the important thing to bear in mind is that life continues for cats and dogs long after their owners are gone and no loving caretaker wants to see his or her lifelong companion end up in a shelter. Tizer landed on his four paws and now has a new life but most cats and dogs are not nearly as fortunate.

Photo: Islington Gazette.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bird Lovers All Over the World Rejoice as Serial Killer James M. Stevenson Is Rewarded by a Galveston Court for Gunning Down Hundreds of Cats

"If I think it's better for the cat and better for the birds I'll do anything necessary to protect wild birds."
-- James M. Stevenson

Bird lovers all over the world are still whooping it up following serial cat killer James M. Stevenson's great victory last Friday afternoon in a Galveston courtroom. Even the usually dour cat-hating monster found it difficult to contain his elation as he strutted out of court all the while laughing up his blood-soaked sleeve at the travesty of the American judicial system. (See photo above.)

After deliberating a scant eight and one-half hours over two days, a panel comprised of eight women and four men told Judge Frank T. Carmona that they were hopelessly deadlocked and he then declared a mistrial. Although the sadistic killer needed only one bird lover or ailurophobe to vote in his favor in order to produce a hung jury, in this instance he got four.

Following the announcement of the verdict, Alley Cat Allies called upon the prosecution to retry the case. "We are frustrated that justice was not served today, but we are confident the prosecutor will make the right decision to retry the case," Wendy Anderson said in a November 16th press release. "Intentionally shooting a cat is cruelty. While a mistrial is disappointing, it is not unusual and it does not mean the defendant is innocent of this crime."

Her confidence in the prosecution proved to be short-lived, however, as First Assistant District Attorney Joel Bennett soon thereafter announced that the case would not be retried. "We have gathered all the evidence that is there to be gathered, and a jury that heard all this evidence could not reach a unanimous verdict," he told the Galveston County Daily News on November 17th. (See "Mistrial Declared in Cat-Shooting Case.") "There is no reason to suspect another jury would be able to do so, and we're considering the matter closed."

Bennett's spurious reasoning was wholeheartedly endorsed by Heber Taylor in a November 20th editorial for the Galveston County Daily News. (See "DA Was Right to Call Off Cat-Killing Case.") Surprisingly, neither Bennett nor Taylor uttered one word of concern about justice not being served, the preservation of the integrity of the judicial system, or the horrible murder of the cat.

It is highly unlikely, however, that either the prosecution or the moneybags media would have been quite so willing to drop the matter if the victim had been either an adult or a child. For example, Phil Spector is being retried after the jury in his murder trial deadlocked ten to two in favor of conviction.

Usually, prosecutors pull out all the stops in order to bring the guilty to justice; journalists, on the other hand, react as their prejudices and financial interests dictate. In reality, neither party really cares how many cats are brutally murdered.

The case began on November 8, 2006 when Stevenson, a former schoolteacher from Tallahassee, used a .22 rifle equipped with a scope to pump a hollow-point bullet into a gray and white pregnant cat known as Mama Cat. The bullet severed the cat's spine and she lived on in excruciating pain for another forty minutes before asphyxiating on her own blood, according to the testimony of Galveston police officer John P. Bertolino Sr.

Dum-dum bullets have hollowed-out tips that cause then to mushroom upon impact; consequently, they destroy a considerable amount of surrounding tissues and prolong death instead of killing instantly. (See photo below of a trio of spent hollow-point bullets fired from a .22 rifle measured alongside a fresh round.)

Stevenson, of course, selected this type of shells with the intent of inflicting as much pain as possible upon the defenseless cat. Although the use of them has been banned in war ever since the Hague Convention of 1899, they are commonly used by both policemen and civilians.

Compounding matters further, Mama Cat already walked with a limp as the result of another gunshot wound inflicted earlier by Stevenson. In spite of that, Stevenson has maintained all along that he shot the crippled cat because it was killing birds. As any fool knows, it is extremely difficult for even a healthy cat, let alone a handicapped one, to catch a bird on an open beach.

Stevenson gunned down Mama Cat from the deck of the San Luis Pass Toll Bridge and then fled in his truck like the coward that he is when toll collector John Newland ordered him to stop shooting. Newland then gave chase in his own vehicle and was eventually able to catch up with the killer.

Stevenson then rammed Newland's vehicle and fled on foot but was apprehended by Bertolino. He then spent one night in the can before being released the next day on a $10,000 bond.

Specifically, he was charged with only killing Mama Cat and even if he had been convicted the severest sentence that he was eligible for under Texas's draconian animal protection statutes was two years in jail and a minuscule fine of $10,000. Since his victim has pregnant, at the very least he should have been tried on multiple counts of animal cruelty just as individuals who murder pregnant women are charged.

Since the average cat litter is six, he should have been charged and convicted of seven counts of animal cruelty. That would have sent this fiend away for fourteen-years and cost him and his fellow bird-loving homicidal maniacs $70,000. The entire world then would have been treated to the spectacle of moneygrubbing bird lovers crying a river at the loss of their precious shekels.

Stevenson's murder of Mama Cat was merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg. During the first week of November of 2006 he gunned down four cats at the bridge on top of the six others that he had shot earlier in the year.

In fact, the number of cats that he has shot with his .22 rifle most likely numbers in the hundreds. In a January 21, 1999 post on a website maintained by the University of Houston (listserv.uh.edu), he confessed to having killed hundreds of cats.

"... I sighted my .22 rifle and killed about two-dozen cats in about the first year," he bragged. At that rate he may have killed as many as two-hundred-forty cats during the past decade.

Some of Stevenson's victims, particularly those that he shot near his property, were sans doute domestic cats. It is truly amazing that cat owners never complained about his killing spree and that he was not arrested and brought to justice years ago.

Of course, Texas still considers itself to be part of the wild, wild West and the protection of animals has never been a priority. (See Cat Defender post of October 27, 2006 entitled "Tiny Kitten Named Zoe Has Her Ears Cut Off by Fiends but Texas Police Do Not Seem to Care.")

