White Tiger Mystery Solved: Coat Color Produced by Single Change in Pigment Gene
May 23, 2013 — White tigers today are only seen in zoos, but they belong in nature, say researchers reporting new evidence about what makes those tigers white. Their spectacular white coats are produced by a single change in a known pigment gene, according to the study, appearing on May 23 in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.
"The white tiger represents part of the natural genetic diversity of the tiger that is worth conserving, but is now seen only in captivity," says Shu-Jin Luo of China's Peking University.
Luo, Xiao Xu, Ruiqiang Li, and their colleagues advocate a proper captive management program to maintain a healthy Bengal tiger population including both white and orange tigers. They say it might even be worth considering the reintroduction of white tigers into their wild habitat.
The researchers mapped the genomes of a family of 16 tigers living in Chimelong Safari Park, including both white and orange individuals. They then sequenced the whole genomes of each of the three parents in the family.
Those genetic analyses led them to a pigment gene, called SLC45A2, which had already been associated with light coloration in modern Europeans and in other animals, including horses, chickens, and fish. The variant found in the white tiger primarily inhibits the synthesis of red and yellow pigments but has little to no effect on black, which explains why white tigers still show characteristic dark stripes.
Historical records of white tigers on the Indian subcontinent date back to the 1500s, Luo notes, but the last known free-ranging white tiger was shot in 1958. That many white tigers were hunted as mature adults suggests that they were fit to live in the wild. It's worth considering that tigers' chief prey species, such as deer, are likely colorblind.
Captive white tigers sometimes do show abnormalities, such as crossed eyes, but Luo says any frailties are likely the responsibility of humans, who have inbred the rare tigers in captivity. With the causal gene identified, the researchers ultimately hope to explore the evolutionary forces that have maintained tigers in both orange and white varieties.
These are white tigers at Chimelong Safari Park in China. (Credit: Chimelong Safari Park)
Xiao Xu, Gui-Xin Dong, Xue-Song Hu, Lin Miao, Xue-Li Zhang, De-Lu Zhang, Han-Dong Yang, Tian-You Zhang, Zheng-Ting Zou, Ting-Ting Zhang, Yan Zhuang, Jong Bhak, Yun Sung Cho, Wen-Tao Dai, Tai-Jiao Jiang, Can Xie, Ruiqiang Li, Shu-Jin Luo. The Genetic Basis of White Tigers. Current Biology, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2013.04.054
The white tiger, an elusive Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) variant with white fur and dark stripes, has fascinated humans for centuries ever since its discovery in the jungles of India . Many white tigers in captivity are inbred in order to maintain this autosomal recessive trait [2,3,4,5] and consequently suffer some health problems, leading to the controversial speculation that the white tiger mutation is perhaps a genetic defect . However, the genetic basis of this phenotype remains unknown. Here, we conducted genome-wide association mapping with restriction-site-associated DNA sequencing (RAD-seq) in a pedigree of 16 captive tigers segregating at the putative white locus, followed by whole-genome sequencing (WGS) of the three parents. Validation in 130 unrelated tigers identified the causative mutation to be an amino acid change (A477V) in the transporter protein SLC45A2. Three-dimensional homology modeling suggests that the substitution may partially block the transporter channel cavity and thus affect melanogenesis. We demonstrate the feasibility of combining RAD-seq and WGS to rapidly map exotic variants in nonmodel organisms. Our results identify the basis of the longstanding white tiger mystery as the same gene underlying color variation in human, horse, and chicken and highlight its significance as part of the species’ natural polymorphism that is viable in the wild.
Scottish Wildcats Are Interbreeding Themselves Into Extinction
May 23, 2013 9:10 am
A Scottish wildcat. Photo: Peter Trimming
Scottish wildcats, the U.K.’s only remaining species of wild feline, look a little bit like adorable grey tabbies, slightly on the large size, with a bushy striped tail. But the species lived in Scotland long before any domestic relatives—or humans—arrived. Nicknamed “the tiger of the highlands,” the felines were rumored for years to be man-killers. The Scottish Wildcats Association makes clear that these fierce felines are no cuddly kittens:
"Although classically portrayed as a ferocious and terrifying beast to be feared and hated, wildcats simply enjoy their personal space, daily schedule and peace. A wildcat will only attack something it’s hunting, or something that it feel is hunting it. When threatened their classic strategy is to turn on an aggressor hissing, growling and spitting furiously; just like a domestic cat their hackles raise and the back arches but rather than turn side on to try and look big, they mock charge like a big cat; stamping forwards at you hissing and spitting. The idea is to give you just enough doubt to give them an opportunity to escape. If given no other choice and in fear of its life, perhaps cornered or defending kittens, the cat will attack with all its fury."
