The Endangered Members Of The Cat Family; Save Them
Nature has always been so kind to us. It has created us, and provided us our basic needs. It's the sheer example of beauty and motherhood. But what we've given her in return? Nothing, but devastation! We've been misusing her ever since we originated, and this isn't it. Now we've interfered with other species survival- which is so not fair!
We need to learn how to co-exist. We need to find out some ways to protect other beings from harm. After all we took birth from the same mother Nature, so why not take responsibility?
Following are the most endangered species of the cat family. But before that, the different categories in which different species are categorized in red list by IUCN are:
- Extinct: The species no more exist, neither in wild nor in captivity. e.g. Bali tiger.
- Extinct in wild: The species who no more exist in wild but exist in captivity. e.g. Barbary lion
- Critically endangered: These species are having a higher risk of extinction in immediate future. e.g. Amur leopard.
- Endangered: These species have high risk of extinction in near future. e.g. Asiatic lion
- Vulnerable: These species face higher risk in medium-term. e.g. Clouded leopard.
- Near threatened: These species may be threatened in near future. e.g. Jaguar
- Least concern: The species who have no immediate threat in their survival. e.g. cougar, humans.
#1 Amur Leopard
Scientific name - Panthera pardus orientalis
IUCN classification - Critically endangered.
The Amur Leopard, a subspecies of Leopard is an endangered solitary hunter, which was categorized under critically endangered species by IUCN in 1996. Unlike leopards of Savannah, Africa, it is the subspecies who lives in colder environment.
It is also known as the Far East leopard, the Manchurian leopard or the Korean leopard.
It has a thick coat as compared to other subspecies of leopard, which is probably the adaptation to survive in cold environment. Also, one of its distinguishing feature is the widely spaced rosettes with thick borders. The length of its hair depends on the season- in winter season it grows longer hair, about 7 cm long, whereas it sheds and grows new, shorter hair of about 2.5 cm in summers. Another cold environment adaptation is the longer legs, which helps him walk in the snow more comfortably.
Adult males weigh 32-48 kgs, whereas females weigh up to 25-43 kgs.
It is found in temperate forest habitat, having a variable temperature, with sufficient food.
It is a solitary creature, and nocturnal by behaviour. Although, it's been reported in some cases, that some males stay with the female and even helps to rear the young ones.
It basically eats deer, along with badger, small boars, and raccoon.
It was once found in northeastern or the "Manchurian" China, including Jilin and Heilongjiang Provinces, and throughout the Korean Peninsula, along with Southern areas of Russia. But now their population is extinct from most of these places, and they are now found only in Russian Province of Primorsky Krai, between Vladivostok and the Chinese border!
There are only 20-25 Amur leopards left in Russian province and 7-12 Amur leopards in China. It was last seen in South Korea in 1969!
1. The main reason for its rapidly depleting population is, no doubt, illegal poaching and trade. Poachers kill them intentionally for their fur, which as per some reports are sell for about $500-$1000!
2. Loss of habitat is another main reason. They are losing their home more drastically than ever. Also, loss of forests is leading to loss of its major prey, deer.
The Only Hope
Although, it is now critically endangered, still we have the hope that they can flourish once again. This hope comes from its more closer relative, Amur Tiger, who recovered from only 40 individuals that were left in the wild.
#2 Asiatic Cheetah
Scientific name- Acinonyx jubatus venaticus
IUCN classification- Critically endangered
This genetically close relative of African Cheetah is ranking second on the critically endangered species. It is the fastest land animal of the world. They are also known as the Iranian Cheetah as the last few population is found in Iran. Although, now extinct from India, it is AKA Indian Cheetah.
It is the lightest of all the big cats. Having a slim body and a very long tail, which helps to run faster and balance the body, respectively. It has a distinctive black spotted fur, which ranges from yellow to very light orange in colour.
Cheetah lives in open lands and semi-desert areas.
They usually feed on small antelope, along with Gazelle, hare, wild sheep, goat and other small rodents.
