Apes are people too

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News from the endangered animals file…

The Scottish wildcat will likely become extinct in a year or two, if they’re not extinct already: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/smartnews/2013/05/scottish-wildcats-are-interbreeding-themselves-into-extinction/?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=socialmedia&utm_campaign=20130523&utm_content=smartnewsscottishwildcats2

This species fascinates me precisely because it is so similar to our domestic cats – a reminder that our pet cats, in my view, have been little changed by their long association with humans. That’s a good thing, and the whole reason I was first drawn to felines as an adult after being disinterested in them when I was younger.

They’re basically lions, but in a manageable size.

It may be too late, but there are groups devoted to conservation of the “Highland Tiger”. Check out http://www.highlandtiger.com/ and http://www.scottishwildcats.co.uk/

From cats to dogs – the African wild dog:

http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/african-hunting-dog/

I’m completely fascinated by this endangered species. Again, the connection to domestic dogs is a driving force in my interest. Not that domesticated canines and the wild dog are very closely related (our dogs are descendants of wolves). I had the opportunity to talk to an expert on this species in a phone interview for a magazine article, but I can’t find a link to it online now. Anyway, this species is on the brink of extinction, with numbers in the low thousands. If memory serves, one problem is that packs cover vast distances and Africa no longer has the large swaths of untamed wilderness it once had. Fences, roads and people have taken a toll on habitat. As with so many other parts of the world – including Canada – the failure of people to accept wildlife in recently populated areas (bears on the outskirts of a town, for example), or at least deal with it using non-lethal methods, has left animals on the losing end.

These are some of the people dedicated to saving the African wild dog: http://www.awdconservancy.org/you%20can%20help.html and http://www.painteddog.org/ .

And this next bit combines dogs and an endangered cat:

http://www.cheetah.org/

I chatted with these folks for a Dogs in Canada article published in 2010 – again, no link.

Cheetahs are my favourite big cat (I’m not sure zoologists actually consider them part of the “big cat” family, despite their size), but their numbers have declined drastically over the past century. The CCF estimates there are about 10,000 left in the wild. This charity came up with a smart way to address farmers shooting pest cheetahs: it began giving big, intimidating dogs to farmers to scare away the cheetahs. The cheetah people have become breeders and distributors of dogs – Anatolian shepherds, specifically. These powerful dogs are raised from puppyhood with livestock and bond with the animals they will protect as adults. When cheetahs come around, the dog takes it personally. More than 200 dogs have been placed by CCF since that program began.

It’s a little off the cat-dog theme, but I’d remiss if I didn’t mention another favourite animal on the endangered list, the orangutan. I can still remember seeing these apes at the Toronto Zoo when I was a child, and my wife and I had an opportunity to see some at a rehabilitation site a decade ago. Orangs are native to the Southeast Asian islands of Sumatra and Borneo, both of which are undergoing radical deforestation (palm oil plantations – which supply manufacturers of many products, including most chocolate – have had a major impact). Numbers are on the decline. This is particularly troublesome, in my view, because of the profound intelligence these animals possess. I am one of those kooky animal welfare people who believe the great ape species should be recognized by international courts and the UN – yes, that organization I regularly disparage – as “persons”: beings who should be accorded limited rights (scoff if you like, but check out this link before you completely dismiss the idea: http://www.greatapeproject.org - and no, I’m not a member of PETA).

Check out http://www.orangutan.org/ and http://www.orangutan.com/ to read about efforts to protect orangutans.

Disclosure: I struggle to live up to my own ideals when it comes to orangutan protection (damn you chocolate!). And listing charities in this blog isn’t the same as endorsing them. They may well be very worthy groups but I would suggest conducting your own research before making any donations.

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