Around the world, big cats are among the most recognized and admired animals, at the top of the food chain. Yet all seven species are listed as Threatened or Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List, with the tiger categorized as Endangered. WCS is in a unique position to help—we work to conserve all seven.
In addition to habitat degradation and loss of prey, many of these iconic predators are hunted directly for their fur, bones, or other body parts. They are also threatened by conflicts with people—their need for space leads them to range outside protected areas and to become a real or perceived threat to local people and their livestock.
Ensure stable populations and stable ranges. For tigers and lions, in particular, since they have been subject to such losses, the long-term objective is to support their recovery to sustainable levels.
How will we get there?
Prevent illegal killing.
Ensure any hunting of big cats' prey species is legal and sustainable.
Reduce conflict with humans.
Ensure connectivity between populations.
We have long-term programs on the ground at 44 landscapes with big cats, covering many of the most important populations. These span 32 countries and three continents.
In early 2015, WCS’s Dr. Ullas Karanth and his team set up camera traps at around 700 locations in southwestern India. The images taken are part of a continuing effort to monitor tigers in the Malenad landscape, which is home to roughly 400 wild tigers, the largest population in the world.
On Our Strategies
Prevent Illegal Killing
With some exceptions, big cats are legally protected from hunting in their home countries. We work with partners to enforce laws through the training of rangers, intelligence networks, and more.
Ensure Any Hunting of Big Cats' Prey Species is Legal and Sustainable
Critical to saving big cats is to conserve their prey. In areas where all hunting is illegal, such as most protected areas, SMART-based patrols by well-trained rangers are effective in maintaining those prey populations. In areas where prey species can be hunted legally, we work with local communities to ensure that it is sustainable.
Reduce Conflict With Humans
For tigers, conflict reduction can involve the voluntary relocation of people living within key tiger reserves. For lions and jaguars, conflict is primarily with livestock. WCS works with communities to change their husbandry practices to reduce the conflict and end retaliatory killings.
Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary
In India, home to one of the world's largest human populations, the wide-ranging tiger can find itself in conflict with people. From 2001–02, WCS helped in the voluntary resettlement of 457 households from the Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, to reduce the probability of such events. We were vigilant in helping secure a smooth, fair transition for all. The effort remains a model for others undertaking a similar process.
Ensure Connectivity Between Populations
The links between different big cat populations are essential to ensure genetic diversity is maintained. We rely on studies of animal movements to advise governments on the establishment of corridors to connect them. Where those pathways bring big cats into danger, we work with local communities to garner support for the animals' conservation.