Lions, tigers and leopards are just some of the 40 species of wild cat around the world that are under threat. Join me, as we travel to every corner of the globe to hear the incredible stories from the people and communities working to study and protect all species of wild cat.
Wild cat conservation is more than just cats - by protecting cats, we save other species in their ecosystems, we help local communities in their habitats and we conserve huge swathes of precious land across the planet.
Cats of the Wild is an original, not-for-profit podcast by Andy Varvel.
Cat Craft: Mauro Lucherini, Andean Cat Alliance
CATCrafts is a program from the Andean Cat Alliance that connects local communities not only with the conservation of the Andean Cat - but also with their past, culture and traditions.
In this episode, Mauro Lucherini - General Coordinator of the CATCrafts program talks about the program, the role of community in conservation and how he is inspiring and training the next generation of conservationists.
Music: 'The Most Beautiful Andean Flute Melody of All Time' licensed under Creative Commons from Carlos Carty Music. Theme music is by Score Squad. Other music and sound effects from Envato.
Andean Cat Alliance
Wild Cat Photography: Sebastian Kennerknecht
There's not too many people in the world with the job title of wild cat photographer. But in this episode, we're going to meet one of the world's best - Sebastian Kennerknecht. He’s photographed over twenty species of wild cat in their natural habitat and has teamed up with biologists all over the world to share their research and stories.
Like a field biologist though, it's not a job for the faint-hearted - he's had hook worms burrow in his feet in the jungles of Borneo, almost rolled his car off a bridge in Gabon and had a terrifying near-death experience in Uganda. And don't worry - I've blown my entire sound effects budget for the year to tell that story.
So what does it take to be a wild cat photographer? What role does photography have in conservation? And what should you be doing today if you want to follow in his footsteps?
This episode features Sebastian Kennerknecht. Follow him @pumapix on Instagram or visit his tour company at www.catexpeditions.com
Follow him @pumapix on Instagram
Sebastian Kennerknecht Photography
How to Train a Margay: Samantha Zwicker - Hoja Nueva
Recently a friend sent me a photo on the Nat Geo Instagram account and said, “Hey, this could be a great story for your podcast”. It was a photo taken by Trevor Frost of Samantha Zwicker, a PhD student from the University of Washington with an ocelot deep in the Peruvian Amazon. I don't know if this was intended, but this photo really reminded me of that famous photo of Jane Goodall, touching the hands of an infant chimpanzee in Gombe, Tanzania.
But just like that photo, there's a fascinating story behind this photo too. In August, 2018, Sam received an emergency message from the local community, that there was a small wild cat wandering the floor of a community store. It was that ocelot in the photo - Keanu. His mother had been killed due to logging and as a small kitten he was destined for the illegal wildlife trade.
Sam, however, had a bright future planned for Keanu. One without cruelty, one without fences - a future at home, free and wild in the Amazon. This is the story of Sam and her not-for-profit Hoja Nueva - a beacon of hope deep in the jungle of the Peruvian Amazon, where every day they rehabilitate and rewild threatened wildlife, just like Keanu, the ocelot.
Hoja Nueva - Home - Conservation Center Peruvian Amazon Rainforest
Research Paper - Characterising trade at the largest wildlife market of Amazonian Peru
The Orphaned Cubs of Welgevonden: Carmen Warmenhove, Welgevonden Game Reserve
Around 12,000 years there was a mass extinction event that eliminated around 75% of the world's large mammals. It's still unclear exactly what caused this but it marked the end for legendary megafauna such as the woolly mammoth and the sabre-toothed tiger. Remarkably, a handful of cheetahs survived this event, but it created a population bottleneck, resulting in an extreme reduction of their genetic diversity. Today, the average level of genetic variation in cheetahs is less than 4%, lower than the gorillas of Virunga National Park, the Amur tigers and Australia's Tassie devil.
What all of this means is that cheetah conservation is really important and needs to be carefully managed. So in 2018 when a private game reserve in South Africa found three orphaned cheetah cubs calling incessantly for their mother, they made a decision to intervene - a decision to fight for their survival. Typically, orphaned cheetah cubs are removed from the wild and placed in facilities - but Welgevonden wanted to try a new approach - could they keep the cubs in the wild and just help them to bolster their odds of survival?
This episode features Carmen Warmenhove from Welgevonden Game Reserve.
Welgevonden Game Reserve
Carmen’s Research Paper
The Barbary Lion: Dr Simon Black, University of Kent
The Barbary Lion is a distinct population of lions of the northern subspecies of lion, Panthera leo leo. that roamed the North of Africa from the western coast of Morocco through to Egypt.
They were one of the most prized and heralded exotic animals in the world, fighting bloody battles at the Colosseum, gatekeeping the famous Tower of London and they formed part of the traditional royal collection of lions for generations of Moroccan sultans and kings. but through centuries of hunting and agricultural expansion, the Barbary lion became extinct in the wild.
But what if I told you that there are lions right now in zoos across the north of Africa and Europe that some people think are genetically distinct enough to be a Barbary Lion?
And if this is true, what do we do ... how do we protect them ... and can we reintroduce back to the wilds of the Barbary coast?
Barbary Lion Blog
The Leopard of the Cape: Dr Katy Williams, Cape Leopard Trust
The leopard is one of the most iconic species of wild cat on this planet. Currently, there's nine recognised subspecies of the leopard - this might soon change to eight - but only one of those is found in Africa - the African Leopard. However down in the Western Cape of South Africa, the African leopards here are different. They're about half the weight of a typical African leopard and their home ranges are eight to ten times bigger than a leopard in Kruger National Park.
These leopards of the cape are known for their elusiveness and their resilience. Whilst other large apex predators have disappeared around them in the last few centuries, the leopard here has survived. But that doesn't mean they're going to survive forever - it's estimated that there the wild and the challenges they face are increasing in both complexity and scale.
So in this episode, we'll meet Dr. Katy Williams - Research and Conservation Director for the Cape Leopard Trust. They're a leader in predator conservation and we'll learn more about the leopards in this area, the threats facing them and the plans the Cape Leopard Trust have to ensure they'll be a part of the Western Cape for centuries to come.
Cape Leopard Trust