Yet only about 100 of the wildcats remain, and researchers point to the common house cat as the main culprit behind the species’ demise, the BBC reports. Wildcats and house cats, it turns out, are interbreeding, and scientists project the species could be obliterated by house cat genes within two years.
Paul O’Donoghue, a researcher calling for the species’ conservation, compared the 63,000 domestic cat genes to those of the wildcats. He combed through 140 years worth of wildcat specimens kept in London and Edinburgh museums in order to find pristine genetic samples, then compared those two standards to samples attained from wildcats in the wild.
O’Donoghue concluded that extinction due to hybridization is almost guaranteed, perhaps within two years, for the wildcat unless conservationists undertake drastic action. For him, that means trapping the wildcats that still maintain pure genes, breeding them, and perhaps even placing them in the care of volunteers—so long, of course, as there are no frisky house cats about.
Read more: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/05/scottish-wildcats-are-interbreeding-themselves-into-extinction/#ixzz2UC8R8Qvg
Very Rare Leopards Caught On Camera
May 23, 2013
Critically endangered Javan leopards have been caught on digital camera traps in West Java. If you have been following conservation news, you know that the Formosan Cloud Leopard was recently declared extinct. They were driven into extinction by human activities. So it is very important that the Javan leopards be protected or they may suffer the same fate.
(Javan leopard caught on camera trap from CIFOR stock footage library on Vimeo.)
Thirty cameras were placed in Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park in West Java, by researcher Age Kridalaksana, from the Center for International Forestry Research. For about a month the cameras recorded images of local wildlife. Most of the animals documented by the cameras were deer, civets and birds. There were also three Javan leopards. These leopards are about one hundred pounds and the height and length of an American mountain lion.
There are probably less than 250 left in the wild, according to IUCN. Loss of habitat, poaching and loss of prey animals are contributing factors in their decline. All these factors are due to human activities.
About 2,000 hectares of rainforest a year are being lost each year due to industrial activities such as mining and land clearing for palm oil plantations. If you want to protect these leopards and their habitat, make sure to stop using products containing palm oil. (Boycotting palm oil will likely also help orangutans.)
Even within Gunung Halimun-Salak National Park 25% of the forested area was lost from illegal logging.
The huge city of Jakarta with 20 million people is just several hours from the park. Surely, these wild animals deserve to have some natural habitat protected and kept undeveloped.
The Center for International Forestry Research works to conserve natural forests and their wildlife. They also are study poor human communities and their relationship with natural habitats. Their work is some of the most important on Earth. What complements it the most is human population management. If the human population had not reached over seven billion, some of these very difficult situations would be less damaging.
Read more at http://planetsave.com/2013/05/23/rare-leopards-caught-on-camera/#dTkvs2rZ4ZEluE0R.99
Scientists tracking panther released in Palm Beach County
Posted: 1:39 p.m. Sunday, May 19, 2013
Thanks to the wonders of GPS, wildlife officials have tracked FP223’s whereabouts.
BY CHRISTINE STAPLETON - PALM BEACH POST STAFF WRITER
FP223 — the rare Florida panther raised in captivity and released in southwest Palm Beach County last month — is doing all the things a wild panther should be doing: killing and roaming.
Thanks to advancements in GPS technology, wildlife scientists are able to monitor the big cat’s whereabouts. Knowing when and where the male panther has been allows scientists to track it on a computer screen — and in the wild.
The good news is that within 24 hours of its April 3 release, scientists retraced the cat’s tracks and found the carcass of a coyote it killed — meaning the panther’s natural hunting instincts were developed in captivity at the White Oak Conservation Center, a 600-acre conservation center in northeast Florida dedicated to preserving endangered species. An armadillo also fell victim to the cat.
Panthers at White Oak are kept in large naturalistic enclosures and have little interaction with people so they can maintain their wildness and natural instincts. Keepers and veterinarians at White Oak monitor the cats remotely through the use of camera traps and radio telemetry collars to reduce human contact
“His behavior is what we expect for a wild panther,” said Dave Onorata, a panther research scientist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Why the panther is moving to the northwest isn’t known. “We can’t say what they’re thinking while they are moving along,” he said.
