“Be big and be loud,” was the advice given by Barbara Dicely at the Big Cat Show held in the Student Center’s Ballroom on Dec. 3 when asked what to do if approached by a wild cat.
“As the planet keeps growing, there’s less room for the animals. They are an endangered species on the verge of extinction. These cats are amazing and we make them our school mascots because we respect their beauty,” said Dicely.
Dicely is the founder of the Wild Cat Education and Conservation Fund, created in 2001. The Big Cat Show has recently become a tradition at Sonoma State and is often a popular event among students. This year marked the first time that small wild cats were featured in the show.
Dicely has worked with wild cats for nearly 35 years. Holding roughly 75 to 100 programs per year, Dicely is committed to educating adults and children about the endangerment of these wild cats that coexist on earth.
This year’s Big Cat Show featured four wild cats, three of which weighed less than 35 pounds.
Introduced first was the fishing cat found primarily in Southern and Southeast Asia. This wild cat weighs 20 pounds on average and lives on a diet that consists of only fish. The many unique features of the fishing cat are found within its name.
“They live near water. They (fishing cats) actually swim underwater and his paws are webbed. He can swim really fast but he is not a fast runner,” said Dicely.
The next cat shown was the ocelot, found in every South American country except Chile. This wild cat was one of the most hunted and threatened cats in the Americas because of the beauty of its fur. The ocelot is now protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife services and is no longer hunted in America.
The mountain lion, or cougar, was the third wild cat featured in the Big Cat Show. This big cat weighs nearly four times the size of the fishing cat and lives in both South and North America. The habitat of a mountain lion includes many places in California, including the Bay Area. Despite being a protected species in California, the mountain lion population is decreasing.
“We have two choices: we learn how to coexist or we kill all of them, and someday the only one left will be man,” said Dicely.
The final and smallest cat presented in the show was the Geoffroy’s cat, found in the central and southern areas of South America. Weighing only 6.5 pounds, this wild cat is the second most hunted cat compared to the ocelot. Nowadays, the Geoffroy’s cat is no longer hunted for their fur because of the wildlife laws protecting them.
As this year’s Big Cat Show came to a close, founder Dicely answered many questions from the audience ranging from how people can help preserve the wild cats and to how cats are different from dogs.