Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Save the Iberian lynx...

 Photo: Google images of Iberian lynx. 25/01/12.

The Iberian lynx is the world's most endangered cat. It is the most threatened carnivore in Europe. Sadly, conservationists believe it could be extinct within as little as five years time, with only 150 or so remaining. There are various projects currently in process to save this species from completely disappearing. On the plus side, The Iberian lynx is now protected by law and can no longer be legally hunted. Better late than never, but let us hope, not too late...
 The Iberian lynx, Lynx pardinus, has been on this earth since the Pleistocene period, over one million years a go. It was separated from the Eurasian lynx through habitat choice, preferring grassland and large shrubs and a warmer climate. The Eurasian lynx likes thick forest and has evolved in colder environments. It seems probable that the exposed chosen terrain has been an unwise choice, as the Eurasian lynx is abundant and thriving well... The Iberian lynx, however, is not doing so well.
 Some of the challenges that the Iberian lynx face are purely nature. But, humans have also had a very strong hand in the drastic decline... Mainly poachers, traffic, humans moving in to the cats' terrain and poisoning. The pelts are still sold for a good price on the black market and due to the distinctive spots on the cats' coat, they are in high demand. It would most likely take between eight to twelve lynxes to make a coat or jacket. Although, some illegal hunters just love a trophy to hang on their wall...
 Nature plays her part too, loss of prey and competition for prey. The Iberian lynx enjoys smaller animals such as rabbits, hares, reptiles, young fallow deer or a juicy duck. The favourite and most popular is rabbit.  But, they suffer badly with diseases (myxomatosis) and are also favoured by the Red fox and feral dogs. Conservationists have started a new program to help the situation, by distributing vaccinated rabbits in to the lynxes' territory. Thus, being part of a longer term plan, in the hope that the bunnies will breed successfully, enabling the lynx to survive. (A male lynx needs one rabbit a day and a female, raising cubs, would need at least three rabbits). Also this would prevent the cat from attacking other animals such as small deers, which  have become prey due to the loss of rabbits. The deer are harder to catch and sometimes the lynx will have go for days without nourishment.
 During the mating season the female leaves her territory in search of a male. The typical gestation time is about two months; the cubs are born between March and September. A litter consists of two to three kittens... There have been stories of kittens vanishing without a trace, which has baffled many scientists. Although, some have theories and studies have acknowledged the behaviour of cats in ongoing breeding programmes.  Conservationists are attempting to identify the mystery disappearances of young lynxes. So far, it has been suggested that it could be a hierarchy between cubs which have been witnessed fighting to the last breath at three to four months old. Still, very unusual though. What actually happens to the corpse? Does the mother eat it? It is unknown why these aggressive episodes occur. Could it be a change in hormones when the cubs switch from milk to meat? Could this be Mother nature telling us that the Iberian lynxes' time on this earth is up? I do not believe so.
 There is evidence to support the fact that humans have changed the Iberian lynxes' destiny considerably since the nineteen fourties. Also, had I mentioned that these cats have been padding around for over one million years without our interference...?  Few Iberian lynx die of natural causes. Changes in vegetation for example, introducing wheat programmes and eucalyptus plantations and the conversion of native trees to pine forests, have been part of the decline. Other related problems are trapping, shooting and snaring. In some cases the deaths are accidental. However, in Donana National Park for instance, between 1983 and 1989, twenty four lynx (11 tagged) died in the park and only three were of natural causes... Strange.. So, the lynx populations on the Iberian Peninsula have been greatly reduced. Currently, they exist in small, isolated and highly fragmented areas. These localised populations are vulnerable to extinction because of their small numbers, as a single epidemic could wipe out the remaining individuals. Not forgetting the obvious reality of habitat deterioration. (1)(2)
  On a lighter note, The Spanish government are now actively operating a breeding programme bringing new hope to this endangered species.
 I do not want to be part of a generation that has allowed, through ignorance and a lack of understanding, our beautiful wild animals to disappear. I am merely a small voice but hopefully can send out ripples of enthusiasm and awareness through my love of cats..

(1) Sunquist, Mel, Sunquist, Fiona, 2002.Wild Cats of the World. Chicago press.
(2) Gaona, P., P. Ferreras, and M. Delibes, 1998. Dynamics and Viability of a metapopulation of the endangered Iberian lynx.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Needing Inspiration...

Isn't it awful when you have a blank canvas, full of promise and potential... but you cannot find the inspiration to paint your picture or write your words.  It has been suggested to me, at times like this, to just open up and let stuff spill out. Then, the words will find their place and all will begin to make sense... Hence, here I am doing just that. All I can think of though, is how tired I am today... Yesterday the boiler in the house packed up and, of course, it was one of the coldest nights of this winter so far. I live in an old Georgian property, and, it does not hold on to the heat very well. In fact, not at all. It was so cold last night, I went to bed with four layers of clothing over my pyjamas. This included thick socks, a jumper, sweatshirt, two long sleeved T shirts, a hot water bottle and two cats. I had a large mug of hot milk and snuggled under the duvet and two more quilts on top! Phew... cannot believe I am publishing such an insight in to my exciting and fulfilled life. However, I felt cosy and safe... Sadly, I was scared to move a muscle for fear of flesh being exposed to the freezing temperature outside of my cocoon..  I did not sleep very well.
 At 8.30 a.m this morning, the heating engineer arrived to fix the boiler. I know, I know, I cannot wait... Snug as bugs tonight!
 Hopefully, will awaken tomorrow with something full of wonder spilling out of my finger tips...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

In Just One Moment...

