Big wild cats need our help for successful conservation

In 2018, WWF has released and outstanding poster depicting the sad demise of big wild cats around the planet. The WWF poster is indeed informative and provides a collage of images and texts depicting in brief the pathetic situation of global big wild cats like lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, cheetahs, pumas and jaguars.

Big wild cats need our help for successful conservation

Unfortunately, we as humans carry a serious responsibility and a debt on our back for the serious damage we have done to the natural environment and ecosystems as well as to the natural hunting, breeding and foraging habitats of these helpless wild cats around the planet.

Most species and sub species of big wild cats are located in developing and under developing countries with huge unbalanced human populations accompanied by slow or poor economies in the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Hence, the damages to the natural habitats of the wild cats are even more detrimental and negative with very little chances of recovery of decimated wild populations.

Lions are currently restricted to the continents of Africa and Asia. The species have been wiped out across Asia with the only exception of a small populations restricted to the Gir Sanctuary in the Western Indian state of Gujarat. Even the majestic lion have been pushed to extinction in several African countries due to habitat loss heavy poaching pressures as well as human-animal conflicts. The case of wild cheetahs has also not quite promising.

Similar to Lions teachers are restricted to the continent of Asia and Africa. While the defenceless species is still kicking in some countries of the African continent; the Asiatic sub species of cheetah have been pushed words extinction and is currently restricted to only a handful wildlife reserves in Easton Iran. The factors contributing to their demise in Africa have been strong competition with other major predators like lions in the savanna, human-animal conflict as well as poaching and habitat loss.

The reason for their near extinction in Asia has been due to over hunting and over exploitation by humans across several decades beyond the threshold point of natural recovery. Cheetahs in Asia are knocking at the door of complete extinction in the next five decades as their current wild populations are estimated to be even less than 100.

No wildlife species, particularly the big cats have been exposed to so much human-animal conflict as the unfortunate leopards in the continents of Asia and Africa! Lipids in both continents have become extremely visible due to habitat loss and have it at fragmentation as well as heavy poaching pressures. The indiscriminate loss of leopard habitats in both continents has been unfortunately bringing this opportunistic wild predator in direct conflict with their human neighbors.

It is possibly the worst persecuted wild big cat species of the world that is regularly undergoing decimation in front of our eyes with no credible action being taken to protect them for our future generations. Asiatic leopards represent several sub species across this vast continent. However, other than the South Asian (Indian) leopards, very little or almost no credible information is available for other Asiatic sub species from West Asia, Central Asia, China and South East Asia.

Similarly, tigers sub species around Russia, China, South East Asia has been demonstrating steady decline with unconfirmed and unofficial reports of tiger extinction in China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos; and serious threats of endangerment in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Only the tigers in South Asian countries such as India, Nepal and Bhutan as well as Thailand in South East Asia have been showing some recovery. Poaching, habitat loss and wildlife trafficking of tiger body parts and organs to illegal wildlife markets of China, Hong Kong and pockets of South East Asia are the most common anthropogenic factors responsible for their steady demise.

Another species of wild cat that is also being threatened by both anthropogenic and natural factors such as habitat loss, human-animal conflict, poaching, Global Warming and Climate Change have been the majestic snow leopards that inhabits snow clad high altitude mountains of Eurasia, Central Asia, Mongolia, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Lack of suitable prey base in their disturbed natural habitats is pushing this shy predatory mammal to move to lower altitudes for hunting on cattle and livestock. This is making snow leopards extremely vulnerable to poachers, hunters, farmers and villagers heavily dependent on their animal resources for their meagre survival.

Pumas or mountain lions are another big wild cat that inhabits the Americas in a number of widely divergent habitats from Rockies in the North to the South American Andes. Habitat encroachment, poaching as well as recreational hunting pressures are impacting their wild populations similar to that of jaguars dominating in every tropical and sub tropical ecosystems of Latin America from Central to South America.

These two big cats of the majestic American wild spread across two vast continents are showing signs of decline also due to numerous reported events of human-animal conflicts.

Virgin forests across North and South America are being ruthlessly exploited with little or no respect for local wildlife and biodiversity. As a consequence, reduced habitat size is pushing major wild cat predators like pumas and jaguars to venture into human domains making them extremely vulnerable to human exploitation’s. Recently, with increased footprints of Chinese infrastructural companies operating in various Central and South American nations the poaching pressures on jaguars have increased several folds.

Like tigers in Asia; jaguars in Central and South America are being harvested for skin, bones, nails, body organs for illegal wildlife markets of China in Asia. With increasing footsteps of Chinese companies in Central and South America, the threat to the jaguars has been increasing every day. Reports of organized poaching gangs with Chinese support are being reported across the Latin American realm threatening local wildlife and biodiversity.

Unless serious and comprehensive conservative efforts are initiated across the globe; saving big wild cats may remain only a distant dream. It is important that we realize as humans we have a serious responsibility to her it’s protecting this helpless species across Asia, Africa and Latin America. Unless we act today with zeal enthusiasm and sincerity, it may be too late to see big wild cats dominating their wild natural habitats and ecosystems in the next five decades.

Countries like China need to take responsible measures in reducing the inward flow of wildlife body parts and organs from around the globe into China to constantly fuel the need of the Chinese Traditional Medicine. We need to work together on a common platform to protect the last remnant populations and sub populations of big wild cats around the globe.