Moreover, it is unlikely that he has limited his homicidal tendencies to firearms. Being such an inveterate cat hater, it is likely that he has poisoned countless others as well as trapped and nefariously disposed of God only known how many more. (See Cat Defender post of November 22, 2006 entitled "Evil Galveston Bird Lover Is Finally Arrested After Having Gunned Down Hundreds of Cats.")

He kills cats on the beach. He kill cats that venture near his house. In short, he kills every cat that he comes across if he thinks that he can get away with doing so. All the while that he is engaging in this criminal behavior he is cowering behind the cloak of protecting birds.

Unfortunately for cat lovers, he is not only a sadistic killer but blessed with the luck of the devil himself. His first big break came when he was charged with killing only one cat when in fact he has killed hundreds. His second break came when he was indicted under a Texas law that only outlaws the killing of cats that have owners.

Apparently it was not illegal to shoot feral cats in Texas at the time of Mama Cat's murder. That law has since been amended but Stevenson had to be tried under the old statute.

It is conceivable that the old law conflicted with anti-cruelty legislation already on the books but for some unexplained reason the prosecution chose not to pursue that avenue of attack. For instance, it is difficult to understand how repeatedly shooting the same cat with hollow-point bullets would not be considered to be cruel and inhumane by any legal yardstick. Nonetheless, the prosecution chose to take the much more difficult route of proving that Mama Cat was Newland's cat.

Although Newland and co-worker Howard Etzel provide food, water, bedding, and toys for the cats as well as inter the ones that Stevenson guns down, the killer's shyster, Tad Nelson, argued that those acts of kindness do not constitute ownership. "He (Newland) loves the cats. He doesn't own the cats," he is quoted by the Associated Press on November 15th as telling the court. (See "Jury Gets Case of Birder Who Shot Cat.")

Veterinarian Timothy Harkness, who performed the necropsy on Mama Cat, disagreed. Since she had commercial cat food in her stomach and a higher degree of muscle and fat on her body than most feral cats, he testified in court that he would classify her as a domestic cat.

The fact that Newland chased down and apprehended Stevenson demonstrates ipso facto a strong proprietary interest in Mama Cat. Her death also has caused him extreme pain. "He was very upset; he was crying, actually," Bertolino testified at trial. (See Houston Chronicle, November 14, 2007, "Bird Expert Thought He Was Shooting Feral Cat, Attorney Says.")

"I can't talk about it. I'm almost afraid to get them too tame because they trust people and people like this morning come out here and shoot them," Newland told KHOU-TV in Houston on the day of Mama Cat's murder. (See "Prominent Bird Expert Charged With Shooting Cat.") "They're just like family. I told my wife that when I die, I want my ashes to be buried here under the bridge so I can protect the cats."

Perhaps more importantly, there are many municipal statutes which state that anyone who feeds a feral cat is its de facto owner and therefore liable for getting it vaccinated and licensed. It is not clear, however, if Galveston has such a law.

Stevenson's third coup de chance occurred when Carmona instructed the jury on the third day of last week's trial that the defendant could be exonerated if he had formed a "mistaken belief" about the ownership of Mama Cat. (See photo above of the judge.) This ludicrous ruling instantaneously transformed ignorance into a justification for breaking the law.

Carmona's sottise amounts in reality to saying that under the old statute Stevenson or anyone else could have killed as many cats as they pleased, both domestic and feral, and gotten away with it by simply pleading ignorance as to the ownership of the cats.

A fourth factor that weighed heavily in Stevenson's favor was the public relations campaign that Harvey Rice and the Houston Chronicle had mounted on his behalf. (See Cat Defender post of May 1, 2007 entitled "Houston Chronicle Launches a Propaganda Offensive on Behalf of Serial Cat Killer Jim Stevenson.")

With the deck stacked so heavily against it, it is not surprising that the prosecution lost. Even if it had won, Carmona probably would have let Stevenson off the hook with probation and a minuscule fine.

Nonetheless, Stevenson and bird loves everywhere are going to take this verdict as a carte blanche vindication of their right to kill cats with impunity. Since he is such an enormously clever chap, Stevenson will now resort to either poisoning cats or trapping and dumping them in order to get around the new statute. (See photo below of one of the imperiled cats that lives near the bridge.)

When asked by KHOU-TV on November 16th if he planned on killing more cats, Stevenson tersely replied, "Get real!" (See "Prosecutor: Cat Killer Won't Be Retried.")

Nonetheless, he has never uttered one word of remorse. In fact, he told the Galveston County Daily News in the November 17th article cited supra that his only regret is that he "can't get the reporters to stop calling."

The fact that he is not about to mend his cat-killing ways was made perfectly clear in an interview that he gave to KVUE-TV of Austin following his arrest last year. When asked if he would continue to kill cats in order to protect birds he replied, "If I think it's better for the cat and better for the birds I'll do anything necessary to protect wild birds." (See video entitled "Birder Faces Jail Time for Killing Cats.")

What he is actually saying is that he will do anything in order to protect his financial interests. His buddies within the capitalist media generously portray him as a concerned birder but in addition to providing him with a cover for his criminal activities, the birds also are his gravy train.

For example, he not only makes money off of a bed and breakfast that he operates but he also conducts bird-watching tours. Since an estimated half a million birders flock to Galveston each year, his cut of the bird-watching pie is substantial.

This petit fait alone highlights one of the major differences that separate cat lovers from bird advocates. Whereas Stevenson and his minions look upon their feathered friends as cash cows, cat lovers have never made a solitary shekel off of their charges. In fact, caring for cats is expensive. The food, shelter, veterinary care, sterilization, and licenses that they require do not come cheap.

Bird lovers won this round but in doing so they have exposed their lawless natures for all to see. Not one bird lover or bird advocacy group has condemned Stevenson's killing spree. In fact, most of them have voiced their full support for his actions. Additionally, many of them have made financial contributions to his defense.

