On Saturday, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization highlighted six big cats that were under the threat of or teetering on the brink of extinction.
The organization used World Wildlife Day to put the spotlight on the animals that currently feature prominently on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Chief adviser for wildlife at WWF UK, Heather Sohl, explained the danger which the animals face as well as the implications of possible extinction.
“From lions to snow leopards, the world’s big cats are in big trouble from a number of threats. As the top predators in their environment, big cats have a crucial role in keeping a healthy balance of other animals, which in turn influences the condition of grasslands and forests. Protecting them doesn’t just benefit wildlife, but also people, who rely on natural resources too.”
The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species indexed the affected animals, ranging from the critically endangered Amur leopards; endangered tigers; vulnerable cheetahs, lions (extinct in at least 26 African countries) and snow leopards to near threatened jaguars.
In an address, Yury Fedotov's Executive Director of UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), echoed Sohl's sentiment, stating that lions, tigers, leopards and jaguars and other big cat species are under pressure due to poaching, lost habitats and disappearing prey.
The executive urged people around the world to “help raise awareness and to take personal action to help ensure the survival of the world’s big cats and all its precious and fragile biological diversity.”
“UNODC is working to help countries criminalize wildlife poaching and trafficking as a means of protecting animals, including big cat species, and halting their tragic disappearance into history. Our collective roar of defiance must be aimed at the poachers, traffickers and all those who would destroy our natural heritage. We must not let them succeed,” Fedotov said.
The WWF reported that there are less than 90 adult Amur leopards, 3,900 tigers, 7,000 cheetahs, 20,000 lions, between about 4,000-7,500 snow leopards and 18,000 jaguars remaining in the wild.
“Nearly 90% of jaguars’ territory is in the Amazon, where an area the size of France has disappeared in the last 30 years,” Sohl said, adding: “This week WWF helped to host a gathering at the UN aimed at protecting jaguars. Bringing together the different countries that are home to the cats and looking at ways of securing their territory is crucial.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in a release, added that: “Ultimately, the solution to saving big cats and other threatened and endangered species is conservation policy based on sound science and the rule of law.”