Conservationists Struggle to Preserve the World’s Big Cats

Perhaps the most charismatic of charismatic megafauna, the world’s big cats — lions and tigers and cheetahs, oh my! — are in big trouble. Just last year, conservationists discovered that Africa’s population of lions, once considered one of the safer big-cat families, has seen its numbers plunge; similar problems plague snow leopards, jaguars, and Iberian lynx. Large felines are fiercely territorial, live in low densities, and hunt over huge swaths of land. The traditional conservation method of placing the cats in wildlife reserves is simply not working. Around the world, conservationists are struggling to develop alternate ways of saving cats. New techniques include creating habitat corridors between wilderness areas, teaching herders non-lethal ways of protecting their livestock from big cats, using the proceeds from limited trophy hunting to fund protection, developing breeding programs, and simply persuading rural communities to value the felines.