A very dear, wise friend once said to me.. "Life is made up of moments..." Where's the wisdom in that? It's obvious, I hear you cry... But it seems that it isn't. Everyone is striving for the great landmarks in life. Such as, partner, family, career... but is that enough? And, what about the forgotten moments? However small,  don't they make up the tapestry, being the 'back - bone' to the greater events? Okay, so far this sounds like gobbley gook, (apologies for spelling) but take last night's walk home, for instance...
 I left work at the usual time of 8.30 pm, give or take a few moments. I stopped at the local Sainsburys for some butter and milk - before embarking upon my ascent up the hill... I remember thinking the air was cooler than it has been for some time, but right for January. As I approached the top of the hill, I noticed a man out walking his two very large dogs. As I got closer, I recognised them to be one of my favourite dogs... Japanese Akitas. Larger than a wolf, beautiful faces with thick fur and long, strong legs... I couldn't resist going over to acknowledge and stroke these fine animals. One of them, the female, was particularly affectionate, so, I spent more moments giving her cuddles and chatting with their master - as you do. (I had never met him before, but was overwhelmed by his dogs!) He didn't seem to mind though. Then, after more moments, I continued my walk towards home...
 I reached the crossroads and seeing that both traffic lights were red, I dashed across the road to avoid waiting for the cars.Suddenly, there was an almighty revving of a motorbike engine and I turned to my right, only to see a man being thrown off his bike! He flew in my direction, his bike went in the opposite direction and his helmet, in another...I stood on the curb and absolutely froze. I could not move a muscle, it felt very strange. There was a thick silence in the air as I watched the man crash to the ground and just become motionless. I needed to act before the shock set in and could hear my muffled voice shouting out for an ambulance and that my phone had no juice! Still, I was unable to move. Slowly, though, I came back to the moment and watched how wonderfully complete strangers became heroes...
 Within a moment, the first paramedic arrived on the scene and took complete control. He gave tasks to the gathering and curious crowd. Then, a police car just happened to pass by and stopped. Three armed policemen got out to investigate. Then, in the next moment, the actual ambulance arrived and two more paramedics were straight on to the scene. Then, two more policemen arrived to take statements and showed considerable concern and good advice.. Furthermore, the back - up paramedics arrived. There were three of them! The lady who lives in the big house on the corner, (a house which I have always admired) also arrived on the scene, offering tea to those waiting around in the cold....
 Well, I was suffering from shock but could not help but think about how the moments of my evening had connected... And, how my faith in humans was completely restored. Incredible. I believe this is a fine example of how life is made up of those small moments. Not forgotten, spontaneous. It may not be a landmark, but it certainly felt like living... Oh, and the biker was safely taken to hospital...

Thursday, 5 January 2012

In Dreams...

I had  a dream the other night that Otto and I were walking along side a puma.  She had a couple of cubs and I couldn't help but wonder, why she was not more protective of them. Then it occurred to me that she was not only protecting her young, but also Otto, one of my cats. It is as though she believed him to be hers. Instinctively, Otto knew this and ran along playfully beside her and her family. I was walking slightly behind, not quite sure if I could trust her and found myself feeling scared for what seemed like no apparent reason. Yes, a puma is a wild, unpredictable animal, and in reality, I would have every reason to be concerned... Yet, in this dream, she was not a threat. She was peaceful and trusting. Everything in her world was as it should be... She had allowed me into her environment and accepted that we meant her no harm. However, perhaps, in her feline wisdom, she needed to guide or teach me something...
 Pumas are, by nature, gentle and retiring cats. They would prefer to flee than fight. To be fair, they will only lash out if injured or cornered and would rarely confront a human. Pumas are not yet considered endangered, but are hunted, run down by cars, are losing their natural habitat and getting shot frequently, when they kill livestock - mainly sheep and young cattle. This though, is the natural instinct of an animal that spots an opportunity, when its usual prey has moved. That said, they have learned to survive against the odds, from Canada to the most southern part of America, along with humans, who are in fact their greatest enemy. They adapt to climate change and do try to remain elusive to the best of their ability and are the most widely distributed of the American cats.
 The puma has the cranial proportions of a small cat. They have large eyes and their nose shape, short head, slim, agile body and distinctive purr, liken them to a giant domestic puss. Also, they do not roar like the lion or leopard. However, they are the fourth largest in size of all the big cats and with their long back legs are capable of vertical leaps of 18 feet! Making them great ambush predators.
 According to American folklore and mythology of The Indigenous people of North and South America, the puma is seen as the harbinger of death.  One who announces anothers approach. Warns of danger; And, is a good omen...
 So.... The puma thinks she is a big cat, but scientists do nor classify her as one. She is a passive creature with a small beautiful face and she purrs like a domestic cat... This begs the question.... why did she appear in my dream?
 Perhaps to show me  that I have nothing to fear, can believe and be more confident. Like her, I can think of myself as a bigger cat and find success against all the odds... And Otto? Well, he is wise and shows her trusting domestic side.... Who is to say? It was just a dream. But, it was my dream...

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Christmas tree grave yard...

I love Christmas. I love walking through my neighbour hood at night, peeking into windows where the trees are proudly on display... Wreaths hanging on doors, embracing friends and family... Warm, cosy and beautifully presented homes, pleasing the eye and lifting the spirit... It is a time to express our creativity and bring a smile to a face...
Then, all too soon, January arrives and I feel a great sadness. The 'once - loved' trees thrown out into the streets. They lay huddled together in piles like the lost skeletons of Christmas past... Random strips of silver tinsel cling on as the cold wind bites.. And, in the wake of the festive season, a tiny bulb pushes a green shoot through the soil... Furthermore, within the darkness of winter, there is indeed, fresh hope of spring...