January 28, 2023

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Puma, Cougar, Or Mountain Lion? The Significant Cat’s Lots of Names Hinder Conservation Attempts

The puma, also recognised by more than 80 other conditions like the cougar and mountain lion, holds the enviable title of ‘mammal with the most names‘ as per Guinness Environment Documents. According to a new review, even so, much more is surely not the merrier in this case. The many monikers of this major cat species act as a hurdle to its productive conservation. The examine, done by Panthera, the world wide wild cat conservation corporation, was posted by Frontiers in Conservation Science. In an interview with WorldAtlas, Dr. Mark Elbroch, the Director of the Puma Application for Panthera, and the corresponding writer of the study, defined just how numerous names of a species impression its conservation on many fronts.

The puma is the most wide-ranging indigenous terrestrial mammal in the Americas. Its array handles 28 nations around the world from southern Alaska in the United States to the southern suggestion of Chile. It is a really resilient species capable of flourishing in a selection of ecosystems. Provided its common distribution, it is shown as a Minimum Issue species on the IUCN Red Checklist. Researchers, however, suspect that its populations are lowering all over its range earning conservation interventions required to preserve its populations stable. 

Mountain lion range map
Distribution of Puma concolor as it was recognised to exist in 2010. Graphic credit: Kokosdieb through Wikimedia Commons.

Although habitat decline and fragmentation, poaching, lawful looking, and persecution due to livestock depredation are the known threats to the puma, the new review will make a startling addition to the list – the lots of names of the puma. But how accurately do extra names act as a menace to pumas? The good reasons are discussed down below.

mountain lion
Three wild cougars on the road in Torres del Paine nationwide park in Chile. Habitat reduction and fragmentation due to linear infrastructure enhancement are major threats to the species.

Conversation Barrier 

According to Dr. Mark Elbroch, the use of multiple conditions referring to the puma in diverse locations impacts successful conversation amongst the a variety of stakeholders associated with puma conservation. 

We all know the environment has develop into far more polarized and that men and women are picking out sides on just about every challenge, whether voting legal rights, searching quotas, or ballot initiatives to demonstrate loyalty to a team over any other explanation. This actuality is as legitimate in the wildlife planet as it is in other places. When folks interact, they search for cues to identify no matter if they are speaking with anyone from inside their team vs . an outsider (the prospective opposition). For instance, imagine walking into a condition agency conference about mountain lion rules to talk along the traces of conservation, and you start off with the phrase ‘puma’ for the species. You have just labeled by yourself as an outsider. The entire home is now versus you, even the company biologists. This is for the reason that this first trade in between individuals quickly categorizes insiders from outsiders, and the outcomes of this minute in time build the filters by means of which insiders pay attention to outsiders. In other words, it decides what folks hear and has implications for conservation at each and every stage,” he reported.

Mistaken Identity

Panther crossing
Panther crossing warning sign together a roadway, Naples, Florida, US. In Florida, the big cat is popularly identified as the Florida panther.

Dr. Elbroch also stated that the distinct names of the puma make confusion with regards to the identification of the species. For case in point, if there is a chat about introducing Texas mountain lions to bolster genetic variety in Florida panthers, part of the arguments against this initiative is rooted in the perception that these are diverse species, or at least unique subspecies, neither of which is real. 

A warning indicator allowing people today hiking on trails to keep an eye out for Mountain Lions in Felton, California.

Recently, I was discussing the chance of reintroducing ‘mountain lions’ in the east United States, as was proposed several a long time in the past by one more researcher. Even so, my proposal was initially resisted as these associated in the discussion were ready to introduce ‘cougars’ but not ‘mountain lions.’ They believed that both equally were being diverse animals and that the latter belonged to the west. When I spelled out that they were being the same animal, they took some time to accept the simple fact, and then just fell silent, looking perplexed. This conversation displays the worth of deciding on the appropriate title to establish new laws to facilitate reintroductions or species security systems,” mentioned Dr. Elbroch.

Online Noise  

The Puma Sports store in the Outlet Collection Searching Mall at Riverwalk in New Orleans, United States.

The analyze also identified that apart from the names used to refer to the authentic animal, the use of such names by brands this sort of as PUMA sportswear and Marvel’s Black Panther even further complicates issues. The scientists found that puma, mountain lion, cougar, and Florida panther were the four most common terms for the animal that ended up made use of by peer-reviewed tutorial papers, news content, Google tendencies, and social media platforms. Having said that, panther and puma ended up the noisiest phrases that means they were most very likely to look in a context possessing nothing at all to do with precise animals (as these names are used by makes). And this kind of noise muddled the efforts to keep track of both of those general public encounters and community perceptions of the animal by researchers researching the species.

Dealing With The Issue

Even though the analyze evidently demonstrates the challenges arising thanks to the use of numerous names for a single species, the scientists also outlined techniques to mitigate the identical.

I would propose that men and women decide on the identify that will ideal resonate with their intended viewers. The names of the species are right here to keep. Therefore, we have to offer with them effectively. For instance, in Washington in which the term ‘cougar’ is much more popular, we will need to use that identify although ‘Florida panther’ is the time period to use in Florida. In addition, I would also propose together with the phrase ‘mountain lion’ as an ‘aside’ as it yields the most biologically related results on the internet and social media. The time period puma have to also be included although referring to the species as it is the most applied name for the species globally. It is also a single that originated in the Americas as opposed to the term mountain lion that carries on as a colonist custom. Wildlife personnel, media reporters, conservationists, and wildlife biologists have to make the more work to describe that the various phrases refer to the identical species though communicating with the community about the species,” mentioned Dr. Elbroch.

Mountain lion
A mountain lion jumping in the snow.

Offered that some of the names of the animal are also utilised by preferred models generating on the web sounds, the researchers propose that conservationists can essentially journey the wave of reputation affiliated with the non-animal use of the time period (this kind of as the Black Panther films) to enhance favourable associations with the actual animals. 

With pumas enjoying a important function in marketing biodiversity and ecological resilience in the Americas, their survival is of utmost relevance to the location. Their conservation is intricate by many elements such as the actuality these predators pose both of those true and perceived hazards to individuals, pets, and livestock. Media studies sensationalizing human-puma encounters generally foster a damaging perception of these animals by the general public. The many names further meddle with efforts to educate the general public about the species. The review therefore comes to the rescue of the species by plainly presenting the challenge and suggesting approaches to triumph over the identical.