Health care reform, global warming and other issues have been at the top of the U.S. Senate's agenda in recent months. But those who also care about the survival of the greatest wild cats, dogs and wolves of the world hope that The Great Cats and Rare Canids Act will pass in the Senate in 2010.

Aimed at conserving 15 of the world's rarest cats and canids, including the cheetah, clouded leopard, maned wolf and the Iberian lynx, the legislation would enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support conservation projects on the ground where these animals live. The legislation would create a conservation fund through the annual appropriations process and would enable the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to partner with nonprofit groups and foreign agencies to undertake a range of proactive conservation programs, such as monitoring and law enforcement to reduce poaching and illegal trafficking, and for activities that raise awareness in local human populations.

"Great cats are particularly at risk from hunting for trade purposes, while rare canids are susceptible to disease," says Nina Fascione, Defenders' vice president for field conservation. "This bill will allow the establishment of programs to address these species-specific threats."

Defenders of Wildlife was instrumental in getting the bill passed in the House of Representatives last April.

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