New UA Center to Help Wildcats Worldwide

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dedicated to studying and protecting the world's wild cats, the UA Wild Cat Research and Conservation Center is the latest addition to the UA's School of Natural Resources and the Environment, which is part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Of the 36 species of wild cats that roam the jungles, deserts, mountains and everything in between, 23 (or subspecies of them) are listed as vulnerable, threatened or endangered.

Understanding and conserving wild cats, while promoting vibrant human-wildlife communities, is the mission of the UA Wild Cat Research and Conservation Center.

"Wild cats are cool and beautiful, but more importantly, they are absolutely critical to the functioning of the Earth's ecosystems. Cats are top predators, even the small ones. They keep everything in balance," said Lisa Haynes, who founded the center with several colleagues, including Melanie Culver, a world-recognized wild cat geneticist.

A photo exhibit in the Kachina Gallery in the UA Student Union showcases felines of the world and gives an overview of the center's current projects.

Most of the wild cat photographs on display were taken by photographer Fred Hood and are for sale. Proceeds will support the work of the center, which depends entirely on project-specific grants and, most importantly, contributions.

"At this point there is no dedicated funding for our work," Haynes said. "Private donations can make a huge difference for the wild cats of the world."

Haynes, who has studied mountain lions, bobcats and other wildlife in the Southwest for many years, has gathered a small but high-profile group of wild cat experts to found the center.

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