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Big Cats in Big Trouble: Support Our Summer Appeal

Humans have long been drawn to big cats and forged links to them for millennia. A two-million-year-old Paranthropus (ancient human ancestor) skullcap from Swartkrans, South Africa, bears marks that eerily match the dentition of a leopard skull found in the same cave system. It’s likely that stories told around the fire served to keep everyone close by, and out of reach of the predators prowling the night, fueled by nightmares from our prehistoric past.

More recently, our childhood stories have changed to the ‘tiger who came to tea’, and even the villain we love to hate, Shere Khan – or Simba, the reluctant yet brave hero. They’ve also appeared in art and literature across generations – from Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia to Stelmaria – Lord Asriel’s daemon in The Golden Compass, who takes the form of a snow leopard. Beyond that, history is marked by ‘lionheart kings’ and even some ancient mythologies (such as Mafdet and Bastet of Egypt) evolved around these enigmatic animals.

Yet, for species we have such awe and fascination for, we have done little to thwart their decimation in more recent times. In less than a century, wild tiger numbers have dropped by 96%. Lion populations across Africa have been reduced by 43% in just two decades. And snow leopards could lose up to 30% of their Himalayan home to climate change and human encroachment in the next decade to come.

Drawn to their power

Perhaps it is the allure and enchantment they seem to have over us that drives the biggest threat to them – a demand for their fur, bones, blood, and internal organs from the illegal wildlife trade. Tigers have long been prized by Traditional Asian Medicine, despite there being no evidence for clinical or medicinal value in products like tiger blood wine or bone powder. Tragically, as tigers become more and more scarce, desperate criminal syndicates are now turning to African lions (whose skeletons and other parts are almost indistinguishable from tigers), to meet demand – which will never be met, and never be sustainable. Snow leopards too are once again being hunted for their fur, to supply a growing new market in the Middle East.

The snow leopard is a master of its domain, but that domain is under threat.

You can find out more about DSWF’s position on the tiger trade here.

Sobering figures

Worst case scenarios predict that fewer than 4,000 tigers remain in the wild, and that the Indochinese and Sumatran subspecies are on the verge of extinction. Some African lion populations are listed as critically endangered. And only 6,000 snow leopards are left wandering the remote, isolated regions they call home – finding themselves more and more cut off from each other as humans encroach further into their territory. Tragically, as mining and logging operations increase, for the first time ever – road deaths are now featured prominently in snow leopard fatalities.

Human-wildlife conflict

As human populations continue to expand, unavoidably, we change and transform the landscape around us to meet our needs. Forests, savannah, and even mountainsides are requisitioned for arable land, townships, or to meet our demand for ores, fossil fuels, precious metals, or simpler things like livestock grazing or water wells.

A tiger finds itself in human territory after emerging from the forest. Imagre credit: Nejib Ahmed.

This encroachment into the wild cannot go without consequences. Big cats are apex predators, naturally sitting at the top of the food chain within their ecosystems. But this also means they are significantly impacted by the smallest changes. If their natural prey is driven off by herders, or killed by human hunters, they may find themselves forced to turn to livestock as a food source. Understandably, herders and farmers feel driven to protect their livelihood, meaning they sometimes resort to retaliatory killings. These is just one of the threats faced by all three of the big cat species DSWF is working to protect – lions, tigers, and snow leopards.

The difference a donation makes

A donation of as little as £5 can make a big difference to safeguarding our big cats. That’s enough to put new, ecologically themed education assets into the hands of children from communities living alongside snow leopards.

£25 could buy an Indian farmer a simple, solar-powered security light to keep their livestock safe from tigers.

£50 would be enough to put new boots on a wildlife ranger and train them in anti-poaching and wildlife monitoring techniques.

£100 equips rangers with up-to-date veterinary equipment, enabling them to respond to more types of emergencies.

£250 could go towards a basic GPS tracking collar, used by the lion projects we support in Zambia and Zimbabwe.

£500 is enough to fund a weeklong eco camp for up to 15 children based in communities living alongside snow leopards.

And £1,500 could support field investigations into wildlife crime against tigers.

The difference DSWF makes.

If you’d like to know more about how DSWF is proactively safeguarding big cats in their natural environments, check the links below.

Lions.

Tigers.

Snow leopards.

But nothing we do is possible without the generous support and funding we get from you. So, please give whatever you can – even the smallest amounts will make a big difference for our brilliant big cats.

Craig Jones

Help us protect our big cats!

Make different this summer by donating to our Big Cat Appeal and help protect big cats from poaching, human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss.

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