Final Day of Big Cat Week :( Day #6

Today marked the final day of Big Cat Week, we hope that by reading our blog posts that you have a greater understanding and appreciation for not only the big cats that we covered in our posts but all the big cats that are around today. We have seen that big cats have been able to adapt, survive and conquer all the habitats that they occupy whether it be the tough winter chills in Siberia or the searing heat of Africa, many of the cats such as the Siberian tiger, the lion, the cheetah, the snow leopard  have been able to thrive in unforgiving habitats and we expect would be continuing to do so... if we hadn't made survival all the more harder for them through habitat loss and over poaching. In this post today we are going to talk about these big cats and the conservation efforts employed to protect them. 

Take a long hard look, this is the Amur Leopard they are critically endangered with only 35 remaining in the wild.

Why are Big Cats endangered?

There are many reasons as to why Big Cats are endangered, such as: Habitat loss namely the deforestation occurring in the Amazon Rainforest, and the agricultural expansion is also a major problem in parts of Africa. Human conflicts, this occurs when Big Cats predate on peoples livestock, however this is mainly because humans are encroaching on the cats territory causing them to prey on easy livestock this causes an economic loss for the farmers involved. Wildlife Trade: this factor relates to Chinese medicine where the body parts of tigers, snow leopards and leopards are used in order to cure or help certain ailments, in addition to this poaching is a huge cause of concern. 
Global warming also affects the Big Cats by affecting their habitats. Take the snow leopard for instance with global temperatures increasing and the snow beginning to melt, it pushes them further up the mountain and taking them further and further away from their prey, Lions are vulnerable to disease outbreaks that can become exacerbated by droughts these will increase in frequency as the effects of global warming increase. Rising ocean levels can cause coastal erosion which reduces the tiger habitat in India's mangrove forest. And last but not least, private ownership and loss of prey. 

The need for conservation:

Lions: On Wednesday the 5th of December the guardian released an article on the 'Big cat crisis: Africa's lions being crowded by people' where it was seen from recent satellites that farmland and agriculture had consumed open area grassland. In West Africa there are only 500 lions left. Lion populations have dropped by two-thirds just over the last half century, it was found that just 10 of the 67 lion areas are well secured and stable  and are considered to be lion 'strongholds'. 6,000 lions are in populations that are very vulnerable to a very high risk of extinction. There has been an incentive to put Lions on the endangered species list thus protecting them from hunting and poaching in the future. it is though that energetic and immediate conservative action is required. 

Tigers: Wild tiger populations have fallen drastically by 95% with three subspecies-the Balis, Caspian and Javan already extinct. Tigers are considered to be critically endangered as such the WWF (world wildlife fund) have taken action in order to save the Tigers it all comes down to improving the following threats:
Habitat and prey. Our approach is to address habitat availability, security and quality, ensuring that the tiger will have enough well-protected and well-connected areas in which to live, hunt and breed.
Trade in tiger parts and derivatives. Tigers are legally protected throughout their range, and any trade in tiger products is prohibited. WWF is working alongside TRAFFIC (the wildlife trade monitoring network) to investigate, expose and crack down on the illegal trade in tiger products, and to reduce markets, so that trade is no longer a significant threat to tiger conservation.
National and international policy. WWF and our partners will continue to work with governments to strengthen existing legislation that protects the tiger, and to help integrate tiger conservation into economic, development and land-use planning.
This map just highlights how increasingly vulnerable the tiger population is... and how much we need to help.

Cheetahs: These amazing big cats were once found in South Africa, Western Asia to India. It was found that there are fewer than 15,000 individuals left surviving in fragmented habitats in Africa. Of the five subspecies the most critically endangered populations remain in western Sahara and Iran, these populations have 60-100  individuals making the cheetah one of the most endangered cats on Earth. The main drivers towards these big cats becoming endangered was once primarily for captive trade (pelts, pets and private ownership), however now their main challenges is habitat loss and a reduction in their prey and there proximity to humans are causing many human conflicts in terms of the cheetah eating their livestock. Not all the challenges that face the cheetah are of anthropogenic origins, it was found recently that other predators that share the same habitat with the cheetah kill 90% of cheetah cubs. 
Despite the cheetahs importance for eco-tourism the IUCN has classified cheetahs as vulnerable, with the North American subspecies labelled as threatened and the Asiatic and North West sub-Saharan subspecies listed as Critically endangered. 

Conservation in action...

Those examples used are just some of the Big Cats that are in trouble, the need for conservation is crystal clear, ZSL has summed it up brilliantly what these big cats need is thriving, active and determined conservation aims in other words they need 'LIVING CONSERVATION'. It has been clearly stated that one of the main challenges facing all big cats is habitat loss, whether this be deforestation or from agricultural expansion. Sky and WWF have recently partnered up for a campaign in which they are fighting against deforestation by saving 1 billion trees. 
An amazing project in order to save the Amazon from deforestation!!
The fight for Tigers has also gone public, with the opening of the new enclosure 'Tiger Territory' at London Zoo, its aims are to combat declining tiger populations by conducting a breeding programme for the big cats. It does not stop there they have marketed a recent campaign called 'Tiger SOS' in order to raise money for tiger conservation, they also work hand in hand with 21st century tiger. To find out more about what London Zoo are doing on the front line of Big Cat conservation click on Big Cat conservation
This is the campaign that was all over London buses, make sure to check it out.
Cheetahs are no exception, multiple small scale conservation efforts have been employed in order to raise the numbers of Wild Cheetahs. These include Livestock guarding dog program, the theory is that once the cheetahs spot the dogs guarding the livestock this will put them off from pursuing the prey any further. The Cheetah Conservation Fund have formulated a plan to make it economically beneficial for farmers not to harm Cheetahs, they have done this through an eco-label called 'Cheetah County Beef' by not harming the cheetahs the farmers actually get paid more for it!! Genious. 

So, to conclude our last post on Big Cat Week we hope you have not only realized the importance that conservations plays in saving these remarkable mammals but also how organizations have already started to employ projects and campaigns to aid them in doing so. We hope that you enjoyed Big Cat Week as much as we did!! and until next year this concludes our Big Cat Week Series!!

Over and out.

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