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.
Why conserve wild cats?
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.
Challenges to wild cat conservation
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:
- Educating and working with local communities to help them understand the importance of protecting cats
- Protecting livestock from predators to prevent retaliation killing
- Offering alternative food and income sources to people to prevent poaching
- Hiring guards to protect, monitor and prevent poaching of animals
- Conducting research on felid species and their prey to better understand how to protect them
- Restoring and connecting habitats
- Lobbying local governments to protect species and habitats
- Reintroducing or translocating animals to protected areas
Learn about the in situ felid conservation projects that the Felid TAG and its member institutions support here.
Ex situ research performed in a captive environment can benefit felids both in the wild and in captivity. Studies on felid behavior and reproductive physiology, for example, can provide valuable information that could not be obtained in the wild. Conservationists can use research findings to better understand the species and make informed decisions as to the best way to protect them and their habitat in the wild. In captivity, research findings can be used to improve captive breeding success and to make changes to the animal’s captive environment to promote their well-being.
Learn about the zoo-based felid conservation projects that the Felid TAG and its member institutions support here.