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Close up portrait of a kitten from Pallas’ cat, one of 33 species of small wild cats.
While most people would recognize a tiger, lion, or leopard, few would successfully identify a cloudy leopard, fishing cat, or ocelot. With their economies of scale, the world’s large wildcats often overshadow their smaller relatives. And at a time when humans are juggling the fate of every species, a lack of attention could mean their silent disappearance. Of the 18 most endangered wild cats worldwide, 12 are small wild cats. Few scientific studies address the plight of these species. As a result, there are massive gaps in knowledge about their population, threats, and more.
A camera trap picture of an ocelot in Costa Rica. Image credit: Panthera
In such dire circumstances, Panthera, the global wildcat conservation organization, announced good news for these often neglected cats. Jonathan Ayers, a noted philanthropist and past chairman, president and CEO of IDEXX Laboratories, has joined Panthera’s Global Alliance for Wild Cats and has been generously committed to protecting wild cats with at least $ 20 million over the next decade 33 species of small wild cats.
Jonathan Ayers, former chairman, president and CEO of IDEXX Laboratories and founder of the Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Trust (The Conservation Trust).
Ayers describes himself as a “cat person” and regards his cats as family. He has dedicated 17 years of his professional life at IDEXX, the market leader in veterinary diagnostics and software, to promoting the health and wellbeing of pets and farm animals. He resigned from his position at IDEXX in 2019 after suffering a catastrophic bicycle accident that left him quadriplegic. In recent years, his love for cats has campaigned for the welfare of the wild. With his wife, Helaine, he founded the Conservation Trust in 2018, which helped launch Panthera’s Small Cats Program.
“As I embark on this exciting phase of my life and career, I can think of no more meaningful endeavor than dedicating his unreserved passion to protecting these extraordinary animals – the charismatic wildcats of the world – whose existence is so important to health of our planet. This association with a scientific leader like Panthera, who comes from a science school that benefits the better-known cats of our planet, is a natural extension of my lifelong interest in nature and cats – both large and small, domestic and wild, “explained Ayers.
The founder and chairman of Panthera and founder of the Global Alliance for Wild Cats, Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan, explained: “In the 15 years since Panthera was on the stage as a start-up company, many champions and heroes have joined us. We are bringing the organization to where it is today: a brand name for scientific excellence, Cutting-edge research and innovative partnerships in the field of cat protection, spanning 39 countries where wild cats are still roaming free. Even so, in my experience, few have driven Jon Ayers’ enthusiasm, vision and personal passion. By bringing the spotlight not only to big cats but also to 33 of 40 wild cat species known as “small cats”, it has already proven itself to be a trailblazer for cat protection. ”
Panthera is currently running flagship small cat conservation projects in Southeast Asia. With the support of Ayers, the Panthera scientists now want to start projects for a total of 14 small cat species at 13 locations. These projects are guided by new scientific data obtained from research on the ecology and biology of these species. Southeast Asia, Africa and America will also be priority landscapes for the Small Cats program over the next five years.
“Wildcat protection is a very tangible cause that I know I can influence. One of the things that attracted me to Panthera is its focus on wildcats – and the focus leads to impact. Panthera’s line of talented scientists, my Global Alliance colleagues and I all share a deeply ingrained commitment to discover the science that will help protect wildcats, reverse species decline, increase their unsung plight with our voices, and improve their conservation as a global priority for all, “said Ayers.
Oishimaya Sen Nag March 22, 2021 in Environment