Shortly after its release, the panther headed east but then turned around and headed west until it reached a canal, which it followed for seven miles before heading northwest toward other panther habitat in Hendry and Collier counties. That could mean trouble, Onorata said.
“Young males have a harder task ahead of them,” Onorata said. Especially when it comes to their first encounter with another male who has already claimed its territory. “He’s going to have his challenges. None of us will be surprised if he gets killed by another male.”
A male panther’s home range can be as large as 200 square miles and include two to five females. In its first month of freedom, FP223 had already roamed 24 miles.
While there are fewer than 160 Florida panthers in the wild, panther-on-panther deaths are common because of the loss of habitat to development. Three of the nine panther fatalities this year were panthers killed by other panthers. One was an older female and two were young males. Vehicles are believed to have killed the others.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission rescued FP223 and its sister as 5-month-old kittens in September 2011 in northern Collier County after their mother was found dead. Both were taken to the White Oak Conservation Center in Yulee, where they were raised.
On Feb. 1 the sister was released into the Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County after scientists evaluated the home ranges of other females in the region and found available space between them. She, too, has acclimated to the wild, Onorata said.
The Florida panther is among the most endangered large mammals on the planet, with a population estimated between 100 and 160. FP223 was the sixth was just the sixth captive panther released in the wild in 15 years. His sister was the fifth.
And there could be a seventh soon. Wildlife officials recently recovered a nine-month-old female cat found hiding in thick brush with a badly broken leg. Veterinarians used a steel plate to repair the compound break. The panther was also taken to the White Oak Conservation Center, where it will remain until ready for release.
Rare Picture: Male Leopard Kills, Eats Cub
Though relatively common, infanticide is rarely witnessed in nature.
The male leopard Mmolai was recently photographed eating a cub in Botswana's Okavango Delta.
Photograph courtesy Ryan Green
The mother leopard Legadema carries away a second cub. Photograph courtesy Ryan Green.
National Geographic News
Published April 22, 2013
A photographer in Botswana has captured rare pictures of a male leopard (Panthera pardus) killing and eating a cub.
In March in a remote part of the Okavango Delta (map), Ryan Green was tracking a well-known female leopard named Legadema, who had hid her weeks-old cubs in a large tree hollow.
He noticed Legadema moving around nervously when a male new to the area emerged from her den with a mewling cub in its mouth.
The interloper settled with the baby under the tree, playing with it and licking it in an "almost intimate, affectionate fashion," Green said in a statement.
But "what appeared to be a gentle, tender encounter was in fact far more sinister": The male, later named Mmolai—killer in the national language Setswana—was slowly eating the cub, said Green, of Wilderness Safaris in Mombo.
After the male leopard left, "not a trace of what had recently happened remained—not a drop of blood, a wisp of fur, nothing," said Green, who later photographed Legadema carrying away a second cub.
As "horrifying" as it seems, infanticide is relatively common in nature. It often occurs when a male takes over a new territory and kills the young to which it's not related, noted Luke Hunter, president of the big-cat conservation group Panthera, which collaborates with National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative.
Though well documented in African lions (Panthera leo), the practice is rarely photographed in big cats—making Green's series of pictures unique, Hunter said.
Cub Killers Explained
Hunter and colleagues have been studying leopard infanticide near South Africa's Kruger National Park for 13 years. In data recently submitted for publication, the team found that 45 of 280 dead leopard cubs the researchers recorded during that period were killed by male leopards.
Males claiming new territory have a "sound evolutionary reason" to kill cubs—it brings the mothers back into heat, allowing the males to sire their own cubs. "They can't afford to be stepdads," Hunter said.
It's unknown how the males know which cubs are their own—for instance, it's unlikely that the males recognize each baby by scent. More likely, he said, is that the males remember individual adult females and whether they've met before.
A mother would certainly try to defend her young from a strange male, but if he successfully takes over her territory, her efforts would only postpone the eventual killing, Hunter said.
However, Hunter emphasized that male leopards aren't always "murderous, rampaging, rogue animals."
Territorial leopard males interact with females and cubs a lot, forming long-term bonds, he said.
And once they have their own young, he said, they care for and defend the cubs against other males, making them "excellent fathers."
Embryos of World's Most Endangered Cat Preserved for 1st Time
Megan Gannon, News Editor
Date: 24 March 2013 Time: 12:50 PM ET
The Iberian lynx is the most endangered wild cat species worldwide.
