Here are five of several species of big cat’s that are facing habitat destruction, poaching, and other threats to their already dwindling populations. National Geographic is currently sponsoring explorers, researchers, and conservationists who spend time in the field in Africa, Asia, and South America working to further the protection of big cats. Learn more about Dereck and Beverly Joubert, leaders of the Big Cat Initiative.
The world’s largest cat, the Siberian Tiger lives in Eastern Russia, China, and North Korea. It is estimated that there are only between 400 and 500 Siberian Tigers living in the wild today. In the last century, hunting and forest destruction have significantly reduced tiger populations. Did you know that no two tigers have exactly the same stripes? Also, a tiger can eat up to 60 pounds in one night, if it’s hungry enough!
The elusive Snow Leopard lives in the mountains of Central Asia. Its wide, fur-covered feet act as natural snow-shoes, allowing it to survive the wintry conditions of the Central Asian mountains. Snow Leopards can kill animals three times their weight! One contributing factor to the big cat’s population decline is the killing of Snow Leopards by herders, in efforts to protect their cattle.
Lions are the only cats that live in groups, called prides. Male lions defend the pride’s territory while female lions do most of the hunting. Although lions are only found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa today, they used to live all over Africa, and in parts of Asia and Europe. Check out the interactive Lion Decline Map on the Nat Geo Big Cats Initiative website.
With the ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour in three seconds, the cheetah is the world’s fastest land mammal. Its speed, combined with its keen eyesight and easily camouflaged spotted coat, make the cheetah an extremely skilled hunter. About 12,000 cheetahs remain in the eastern and southwestern African grass-lands.
Jaguars can be found in remote parts of Central and South America, though their roaming grounds used to extend all the way up to the U.S.-Mexican border. The name Jaguar is derived from the Native American word yaguar, which means “he who kills with one leap.” Like the Snow Leopard, jaguars sometimes kill cattle, making them a target of herders and ranchers.
Learn more about these five big cats and others, and how you can help in the fight to protect them, by checking out the Big Cat Initiative website.