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Scientists working in other places with other cats are devising similar plans to stitch together patches of wilderness with corridors to provide havens for big cats seeking prey or a mate. In the Americas, Rabinowitz of the WCS has proposed a 2,000-mile-long chain of public and private lands to link the disparate populations of jaguars. It would extend from Mexico through Central America to northern Argentina. Jaguars have lost half their habitat in the past century, and much that remains has been fragmented by logging and ranching. Experts have identified 51 conservation areas in 16 countries that they deem essential for the long-term survival of the largest American cat. One potential break in the corridor--the Panama Canal--turned out to be no problem at all: paw marks showed that jaguars can swim across the canal in both directions.
In the mountains of Ladakh in Northern India, pashmina-goat herders keep their animals outside at night in the cold so that they develop the soft, thick wool prized around the world. But doing so makes them prime targets for snow leopards, which are particularly hated by the herders because of their tendency toward mass slaughter. "When snow leopards get into a pen, their predatory instincts are repeatedly triggered, and they go on a killing frenzy," says Rodney Jackson of the Snow Leopard Conservancy. "Killing 20 or more animals at a time is not uncommon. One hundred and seven sheep is the record we've seen."
Like Laurence Frank in Kenya, Jackson focuses much of his work on teaching people how to better husband their flocks in cat country. The methods are simple and inexpensive. His organization provides goatherds with 4-in.-by-4-in. wire mesh and poles over which it can be hung to keep the snow leopards out of goat pens. The cats may stalk goats by day while they are grazing, but then the leopards kill only once, which is less financially ruinous than multiple mayhem at night.
Predation on livestock is the biggest reason for human--big cat conflict around the world. The solution is to make it harder for the cats to capture domesticated animals than wild prey. Cats are opportunistic hunters and will generally not go out of their way to kill a sheep if it is easier to jump a deer or an antelope.
Namibia has 3,000 cheetahs--the single largest remaining population in Africa--but ranchers shoot them for attacking cattle. Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund has been importing Anatolian shepherds, 160-lb. dogs bred in Turkey to protect livestock from wolves. She trains the Anatolians and then gives them to ranches, where they will stand their ground against the much smaller cheetah. Problem cheetahs that kill cattle are sometimes captured and fed an alternating diet of wild game and beef laced with lithium chloride. The beef sickens the cheetahs, persuading them to stick to wild meat.
A ROLE FOR TROPHY HUNTING?