March Conservation Series: Large Cat Threats

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Unfortunately, one thing that all big cats have in common is that their populations are declining. We’re going to take a look at the different threats that these species are facing. Our goal is to understand these threats as much as we can in order to introduce solutions that can turn this situation around. 1. Habitat Conversion

Many big cat species occupy a small fraction of their historical range. For example, the Tiger has lost 93% of its historical range. This decrease in habitat is linked with the always expanding “human world” as more land is converted from big cat habitat to agriculture or urban development. Currently, farm land covers 38% of the world’s land (CBD/UNEP, 2001) and this area continues to grow with the world’s food demands. Some examples of intensive farming include the lowland rain forests of Indonesia, home to the Sumatran tiger, for palm oil plantations, or the Amazon rainforest, home to the Jaguar, for soybean and cattle farms. It’s becoming more evident that a balance between our agricultural practices and conservation needs to be found. As large cats’ ranges are further encroached upon by humans, animal-human interactions increase. These conflicts don’t often end well as large cats are not exactly invited into villages. Between the years 2001-2003, 41 people were killed by tigers in the Sundarbans mangrove forest of Bangladesh. It’s not just tigers, human and big cat conflicts occur in all species as humans intrude more into their habitat.

buy colchicine tablets online 2. Indiscriminate Killing

As more viable large cat habitat is converted into agricultural land, the instances of livestock hunting by large cats increases. Domestic livestock accounts for 58% of a snow leopard’s diet in certain areas. These unwanted killings can pose a financial burden on ranchers. For example lions in areas adjacent to Waza National Park, in Cameroon, are reported to account for 22% of annual financial losses for ranchers. Due to this financial loss, ranchers, and others poise traps and poisoned carcasses to deter large cats from hunting their livestock. Unfortunately, this can lead to the death of these beautiful creatures, and with nobody keeping score, there is no way of knowing exactly how many cats are killed this way.

3. Poaching

The frequency of poaching has decreased since North America has moved on from wearing fur and as more countries create anti-poaching legislation. However, there are still large cat species that face the threat of illegal hunting for their fur and other commodities. The most noted is the tiger which is hunted for their skin, bones, and meat, which is then illegally sold as high-value medicinal products. It has been reported that the demand for tiger parts are in such a high demand that a tiger is currently worth more dead than alive. Snow leopards also face a threat through illegal trade of their furs, which has directly lead to their population decreasing. Even though a lot of work has been done to end the market for large cat products, there is still a demand for pelt and other commodities.

Overall, habitat conversion, indiscriminate killing, and poaching are the three major threats that large cats face. Although the situation is dire at times, it is important to remember that as much as humans play a role in these problems, we can also play a big role in the solution. Stay tuned for next week when we continue to look at large cat conservation!