CATnews 50 Spring 2009
capture of a sequence of 10 monochrome
night time pictures of the sand cat using an
infrared light source with speeds up to one
frame per second. The image sequence shows
the animal’s right proﬁle, an apparent freeze
response of some 7 seconds after detecting
the camera trap, before resuming movement.
The single photographic sequence taken
of the sand cat over 55 days operation sug-
gests that either the site was not part of the
animal’s routine range or that the species is
unusually wary of the camera. The capture at
23h54 is in line with Dragesco-Joffé’s (1993)
observations highlighting the nocturnal beha-
vior of the species.
A few decades ago Ronnefeld included the
Ahaggar region in the distributional range of
the sand cat in its form F. m. airensis (Ronne-
feld 1969). However this has been regarded
as a mistake by Kowalski & Rzebik-Kowalska
(1991). The present camera trap capture of
the sand cat in Ahaggar National Park’s core
area, supplemented with geographical coor-
dinates, provides new and unequivocal con-
ﬁrmation of sand cat occurrence in Algerian
Central Sahara, underpinning the hitherto
largely anecdotal reports of the species in
the area and necessitating an update of the
species distribution map.
The author is indebted to Wildlife Conservati-
on Society (New York)/Kaplan Awards Program,
Panthera and Howard G. Buffett Foundation, for
supporting ﬁeld research in Algeria. The Ofﬁce du
Parc National de l’Ahaggar (OPNA) and its Director
Mr Farid Ighilahriz are thanked for their valuable
help and logistical support. Additional thanks are
due to Drs Sarah Durant and Tim Wacher (ZSL) for
improving the original draft.
De Smet K. 1989. Distribution and habitat choice
of the larger mammals in Algeria with special
reference to nature protection. PhD Thesis.
Gent State University, Ghent. 357 pp.
Dragesco-Joffé A. 1993. La vie sauvage au Saha-
ra. Delachaux & Niestlé, Lausanne. 240 pp.
Dupuy A. 1966. Espèces menacées du territoire
Algérien. Travaux de l‘Institut de Recherches
Sahariennes 25, 29-56.
Dupuy A. 1967. Répartition actuelle des espèces
menacées de l‘Algérie. Bulletin de la Société
des Sciences Naturelles et Physiques du Ma-
roc 47(3-4), 355-386.
Kowalski K. & Rzebik-Kowalska B. 1991. Mam-
mals of Algeria. Polish Academy of Sciences,
Ossolineum, Wroclaw-Kraków. 370 pp.
Mallon D.P., Sliwa A. & Strauss M. 2008. Felis
margarita. In 2008 IUCN Red List of Threate-
ned Species. IUCN 2008 <www.iucnredlist.
org>. Downloaded on 12 February 2009.
Nowell K. & Jackson P. 1996 (Eds). 1996. Wild
Cats. Status Survey and Conservation Action
Plan. IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group. IUCN,
1 Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of
London, London, UK.
2 Laboratoire d’Ecologie & Environnement,
Faculté des Sciences de la Nature et de la Vie,
Université de Béjaïa, Béjaïa, Algeria.
Volunteer expeditions sup-
port felid research projects
Volunteer expeditions have helped to support research projects with two large wild
cats. Results have raised concern regarding the conservation status of the Atlantic
Rain Forest jaguar Panthera onca, and have successfully evaluated habitat condi-
tions for Arabian leopards Panthera pardus nimr in two areas of their distribution.
I was ﬁrst introduced to the volunteering sy-
stem through Biosphere Expeditions, an UK-
based volunteer and non-proﬁt organization.
I learned that volunteer organizations usually
joined ﬁeld projects at some stage after the
project’s implementation. I was, however, ai-
ming to a new project in a new place, when
the partnership with Biosphere Expeditions
came handy to start a project with jaguar in
Brazil. This meant that I had to rely on the
resources provided by Biosphere Expeditions
and by the recruited volunteers to start and
possibly maintain the project.
Volunteers came from several continents to
help with their personal effort, and in most
cases they had no previous research training.
They were trained to record species’ pre-
sence using GPS and datasheets. After some
practice in the ﬁeld, during which tracks and
scats of known species were shown, they
were split into small groups to perform dif-
ferent tasks. To reduce identiﬁcation errors,
team members were instructed to bring scats
to base camp whenever they were unable to
identify the species, and were briefed on how
to take photos of tracks for identiﬁcation later
at base camp.
Jaguar in Brazil
The experience has been successful. Expe-
ditions to the Serra do Mar mountain range
in southern Brazil (25°40’N, 48°50’E) aimed
to evaluate habitat conditions for jaguars
Panthera onca and pumas Puma concolor.
They were conducted with international vo-
lunteers during the November-December
periods of 2006, 2007, and 2008. Three local
expeditions during July 2006, 2007 and 2008
were also organized as a way to extend the
sampling period and to ﬁnd new routes and
locations. Results have been published in
annual reports, in a local and international
journal (Mazzolli & Hammer 2008a, Mazzolli
2009), and presented during national and in-
ternational meetings (all available at http://
www.projeto-puma.org, download section).
I have since been invited to participate in
workshops to deﬁne action plans for the ja-
guar at both the national and regional levels,
demonstrating that our work has been ack-
nowledged by local managers and scientists,
and that the information provided may be va-
luable to jaguar conservation.
