The 2018 World Wildlife poster released by WWF provides alarmingly dismal fact regarding big wild cat populations around the globe. The global lion population has receded to around 20,000 in the wild. The Asiatic lions are being restricted only to India; while African lions have now been reported to be extinct in 26 nations across the continent. The tiger populations are now restricted to only about 3900 in the wild with 96% habitat loss across their historic range of distribution. Only 7100 wild cheetahs are being estimated to be currently surviving making the species vulnerable in the African continent; while Asiatic cheetahs are believed to be decimated to around 100 and barely surviving in eastern Iran only with critically endangered status. Leopards are vulnerable in both Asia and Africa; severely impacted by poaching, habitat loss and repeated human-animal conflicts. The situation of snow leopards across Russia, Mongolia, Central Asia, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bhutan are not promising!
True and accurate snow leopard population dynamics is not quite available; however, current estimate fluctuates between 4,500 to 10,000 in the wild mountainous habitats of Eurasia stretching between Russia to India. Puma or cougar or mountain lions have lost over 50% of their natural habitats in the Americas; while the majestic jaguar of Central and South America is reported to be struggling for survival. Most of the wild cat populations are suffering due to multiple anthropogenic and natural factors like habitat loss and habitat fragmentation, unmonitored forest fires, unmonitored or under monitored poaching and recreational hunting, trafficking of wildlife body parts (like skulls, bones, nails, skin, fur, pelts, teeth, organs) to illegal wildlife markets operating in China and parts of SE Asia, destruction of forests, illegal human encroachments into forested areas, unplanned infrastructural developments in virgin forest areas and lack of well managed conservation programs.
Saikat Kumar Basu