This case should disabuse all cat lovers of any lingering illusions that they might harbor of ever being able to peacefully coexist with bird lovers. That is not possible. A war is coming and cat lovers must prepare for it.

Above all, it is unrealistic to expect any leadership on this issue from well-known cat advocacy groups and individuals. Alley Cat Allies, Nathan Winograd, and others prefer to bury their heads in the sand like ostriches and pretend that bird lovers and wildlife proponents are not hellbent upon eradicating all cats. Perhaps someday they will come to the realization that cat advocacy involves more than issuing press releases and going on book tours.

In addition to being total frauds, bird lovers are criminals and must be dealt with as such. Since the law enforcement community and the courts are unwilling to safeguard the lives of cats, this responsibility falls by default to the owners of domestic cats and the caretakers of those that are feral.

Providing food and shelter is no longer sufficient. Cat lovers must now take it upon themselves to dig a little bit deeper in their pockets and provide armed security for feral cat colonies.

This situation need not have reached this juncture. The court in Galveston was presented with a golden opportunity to issue a clear and unmistakable ruling that individuals and groups who take the law into their own hands will be swiftly punished but it declined to do so. Instead its ruling, devoid of both justice and common sense, breeds only contempt for the law that it is charged with upholding.

Photos: Jennifer Reynolds of the Galveston County Daily News (Stevenson), Wikipedia (hollow-point bullets), Washington Post (Carmona), and Chad Greene of the Galveston County Daily News (San Luis Pass Toll Bridge cat).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Fletcher, One of the Cats Abducted from Bramley Crescent, Is Killed by a Motorist in Corhampton

"It makes me really angry at what has happened."
-- Kelly Went

Fletcher is dead. Kelly Went's two-year-old ginger tom was found dead last week on the doorstep of a house in Corhampton. It is believed that he was killed by a motorist. (See photos above and below.)

Fletcher was one of at least eight cats that disappeared during September and October from Bramley Crescent in the Sholing district of Southampton. The fate of the other seven cats remains unknown.

In an anonymous epistle sent to the Southern Daily Echo last month, a bird lover confessed to having trapped six of the missing cats and then dumping them twenty-five miles away. The writer maintained that he or she was justified in doing so because the cats were killing birds and digging up gardens. (See Cat Defender post of October 30, 2007 entitled "Crafty Bird Lover Claims Responsibility for Stealing Six Cats from a Southampton Neighborhood and Concealing Their Whereabouts.")

Fletcher's death is particularly heartbreaking for the twenty-nine-year-old Went. After weeks of putting up posters and passing out fliers without any success, she had been buoyed in recent weeks by several reported sightings of Fletcher in a field in Corhampton. Unfortunately, all attempts to corral him failed.

Went, who collected Fletcher and buried him in her back yard, is justifiably perturbed at the way she and her cat have been treated. "It makes me really angry at what has happened," she told the Southern Daily Echo on November 10th. (See "Heartbreak as Catnapped Fletcher Is Found Dead.")

To make matters worse, her nine-year-old black cat, Spoon, who is believed to have been stolen by the bird-loving psychopath, is still missing. Went has not, however, given up looking for him.

"I shall be putting up posters in the Corhampton area in the hope he might be recognized," she told the Southern Daily Echo.

When the catnappings first became public, Inspector Andrew Timms of the Hampshire Constabulary promised prompt action but apparently little or nothing has been done to either locate the missing cats or to bring the perpetrator to justice. Instead, Went and the other aggrieved cat owners have been left to search for their cats on their own.

The letter sent to the local rag contained several tidbits of incriminating information that should have been sufficient for the peelers to have made an arrest by now if they were interested in cracking the case. More importantly, the fact that Fletcher was found only fourteen miles from his home tends to lend credence to the abductor's claims.

The truly sad part of this story is that Fletcher might still be alive today if the police had given Went the assistance that she so desperately needed and deserved. Worst still, more cats will surely die while they sit on their hands goofing off and doing nothing.

Contrary to what cops all over the world believe, there is more to wearing a badge and carrying a gun than taking bribes and beating up on minorities and the poor. Marked indifference to the crimes perpetrated against animals and Mother Earth are two additional black marks against the so-called law enforcement community.

Photos: Daily Mail.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Simon, Hero of the Yangtze Incident, Is Remembered with a Wreath-Laying Ceremony in Ilford

"Simon's company and expertise as a rat catcher were invaluable during the months we were held captive. During that terrifying time, he helped boost the morale of many young sailors, some of whom had seen their friends killed. Simon is still remembered with great affection."
-- Stewart Hett, Lieutenant Commander, HMS Amethyst

Courageous little Simon has been dead for fifty-eight years but his memory lives on in the hearts and minds of his shipmates from the HMS Amethyst. Most poignantly, Royal Naval officers gathered at his grave in Ilford, Essex, on November 1st for a wreath-laying ceremony.

On April 20, 1949, the HMS Amethyst was on its way down the Yangtze from Shanghai in order to relieve the HMS Consort, which was guarding the English Embassy in Nanjing, when it came under sustained attack from the People's Liberation Army (PLA). The sloop, which sustained more than fifty hits from the rebels battling Chiang Kai-shek's Guomindang for supremacy on the mainland, finally ran aground on Rose Island with twenty-two dead sailors and another thirty-one wounded.

The Amethyst remained under PLA guard for one-hundred-one days until it slipped its anchor on July 30th and made a daring one-hundred-four-mile nighttime dash down the Yangtze in the wake of the merchant vessel, Kiang Ling Liberation. Three prior rescue attempts had cost the lives of an additional twenty-four English sailors.

Since Mao's boys had attempted to starve out the crew, food was not only always in scarce supply but constantly under attack from hordes of mice and rats. Luckily for the sailors, Simon was on board.

