Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Big Cat Appeal: £500,000 raised

Images of Bengal Tiger, Jaguar and Puma.

Time is running out for big cats in the wild. Species such as Bengal Tiger, Jaguar and Puma are at risk. These icons of the natural world face a shortage of habitat through which to roam safely and a lack of suitable prey species. Additionally, they are themselves a target for human predators who hunt them for skins, body parts and sport.

In its 25th Anniversary year World Land Trust (WLT) put the spotlight on big cats with a major appeal to raise funds for big cat conservation. Thanks to the generosity of supporters, WLT met the appeal target of £500,000 in May 2015.

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Project aim

Outside conservation areas, big cats are severely threatened by loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflict and hunting. To survive, big cats need more wildlife corridors, larger reserves and greater protection. WLT’s Big Cat Appeal successfully raised £500,000 to support big cat conservation projects.

Big Cat Big Match

During Big Cat Big Match Fortnight, 1-15 October 2014, all donations to the Big Cat Appeal were matched pound for pound with funds pledged in advance. During Big Match Fortnight £326,000 was raised for the appeal.

Big Cat Big Match logo

Projects supported by WLT’s Big Cat Appeal

WLT is a responsive organisation, and bases its funding decisions on the requests for support from its network of overseas partners.

Top of the list for Big Cat Appeal funding is Chilkiya-Kota Corridor, a traditional wildlife route for Bengal Tigers between Corbett Tiger Reserve and Ramnagar Forest Division in Uttarakhand, northern India.

In 2014 we have been spotlighting the plight of the Atlantic forest of Brazil and funds have now been raised to secure the purchase and protection of a vital parcel of land that will link existing areas of the reserve. The target property and the territory adjoining it shelter Pumas and we were delighted to be able to top up the deficit for the purchase thanks to donations to WLT’s Big Cat Appeal during Big Match Fortnight 2014.

Big Cat Appeal funds have been used to fund a project to research Caucasian Leopard in Iran, in partnership with Iranian Cheetah Society. Appeal funds have also been earmarked for the purchase of El Pantanoso, a property of great biodiversity in the Yungas forest of northern Argentina.

How World Land Trust is helping conserve habitat for big cats

For the past 25 years, many of WLT’s conservation programmes have focused on conserving habitat for big cats.

The following examples illustrate some of WLT’s big cat successes over the years. It is these achievements that inspired the Big Cat Appeal in WLT’s 25th Anniversary year.

The Trust’s founding project, Programme for Belize, was launched in 1989 in the Rio Bravo area of the country, where thanks to WLT 110,000 acres of rainforest were saved from development. Today, the highest density of Jaguars in Belize is found in PfB’s Rio Bravo Conservation Management Area, which now measures more than 250,000 acres (more than 100,000 hectares and 4 per cent of Belize’s land mass).

Jaguars are also increasing in reserves in Paraguay’s Chaco-Pantanal, where WLT has supported conservation for the past decade, and in Mexico’s Sierra Gorda, where WLT has funded land purchase since 2007. Further south, Pumas are once again thriving in Guapi Assu Reserve in the Atlantic forest of Brazil, supported by WLT since 2005. And, at the tip of the South American continent, signs of Pumas are being found regularly at Estancia la Esperanza, a reserve of 15,000 acres (6,000 hectare) that WLT helped create in Patagonia in the early 2000s.

In Asia, since 2003, WLT has supported Wildlife Trust of India in protecting wildlife corridors used by Bengal Tigers and Leopards. The Clouded Leopard is also found in wildlife corridors in two project areas supported by WLT: Lower Kinabatangan in Malaysian Borneo and Khe Nuoc Trong in Vietnam.

Since 2010 WLT has been funding habitat protection programmes in the South Caucasus in order to provide a safe haven for the endangered Caucasian Leopard. In 2013, camera-traps supplied by WLT recorded the first images of a Caucasian Leopard in Armenia since 2007.

Urgent funding needed

Although the Big Cat Appeal is now over, WLT continues to seek funds to support conservation projects that protect big cats across the world. You can help big cats survive in the wild by donating to the Action Fund.

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Many populations of big cats are on the brink of extinction in the wild. 

Tigers, in particular, have dramatically declined in recent years. Today there are thought to be some 3,500 tigers left in the wild, just 5 per cent of the 100,000 tigers that roamed remote areas of the globe a century ago.

India is home to the largest population of tigers in the wild: approximately 50 per cent of the world’s population survives across 17 Indian states. A little over a century ago, there may have been as many as 37,500 Bengal Tigers in India. Today the estimated population of 1,500 tigers is just 4 per cent of that in the early 1900s, which is why creating protected corridors for tigers in India is so vitally important.

Populations of other big cats in other parts of the world are also dwindling, among them Jaguar and Puma. What is needed is habitat and thanks to the Big Cat Appeal WLT was able to focus on urgently raising funds to save areas of land that had been identified as being essential for the survival of big cats.

Keepers of the Wild badge

Big Cat Appeal funds were also used to support the employment of rangers through WLT’s Keepers of the Wild programme.

Biodiversity

At the top of the food chain, big cats are territorial, requiring large areas of wild habitat, plentiful prey and, crucially, protection from human predators. 

This means that only the most biodiverse habitats can support big cats, which is why they are essential for healthy ecosystems.

Threats

Big cats are severely threatened by loss of habitat, human-wildlife conflict and hunting.

Poaching is a key cause in the decline of big cats – both the hunting of the animals themselves and their prey. As numbers fall, genetic viability and the long term survival of the species becomes harder to sustain.

Habitat destruction and fragmentation are other major reasons for this drastic decline in big cat population – and go a long way to explaining the rise in human-animal conflict. 

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