Leopard artwork by  Richard Symonds

Leopard artwork by Richard Symonds

Icons Of The Wild

LIONS, TIGERS, LEOPARDS, PANTHERS and other big cats — are fading from the world's wild places, warn conservation experts worldwide. The world's population of big cats has been decimated. They could face extinction within two decades .Around the world, the main threats to big cats are from human activities. Roughly 80 percent of the 40 wild cat species are shrinking and sixteen of them are considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered. 

Endangered Big Cats

  •  West African lion– Critically Endangered.

  • South China tiger - Critically Endangered

  • Sumatran tiger- Critically Endangered

  • Javan leopard - Critically Endangered

  • South Arabian leopard- Critically Endangered

  • Asiatic cheetah  – Critically Endangered.

  • Central Asian leopard, North Persian leopard, Persian leopard, West Asian leopard – Endangered

  • Sri Lankan leopard - Endangered

  • Asiatic lion – Endangered

  • Snow leopard – Endangered

  • Tiger  – Endangered

  • Amur tiger  – Endangered

  • Indochinese tiger – Endangered

  • Malayan tiger  – Endangered

These creatures are losing more of their habitat every day. Deforestation is a major issue for tigers in India and jaguars in the Amazon. Agricultural expansion is also a major problem including the explosion of palm oil plantations in Indonesia.

Human Conflicts:

In many places, big cats prey on livestock as an easy source of food, causing problems with ranchers who moving into cat territories. Often these ranchers will hunt the cats to protect their livestock, which in many places is the only source of income for people.

Snow leopards, lions, cheetahs, and jaguars all face this challenging threat.

Wildlife Trade:

Many species of cats including tigers, snow leopards, and leopards are sought after for parts of their bodies, much of which goes to China, where the use of wild animals in traditional medicine is common. In addition, snow leopards, leopards, and tigers are hunted for their coats (known as pelts).

Recently, researchers calculated that parts of up to 1,200 tigers were confiscated over a ten year period, more than 100 animals per year.

Global Warming:

As the climate changes, big cats will need to adjust to changes in their habitat. Snow leopards are especially vulnerable to global warming as increasing temperatures melt snow at higher altitudes. As these animals follow the snow higher, the amount of prey shrinks.

Lions are affected by disease outbreaks which are exacerbated by droughts that will be increasingly common with global warming. Coastal erosion due to rising ocean levels is reducing tiger habitat in India’s Sundarbans mangrove forest.

Loss of Prey:

As human populations grow, hunting of the main prey of cats increases. These big animals require a large amount of food to survive and as their prey declines, they need to go farther to hunt or become more likely to hunt livestock. 

As keystone predators, big cats do more than directly affect their prey. Without them, their would be a domino effect within its ecosystem. The population of the animals that they prey upon would skyrocket, leading to overpopulation. Overpopulation of these species would then result in over grazing and the overpopulation of mesopredators that hunt herbivores. All of these organisms would eventually die off with no competition and no prey or no food source.

Photography by  Nick Brandt

Photography by Nick Brandt

Below is a list of NGO’s that support the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of Big Cats:

The National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative

The National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative supports scientists and conservationists working to save big cats in the wild. With your help, we’ve supported more than 100 innovative projects to protect seven iconic big cat species in 27 countries and built more than 1,600 livestock enclosures to protect livestock, big cats, and people. Together we’re helping big cats and communities thrive. Learn more about the initiative.

Wildlife Conservation Society

Our Goal

Ensure stable populations and stable ranges. For tigers and lions, in particular, since they have been subject to such losses, the long-term objective is to support their recovery to sustainable levels.

How will we get there?

  • Prevent illegal killing.

  • Ensure any hunting of big cats' prey species is legal and sustainable.

  • Reduce conflict with humans.

  • Ensure connectivity between populations.

Big Cats Wild Cats

Bigcatswildcats.com is a worldwide directory of wild cat conservation organizations involved in big cat and small wild cat research, education, rescue, sanctuary and field work. We raise awareness on wild cat conservation issues and provide a channel for visitors to our site to connect with groups working to protect and save wild cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, cheetahs, snow leopards, clouded leopards, cougars and many other wild cat species.

Big Cat Rescue

Big Cat Rescue is one of the largest accredited sanctuaries in the world dedicated to abused and abandoned big cats.

We are home to about 80+ lions, tigers, bobcats, cougars and other species most of whom have been abandoned, abused, orphaned, saved from being turned into fur coats, or retired from performing acts.


Panthera brings together the world’s leading wild cat experts to direct and implement  conservation strategies for the world’s most endangered big cats: lions, cheetahs, leopards, tigers, jaguars and snow leopards. They have programs to protect critical habitats and core populations connected by genetic and biological corridors, and to mitigate the threats of habitat loss, human-lion conflict, bushmeat poaching and trophy hunting.

Lion Guardians

Since 2007 LG has enlisted warriors to protect lions rather than killing them by monitoring lion movements, warning pastoralists when lions are in the area, recovering lost livestock, reinforcing protective fencing, and intervening to stop lion hunting parties. More than 40 warriors are employed as LG covering over 4,000 km² key wildlife habitat in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park and Tanzania’s Ruaha National Park.

The African People & Wildlife Fund (APWF) working in Tanzania

Run by a husband and wife team, she with a PhD and he born and raised in Africa, the APWF works in an area covering approximately 30,000 km2 of key lion habitat and involves a population of approximately 400,000 Maasai people to conserve one of Tanzania’s most threatened African lion populations.

Ewaso Lions (EL) working in Kenya

With a mere 2,000 lions remaining in Kenya, Shivani Bhalla founded Ewaso Lions to help protect the species. She then founded Warrior Watch, the first program in Kenya to actively involve young Samburu ‘morans,’ or warriors, as wildlife ambassadors in Kenya’s Samburu, Laikipia, and Isiolo Counties.

Gorongosa Lion Project (GLP) working in Mozambique

Based in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, a 4200 sq. km wilderness devastated by civil war, is estimated to have a lion population of only 30-50 lions. The GLP began monitoring the lions there in 2012, identifying and remedying existing threats to them.

Lions of Gir Foundation working in India

Little is known about the 400 rare Asiatic lions remaining in the Gir Forest National Park of the Gujarat state in India. LGF works to barricade the estimated 9,500 open pit wells in the area, preventing the all too common death from drowning for the lions in this area.

Niassa Carnivore Project (NCP) working in Mozambique

Situated in the Niassa National Reserve of Northern Mozambique, the NCP works alongside local communities to implement practical, sustainable solutions to ensure the predators of this wilderness are able to live peacefully alongside communities.

BornFree USA

When it comes to advocacy, there is greater power in numbers. That’s why Born Free USA is on this list. It plays an active role in several national and international animal protection coalitions addressing a variety of animal protection concerns including saving lions.

Recommended Reading

Blood of the Tiger by J.A. Mills

Blood of the Tiger takes readers on a wild ride to save one of the world’s rarest animals from a band of Chinese billionaires.

Tigers Forever: Saving the World's Most Endangered Big Cat

The Wild Cat Book: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cats