Although wounded by shrapnel and singed, he nonetheless kept the ship's stores of dwindling food safe from rodents and helped to sustain morale among the sailors during the long siege.

"Simon's company and expertise as a rat catcher were invaluable during the months we were held captive," eighty-one-year-old Lieutenant Commander Stewart Hett of the HMS Amethyst, who had the honor of laying the wreath at Simon's grave, told the Daily Telegraph on November 1st. (See "Navy Cat Honored by Crew It Helped to Save.") "During that terrifying time, he helped boost the morale of many young sailors, some of whom had seen their friends killed. Simon is still remembered with great affection." (See photo above of Hett at Simon's grave.)

Marilyn Rydstroem of the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA), a veterinary charity that operates the cemetery where Simon is buried, told the Telegraph, "There is no doubt that Simon was special to the crew of the HMS Amethyst." (See photos above and below of him with the sailors.)

She went on to state, "The fact his name and story live on helps ensure that the men who sadly lost their lives in the incident are also not forgotten. The power of animals to sustain morale in times of conflict can never be underestimated."

By the time the HMS Amethyst made it back to Portsmouth on November 1, 1949, the black and white cat was already such a big hero that Hett was assigned to reply to the hundreds of letters that he had received. (See photo below of him and his paw print on what looks to be a postcard.) Malheureusement, the story did not end happily for the brave little cat.

Instead of being given the hero's welcome that the so richly deserved, Simon was whisked away from his shipmates and placed in quarantine where he died a few weeks later. Although the official cause of death was said to have been complications resulting from his wartime injuries, his shipmates instinctively knew that he had died of a broken heart.

There probably is not anything more idiotic than quarantine rules which mandate that animals entering a country must be confiscated from their guardians and placed in solitary confinement for a month. People spread all sorts of deadly diseases and they are never quarantined unless it is known beforehand that they are contagious.

Cats, dogs, and other companion animals are instead adjudicated guilty of being germ carriers without a scintilla of evidence to support such claims. Besides, thirty days is a ridiculously long time to quarantine an animal.

On a practical level, animals are far more likely to become ill in quarantine than almost anywhere else. Nonetheless, that was the thanks Simon received in return for his stellar service to both king and country.

The English have, however, attempted to atone for their ingratitude and cruelty. Upon his death, Simon was buried with full military honors. Later, he was awarded the Dickin Medal, the equivalent of the Victoria Cross, by PDSA.

The medal is named in memory of Maria Dickin, an animal welfare pioneer, who founded PDSA in 1917. In addition to Simon, who is the only cat to have been so honored, twenty-six dogs, three horses, and thirty-two messenger pigeons have been recognized.

Although modern telecommunications have made their services superfluous, pigeons have been used in warfare ever since ancient times. Although today they are denigrated as pests and often find themselves on the receiving end of eradication campaigns, no animal has been honored as often for its service to mankind as the lowly pigeon. (See Andrew D. Blechman's 2006 book entitled Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird.")

At its cemetery in Ilford, PDSA provides a final resting place for three-thousand animals, including a dozen Dickin Medal award winners. Perhaps even more important, it spends around $74 million each year treating an average of four-thousand-six-hundred-fifty animals each day. With two-hundred-thirty fully qualified veterinarians and two-hundred-fifty-seven nurses it is the largest private veterinary operation in Europe.

Fans of old-time radio will remember the Amethyst from an October 22, 1951 episode of Suspense entitled "Log of the Marne." In 1957, a movie was also released about the Yangtze Incident that, incidentally, featured the sloop itself. It was variously titled "Yangtze Incident: The Story of HMS Amethyst," "Battle Hell," "Escape of the Amethyst," and "Their Greatest Story."

Ironically, a special effects explosion set off during the filming did more damage to the frigate than did the PLA and this led to its being scrapped in 1957. (See photo above.)

Photos: PDSA (Hett at Simon's grave and sailor holding cat aloft), Daily Telegraph (sailors with Simon), HMS Amethyst Archive (Simon's photo and paw print), and Wikipedia (HMS Amethyst).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Winnie Is Honored as the ASPCA's Cat of the Year for Saving Her Family from Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

"Winnie jumped on the bed and was clawing at me, with a kind of angry meow. When I woke up I felt like a T-bar had hit me across the head."
-- Cathy Keesling

A fourteen-year-old gray American Shorthair named Winnie has been named Cat of the Year by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) for saving her New Castle, Indiana family from death by carbon monoxide poisoning.

Eric and Cathy Keesling were sound asleep in their bed at around 1 a.m. on March 24th when carbon monoxide began seeping from a faulty gas pump being used to remove water from their flooded basement. As the deadly gas was being spread throughout the house via the central heating system it aroused Winnie. Jumping in bed with Cathy, she was able to rouse her dormant mistress through her persistent meowing and by clawing at her hair. (See photo above of Winnie and her family.)

By this time, Eric was unresponsive and the couple's fourteen-year-old son, Michael, was unconscious in a bedroom down the hall. (See photo on the left.) Although sickened by the noxious fumes, Cathy still had enough presence of mind in order to summon help.

Upon arrival, rescue workers fitted each of the Keeslings with oxygen masks and helped them out of their beloved home that had suddenly become a death trap. Judging by the amount of carbon monoxide poisoning present in the house, rescuers estimate that the family had less than five minutes to live before they were rescued.

"If it wasn't for Winnie screaming and hollering and carrying on, we wouldn't be here today," a thankful Cathy said at the time. (See Cat Defender post of April 23, 2007 entitled "Winnie Saves Indiana Family of Three from Dying of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning.")

"Winnie jumped up on the bed and was clawing at me, with a kind of angry meow," Cathy recalled for the Associated Press (AP) on November 1st. (See "Dog, Cat Honored for Saving Masters.") "When I woke up I felt like a T-bar had hit me across the head."

