Monthly Archives: October 2015
Max – African wild cat
June 2015 Max arrived at our project on a “loan” to see if he could get on well with our girls Sid and Louise. He like the other two was born at Cat Conservation Trust, Clifton/Eastern Cape. Max sadly is prone to a stuffed nose caused by some allergy, and at times it does get a bit worse. As he is good friends with Sid and Louise, we still wanted to keep him at our project, so since October 21st, 2015 he officially is our new male ambassador for his species, the African wild cat. Needless to say our three ancestors of the domestic cats all three have pure genes and aren’t hybrids. As mixing with feral cats or domestic cats is one of the biggest threats to the healthy bloodline of the African wildcat, we decided it is badly needed to have a conservation project for them as well. Hopefully they will start breeding too, to be able to donate some back to nature, but if not we still love keeping them for educational purposes.
12-Sep-13, Clifton, Eastern Cape
Mother – Cleo
Felis libyca cafra
F.l.griselda x cafra “Dani” captive born, Johannesburg Zoo, Eastern Cape
F.l.cafra “Manuel” captive born Pretoria Nat Zoo
Father – Eddie
Felis Silvestris lybica
Unknown ~ May ’98
Captive born Wild care
Monday, 19 October 2015, was a very exciting day for all at Wild Cats World and our vet, but also another very important achievement in our leopard project “The other side of the leopard”. Our dear ambassador leopard, Queen Feline, was examined and we decided to have a scan done to know a bit more and check if all is fine…..and yes Feline allowed this, caretakers by her side and a vet (and assistant) she never saw before…..NON sedated! Lots of domestic cats can take her example of behaving so well!!
All excitement grew when…..one….two heartbeats were visible. These cubs are most welcome and very important for our project. Of course it is a first litter so we hope all goes well, but for sure Feline will be a wonderful mommy, already practicing her skills on Felicia who allows it. The cubs will be (of course!) mother-raised, and part of the leopard “Pride”-model. Interesting to see how mom Feline reacts to the people she bonds with when she has cubs. We expect no change! Important for the project to see the differences between human-raised (but soon reunited with their kind!) and mother-raised leopards, and above all to show the other side of the leopard again. The species that is so misunderstood, and turns out to be most exceptional and wonderful of all!!
Picture kindly taken by our caretaker Jeanette Leinweber.
Babette de Jonge
Director/Founder Wild Cats World
The other side of the leopard – WCW leopardproject: understanding, education, conservation. Step by Step.
It is obvious that the leopardspecies still is far less understood,and misjudged, compared to all other species. In the wild they for sure are under threat, but also in captivity lots can be improved for the species. There’s so many studies, so-called facts or scientific documents about the leopard. To start another project is only adding when one does something completely different, trying to show the other side of the medal….So much more to the leopard as we found out already………..
When I (WCW founder/director, Babette de Jonge) saw leopards in zoos, sanctuaries or private projects, I was crying deep inside. This was one of the many reasons to start working with and for leopards, but also to not only focus on the wild (and natural habitat) of the species but also on what can be improved or learnt in captive situations. For sure the leopard isn’t going to be happy in a too small enclosure (length and hight), locked up alone (even though said to be solitary) or at times as couple or with cubs, with no enrichment and bad/irregular feeding; kept wild with no bond with the human caretaker(s). Also the other side isn’t improving their state of mind and happiness: to be cuddled and followed by humans all day, week, month, year……
As for a wild leopard, it won’t be happy and never will be captured and caged. If an organisation or zoo refers to this as a rescue, because they are not killed but kept in a cage instead….better to let him go, he will never be happy and never be as relaxed as a captive born leopard.
In Wild Cats World I not only wanted to give the best home possible to a few (captive born) ambassadors of their species, but to contribute to the understanding and conservation of the species and to try to reach the impossible, the construction of a “leopard Pride” started and an “experiment”, who has proven so many scientific or zoological facts and stories about leopardbehaviour wrong already, which will be documented step by step, a few highlights of the project and experiment presented already on this website….
Phase I – WCW leopardproject: understanding, education, conservation. The other side of the leopard.
As said our Leopard Conservation Project not only focuses on the leopard in the wild, but also on how to improve the lifes of captive born leopards, with as main goal: a better understanding, education and eventually contribution to the species in their natural habitat. After studying the leopards in their natural habitat as well as in captivity, it was time for our project.
But how did it start and more important which so-called scientific “facts” and publications of the leopard and their behaviour can we already deny.
– Are leopards solitary and not living in peace with other leopards?
WCW: if enough space and food, no problems at all, not in our project but also not in the wild we experienced.
– Are leopards nocturnal?
WCW: they usually tend to be more active evening/night/morning, but they also hunt or play daytime when not too hot. (observations in wild and captivity)
– Are leopards elusive?
WCW: They have the name, but also in the wild they tend to become less and less elusive, more often great leopardsightings everywhere.
– Do males fight over territory and females?
WCW: Not when enough space and food. We now even observed how males do share females. Not at the same time but each their own period.
– Do leopards kill other leopards, like unrelated cubs?
WCW: not, when enough space and food. For sure not their own offspring
– Are humanraised leopards more dangerous and not capable of living with their own kind anymore?
