Factors threatening the world’s big cats include habitat loss, human-animal conflict, traditional Chinese medicine, the exotic pet trade, “canned” hunting, commercial breeding farms, entertainment, disease and poaching.
Recently the bone trade industry has boomed. The bones are used to make wine for traditional Chinese medicine. Initially using tiger bones, the dramatic decline of tigers lead to the demand shifting towards lion and leopard bone.
These factors are all leading to the decline of the world’s big cats.
Big cats keep ecosystems healthy and maintain the predator- prey numbers in balance. They are also very important attractions in eco-tourism, and generate income for wildlife conservation. Our mascots represent three of the most iconic big cats, but in turn symbolize all of the world’s most endangered large cats.
Almost all species of wild cats are dramatically declining in numbers due to human factors. The critically endangered South China tiger is ‘functionally extinct’ from illegal hunting, with the Malayan and Sumatran tigers on the brink of extinction. There are less than 4000 tigers left in the wild. Lions have undergone a catastrophic decline of 43% in the last 21 years, having disappeared from 90% of their former range. There are around 60 Amur leopards remaining in the wild. Worldwide, leopards have vanished from 49% of their historic range in Africa and 84% in Eurasia.
Images © Gareth James Legg & Tracey Bruton
Lion with lock image © Pippa Hankinson
The Born Free Foundation page image & three tigers © Born Free Foundation