Saving her family from impending disaster is apparently old hat for Winnie who also warned the Keeslings of approaching tornadoes during the summer of 2006.

A two and one-half-year-old Golden Retriever named Toby was named the ASPCA's Dog of the Year for saving the life of his owner, Debbie Parkhurst of North East, Maryland, when she choked on an apple. (See photo on the left.)

When Debbie began to beat on her chest in a frantic effort to dislodge the piece of apple, Toby pushed her to the floor and repeatedly jumped up and down on her chest until the apple finally came free. "I couldn't breathe and I was in panic when Toby jumped on me. He never does that, but he did, and saved my life," she told the AP in the article cited supra.

It is interesting to note that both Winnie and Toby were saved from sure and certain death during their infancy by their owners. Winnie, for example, was found abandoned and motherless on a nearby farm shortly after birth by Cathy. In order that she might live, Cathy and Eric took turns feeding her milk from an eyedropper every two hours during her first few weeks of existence.

Over the years their initial act of compassion has been repaid a thousandfold. (See Cat Defender post of October 31, 2007 entitled "Bacon Shows His Appreciation and Love for His Rescuer by Awakening Her from a Burning Apartment.")

Toby was likewise rescued from a trash can when he was only four-weeks-old. He has more than repaid Debbie and her husband, Kevin, for saving his life and is now an indispensable part of the Parkhurst household.

Both Winnie and Toby were on hand November 1st when the ASPCA handed out its 2007 Humane Awards in the Rainbow Room high atop Manhattan's Rockefeller Center.

St. Louis Cardinals' skipper Tony La Russa (See photo above) was presented with the prestigious Henry Bergh Award for his exemplary work with the Animal Rescue Foundation in Walnut Creek, California. (See Cat Defender post of October 5, 2007 entitled "Rescuing Cats and Dogs Makes the Cardinals' Tony La Russa a Winner Both On and Off the Baseball Diamond.")

Also singled out for special recognition was New York City firefighter William H. Smith III who on June 24th rescued a cat and a dog from a burning building. Incredibly, that was the tenth time in his twenty-five-year career that he has been cited for bravery.

Photos: Associated Press (Winnie and her family and Toby and Parkhurst), New York Post (Winnie and Michael Keesling), and St. Louis Cardinals (La Russa).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

After Having Had His Throat and Leg Ripped Open in a Savage Assault, Little Man Needs the Public's Financial Support

"They (veterinarians) had to rebuild the area around his throat. It was an enormous amount of money."
-- Spokesperson for Dewey Animals

In a heartbreaking story currently unfolding in the central Virginia city of Gainesville, a homeless cat is fighting for his life after having had his throat and a rear leg ripped open last week by an unknown assailant. Dubbed Little Man by his caretakers at Dewey Animals in nearby Centreville, he also sustained unspecified injuries to his back. (See photo above.)

Since his discovery in a trailer park, Little Man has undergone emergency surgery on his throat, back, and a rear leg. His injuries were so severe in fact that catheters had to be inserted into both his throat and leg.

Thankfully, the brave little cat is doing somewhat better. According to a November 5th e-mail letter from Dewey Animals, the catheters have been removed and his back and leg wounds are healing. The wounds to his throat, however, will require more time and treatment.

"They (veterinarians) had to rebuild the area around his throat," a spokesperson for Dewey Animals told the Potomac News of Woodbridge on November 2nd. (See "Benefit Concert Held Saturday to Help Injured Cat.") "It was an enormous amount of money."

So far, Little Man's bill stands at $1,400. A benefit was held for him Saturday at Brother's Encore in Montclair featuring the music of, appropriately enough, Soul Kitty 6.

In order that Little Man can continue to receive the medical attention that he so desperately needs, donations are being solicited from the public. Anyone wishing to contribute to his care can send a check or money order to Dewey Animals, P.O. Box 245, Centreville, Virginia 20122-0245.

Additional information about his condition can be obtained by visiting http://members.cox.net/deweyanimals or by e-mailing the rescue group at dewey.animals@cox.net. Get well cards from individuals unable to make a financial contribution also would be much appreciated.

It is a crying shame that rescue groups are forced to badger the public for donations in order to save the lives of injured and sickly animals. Not only do veterinarians charge way too much money for their services, but it would not kill them to do a certain amount of pro bono work. After all, saving the lives of animals should mean more to them than chasing after the almighty dollar.

As to the identity of his attacker, Little Man's doctors insist that he was savaged by another tomcat, but that is unlikely. Cats tend to fight with their claws and then retreat; rarely do they ever go for the throat. Since there were no witnesses to the attack, nobody can say with any certainty what actually happened.

The assailant could have been a raccoon but they do not generally attack cats unless they first have acquired a taste for feline flesh, as so happened last year in Olympia, Washington. (See Cat Defender post of August 28, 2006 entitled "Marauding Pack of Vicious Raccoons Rip Ten House Cats to Shreds and Terrorize Residents but Wildlife Officials Refuse to Intervene.")

The more likely culprit was a fisher. They have been killing cats and attacking dogs from Maine to southern New Jersey for several years and it is entirely possible that they may have migrated into central Virginia by now. Last month, one of them killed sixty-nine turkeys at Ekonk Hill Turkey Farm in Sterling, Connecticut. (See Norwich Bulletin, October 12, 2007, "Fisher Cat Kills Sixty-Nine Turkeys on Local Farm.") In 2004, another fisher killed twenty-two turkeys on the same farm.

More telling is the fact that fishers kill their victims by ripping out their throats and that is precisely what Little Man's attacker attempted to do to him.

Fishers have been reintroduced to the Northeast by wildlife proponents not only to provide income for fur traffickers but also with the explicit purpose to kill cats. (See Cat Defender posts of August 28, 2007 and July 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "TNR Programs, Domestic Cats, Dogs, and Humans Imperiled by Wildlife Proponents' Use and Abuse of Coyotes and Fishers" and "Up to Their Old Tricks, Wildlife Officials Reintroduce Fishers to the Northeast to Prey Upon Cats and to Provide Income for Fur Traffickers.")

