Consortium Agreement

            The organization known and doing business as The European American Consortium for Small Felines stands united in the following.

 

           We will work together in agreement and respect for the protocols of the I.U.C.N. and attempt to breed and labor on behalf of the many small species of felid that are presently at risk in the wild and that have often been afforded a low priority by many of the world's zoos and game parks.  We will work towards assuring the greatest possible genetic diversity in our individually and collectively managed captive populations, and in so doing we will attempt to create genetically sound and healthy groupings of the various small- and medium-sized felines.

 

            We will seek to work with wildlife reintroduction programs when and if they exist as well as with specialized feline sanctuaries when they offer a feasible alternative for the cats.  We realize that for many of the world’s small cats the clock is ticking down and that extinction--when and if it comes--is forever.  We fully acknowledge and support efforts that attempt to save natural habitats and that increase preserved lands on which animals can live freely in harmony with nature.  We do not want a situation where the world’s cats are relatively safe in captivity but are dwindling in the wild, such as the cases of the Snow Leopard and the Amur Tiger.

 

            It is for the protection of the cats that this consortium has been formed.  We are forming a partnership with both zoological gardens and private breeders to pool our resources in the hope of providing the small cats their last, best chance. The overarching philosophy of our members is to aid one another in our shared mutual projects, to display an attitude of professionalism, and to attend to the group’s greater goals. We will make every attempt to put the animals first, to work for the long-term benefit of the cats, to realize that we all have something to learn from one another, and to then give to the animals in our care.  The members of the consortium believe that both zoo and private facilities have vital roles to play in the breeding and continued maintenance of the small felines.  Once animals are in our care they are in our care for life.  We must attempt to house, feed and enrich the lives of the cats in ways that respect their natures and benefit them. They are not to be warehoused--we must do everything in our power to make sure that these animals live lives that are full, as defined by proper medical attention, enrichment activities, proper caging, and healthy diets.  They must be comfortable and their needs for privacy and all that their natures demand are attended to by us, their current caretakers.

 

            The EACSF will bring together select members of the Central European Region of Zoological Gardens as well a s few private breeders in the region in partnership with private breeders from North America to share their genetic stock of small cats, to exchange animals freely, to consult on projects, and to increase awareness and knowledge of the animals on whose behalf they work. It is the feeling of our group that the strength of the consortium can best be shown by the willingness to trade various genetically valuable animals with the goal being to place them in situations that make the most sense for the animal.  The zoos in Central Europe have existing breeding stock and future access to animals from zoo lists (that the private breeders have hitherto been excluded from working with).  Many of the small cats currently being held in the Czech Republic alone, among them Amurian Leopard Cat, Gordons Cat, Sand Cat, Pallas Cat, Fishing Cat, Jaguarondi and Geoffroy Cat constitute genetically important animals, in particular in the North American context.  The private breeders in North America that we are inviting to work with us currently hold animals such as Margay, Oncila Geoffroy Cat, South American Cougar, and a variety of sub species of Ocelot—[as a matter of fact, while institutions on both sides of the Atlantic work with Ocelots the genetic diversity of these cats in particular is quite complimentary]. Many of the animals listed above would be received warmly by curators and would combat inbreeding in the European zoos quite quickly, and in some respects would allow for European zoo patrons to see animals that are not often displayed on that continent.

 

            In addition to the breeders in the areas already mentioned, there are three other centers that have signed on as affiliate members: one in the South of India, one in Northern Thailand and the other in Southern Russia, which hold animals such as Rusty Spotted Cats, Clouded Leopards and Snow Leopards, as well as a few cats such as Pallas Cats, which while present in both the states and in Europe are important because they are free from many of the health problems that have plagued zoo populations, as these are wild-caught cats from Kyrgyzstan.

 

            The method by which cooperation works is that each consortium member will list which cats currently constitute excess, meaning which animals can be parted with so as not to adversely affect the current grouping in their facility. They then would offer these animals up for trade and in return they would create a want list /priority list of animals that they do want with any relevant considerations to be taken into account: age, sex, membership in a recognized and important sub species, etc.  While many trades will proceed directly from one member to another, for the beginning my facility will act as a clearing house, introducing members, listing available animals, monitoring waiting lists, and acceding priority status.  The trading of animals on open breeding exchanges for the life of the animal is the preferred way of aiding other consortium members.  Animals that are not important in one breeding situation may be vital in another. At the same time, we have all had the problem of having a litter born where certain genes are already over represented and as a result of this fact, along with the finite space accorded us, makes it imperative that we move a young cat out and allow it to acclimate to its new setting before it is too old. When one institution offers an animal up for exchange, and that animal is then placed, the institution that gave up the animal is now owed a "replacement cat" by the consortium and will have all members of the consortium working for this aim, making use of their own long reach into various breeding networks.