It seems counterintuitive that castration could help save a species facing extinction. But through removing the ovaries of a female Iberian lynx, scientists say they were able to collect and preserve embryos from the world's most endangered wild cat for the first time.
Conservationists are hoping the fertilized eggs could be implanted into a surrogate mother of a closely related species, possibly a Eurasian lynx female. Even one successful surrogate pregnancy could be a boost for felines, whose declining population had been estimated to be less than 200 a decade ago.
One Iberian lynx named Azahar, which was part of a breeding program in Silves, Portugal, had problems giving birth and underwent two emergency Caesarean sections in two consecutive pregnancies. Conservationists decided that, for health reasons, they shouldn't try breeding Azahar again and the cat's ovaries were removed by castration.
But immediately after Azahar's castration surgery, scientists say they obtained embryos and ovarian pieces from the feline in a process adapted from one used on domestic cats.
"Seven days after mating we expected to flush embryos from the uterus," Katarina Jewgenow, a specialist from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW) in Berlin, said in a statement. But instead, the oocytes (unfertilized eggs) and embryos had to be flushed out of the oviducts. This told the team something new about Iberian lynxes — their embryos develop more slowly than those of domestic cats.
The group of specialists also intervened when scientists decided to castrate a female Iberian lynx in captivity in Doñana, Spain. Named Saliega, this cat was relatively old (12 years), already gave birth to 16 cubs, and developed a mammary tumor last summer after her last lactating period.
"From her we only flushed unfertilized eggs, thus the male was not fertile," Natalia Mikolaewska, an IZW doctoral student, said in a statement. But the team was at least able to recover and freeze those oocytes, which could later be fertilized and implanted in a surrogate.
"The next step we are discussing right now is to implant these embryos into a foster mother, which might be an Eurasian lynx female," said Jewgenow.
The Iberian lynx is the only wild cat to be listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and IZW is working with the Iberian lynx Conservation Breeding Program to help save them.
If reviving a dying species sounds ambitious, consider the scientists who are trying to bring back animals that are already extinct. Biologists did actually resurrect the extinct Pyrenean ibex in 2003 by creating a clone from a frozen tissue sample harvested before the goat's entire population vanished in 2000. But that clone only survived for a few minutes after birth. Researchers gathered in Washington, D.C., on March 15 for a forum called TEDxDeExtinction, hosted by the National Geographic Society, to dive into some of the practical and ethical questions surrounding current efforts to revive animals that have been dead for much longer than the Pyrenean ibex, such as the passenger pigeon and woolly mammoth.
Male Lions Use Ambush Hunting Strategy
Mar. 18, 2013 — It has long been believed that male lions are dependent on females when it comes to hunting. But new evidence suggests that male lions are, in fact, very successful hunters in their own right. A new report from a team including Carnegie's Scott Loarie and Greg Asner shows that male lions use dense savanna vegetation for ambush-style hunting in Africa.
Their work is published in Animal Behavior.
Female lions have long been observed to rely on cooperative strategies to hunt their prey. While some studies demonstrated that male lions are as capable at hunting as females, the males are less likely to cooperate, so there were still questions as to how the males manage to hunt successfully. The possibility that male lions used vegetation for ambushing prey was considered, but it was difficult to study given the logistics and dangers of making observations of lions in densely vegetated portions of the African savanna.
Loarie and Asner, working with Craig Tambling from the University of Pretoria, combined different types of technology to change the game.
First the authors created 3-D maps of the savanna vegetation using laser pulses that sweep across the African plains. They did this using a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanner mounted on the fixed-wing Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) aircraft. They combined these 3-D habitat maps with GPS data on predator-prey interactions from a pride of seven lions in South Africa's Kruger National Park to quantify the lines of sight, or "viewsheds," where lions did their killing in comparison to where they rested.
They found that while a preference for shade caused both male and female lions to rest in areas with dense vegetation and similarly short viewsheds during the day, the real difference between males and females emerged at night. Female lions both rested and hunted under the cover of darkness in areas with large viewsheds. But at night, male lions hunted in the dense vegetation, areas where prey is highly vulnerable, but which researchers rarely explore. The scientific results show that ambushing prey from behind vegetation is linked to hunting success among male lions, despite lacking the cooperative strategies employed by female lions in open grassy savannas.
"By strongly linking male lion hunting behavior to dense vegetation, this study suggests that changes to vegetation structure, such as through fire management, could greatly alter the balance of predators and prey," Loarie said.