Photo: Potomac News.

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Port Authority Gives JFK's Long-Term Resident Felines the Boot and Rescue Groups Are Too Impotent to Save Them

"(The cats) are not near the runway at all. You'd never know they're there. They're two miles from the main terminal and they don't attract birds. I've never seen a bird there."
-- Robin Umbley, airline employee

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PA), ably assisted by the fiends at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), is currently in the process of trapping and removing around one-hundred cats from JFK Airport on Jamaica Bay in Queens, New York.

The cats, who along with their ancestors have lived at the sprawling five-thousand-acre complex for decades, are being turned over to Animal Control which is planning on killing them. "We are not going to be able to hold the cats for a long period of time," Richard Gentles, spokesperson for the killing factory, told AM New York on October 30th. (See "JFK Cats Facing Death.") "It's a pretty quick decision."

Despite New York's undisputed claim as the media capital of the world, it is difficult to find accurate and up-to-date information on the fate of the cats. All that is known with any certainty is that at least seventeen of them were trapped last week and handed over to Animal Control. (See photo above of a recently trapped kitten.)

The cats reportedly have been sterilized, vaccinated, microchipped, and then placed on death row. More than likely all of them will be killed unless the public comes forward and offers them homes.

Although this mass slaughter has only come to the attention of the slipshod capitalist media in the past ten or so days, it apparently has been going on since this past summer if not before. Neither the media nor the PA is willing to reveal how many of the cats have been killed already.

"The airport wants the cats out of there, and we think they're killing them," Berta Horvath, one of their caretakers, told The New York Times on October 26th. (See "Stray Cat Roundup at JFK Worries Rescue Groups.") "Now the police are telling us if we keep showing up, they're going to arrest us."

According to the PA's mouthpiece, Pasquale DiFulco, the cats are being given the bum's rush because food left out for them by kindhearted airline employees and rescue groups is attracting sea gulls. This in turn, he alleges, enables the gulls to fly into the engines of jets and thus endanger the lives of the forty-six-million passengers who fly in and out of JFK each year.

Those are, quite obviously, blatant lies concocted by the suits at the PA in order to justify snuffing out the lives of the cats. First of all, without the cats the rodent infestation unquestionably would be much worse. Secondly, while birds flying into departing and arriving airliners is sans doute a concern, the PA's claim that they are subsisting on cat food is absurd.

Often called the rats of the sea, gulls are resourceful hunters and scavengers that do not need leftover morsels of cat food in order to flourish. To claim otherwise is to do them an injustice.

First of all, they are quite capable of hunting fish, crabs, shellfish, and rodents along the shoreline of Jamaica Bay. Secondly, there are tons of unattended garbage at the airport for them to raid as well as handouts to be cadged from passengers and employees.

As far as food left out for the cats is concerned, the sea gulls can only get at it if they are first cognizant of its location and since the cats are fed in cargo areas that seems an unlikely scenario. (See photo above of a feeding station at Delta Airlines.) Besides, the cats' caretakers are certainly not so stupid as to put out food where it can be instantaneously gobbled up by a flock of ravenous sea gulls.

The real problem with the birds stems from the PA's initial decision to construct an airport inside the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Consequently, removing the cats is not going to make the shorebirds go away or stop them from flying into jets.

This assessment is borne out by the testimony of airline employee and former caretaker of the cats, Robin Umbley. "(The cats) are not near the runway at all," she told The New York Times on October 29th. (See "Cat People Confront Airport People.") "You'd never know they're there. They're two miles from the main terminal and they don't attract birds. I've never seen a bird there."

Compounding the despicable crimes of the PA is the petit fait that the vast majority of the cats are believed to be either pet cats or their descendants that were lost in flight by the carriers servicing JFK. This consideration alone should be sufficient motivation in and of itself to prompt any morally responsible governmental agency to grant the cats clemency. Unfortunately, fairness and compassion are not part of the vocabulary of the monsters who operate the PA.

The remainder of the cats have been dumped at the airport by travelers either too cheap to board them or unwilling to take them along with them to their next destination. Residents of nearby Howard Beach and elsewhere also have abandoned cats at the airport and a few strays conceivably may have wandered in on their own. (See photos below of two more of JFK's cats.)

To point to keep in mind is that these cats are homeless through no fault of their own. Moreover, their inalienable right to life and liberty is no less sacrosanct than that of their human counterparts.

The cats' history as well as the testimony of their caretakers and others also disproves the PA's assertion that they are feral. "Some of the guys call them and pet them," airport shuttle bus driver Narine Sriprasad told the New York Post on October 26th. (See "Fur Flies at JFK.") "They are not scared. They're friendly."

Umbley concurs. "They're basically house cats that don't have a house," she told The New York Times in the October 29th article cited supra.

Nonetheless, the PA and Animal Control are spreading the lie that the cats are feral and cannot be socialized. Thus, according to their skewed moral compasses, it is permissible to kill them.

The truth of the matter is that it is never morally correct to kill a cat, feral or domestic. Moreover, most feral cats can be socialized to one degree or another if the time and effort is taken. Obviously, Animal Control is too lazy, cheap, and bloodthirsty to make any investment in them other than jabs of sodium pentobarbital to the heart.

As this life and death drama has been unfolding the recriminations have been flying. Apparently, rescue groups have been trying to convince the PA to accept a TNR plan for the cats for about three years but have been rebuffed time and time again.

All that is known for certain, however, is that the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) earlier this year offered to trap and sterilize the cats but was turned down by the ailurophobes at the PA. (See New York Post, October 30, 2007, "ASPCA's Aid.") The PA's agenda all along has been to get rid of the cats.

As deplorable as the PA's actions are, the conduct of animal rescue groups leaves much to be desired. New York City is arguably the wealthiest town in the world and for New Yorkers to sit back and allow Animal Control to kill these defenseless cats is inexcusable.

