Sunday 29 March 2009

There are no Wildcats

I say that there are no wildcats left because there are no wild places left. We differentiate between cats in the wild and cats in captivity but in the modern world, the here and now, these two extremes seem to me to be part of a continuous spectrum. A wildcat in captivity is obvious. There will be a fence somewhere. It might be a cage or a fence could enclose a relatively large area for us but a small area for the wildcat. Take a cheetah, its home range depends on availability of prey but varies between 34 km2 (13 sq mi), to 1,500 km2 (580 sq mi) in Namibia. How many enclosures enclose 13 square miles?

The tiger and lion are similar. What is the the size of a major game reserve? The Kaziranga National Park in India is a major reserve and covers 430 square kilometers. But a road runs through it. Tourists are welcome. And tea estates are in the reserve. This is a large area, almost large enough but it is not a truly wild place. The wild animals live with human animals.

In Namibia the cheetah lives on farm land. How can a large wildcat live on farm land and hope to remain wild? It doesn't. It often dies at the hands of farmers (see Farmers Killing Cheetahs). There are no wildcats anymore because the truly wild places have all gone. The wildcats including the big cats are forced to live with people and that cannot work because we are frightened of each other.

For a wildcat to be truly wild it has to be able to behave in a manner that is exactly in tune with its character. In a space that is too small it cannot do this. The larger wildcats need lots of space as the cheetah figures above show (src: Wikipedia). For example, a tigress could have a territory of 20 square kilometers. The male territory is larger, covering 60–100 km2. Do you think that there is that kind of space left in the countries that is the tiger's range?

In the Kaziranga National Park, in India, tigers will wander to the borders of the park and at that point there will be a direct interaction between human and tiger. See Poisoning Tigers, for example. There are many others. I really do not believe that there is sufficient space to accommodate the big cats in Asia. It is a highly populated (for humans) part of the world. There is a correlation between human population increase in Asia (the home of the tiger) and tiger population decrease.

Date Human Pop. Asia Tiger Pop. Wild
1900 947,000,000 100,000
2008 4,054,000,000 (4+ times increase) 2,000 (50 x decrease)

I may be exaggerating, slightly, when I say that there are no wildcats left but they are not wild in the true sense. I have just made a post about a leopard that "terrorized villagers". The two have been forced together. Unfortunately it is the leopard that occupies the human land not the other way around. That means that the leopard is the one that is beholden to the top predator, man, with the usual consequences.

There are no Wildcats to Home Page

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