chinese nature reserve

Check out the newest addition to the Prehistoria Natural History Centre - a shed antler from a Père David’s deer! Currently listed as “Extinct In The Wild”, these deer inhabited the marshlands of the Chinese subtropics.

Driven to the brink of global extinction (and complete extinction in the wild) by land reclamation and hunting, their species was saved largely by the efforts of Herbrand Russell (the 11th Duke of Bedford). He purchased the few remaining individuals from European zoos and formed a protected herd at Woburn Abbey.

In 1985 reintroductions began in Chinese nature reserves and today they number roughly 2000 individuals in the wild. Others can still be found in captivity around the world. It is now only a matter of time until their IUCN status is upgraded (slightly) to “Critically Endangered”.

I’d like to thank the awesome folks at Papanack Zoo for this donation to the Prehistoria Natural History Centre! This antler will be mounted on our Wall Of Extinction exhibit.

oxcake-deactivated20161207  asked:

I certainly agree with your panda post, but I have a question. How do you feel about the big cat's huge vulnerability to extinction? Are they a species that we should save instead of pandas or am I looking too far into it?

The main difference between big cat conservation and panda conservation is that we are actually seeing progress from big cat conservation. Amur leopard populations have doubled since 2007 after their range was protected. Tigers have increased from ~1 500 to over 2 000 in India after similar changes in protected areas. Amur tigers - including cubs - were spotted in Chinese nature reserves for the first time since the species went into decline, meaning that they’re breeding and expanding, even if it’s by minute increments.

As a general rule, predators are extremely important for the survival of an ecosystem, and big cats are no exception. Predators regulate prey populations - usually many, many species of prey, which trickles down through the food web in a process that is known as a trophic cascade. Simply, it means that if the predator numbers decrease, their prey increases, which means the prey eat more, breed more, and can actually wipe out their own food sources - to the point that not only are the food species extirpated, but the prey population can collapse from lack of food and also vanish. 

Big cats do breed easily in captivity and out (generally) - more easily than pandas - and they play a crucial role in ecosystems. They face some of the same problems that pandas do, since they, too, are charismatic megafauna, but they also have the benefits that aren’t really working with panda conservation. 

Since big cats are large, wide-ranging predators, loads of other species can be protected within reserves set aside for them. They have the public eye, and can garner money and interest for conservation initiatives that otherwise wouldn’t get any attention. They are well-known and popular, bringing money in to zoos and other facilities so they can run conservation programs as well.  People love them. People want to protect them. Conservation is actually working. And their loss would be much more detrimental to the environment than the loss of pandas

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