It would not be all that difficult for the city's various rescue groups to pool their resources and save the cats from the butchers at Animal Control. Homes could be secured for some of them with the remainder either relocated to sanctuaries or released to managed colonies elsewhere. There is no reason for any of these cats to be killed!

This incident also gives the City of New York a black eye and is a huge setback in its quest to join San Francisco and other cities as a no-kill community. Gotham advertises itself as the greatest city in the world but when it comes to the way in which it treats its resident felines it is nothing but a crude backwater.

Moreover, the silence of old moneybags himself, Mike Bloomberg, is deafening. The mayor has obviously forgotten that Dante reserved the hottest corner of Hades for those who remain neutral in times of great moral crises. Of course, he probably is just too busy counting his shekels to even care.

Over the weekend the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals attempted to fob off the problem onto the already weighty shoulders of Alley Cat Allies of Bethesda, Maryland. Since they have been so proficient in the past at dumping garbage, homeless people, and mental patients elsewhere, the city elders are no doubt angling to do the same thing with the cats.

For its part, the rescue group so far at least has remained noncommittal. In a November 3rd press release, it limited its response to futilely calling upon the PA to stop trapping the cats until a humane solution can be found for them. (See "Alley Cat Allies Responds to Request from Local Groups to Help Save Feral Cats at JFK Airport" at www.prweb.com.)

Finally, it is not the least bit surprising that wildlife officials have been lending their expertise to the PA in its effort to get rid of the cats. Earlier this year, the USFWS along with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection tried to strong-arm Cape May into scrapping its every successful TNR program and to thus kill off its feral cats.

Fortunately for the cats and their supporters, the City Council last month wisely said no to these scheming cat-haters and unanimously voted to retain TNR. (See Cape May County Herald articles of October 14, 2007 and August 17, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Cape May Retains Feline Neuter, Release Program" and "Fish and Wildlife Service Eyes Cats.")

Wildlife proponents also have had their long knives out for Atlantic City's famous Boardwalk cats and those living on Big Pine Key in Florida. (See Cat Defender posts of July 5, 2007 and May 24, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Bird and Wildlife Proponents, Ably Assisted by The Press of Atlantic City, Launch Malicious Libel Campaign Against Feral Cats" and "USDA and Fish and Wildlife Service Commence Trapping and Killing Cats on Florida's Big Pine Key.")

Their latest Machiavellian ploy has been to reintroduce coyotes and fishers into urban areas so as to have them prey upon cats. (See Cat Defender posts of August 28, 2007 and July 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "TNR Programs, Domestic Cats, Dogs, and Humans Imperiled by Wildlife Proponents' Use and Abuse of Coyotes and Fishers" and "Up to Their Old Tricks, Wildlife Officials Reintroduce Fishers to the Northeast to Prey Upon Cats and to Provide Income for Fur Traffickers.")

All of this is simultaneously occurring as the USFWS and state wildlife officials are systematically exterminating millions of wild animals, including coyotes, at the behest of farmers, ranchers, and other vested economic interests. (See Cat Defender post of September 15, 2005 entitled "United States Government Exterminates Millions of Wild Animals at the Behest of Capitalists.")

In conclusion, since it is highly unlikely that the PA is going to have a change of heart it is time for cat advocates to concentrate their attention on Animal Control. Above all, they must find the resolve and resources in order to free these defenseless cats from the diabolical clutches of the knackers and get them into a safe and sustainable living arrangement.

Photos: The Gothamist (kitten and gray cat in the grass), Robert Stolarik of The New York Times (feeding station), and New York Post (cat caught in the lights).

Friday, November 02, 2007

For the First Time in Three Decades, a Rare South China Tiger Is Confirmed to Be Alive in the Wild

"There has been no record of the survival of wild South China Tigers in more than thirty years, and it was only an estimate that China still had twenty to thirty such wild tigers."
-- Lu Xirong, South China Tiger Research Team

An extremely rare South China Tiger, long thought to be extinct in the wild, was captured on film by a farmer from Zhenping County in Shaanxi Province on October 3rd. This momentous occasion marked the first time that the cat had been positively identified in Shaanxi since 1964. (See photo above.)

Fifty-two-year-old Zhou Zhenglong from the village of Wencai snapped seventy-one photographs of the tiger which were later authenticated by the Shaanxi Forestry Department. For his discovery, Zhou was rewarded with 20,000 yuan (US$2,666).

Although no official sightings of the critically endangered cats had been confirmed in more than three decades, some researchers nonetheless had maintained all along that between twenty and thirty of the magnificent animals were still hanging on in mountainous areas of southern and central China. For instance, the South China Tiger Research Team, which was established in 2006, had previously received reports of seventeen sightings by villagers plus ten reports of either individuals or animals having been bitten by them.

Another six persons have come forward to claim that they had heard the tiger's distinctive roar. The researchers themselves have found paw prints, scat, hair, and teeth belonging to the animals.

"There has been no record of the survival of wild South China Tigers in more than thirty years, and it was only an estimate that China still had twenty to thirty such wild tigers," Lu Xirong, leader of the thirty-person research team, told China Daily on October 12th. (See "Wild Tiger Spotted Over Thirty Years After 'Extinction'.")

After Zhou's photographic work was made public, additional evidence has surfaced that Panthera tigris amoyensis is indeed still alive in Zhenping County. According to the rescue group Save China's Tigers, one of them attacked a cow on October 5th and a black bear was killed and eaten by one of them earlier on September 13th.

In response to these sightings, the Forestry Department has asked the Zhenping government to ban hunting in the area and to establish inspection and observation posts so as to restrict access by the public. It has also asked the provincial authorities in Shaanxi for permission to convert the area into a reserve for the cats. (See Shanghai Daily, October 16, 2007, "Hunting Banned in South China Tiger Habitat.")

