We love the big, beautiful cats in the wild and want to share our first hand experiences with them and information on protecting them. We use the term “big cats” more generically than the term defined by government or regulatory definitions and are referring to any of the beautiful cats in the wild including lions, leopards, tigers, cougars, jaguars and cheetahs. The big cats on the most endangered list are a subset and include tigers, snow leopards, jaguars, tigers, and amur leopards.
Interesting, it is only the 4 largest members of the Panthera genus that are able to roar which are leopards, tigers, lions and jaguars. Other typically thought of as “big cats” such as cougars, cheetahs, snow leopard and puma cannot roar.
There is an amazing link physiologically and genetically between these wild cats and our common indoor house cats. The scientific value of their study provides on-going links to evolution and the population controlling function has been limited by the hunting of their prey. Their extinction is imminent in many parts of the world. While numerous efforts are underway to protect these species, the success is limited. Often, their existence is limited to game reserves that are too small for their instinctual habitat and do not provide the necessary carnivorous diet requirements.
Many of us have growing interest in highlighting these efforts and bringing more attention and interest to preserving big cats. Global awareness and support will be necessary if we want to preserve populations of these species for generations to come.
There are baseline scientists who track and measure cat populations in different parts of the world. They place trackers on these animals so new births and deaths are measured and recorded. It is the only way to ensure an accurate count of the existing population is taken and efforts are measured effectively to determine what is working and what is not.
These scientists are funded by various government and private entities but funds are always limited and rarely long term. Seeking contributions is part of our personal mission and will provide lists of contacts within organizations who are doing cost effective, valuable research that supports the mission of saving big cats.
A lot of groups try to foster a peaceful co-existence between humans and big cats as often they are at cross-purposes. As development continues in third world countries, the amount of available open space decreases. And as well, the need for funding economic growth increases and offering the public access to “wild lands” either for purely viewing purposes or actual hunting of big cats is very profitable.
Interestingly, it is these revenue seeking efforts that initially stirred our interest in saving big cats. Our trip to Africa was not for hunting but a wildlife adventure of a lifetime. An excursion in our 20s to Kenya and Rwanda allowed us to view the Mountain Gorillas Diane Fossey brought to the public’s attention and a big game park in Kenya.
The Samburu Game Reserve enables visitors to see prized game life such as lions, tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses. Our travels into the dessert led by trained guides led us to view the most incredible up-close views of these amazing animals. Our tent camps provided such a sense of living outdoors. Waking each morning to help in the preparation of meals, searching for trail clues left by these majestic animals and spotted by our guides gave an exciting sense of being on a daily research project to understand what the animals were thinking, where they were feeding and why they chose to move in different directions.
We also traveled to the Amboseli National Park full of elephants large and small. It was amazing to see these creatures up close and walk with them through our campgrounds. Providing the daily feeding was quite and experience and getting to play with some of the year old elephants was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
We do recommend staying in one of the “luxury” hotels as we originally stayed in the average accommodations area but would not recommend this. And we found limited food options so decided if we visited again, we’d stay in a full service hotel.
It was this excitement to remember for a lifetime that spurred our interested in wildlife and was honed with some visits to big cat parks in the U.S. Learning about the struggles some of these preserve owners and managers went through to bring injured or neglected animals to their facility and the special care and feeding needed for these animals, inspired in us a will to help big cat preservation efforts.