As with many animals in the world today, many if not all of the wild cats species face the possibility of extinction. For some - the Tiger, Spanish Lynx and Snow Leopard - the threat is so serious that it is probable that these animals will in fact disappear from their natural habitat if the present decline in numbers is not halted. Nature can no longer stop their demise - only mans intervention with applied conservation programmes can hope to save these animals.
| - IUCN - Cat
The Cat Specialist Group is a body of over 160 scientific and pratical experts on wild cats set up under the IUCN - the group is run on a voluntary basis with each of its member contributing hie/her knowledge and expertise to further understanding of the wild cat species through reserch and conservation. The CSG has drawn up a Cat Action Plan containing over 100 projects in the field of wild cat conservation - areas included in the plan are Habitat Loss, Management of Big Cats near people, Research, Trade, Cats in captivity, Reintroduction and Species specific projects.
The CSG have formulated a global ranking of cat species vulnerability based on statistical analysis of habitat, geographic range, body size relating to population density and hunting pressure. Species are ranked from 1 through to 5a,5b and 5c, with the ranking of 1 being the most threatened.
To help in the control of animal and plant trading, an international treaty, CITES (The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna) was established in 1975. CITES lists all species under threat in its Appendix 1, 2 and 3. Appendix 1 lists those species threatened with extinction and forbids trade, whilst Appendix 2 lists species that will become extinct if trade is not controlled. Most species of wild cat are CITES listed, with many, including he tiger, leopard, cheetah, snow leopard, jaguar, spanish lynx, ocelot, tiger cat and jaguarundi all appearing in Appendix 1. The IUCN also lists at least twenty of the worlds wild cat species in its Red List of Threatened Animals and again features the tiger, spanish lynx and snow leopard as those facing the most danger.
The conservation of the worlds wild cats is a continual struggle against illegal hunting and trade - TRAFFIC (Trade Records Analysis of Flora and Fauna in Commerce), has been established by the WWF and the IUCN to monitor trade in animals and plants throughout the world. TRAFFIC works with customs authorities across the globe and helps investigate reports of illegal trading in live animals as well as the movement of skins and furs.
|In a time that now seems to be
vanishing into the shadows of history, there was once an
abundance of wild cats of every species - it has been
estimated that at the turn of the century there were well
in excess of 100,000 tigers alone - roaming the our
planet. Today these numbers are dwindling fast - of the
same tiger, now only 5,000 to 6,000 thousand are left -
and their fate along with many of the other wild cats is
now extremely uncertain. What is all the more sad is that
there extinction will not have been a natural one -
countless millions of species have come and gone over the
millennia through natural selection and the changing
natural world - but the depletion of worlds wild cat
species has not been a natural one. It is man who has
been responsible, knowingly or not, for the plight of
these wild animals.
Through over hunting - either for pleasure or to supply the world trade in fur, the wild cat species have been relentlessly pursued. Today in China and the Far East there is still a market for not only the skins but also the organs and bones of the tiger and leopard - ironically one of the main uses is in medicinal potions which are said to aid longevity and vitality.
As mans population grows - so it spreads ever outward into the natural habitat of the wild cats - forests are cleared and the feeding ground of many of the wild cats natural prey are destroyed - as a result in many of these areas wild cats are often pursued as predators of domestic animals and in some cases labeled as a danger to man himself.
As much as man has been responsible for the wild cats demise, so today, is he responsible for their future. Across the world conservationists and environmental organizations are actively attempting to halt the species extinction. International pressure has been bought to bare and many governments have entered into international agreements to ban the pursuit and continued depletion of the worlds endangered and threatened species. In many of the wild cats native countries, governments, aided by various independent organizations, have set up conservation programmes and reserves to help support the preservation of many species.