In the meantime, the Forestry Department is going to attempt to count the tigers, delineate their habitat, study their activities, and draft guidelines on how to best protect them. Press reports do not broach the subject, but most likely the tigers will be repeatedly trapped and fitted with radio collars. (See Cat Defender posts of October 2, 2007 and May 4, 2006 entitled, respectively, "Chinese Mountain Cats Are Under Assault from Fur Traffickers, Farmers, Global Warming, and Wildlife Officials" and "Scientific Community's Use of High-Tech Surveillance Is Aimed at Subjugating, Not Saving, the Animals.")

Often called the mother of all tigers, the South China Tiger is believed to be the stem species from which the other eight subspecies have evolved. As late as the 1950s there were as many as four-thousand of the animals spread out over the Guangxi Autonomous Region and the provinces of Guangdong, Hunan, Jiangxi, and Shaanxi.

The tigers first came under assault by the communists and then by the capitalists. As part of his Great Leap Forward, Mao declared them, along with leopards and wolves, to be enemies of the people and by 1982 eradication campaigns had reduced their ranks to fewer than two-hundred.

In addition to Mao's brutality and abysmal stupidity, the tigers have been shot for attacking both individuals and livestock. Fur traffickers still covet their valuable pelts and their various body parts are a staple of Chinese herbal remedies. China's embrace of capitalism has sparked massive development that has shrunk and fragmented their Lebensraum as well as significantly reduced their available food supply.

The tigers therefore demonstrate in a microcosm the total intellectual and moral bankruptcy of both the capitalistic and communistic models of economical and political organization. In addition to their rather obvious flaws, both systems are equally antagonistic toward both the animals and the environment. (See Judith Shapiro's 2001 tome entitled Mao's War Against Nature.)

Even big labor and many self-styled liberals in the West have little or no regard for nature. For example, despite his exemplary work in promoting universal health care and opposing the war in Iraq, Michael Moore is a lifelong member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). New Dealers, such as Garrison Keillor, treat the animals and Mother Earth with disdain.

Recent conservation efforts in China have concentrated on increasing the number of roe deer and gorals that the tigers prey upon and educating villagers and farmers as to the intrinsic value of the animals. Despite these efforts, poaching is difficult to eradicate and there are already too few remaining members of the species for it to be genetically viable over the long haul. Consequently, there are not many experts who expect the tigers to survive.

Therefore, captive breeding programs are receiving considerable attention and at the moment there are approximately fifty-nine tigers imprisoned in Chinese zoos. (See photos above and below.)

Most notably, an unspecified number of tiger cubs have been sent to a reserve near Philippolis in South Africa where they are being trained to fend for themselves in the wild. Their offspring then will be returned to China where they will be assigned to reserves while their parents will remain in South Africa and continue to breed.

A similar type of project is also under way in Fujian Province. If all goes as planned, the first graduates of these experimental training programs will be returned to the wild to coincide with the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

It remains to be seen if this is practicable, however. Normally, animals bred in captivity do not fare well once they are released into the wild. (See BBC, October 5, 2007, "Captive Breeding 'Weakens' Beasts.")

Should they become extinct, South China Tigers will join their Balinese cousins (Panthera tigris balica) that disappeared in 1937. None of them were ever bred in captivity.

Almost surely extinct also are Caspian Tigers (Panthera tigris virgata) and the Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica). The last confirmed sighting of a Caspian occurred in 1968 although an occasional unconfirmed sighting is still reported even today. The last official sighting of the Javan Tiger was in 1979 although there were several unconfirmed sightings of it during the 1990s.

Of the five remaining subspecies of tigers, only twelve-hundred to eighteen-hundred representatives of the Indochinese Tiger (Panthera tigris corbetti) remain in the wild and, consequently, it is listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).

The Sumatran Tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae) is in even worse shape with only four-hundred to five-hundred of them estimated to be still alive. It is accordingly listed as critically endangered. (See Cat Defender post of April 13, 2007 entitled "Killing and Torturing Wild and Domestic Cats in Order to Create Toygers Is Not Going to Save Sumatran Tigers.")

Even India's once abundant population of Bengal Tigers (Panthers tigris tigris) are now under assault from population growth, developers, and poachers. As few as fifteen-hundred of them remain in India with possibly another thousand or so disbursed throughout Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar. The IUCN accordingly lists them as critically endangered.

Noted conservationist Valmik Thapar expressed his frustration with the deplorable situation when he told the Washington Post on October 16th, "... all the government cares about is (sic) call centers, shopping centers, and apartments. That leaves the tiger situation in a miserable mess." (See "Poaching and Population Threaten India's Tigers.")

Of the two remaining subspecies, there are approximately six-hundred to eight-hundred Malayan Tigers (Panthera tigris jacksoni) remaining in the wild as well as around five-hundred Siberian Tigers (Panthera tigris altaica). The former is listed as endangered while the latter is critically endangered.

The South China Tiger's amazing return from oblivion is the second piece of riveting conservation news to come out of China in recent months. Back in August, a Yangtze River Dolphin known by its scientific name as Lipotes vexillifer but called Baiji in Mandarin was sighted after it, too, had been declared extinct.

Although the odds are stacked against them, the petit fait that these two beleaguered species are stubbornly clinging to existence under exceedingly difficult circumstances presents the Chinese with a golden opportunity to atone for centuries of exploitation and abuse and, possibly, even to save them. It is an effort decidedly worth making in spite of the dim outlook.

The Chinese authorities already have garnered high praise from conservationists for their efforts to save the golden monkeys of Yunnan Province but they are fighting an uphill battle in order to save the gibbons of Hainan Province. (See Reuters, October 26, 2007, "Monkeys, Apes Teeter on Brink of Extinction: Report" and The Independent, October 26, 2007, "Now Relentless Loss of Habitat Threatens First Primate Extinction for a Century.")

Photos: Save China's Tigers.