They are found in the Eastern half areas of Iran, including parts of the Kerman, Khorasan, Semnan, Yazd, Tehran, and Markazi provinces. Although once it used to thrive in a huge area ranging from Arabia to India.
50-100 individuals are left in the wild.
The major threat for them is the loss of the prey species- which is a result of poaching and grazing competition with domestic animals. A recently published study indicated that even though hare and other rodents comprises a part of Cheetah's diet, they are not comprising in the nutritional factor because of their small size and therefore, difficulty in catching them.
#3 Iberian Lynx
Scientific name- Lynx pardinus
IUCN classification- Critically endangered.
Earlier considered as a relative of Eurasian Lynx, Iberian Lynx is another feline who is now categorized under critically endangered species by IUCN. Although, the Eurasian and the Iberian Lynx separated after Pleistocene era, due to habitat choice.
These solitary creatures- the Iberian lynx is very much like other subspecies of Lynx, although smaller than them. It has a shot tail, tufted ear and ruff beneath the chin. Although. the distinctive feature is the cheetah-like spots all over its fur coat.
The average weight for male ranges from 12.9-26.8 kgs and for females the average weight is 9.4 kgs.
They are the native to scrublands.
They basically eat small sized animals like rabbit, hare, rodents, along with birds, amphibians and some reptiles.
Iberian Lynx was distributed throughout the Iberian peninsula till the mid 19th century. But now they are found only in some limited areas of Spain.
Recent calculations showed only 309 individuals remain in wild.
- Habitat loss, poisoning, road casualties, feral dogs and poaching.
- The Iberian Lynx too, facing the situation where it's prey species is declining in number! It's unable to switch to another diet, since 1952 when a very large proportion of the rabbits, its main diet, were heavily affected by two serious diseases (myxomatosis and viral hemorrhagic disease)-resulting in their death.
#4 Bengal Tiger
Scientific name- Panthera tigris tigris
IUCN classification- Endangered
The Bengal tiger, which is categorized under the endangered category by the IUCN, is the largest of the cat family. It is the national animal of both India and Bangladesh. The very well known 'white tiger' is a mutant of the Bengal tiger- though not a true albino.
These too are solitary creatures.
They have a dark yellow to light orange body with black stripes. They have long yellow to orange tail with black circular stripes. Its belly is white in colour.
The average weight for males is 221.2 kg and for females is 139.7 kg.
The Bengal tiger love to live in forest areas, where hiding is favourable and food is abundant.
Their main diet includes chital, sambar, gaur, wild boar, and occasionally hog deer.
The Bengal tiger is now found in India and Bangladesh, along with the neighbouring countries i.e. Nepal, and Bhutan.
At present, about 1,706–1,909 in India, 440 in Bangladesh, 124–229 in Nepal and 67–81 in Bhutan, with a total of less than 2,500 individuals, consisting 250 adults.
- The major threat for the Bengal tiger is definitely their illegal poaching for its beautiful fur and organs. They are freely and illegally smuggled throughout the world.
- The other major factor is the loss of habitat. Further, there are a lot of reports about human-tiger face-to-face encounters which is definitely a result of loss of habitat. And the scary part is that- in majority of cases, the tiger, suffering from lack of its natural prey due to deforestation and human interference, attacked some humans and in turn people killed the tiger when they saw it!
#5 Snow Leopard
Scientific name- Panthera uncia
IUCN classification- Endangered
Snow leopard, another endangered cat species who likes to live in mountains of Central Asia. It is one of the small members of the cat family.
It has a thick spotted fur, which protects it from the snowy winters. It is usually light in colour- usually shades of grey- which helps it to camouflage in the white environment. It has a thick and long tail, which provides balance.
They are adapted to the alpine and subalpine areas.
They hunt whatever they find. It's been reported that it can hunt animals 3 to 4 times their weight. They also eat vegetation including grass and twigs.
The snow leopard is currently found in Asian countries i.e. Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Myanmar.
Some about 4,080–6,590 snow leopard are left in wild, half of which is capable of reproducing.
