Big cats cause an uproar

Populations of lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, and other top felines are declining at an alarming rate. They are victims of habitat loss and degradation as well as conflicts with humans.

In response, National Geographic, with filmmakers, conservationists, and Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert, launched the Big Cats Initiative, a comprehensive program that supports on-the-ground conservation and education projects combined with their Cause an Uproar global public-awareness campaign.

African lion male

African Lion

Photograph by Chris Johns

Fiercely protective of their prides, or family units, male lions patrol a vast territory normally covering about 100 square miles (260 square kilometers).

Asian lion

Asian Lion

Photograph by Mattias Klum

Only 200 or so Asian lions exist in the wild. A former royal reserve, India’s Gir Forest, is the last home of this lion subspecies.

Bengal tigers

Bengal Tiger and Cub

Photograph by Michael Nichols

A mother Bengal tiger and her cub rest in the tall grass of a meadow. Tiger cubs remain with their mothers for two to three years before dispersing to find their own territory.

Male lion

Lion, Kenya

Photograph by John Eastcott and Yva Momatiuk

Lions are threatened throughout most of their African range. But nowhere is their condition as perilous as in Kenyan Maasailand, where this large male was photographed.

Lions there, which number fewer than 150, are under imminent threat of extinction from Maasai herdsmen thought to be retaliating against prides who prey on their cattle.



Photograph by Chris Johns

Sharp eyesight and raw speed make the cheetah a formidable hunter.


Cheetah Mother and Cubs

Photograph by Chris Johns

Cheetah mothers typically give birth to a litter of three cubs, all of which will stay with her for one and a half to two years before venturing off on their own.

When interacting with her cubs, cheetah mothers purr, just like domestic cats.

Clouded leopard

Clouded Leopard

Photograph by Peter Weimann / Animals—Earth Scenes

Somewhere between the small cats, which can purr, and the big cats, which can roar, are clouded leopards. These rare cats make their home in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.



Photograph by Joel Sartore

Jaguars, the largest of South America’s big cats, once roamed much of the Americas. Today they are found in only a few remote regions.

Lion cubs resting

Lionesses and Cubs

Photograph by Beverly Joubert

Three female lions and a pair of cubs rest in the grass in Botswana’s Okavango Delta.

Females remain with a pride for life and often have to defend their cubs from males, who will kill young lions when taking over another male’s territory.

Lioness stretching

Lioness, Botswana

Photograph by Beverly Joubert

A female lion in Botswana’s Okavango Delta stretches as other members of the pride lounge nearby. Pride size can range from 2 to 18 females and cubs, all related to one another.

Mountain lion

Mountain Lion

Photograph by Jim & Jamie Dutcher

Mountain lions do not like to share their territory and are constantly on the lookout for invaders.

Snow leopard

Snow Leopard

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Native to the Central Asian mountains, the snow leopard is a rare sight, with only about 6,000 left in the wild. They are hunted for their beautiful, warm fur and for their organs, which are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Siberian snow tiger

Siberian Tigers

Photograph by Michael Nichols

Of the three remaining species of tigers, Siberian tigers are the largest. While there are only 400 to 500 left in the wild, the population is considered stable, and conservation programs are introducing captive-born tigers to the wild.

One Reply to “Big cats cause an uproar”

  1. So sad that they are brimming on extinction. To me they are truly the most beautiful of all the many beautiful creatures…

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