Few creatures are as resilient as big cats. From the majestic lion to the cute but deadly ocelot, the stealthy black panther, and the endangered tiger, large felines could easily take over if they only had developed a higher intelligence. Still, the big cats are some of the most impressive creatures on the planet.
Still, despite their resourcefulness, resilience, and great survival skills, these animals, like most animals that aren’t easily found anywhere, are in danger of going extinct. And according to a new study published in the journal PeerJ, leopards are in more trouble than believed.
But how can that be? Aren’t there conservationist groups and associations which are supposed to handle this? Well, according to Philipp Henschel, the lion program survey coordinator for Panthera,
I think the biggest threat to the leopard on a global scale is that it’s been just under the radar. Nobody really cared about the leopard because everybody assumed they were really abundant and widespread. […] I think that’s something that biologists have to be honest about. Biologists have to start picking up and be ready to invest a lot of sweat into counting these cats to show the world how rare they have become.
So yeah – apparently because experts simply assumed that leopards were the most resourceful of the great cats, they are now in more trouble than ever. In fact, the coordinators of the study are now trying to contact the International Union for Conservation of Nature and to convince the officials there to raise the leopard’s threat status from “near threatened” to “vulnerable” on the very important Red List.
And indeed, the leopard populations are drastically dropping, urging concerns for multiple nature groups that should have seen this coming. The leopard numbers have dropped so drastically that the creatures are now occupying somewhere between 25 and 37 percent of the range they used to occupy.
For scale, imagine that the leopards used to span an area of 35 million square kilometers (about twice the size of Russia), and have now been reduced to an area just under 8.5 million square kilometers (about the size of Brazil). And the numbers are only dropping even further.
The big cats are facing several lethal threats, most of them caused by man. Aside from habitat destruction, poaching, and trophy hunting (wherever it still remains legal), the leopard populations are also faced with revenge killings (for eating livestock), poisoned animal carcasses (to detract carnivores), and the intense hunting of their usual prey by overenthusiastic locals.
Image source: http://programmes.putin.kremlin.ru/
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