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Felines: Natural History Introduction
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Felines: Natural History Introduction

What Is A Feline? A Feline (felidae) or Cat is a mammal, and a member of the Carnivora order meaning they are all carnivorous predatory mammals. The film introduces us to seven distinct subspecies of felines - Lions, Tigers, Caracals, Cougars, Lynx, the Cheetah and the extremely rare King Cheetah. Basic introduction is made to the subspecies featured in our "PowerCats: Locked & Loaded" DVD film.

Evolution

Our "Power Cats" are perfectly designed predators. If you will notice, nature designed all felines with beauty, grace and awesome power. The territory range of the big cats has been narrowed to a few isolated areas throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East due primarily to severe loss of habitat, excessive hunting and poaching. It is speculated that the big cats may once have ranged into present day Alaska via the Bering land bridge that once joined Alaska and Siberia.

Among the 36 felines species recognized today, tigers are most closely related to lions, leopards and jaguars. These cats evolved from a common ancestor that was similar to modern leopards or jaguars and lived more than 5 million years ago. Fossils clearly identified as those of tigers about 2 million years old were found in central Asia, China, Siberia, Japan, and the Indonesian islands of Sumatra and Java. The tiger's range of existence has been narrowed to these few isolated pockets throughout Asia due to severe loss of habitat and excessive hunting and poaching.

Lions and Cheetahs are found only in parts of Africa and Asia in the wild. Caracals are found in savannahs and scrub forest of northern Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and southwestern Asia. Cougar and Lynx territory spans from the Canadian Yukon to the tip of South America and parts of Asia. They are so named for the territory which they inhabit, i.e. a Cougar in the Rocky Mountains is called a Mountain Lion but when in Florida, they would be called a Florida Panther.

Extinction

Two subspecies of lions have been declared extinct, the Barbary Lion and the Cape Lion which once ranged the northern Coastal areas of Africa and southern Cape area, respectively. Tigers once were found throughout the forested regions of tropical and temperate Asia, from eastern Russia and Korea through China and into Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent and into Pakistan. Separate populations extended around the Caspian Sea and on the Indonesian Islands of Bali, Java and Sumatra. Unfortunately, the Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers have been declared extinct. Only five tiger subspecies are still living today.

These animals are becoming increasingly rare and many of the species featured within our film are classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered with the threat of extinction. In the instance of the South China tigers, there are less than 20-30 remaining in the wild. The Sumatran tiger does not fare much better with recent population statistics reporting less than 400 in the entire world. Further study and detail on populations for each species is contained on the respective animal bio pages within this curriculum. Recent methods of tracking population is with radio transmissions and cameras using infrared beams where the animals actually trigger a "self-portrait" snapshot of themselves with recorded dates and times help scientists to establish current population (see Lion & Tiger Population Tables).

It is important for students to understand what "Extinction" means to these animals. Extinction is a very real possibility for many of the species we introduce to them here and it may happen within their lifetimes. We hope to educate our young generation, who will become tomorrow's future leaders and decision makers, about the current legislation and programs in place to protect these species from extinction. The most profound threat across the board to the big cats is loss of habitat.

John Jones of Florida Wild Productions, one of our film's co-hosts makes a very profound statement in our DVD which is this: "Before you save the animal, you MUST save the habitat."

Without sufficient preservation of natural habitat, these animals will only be able to survive through organized captive breeding programs for us to see residing in zoos, sanctuaries, or worst case - in a museum. Students will learn that habitat preservation and our collective concern as mankind for healthy ecological systems and global conservation, including educational programs for the indigenous people, are the keys to the future for these magnificent animals.

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