2022 Annual Report: Celebrating the Cat Connection

By Fred Launay, Ph.D.
President and CEO

A tiger in India

Humans have long felt a deep cultural connection with wild cats. So, in 2022, as the threat of climate change, ecosystem destruction, and an extinction crisis loomed large, we published an OpEd in the Washington Post outlining a comprehensive strategy to tackle these challenges: prioritize the conservation of wild cats. We revere them for their power, strength and beauty — and they serve as a measurable, tangible marker of ecosystem health. Our 2022 Annual Report: The Cat Connection tells the story of the kinship between humans and wild cats around the world and recognizes the incredible scientists and communities who are ensuring the survival of these irreplaceable species.

As you’ll see in our annual report, our team made real and tangible impacts on wild cat populations. From the forests of North America’s Pacific Northwest to the jungles of Malaysia, our joint efforts with partners and communities addressed the very real threats facing wild cats.

In addition to our focus on this bond, last year was also the Year of the Tiger. And it was hailed with exciting news — the most recent Panthera-led IUCN Red List assessment of tigers found that the species’ overall numbers are potentially increasing. Panthera Chief Scientist Dr. John Goodrich expressed optimism for the species for the first time in decades, noting that if this trend were to continue, the tiger’s conservation status could be upgraded from Endangered to Vulnerable in the next assessment.

Fishing cat

However, he noted that tiger numbers in Southeast Asia are still declining. The loss of any wild cat population is frightening, but in biodiversity-rich habitats like Southeast Asia’s rainforests, the risk of losing the wild cat connection due to human-cat conflict, poaching and habitat fragmentation would be catastrophic. Indicators and keystone species like tigers attract resources, funding and conservation action to habitats important for carbon sequestration. Last year, we worked to conserve not only these tigers but wild cats and the planetary health benefits they deliver all over the globe. Some of the conservation wins you’ll find in our Annual Report include: 

  • After fitting six lions with GPS collars in Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park in 2021, Panthera found that the population of Critically Endangered West African lions in the park had more than doubled since our work there began in 2011. 
  • In concert with local communities, Panthera built carnivore-proof livestock bomas (enclosures) to prevent human-wildlife conflict in Zambia. These bomas proved successful — no lions or leopards died in our project area in 2022. 
  • Panthera and partners conducted the first-ever telemetry study of sand cats, finding that these small cats had home ranges much larger than previously thought. 
  • Complementary solutions from Panthera, the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation and Khao Nang Rum, a Wildlife Research Station, have contributed to the tiger population in Thailand’s Western Forest Complex doubling in the past decade. 
  • Supporting the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU), Panthera began co-managing the Arabian Leopard Conservation Breeding Centre in Taif, Saudi Arabia. We are collectively improving all aspects of the center in an effort to eventually reintroduce this Critically Endangered subspecies to the wild. 
  • A study by Panthera scientists found that pumas on the Olympic Peninsula in the United States’ Pacific Northwest may “island-hop” to nearby islands, offering new insight into their dispersal patterns. 
  • We are gaining new insight into South America’s small cats. Our Brazil team successfully collared six ocelots, which will give us eye-opening data about their diets, population density and behavior
  • Panthera and partners completed the largest snow leopard genetic study ever. The researchers identified three distinct historical lineages and two global populations of the species.
Leopard Senegal

These are only a few of the impacts Panthera made in 2022 and you’ll discover much more within the pages of the report. While climate change and biodiversity loss are very real threats to wild cats — and humans — our conservation programs are proving a stalwart effort to halt these negative developments. In addition to the dedicated, hardworking Panthera staff who commit themselves to protecting wild cats, make sure to celebrate yourselves and your own contributions to safeguarding these cats. We could not achieve any of this great work without you; please know that we are grateful for your engagement and support. With supporters like you, dedicated conservation partners and the communities who live alongside wild cats, we made an impact on wild cat populations that will help fortify our planet’s health.

Read our 2022 Annual Report.