The authors emphasized that their findings should be confirmed in other studies throughout Africa's savannas. Nevertheless, these results could have major implications for park management, which is often heavily involved with manipulating vegetation.
"With large mammals increasingly confined to protected areas, understanding how to maintain their habitat to best support their natural behavior is a critical conservation priority," Asner said. This study highlights the rapidly evolving role of high-tech measurements for never-before-undertaken research in geographically complex and often dangerous conditions. Three-dimensional imaging of ecological habitats by the CAO, along with GPS tracking of species inside those habitats, has opened new doors to understand how species interact with one another throughout their native environments, doors that couldn't have been opened without these technological advances.
Scott R. Loarie, Craig J. Tambling, Gregory P. Asner. Lion hunting behaviour and vegetation structure in an African savanna. Animal Behaviour, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.01.018
Condors Drive Cougars to Kill More
Douglas Main, OurAmazingPlanet Staff Writer
Date: 07 January 2013 Time: 04:42 PM ET
Portrait of an adult male puma, with a GPS collar.
Cougar biologist Mark Elbroch spent more than a year in South America's Patagonia region tracking down pumas and recording what they hunt and eat, riding on a horse for up to 21 hours at a time. In the course of his research, Elbroch noticed something odd: Patagonian pumas kill about 50 percent more animals than their North American counterparts and spend less time feeding on their hard-earned meals. But why?
According to a study Elbroch co-authored and which was published earlier this month in the journal PLoS One, the cougars abandon their kills due to harassment from Andean condors, a near-threatened scavenging bird, Elbroch told OurAmazingPlanet. This came as a surprise, however, since the condors are physically much smaller than these mountain lions, and don't directly threaten the big cats, he said.
"Mountain lions under the pressure of condors act like squirrels do under the pressure of owls," acting more skittish, Elbroch said.
Skittish in the grasslands
Elbroch said this unique behavior primarily occurs in the open grasslands, where the animal's favorite prey — the guanaco, a large animal in the camel family — are most plentiful. When Patagonian pumas make a kill in the forest, however, they've been known to stay with it for up to a week, gorging themselves and only leaving after they're full (they typically get full before the meat runs out). Condors cannot land in the forest, however, since they travel awkwardly on land and can't negotiate wooded areas.
Large condors and smaller southern caracaras surround a guanaco killed by an adult female puma.
To make up for the relatively brief amount of time spent with kills in the grassland, the big cats must kill more prey to get the same amount of meat, said Elbroch, who works for Panthera, a conservation group dedicated to preserving big cats.
North American cougars (also known as pumas, mountain lions, panthers and catamounts) usually only leave their kills when chased away by larger animals like bears or wolves, Elbroch said. Although condors don't chase the cats away, apparently their presence is irritating enough to drive away the cats. Condors rarely land alone, arriving with a coterie of sharp-beaked kin.
Elbroch said the cats' skittishness may also owe something to the presence of humans, primarily sheep herders, in the Patagonian grasslands. Humans have extensively hunted mountain lions in the past. But cougars have rebounded slightly in the past decade or so as demand for wool, and hence sheep, has declined, Elbroch said.
A lot of meat
Female cougars weigh about 85 pounds (39 kilograms), while males average about 150 pounds (68 kg), Elbroch said. On average, they eat about 5 to 7 pounds (2 to 4 kg) of meat per day, only about a quarter of what they catch, he said. Full-grown guanacos weigh about 250 pounds (113 kg).
An adult male condor in flight.
"I believe this is the first study to quantify how much meat is lost, and how much extra hunting pumas are forced to do — at considerable risk — to feed these 'kleptoparasites,'" said Paul Beier, a researcher at Northern Arizona University, referring to the many animals that make a meal of the cougar's table scraps. Beier wasn't involved in Elbroch's research. Up to 17 different animals depend upon cougar kills for food, Elbroch said.
"They are providing a lot of meat to their community — they are truly a keystone species," Elbroch said, referring to a species that provides multiple irreplaceable services that keep an ecosystem productive.
Elbroch spent more than 1.5 years in Patagonia, conducting most of his work in the Chacabuco Valley, in southern Chile near the border with Argentina. There is only one road in the area, meaning much of his work had to be done on horseback and on foot. Luckily, Patagonia offers some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the world.
His group tracked cougars using dogs, often chasing the cougars for up to five hours. Then they'd dart the cougars, before attaching a collar with a GPS tracking device and letting them go free. Information gathered from the collars allowed Elbroch to know where the cougar had traveled and spent the night, after which he'd see if he could find what the cougar had been eating. His group recorded 266 different carcasses, the large majority of which were guanacos.