WCW: Not true! – Are sexually mature leopards more dangerous to humans they bonded with early on?
WCW: treated the right way: NO!
Males do even see the difference in men and women and react to that.
– Are humanraised leopards able to raise cubs themselves?
– What about the wild instincts of leopards in captivity?
WCW: the same as the wild leopards. They are only more relaxed in certain situations, so better to socialise them instead of keeping “wild”
– Are leopards more dangerous compared to the other big cats?
WCW: not at all, but they are the true cats amongst the big cats, and on top of that: opportunistic and clever! So not a match for ignorance and stupidity, but not more dangerous from birth.
All of these subjects will be worked out in the future document (book) about the whole project. It started ages ago already by the observation of leopards in the wild, but also in zoos and sanctuaries…..The leopard conservation project officially started in 2010, and in 2011 we decided to do one project with ambassadors, Feline being the first to arrive.
Our four leopards were sadly taken away from their parents and offered for sale, for anyone interested: so also canned hunting industry. Even though it is tempting and a wonderful feeling to be a sort of “surrogate” parent to a leopard, this was not our intention. We wanted to keep the bond but above all to reunite them a.s.a.p. with their own kind, to be leopard and not humanized. Felix, Feline’s brother, was still on the list after 3 months so we decided to reunite him with Feline, and when they were young adults first Felipe and a year later Felicia were introduced to them as cubs with no problems at all. They all loved to be with leopards, and the huge “homes” (connected for enrichment) we had constructed for them is benefiting to their happiness. The experiment started along the way, to keep them as sort of a Pride. In fact the 4 leopards initiated themselves to this…..always looking for each other’s company…in good harmony. And there’s enough space to have private moments as well. In these 5 years we learnt so much about this incredible species, and the best education is to share this info with everybody who is interested and above all who has the wrong idea about the leopard.
Update November 1st, 2015:
Extra ordinary behaviour of the leopards we were able to observe in their natural habitat but even more so in our own conservation project, where we a.o. experiment having leopards in a sort of a Pride (like e.g. lions), existing of two (adult) males and two females, introduced as unrelated leopards (even though Feline and Felix are brother-sister, they didn’t grow up with each other first months, and were also introduced as “unknown” members of their species), at different ages….two of them introduced as small cubs to unrelated young adults….all without difficulties.
Now all four adults are sexual mature, and mating, still no problems and even exceptional behaviour was observed. Of course when our female Feline was on heat she had to be seperated from her brother Felix as we don’t want any inbreed incidents. With Feline being pregnant by Felipe and Felicia being on heat, they could all four be together, and even though we selected Felix to be Felicia’s mating partner, she could make the choice herself as Felicia and Felipe are also not related.
The estrous cycle of leopards lasts about 46 days during which females are on and off on heat for periods of 6-7 days. This is quite long and taking its toll, not just on the females we noticed but also on the males, like Felix who was determined to follow Felicia everywhere and to mate frequently during this period. After about a week, he was exhausted, and gave up. Felicia took a little break and continued to be on heat…..Felipe took over and Felix allowed him. Felipe is a bit more of a lazy lover compared to Felix as Felicia has to come to him and then he was willing to mate, even right in front of Felix, the dominant male. Most exceptional was Feline’s part as after every mating session, Felicia went to Feline to have a grooming session. The boys accepted this and waited patiently, respecting Feline to do so. And to make it even more exceptional….also we found Felix on top of Felipe a few times in between. Not just as sign of dominance as it was a true mating ritual, and this even took longer then the male-female mating. Felipe accepted his role, even though is also is an adult male and dominant at times, for sure topping Felix in size. Both males do scent mark and defend their territory, also human males have to be careful.
With Feline being pregnant, she is mothering Felicia even more, seems to practice for her (near) future mother role. Felipe at times doesn’t leave Feline, and she is grooming him, like they are knowing they become parents soon. Felix, as brother, keeps more distance, and he and Felicia at times withdraw together.
Now it would be the next step in the Pride to see if the cubs can be born and grow up, being accepted by all four leopards. We are confident this won’t be a problem either.
All projects mentioned on this website are run by, part of and/or supported by Wild Cats World. All projects have people working on ground level to keep track of the progress and to try and achieve the mission of the project. Coming time the focus will be on the S.A. “Leopard Conservation & Education” Project. Hopefully soon a new level will be reached and the “experiment” will continue. The four leopard ambassadors Feline, Felipe, Felix and Felicia are the main factors. With these four leopards living in a group, the understanding of leopards is already taken to a new level. WCW Founder/Director, Babette De Jonge, will coming years spend more and more time in South Africa dedicating herself to this special leopard project, living closely with this leopard group and hopefully some offspring in the near future. All info and photography will be collected and documented at a later stage, which will be of relevant importance to the understanding of the leopard species, showing a whole new side of the leopard (the educational part), will contribute to better welfare of the species not just in their natural habitat but also in captivity (like in zoos and sanctuaries), but will in the long run also contribute to the survival of the species (conservation). So all focus on this important WCW project, of which updates will be shared regularly on this website, Facebook and Twitter.