Can anyone imagine a world where there are no lions, tigers and other big cats? A recent horror story involved the owner of a private animal preserve in Zanesville, Ohio who committed suicide after releasing his animals to roam freely in the town, has shocked many. Subsequently authorities killed the animals including Bengal tigers and lions. Dereck Joubert, co-founder of the National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, when asked for a comment said, “I’d tell everyone to cause an uproar”. Joubert, an African documentary filmmaker and his wife who live in Botswana, have been pleading the case for the big cats for more than 25 years through PBS documentaries. They have persuaded National Geographic to help with their efforts. Their next magazine issue will be devoted to the plight of the animals and they will host their annual “Big Cats Week” on its cable TV station.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates indicates:
Lions are down to about 25,000 in the African wild where 450,000 formerly roamed
Leopards have decreased to 50,000 from 750,000
Cheetahs are down to about 12,000 from 45,000
Tigers number about 3,000 in the wild down from 50,000
These declines have taken place over the last 50 years and there are some conservationists who predict that unless something is done, big cats will be extinct in 20 years. All experts agree that any recovery must take place in the wild, not in zoos or home menageries. The Big Cats Initiative has awarded 19 grants over 18 months to conservation efforts in Africa.