A mountain toward the eastern edge of Patagonia's Chacabuco Valley.
Tigers Making a Comeback in Parts of Asia
Strong government actions helping the big cat, scientists say.
The Indochinese tiger (pictured) is a subspecies growing in number.
for National Geographic News
Published December 28, 2012
Tigers are making a comeback, thanks to strong government initiatives in India, Thailand, and Russia, scientists announced this week.
Joe Walston, executive director for Asia Programs at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), praised the three countries for taking action to protect their tiger populations. The animals are endangered globally.
There are six remaining subspecies of tiger that live in 13 Asian countries—a habitat that's reduced by 93 percent from their historic range.
"There are a number of factors that are necessary for tigers to come back, but without true government commitment, there will not be any success," Walston said.
Taking Steps to Save Tigers
In India's Nagarahole and Bandipur National Parks, for example, a combination of strict antipoaching patrols, surveillance, voluntary relocation of people away from tiger habitats, and scientific monitoring have helped the big cats rebound to the point where they have saturated the two national parks.
This success is only possible because the Indian state of Karnataka is dedicated to conserving tigers, Walston said.
In Russia, government officials are drafting a new law that makes the transport, sale, and possession of endangered animals a criminal offense rather than just a civil crime. This closes a loophole that currently allows poachers to claim they found endangered species like tigers already dead.
Russia also recently announced that it was creating a new corridor for safe tiger passage called the Central Ussuri Wildlife Refuge, which would link tiger breeding strongholds in Russia and China.
Corridors "allow tigers to move between different areas to breed and connect up," Walston explained. "This makes for larger, more robust, and genetically healthy populations."
In Thailand, enforcement and antipoaching patrols have been beefed up in the Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary. In 2011 the government busted a notorious poaching ring, and this year the gang leaders were given prison sentences of up to five years—the most severe prison sentences for wildlife poaching in Thailand's history. Since the gang's capture, there have been no known tiger or elephant poaching incidents in the park.
What's more, "Thailand last year had a poaching problem, and instead of ignoring it, the government recognized the problem and hired 60 new rangers," Walston said.
Tigers Can Bounce Back
But these three success stories are rare bright spots for the endangered species, whose numbers continue to hover at all-time lows worldwide due to the combined threats of poaching, loss of prey, and habitat destruction.
Conservationists estimate that only 3,200 tigers exist in the wild.
Even so, Walston said the successes in India, Thailand, and Russia prove that tigers are not doomed—and he hopes other countries will take notice.
"This is not a species that is on an inevitable decline ... They are coming back in some places," he said.
Walston also pointed out that saving tigers has other benefits.
"When we conserve tigers, we're actually conserving a whole host of species that are maybe not as charismatic or iconic but are equally valuable—and equally threatened," he said.
Photo of Rare, Mysterious Cat Wins Competition
Date: 29 November 2012 Time: 05:42 PM ET
This rare, mysterious cat species, called an oncilla, was photographed by a camera trap in Bolivia's Madidi National Park in July 2012.
A rarely seen Bolivian wild cat species was photographed by a camera trap in one of the country's national park, the first time it has been spotted there.
The photo of the cat, called an oncilla, won a category of a camera trap competition run by the magazine BBC Wildlife.
The oncilla, about the size of a house cat, is found throughout the Amazon and the tropical Andes. The cat is rarely spotted, and little is known about its life history, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), whose researchers took the photo as part of a camera trap survey in the area in July 2012.
The survey captured photos of jaguars and other wildlife in Madidi, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth. The 7,335-square-mile (19,000 square kilometers) park hosts 11 percent of the world's birds, more than 200 mammal species, almost 300 fish species and 12,000 varieties of plants. This wide array of species is found in an equally diverse set of ecosystems, from lowland tropical forests to the peaks of the High Andes.
With this evidence that the oncilla dwells in Madidi, the number of confirmed cat species in the park now stands at six, with two more waiting to be confirmed, the WCS said in a statement.
WCS researchers Guido Ayala, Maria Viscarra and Robert Wallace submitted the photo in the New Discoveries category of the BBC Wildlife competition. The winning entry received £1,000 (approximately $1,500), courtesy of Paramo Directional Clothing Systems and the World Land Trust. The photo is featured in the December issue of the magazine.