How endangered are they?
There are 40 wild cat species across our planet. These include leopards, tigers, lions, panthers, and cheetahs; many of which are endangered or even critically endangered.
The world’s largest cat - the tiger - often seen as the most iconic big cat, is also the closest to extinction. Tigers have vanished from nearly 83% of their historic range. In 100 years, the global population of wild tigers has plummeted from 100,000, to a mere 3,900. One subgroup, the Amur Tiger (Siberian Tiger), has just 500 individuals remaining. Though these populations are more than 95% lower than the beginning of the 20th Century, with stringent anti-poaching laws and conservation initiatives, they are in fact rebounding from previous lows.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the African Lion, which has gone extinct in 26 African countries. Just 50 years ago, the lion population was over 200,000; these numbers are now catastrophically diminished, leaving 20,000 individuals in the wild. Each year this number continues to tumble, with approximately 600 lions killed annually. Current studies paint a devastating picture for the future of this extraordinary animal. At this pace, lions will be extinct in the wild by 2050.
These stories are not limited to these few cats. In fact, without continued intervention, the outlook is very dim for most of the wild cats.
Why are they endangered?
All wild cat species are faced with similar challenges. Population decline due to habitat degradation, fragmentation, illegal poaching, conflict with humans, and increased competition with other animals, farmed and wild.
Tigers, for example, are the most sought after of the wild cats. They are victims of a $20 billion per year illegal wildlife trade. Tigers are targeted for their body parts, teeth, skin and organs; much being consumed for traditional medicinal purposes across Asia.
What can we do?
Over the past decade, many scientists have come together to develop and implement a multitude of conservation programs on a global scale. As there are so many wild cats in danger, and over so many countries, this is no easy feat. They need our help. We can take action in a few ways. We donate, to keep these projects funded and in operation. We stay informed, by following along on social media. And, we join the conversation, by sharing these amazing success stories; getting more people involved in the fight against extinction.
Founded in 2006, Panthera is devoted to the conservation of the world’s 40 species of wild cats and the vast ecosystems they inhabit.
Learn more: https://panthera.org/