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 World wildlife day - helping to save the big cats

 

February 2018

tiger

Five years ago the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 3rd March as UN World Wildlife Day, marking the day a Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species was signed.  Today it has become an important global event dedicated to the world’s wildlife.

World Wildlife Day 2018 on 3rd March is now fast approaching and this year features big cats as a major theme.

Big cats are some of the most beautiful animals on earth, but today many of them are under threat. Loss of habitat and prey is a key cause, along with poaching and other illegal trading.

The big cats being targeted in World Wildlife Day are cheetahs, clouded leopards, snow leopards and leopards, jaguars, lions, pumas and tigers. Sadly they are all under threat. The numbers of tigers for instance has dropped by 95% in the last 100 years and African lions by 40% in just 20 years. The fast running cheetah is probably Africa’s most threatened big cat...there are only around 7000 now left in the wild.

The problems facing all these lovely are significant:

Tigers

Around 100 years ago, there were up to 100,000 tigers living in Asia. Today there are under 4,000 and are close to extinction. There are various subspecies of tigers but all are under threat. They are listed officially as endangered and the Malayan and Sumatran subspecies are listed as critically endangered.

Tigers, thanks to their wonderful skins and alleged medicinal properties, have been hunted extensively. Tiger parts are still consumed for medicinal purposes in China and other countries. Their habitat is increasingly under threat, especially from agricultural developments including palm oil plantations.

Cheetahs:
There are estimated to be only 7,100 cheetahs left in the wild, and their future remains uncertain across their range and they are listed as vulnerable although in North Africa and Asia they are considered critically endangered. Their main threats are being killed by farmers to protect their livestock from attack and the lack of natural habitat due to human encroachment. An illegal trade in live cubs is also a problem.

Jaguars
These amazing creatures are more widespread that often realised, existing in the Americas from Mexico right down to Argentina, but are now considered threatened. Until the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species came into existence in the early 1970s, these animals were heavily hunted for their fur. While this still happens illegally, its main threats come from loss of habitat as humans develop land for agriculture.  There is also a growing lack of natural prey such as deer and peccaries due to over hunting by humans.

Leopards
These magnificent cats used to roam easily across around 75 countries from Africa to Eurasia but they are now becoming what is termed as vulnerable, a step up from threatened. They are classified as critically endangered in the Middle East, Russia and on the Indonesian island of Java. Their main threats come from local bush meat poachers who deplete prey populations leaving the leopards struggling for food.  Loss of habitat is a key threat in some areas and they are increasingly being killed because they are thought to threaten livestock. They are still being killed illegally for their skins.

Lions
Lions are one of the most the famous and dearly loved animals representing African wildlife, but they are now on the brink of extinction in all but the largest and best managed protected areas.  In many areas they are now classified as critically endangered. As so often, it is humans moving into wild habitats that is causing the main problem. As the land becomes more crowded and developed, lions may turn to livestock for food and of course this sets off a chain of events which threaten the animals. Illegal and trophy hunting still goes on.

Pumas
Pumas naturally existed from southern Alaska right down to the tip of Chile, but you can imagine there aren’t many is suburban Canada or America these days. In fact pumas were eliminated from the entire eastern half of North America within 200 years of European colonization. A tiny population in Florida remained and today this is protected and in fact recovering. Human encroachment and human/puma conflict has been the main cause of the animal’s decline and will continue as the population of South America increases.

Cites, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and its Secretary General John Scanlon says March 3rd will highlight the pressing need for action to ensure the survival of the big cat species.
“At a time when a crisis can still be averted, it is essential to take action now,” he said. 

There are lots of specific organisations around the world set up to specifically help save big cats and all of them ask for support, especially donations of course. You can easily find them on line. These include:
nationalgeographic.org/projects/big-cats-initiative/get-involved
cheetah.org.uk
bigcatrescue.org/saving-leopards
worldanimalfoundation.com/ help-save-leopards
wcs.org/our-work/species/tigers
wwf.org.uk/wildlife/jaguars

Helping to spread the word about the threat to big cats is important. World Wildlife Day has put together a social media kit which provides some instant messages for Twitter and Facebook.

The Amazon Smile may be able to assist soon:

tiger amazon smile

Amazon Smile is well established in America and has now come to the UK. When you sign up to this, Amazon gives away 0.5% of the total you have spent to the charity of your choice. Amazon said at some point this year all registered charities will be on board for this, including some of the main animal charities helping big cat survival.

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