Unlikely the puma, jaguar frequency in the
area was found to be very low, and this has
raised our concern. Results shouldn’t have
surprised us, though. The Serra do Mar
mountain range is considered one of the best
refuges to the jaguar in the Atlantic Rain Fo-
rest, but in practice it is not more than a 40km
wide strip of forest along the coast. Further-
more, the ecosystem is considered as one of
the most endangered in world, where jaguar
populations are isolated from larger (source)
news from around the world
CATnews 50 Spring 2009
continental populations. Direct efforts should
be allocated to preserve the jaguar in the At-
lantic Forest, even if to maintain a likely vari-
ation adapted to a peculiar ecosystem.
We have attributed low frequency and oc-
cupancy of jaguars to low prey availability,
inadequate implementation of reserves, and
invasions motivated by the unsustainable har-
vesting of palm heart. Jaguar is very sensitive
to habitat modiﬁcation and the reduction in
the stock of large-sized wild prey, particularly
peccaries, Tayassu pecari and Pecari tajacu,
and capybaras Hidrochaerus hidrochaeris.
During the surveys we have also recorded,
among other mammal species, primates,
Alouatta guariba and Cebus nigritus, the oce-
lot Leopardus pardalis, and the tapir Tapirus
Leopard in Oman
During January and February 2008 I had the
privilege to work as a Biosphere Expeditions’
scientist in search for the Arabian leopard
Panthera pardus nimr, the leopard subspe-
cies inhabiting the Arabian Peninsula. The
Arabian leopard is listed in the IUCN Red List
as Critically Endangered, based on estimates
of fewer than 250 wild individuals (Mallon et
al. 2006). Biosphere Expeditions is working
jointly with the Arabian Leopard Survey Pro-
ject to extend its reach, by sampling in areas
that have not been previously surveyed, and
by bringing new local and international part-
ners to address the conservation aspect of
We were to sample in the the Dhofar moun-
tains in southern Oman, considered the best
habitat for leopards in the Arabian Peninsula.
We aimed, however, at a border area of the
leopard’s distribution, at the northern range
of the mountains (53° 37’E, 17° 13’ N), not
at prime leopard ranges. As a result, we have
found few and old signs of leopard presence,
and indications of leopard decline. No recent
depredation incidents were reported by her-
ders where once it was common. In spite of
that, the habitat for leopard seemed quite
intact, harboring prey species such as the nu-
bian ibex Capra ibex nubiana, rock hyrax Pro-
cavia capensis, and mountain gazelle Gazella
gazella cora. In addition, we have also recor-
ded hyaena Hyaena hyaena sultana, caracal
Caracal caracal schmitzi and the Arabian
wolf Canis lupus arabs, among other species
(Mazzolli & Hammer, 2008b). This contrasted
with previous Biosphere Expedition’s results
in the Mudandam Peninsula,
Biosphere Expeditions has produced a pre-
vious report of leopard surveys in the Mu-
sandam Peninsula (56° 10’E, 25° 50’). Results
have shown that leopard wild prey was red-
uced in the area, and that vulnerable species
like the hyena and wolf were also uncommon
(Hammer et al. 2007). These indications of
habitat impoverishment were corroborated
by Stuart & Stuart (2007), which have found
no evidence of continued occurrence of any
wild ungulate in southern Musandam and ad-
joining areas of United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Instead, they found that leopards were fee-
ding mainly on exotic goats and Cape hare.
Hammer M., McGregor T., Spalton A. & Hikmani
H. 2007. Status of the Arabian leopard (Pan-
thera pardus nimr) in the mountains of the
Musandam peninsula, Sultanate of Oman.
Expedition Report. Biosphere Expeditions, UK.
Available from www.biosphere-expeditions.
org. 51 pp.
Mallon D., Edmonds J.-A., Breitenmoser U. &
Breitenmoser-Würsten Ch. (Eds). 2006. Cat
News Special Issue 1. Status and conservation
of the leopard on the Arabian Peninsula. IUCN/
SSC Cat Specialist Group, Muri b. Bern, Swit-
zerland, 48 pp.
Mazzolli M. 2009. Loss of historical range of jagu-
ars in southern Brazil. Biodiversity and Conser-
vation 18 , 1715-1717.
Mazzolli M. & Hammer M.L.A. 2008a. Qualida-
de de ambiente para a onça-pintada, puma e
jaguatirica na Baía de Guaratuba, Estado do
Paraná, utilizando os aplicativos Capture e Pre-
sence (Environmental quality for jaguar, puma
and ocelot in the Guaratuba Bay, State of Pa-
raná, using programs Capture and Presence).
Biotemas 21, 105-117.
Mazzolli M. & Hammer M.L.A. 2008b. Status of
the Arabian leopard (Panthera pardus nimr) in
Dhofar, Sultanate of Oman. Expedition Report.
Biosphere Expeditions, UK. Available at www.
projeto-puma.org. 50 pp.
Stuart C. & Stuart M. 2007. Diet of leopard and ca-
racal in the northern United Arab Emirates and
adjoining Oman territory. Cat News 46, 30-31.
1 Projeto Puma, Brazil
Study site for jaguar and puma surveys in Brazil. Base camp in Oman (both photos M. V. Reenen).
volunteer expeditions help felid research