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Cheetahs in southern Africa are closer to extinction than thought, National Geographic–supported research finds

A comprehensive assessment of cheetah populations in southern Africa supported by the National Geographic Society reveals the dire state of one of the planet’s most iconic big cats, the Society said in a news statement today. “In a study published today in the open-access journal PeerJ, researchers present evidence that low cheetah population estimates in southern Africa and population decline support a call to list the cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) as ‘Endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, the news release said.

Supported in part by the National Geographic Society’s Big Cats Initiative, estimates only 3,577 adult cheetahs exist in this extensive area, which is larger than France, and a majority (55 percent) of individuals are found within only two habitats. This estimate is 19 percent lower than the IUCN’s current assessment, supporting the call for the uplisting of cheetahs from “Vulnerable” to “Endangered.” A species assessed as Vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. Species assessed as Endangered are considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild.

Big Cat Week video: What it takes to rescue a fierce leopard

What would you do if you came face-to-face with a 175 pound, agitated leopard? If you’re conservation power-couple Marlice and Rudie van Vuuren, you’ve been on the receiving end of such a scenario about 112 times.

Big Cat Week video: Helping cheetahs find a mate

You may not have had “cheetah matchmaker” featured at your high school career fair, but that’s just what Vincent van der Merwe’s business card may as well read. But trying to repopulate the highly vulnerable species can be as dangerous as it is exciting. Watch the video to see what happens when van der Merwe tries to translocate a very unhappy cheetah across South Africa.

Cheetahs: Fast facts about world’s fastest cat

This beautiful animal is threatened by loss of habitat and prey, as well as conflict with humans. As a result, the cheetah is classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red list, and, today, an estimated 9,000-12,000 remain in Africa.   The fastest land animal in the world, a cheetah can reach 69.5 mph in just three seconds – faster than a sports…

Are Africa’s Forgotten Lions Doomed to Slip Into Extinction, Unnoticed?

What is the glue that forever binds lions to East and Southern Africa? Was it the pioneering Serengeti research done by Bernhard Grzimek? The high volume of lion films, featuring terrestrial backdrops like the Okavango Delta? Or is it simply that iconic picture of panthera leo, resting on a granite kopje or under an umbrella tree,…

A Tribute To Sizanani – Kruger’s Legendary Lion King

It was a sad day last month when rangers of the Manyeleti Game Reserve, in the greater Kruger National Park, learned of the passing of one of their most magnificent male lions—Sizanani. Christof Schoeman, a guide at Tintswalo Safari Lodge described Sizanani as a ‘True Survivor’ for his amazing ability to somehow come out on…

Neighborhood Watch: The Role of Male Mountain Lions in Structuring Social Behaviors

Editor’s Note: This is the second blog in a pair of blogs about a paper recently published in Science Advances showcasing collaborative research with Drs. Mark Lubell and Michael Levy of UC Davis, and Dr. Anthony Caragiulo of the Sackler Institute for Comparative Genomics at the American Museum of Natural History. The paper provided the…

The surprising diversity of Sunda clouded leopard communication behaviors

Sunda clouded leopards (Neofelis diardi) are part of the Panthera lineage of felids that includes African lions (Panthera leo), tigers (Panthera tigris), and jaguars (Panthera onca). These are among the most charismatic wildlife species, but Sunda clouded leopards are the least understood and studied of this group. Sunda clouded leopards are found in Borneo and…

‘Planetary Boundaries’ a flawed mechanism to safeguard Earth’s biodiversity, scientists warn

The notion that human impacts will be fine, so long as we keep them within “planetary boundaries” is seductive, but deeply flawed scientifically. Worse, though well-intentioned, it encourages harmful policies, three of the world’s leading ecologists argue in a peer-reviewed commentary published this month in Trends in Ecology & Evolution.

“A critical question is how should we manage human actions that harm the natural world,” said Stuart L. Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. “Do we really want to operate under the assumption – as the notion of a planetary boundary for biodiversity purports – that humans can go about business as usual so long as the impacts of our actions remain within some arbitrary ‘safe operating space’?”

Letting the Foxes ‘Protect’ the Hens in Ryan Zinke’s Department of Interior

On November 8, U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ryan Zinke announced the creation of an International Wildlife Conservation Council that will advise him. As a recent Science Policy Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science assigned to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Division of International Conservation, I’ve watched the…

The acquisition of apex carnivore scent by a subordinate carnivore

Apex carnivores are well known for their effects on ecosystems, which include keeping prey populations balanced and limiting the spread of disease. Another important effect apex carnivores have is structuring their ecological communities. For example both prey and smaller carnivores avoid areas and habitats that are frequently used by apex carnivores, which directly affects their…

Giving To Get: Reciprocity Among Mountain Lions

Please Note: This is the first of two blogs about a research paper published today in Science Advances providing the first evidence of complex social strategies in any solitary carnivore—and showing that mountain lions in particular are more social than previously thought. Part Two will chronicle how territorial males structure social interactions among mountain lions.…

Empowering Children through Snow Leopard Conservation in the High Pamirs of Tajikistan

By Bianca Rosen Four-year-old Aruke Atabaev has plump cheeks that devour her face and a smile that makes the toughest of soldiers fall to their knees. She helps her mother—Jamila, wife of Mahan Atabaev who is the leader of a community-based wildlife conservancy in the Eastern Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan—set and clear dining tables, always…

Do Mountain Lions Rival McDonald’s?

Stinky dead meat. Oddly, I’ve come to love the stench of it, even though it sometimes turns my stomach. It’s become a badge of honor and a symbol of what I do, hiking long days in search of prey killed by mountain lions. Sometimes the stink helps me locate the carcass, or the sounds of…

Slow Conservation and Slow Journalism Converge in the Pamirs of Central Asia

It’s 5 p.m., and the sun’s last rays cast a golden glow on an empty road in the eastern Pamirs of Tajikistan. This route was once the Silk Road plied by merchants, nomads, and pilgrims and later by British and Russian soldiers and agents engaged in the territorial contest between Britain and Russia known as…