 

            After an animal is moved from one institution to another, that facility that supplied the cat is provided with an insurance contract that states that the consortium has one year from the time of the departure of the cat to get for the facility one of their priority animals.  If at the end of the year no cat has been obtained, the facility has two possibilities. The first is to extend the agreement in 3 or 6 month installments, in the case that a litter is just being born or if information is presented that suggests that the animal can be procured in a reasonable amount of time. We all know that the breeding of the small cats is not a science and that some degree of good faith and patience must be exhibited.  At the end of the year the institution may elect not to wait any longer and can then opt to receive a financial settlement for the animal. This monetary value placed on the cat will insure that the facility is not left without compensation for an animal put forward in good faith. The values of various cats will be taken up with the consortium in advance.  All animal exchanges between consortium members proceed with a written contract to protect both parties. Consortium members are encouraged to write up contracts that they feel comfortable with, but standard contracts do exist and I can provide the model for each situation.

 

            On occasion, an institution may not want a replacement animal, it may from the very beginning look for financial compensation; this should be stated at the outset and the consortium will do everything in its power to facilitate this. Sometimes an institution cannot directly receive financial remuneration for an animal, as many zoos have strict rules about receiving cash payments.  In these cases the consortium will provide materials, pay conference fees for zoo staff, provide educational resources, books, subscriptions, on-line services, or whatever it is the member would like or needs--up to, but not exceeding, the insured value of the animal.  Also possible would be the consortium sponsoring a particular animal or group of animals for a certain time period. 

 

            Concerning the operating principles that govern animal exchange, we must operate from the premise that all in the consortium are honest and operate in good faith, and this will be thought until actions that adversely affect this policy are demonstrated. If a facility requires a little extra time, to make good on the delivery of an animal, it is to be understood as the "vagaries of the animal business" this in distinction to attempts to move away from a promise, to stall, or to mislead. Actions of this sort can end the relationship of an institution to the consortium

 

            With regard to the assigned monetary value and exchange value of an animal:  this is a problematic area and one that needs articulation at the time of individual trades. Certainly, it is understood that a Snow Leopard and a Bobcat do not have equal trade value, but we should be restricting the animals offered in exchange to zoo excess for the beginning. If we are working with extra animals, then we should not be overly conscious of "market value". Assigning too much meaning to this would, in the long run, reduce us to the status of "animal dealers". I view any and all aspects of this consortium agreement which should be received by each of you as a document moving towards finalization, but for now it should be treated as a draft.

 

            On rare occasions an animal may be moved to a facility outside of the consortium.  This will only happen when all consortium members pass on the animal and the institution that bred the animal does not want it.  At this point, other facilities that have a good track record and come recommended by consortium members could be contacted. If this happens, and an animal is sold, the breakdown of the realized profits is as follows.  The largest sum, 50 %, goes to the member institution that offered up the animal.  The next 25 % will go to the consortium general fund, to be divided up by all consortium members or to be used for specific donations to larger projects, such as translocation programs, radio telemetry programs, etc. If this happens, members will vote on which projects to aid. The next largest percentage,15 %, will go to educational projects here in the Czech Republic that the consortium works with, and the final 10 % will be used by me, the director, to offset the consortium's legal expenses, maintaining our non-profit status, drawing up contracts, paying phone and photocopying bills, continuing membership in certain professional organizations,  subsidizing facility visits, etc. It is my belief that all of this will run about 2,000$ per year. It is my hope, but not my belief, that this money will be there.  If not, I will assume the debts for these expenses--at least for the first few years--or until the consortium is more active and more trading happens.

 

            The consortium presently has a not-for-profit status. This status will afford private breeders opportunities to write off animals as donations, and consortium members chances to raise funds and look for private sponsorships. The area of fundraising is one where all help is welcome, but I also see it an area that is primarily my responsibility.  Consortium members will have access to fundraised money, the proportion to be the total number of zoological institutions to be divided into the total raised, minus the consortium's operating expenses.  In the first year, the consortium also created a private facility here in the Czech Republic, whose construction I have borne the brunt of, but which will have a ceiling of $15,000. This facility will, when completed, also provide the Czech Zoo with some cage space for off-site breeding; expected completion: fall 2004.The Consortium will also be involved in the following projects: Studbook and Husbandry Manuals, Training and Technology Transfer, and Captive Propagation.   Outlines of each of these projects will be available as attachments in the next few weeks.

 

            There are many more issues to discuss; this is just a draft to be circulated to consortium members in a hope to explain all that we are working towards and for, and to, I hope, iron out all of the confusing and complicated aspects of doing business together. There are plans to do educational outreach in the various Czech Schools and to identify ongoing feline related projects here in the Czech Republic and in Poland, such as the two Lynx Projects that currently operate, as well as a project concerned with European Wildcats and the problem of natural hybridization.  These are just two among many.  I hope that this document will be sent back to me with your ideas, plans, suggestions, and concerns.  I will listen and attempt to implement your ideas and correct the mistakes in the document in its current form. Thanks for all of your time and I look forward to working together.

 

  Respectively, David Sparandara,

  Acting Director European American Felid Breeding Consortium