Poaching and rapidly depleting home-land is the major threat for the Snow Leopard.
#6 Asiatic Lion
Scientific name- Panthera leo persica
IUCN classification- Endangered
Asiatic lion is a single isolated subspecies of Lion which is only found in Gujarat, India. And therefore, it is also known as Indian Lion. It is one of the big cats that are found in India i.e. Bengal tiger, Indian leopard, snow leopard, and clouded leopard.
It can be very easily differentiated from the African Lion, as it has a larger tail tuft and a less developed mane.
Like any other subspecies of the Lion, they live in prides having a minimum of 2 and a maximum of 5 lionesses.
It is dark yellow to light brownish in colour, and as mentioned earlier it has a less developed mane, such that its ears are always visible. Also, it has a more thick and large tail tufts.
It is smaller than the African Lion. Adult males weigh 160 to 190 kg and females weigh 110 to 120 kg.
They can hunt any prey ranging from 190 to 550 kg in weight. This leaves a lot of options for them to hunt. They hunt whatever they find sufficient enough for the pride.
They are only found in Gajarat state of India- only in the Gir National Park and Sanctuary in Western Gujarat.
As in 2010 survey, 411 individuals were noted down. Although their population has been increased from 180 individuals in 1974 to 411 in 2010.
- Being a single isolated subspecies, a natural disaster like a forest fire is enough to extinct the species forever.
- Also, poaching is playing an important role since recently when some poachers switched from poaching tigers to lion.
#7 Clouded Leopard
Scientific name- Neofelis nebulosa
IUCN classification- Vulnerable
This resident of the foothills of Himalaya is the best climber of the cat family. Clouded leopard was declared vulnerable in 2008 by IUCN.
It is dark grey to mud coloured with large cloud-like markings on the body, therefore known as Clouded Leopard.
It is one of the small species of cat family and weighs between 11.5 and 23 kg.
They like to live in cold environment. It is a native of Himalayan foothills.
It's favorite range of food includes hog deer, slow loris, brush-tailed porcupine, Malayan pangolin and Indochinese ground squirrel.
Like mentioned before, Clouded leopards occur in the Himalayan foothills- in Nepal and India to Myanmar, Bhutan, Thailand, and in China
A recent count showed that fewer than 10,000 mature individuals are left, including the wild individuals and in captive.
- Poaching for skin, organs, teeth etc.
- Loss of natural home due to deforestation.
Clouded leopard cubs playing
Is this fair?
We saw that the major reason for the decreasing population in each of these species includes:
Firstly, poachers have been poaching these animals for money for some obsessed people who like to wear real animal fur coat and like to put animal fur in their home as a show piece. Also, their organs and meat are sold to be used in some traditional medicines. Some people even use their teeth and claws as decorative!
I say, what's the need to put a tiger coat in your living room as a mat? Are their lives so cheap?
Secondly, deforestation is affecting not only them but us as well! We can clearly see the changing environment. We can feel the global warming. With this speed, soon we will lose our forest lands. What we'll do then? From where we'll get the resources then?
So, what should we do?
The first simple suggestion is that: Think Rationally!
- Discourage killing of these beautiful animals because of some non-sense reasons like clothing! We can buy designer clothes available in market at much cheaper price. I don't think people are going to like anymore if they hear that you've a real tiger coat in your closet! Whom you are going to show then? Their lives worth more than this!
- Don't buy the products that contain the body parts of these animals.
- Whatever you do, try to do it in an environmental friendly way. At least at an individual level you'll feel very happy.
- Support various organizations who are doing good for them at a larger level. Take part in their programs.
- Spread the words. Talk about it. Teach your children live environmental friendly.
They all are struggling for their existence. Why they should suffer for our mistakes? What right we've got to kill them? Is it really fair? You decide.
At last I just want to say that “come forward, take part”. And if even one person will join this noble cause after reading this then that would be a great achievement for me.
We have hope and hope brings about good things! Fingers crossed.