Ending Endangerment: Wild Cats on Endangered Species Day

By Ross Rosenthal
Marketing and Communications Specialist

Andean cat

Each year on Endangered Species Day, we are reminded of a sorrowing reality. It is an unfortunate truth — many of the world’s most iconic species are endangered and face extinction. From Sumatran rhinoceroses to blue whales, species everywhere are in danger of dying out. Every year, we are reminded that we must commit ourselves to their protection. 

The same affliction of endangerment facing other iconic species also faces wild cats. One big cat species, several small cat species and a variety of big cat subspecies are all listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), some even Critically Endangered. Encouragingly, however, Panthera works to recover many of these species and subspecies. Recovery is a key word here, as we do not intend to simply protect them, but increase their numbers; success is when they are removed from the endangered list. 

Tiger 2

Tigers are the most prominent of all Endangered cat species, if not one of the most prominent Endangered species, period. They face a variety of threats, including deforestation and poaching for the illegal wildlife trade. Panthera works across the tiger’s range, most prominently in Southeast Asia where they are most threatened, to protect these majestic cats. The result – tiger populations have more than doubled in several of the sites where we work, including in India’s Manas National Park. Our anti-poaching efforts in the remote and rugged rainforests of Malaysia’s Taman Negara National Park have been so successful that the government has asked us to help elsewhere in the country. 

Niokolo Koba lion
©Panthera/Senegal DPN

No other big cat is listed as Endangered, but there are several subspecies that are, as well as several geographically isolated subpopulations. One is the West African lion, a Critically Endangered subpopulation numbering less than 250 mature individuals across all of West Africa. We are working with Senegal’s Direction of National Parks in Niokolo-Koba National Park to recover one of only three remaining populations in this vast region. Since 2017, we have doubled the number of lions in the park by providing support to ranger teams for large-scale patrols, helping improve the park’s infrastructure and radio-collaring individual lions to identify and protect lion hotspots in the park. In this long-term project in Senegal, we work towards the full recovery of lions in this landscape, and when we succeed, the West African lion will no longer be Critically Endangered. With your continued support, we can make this dream a possibility.

Arabian leopard

There are several leopard subspecies which are Endangered, all except the African leopard and the subspecies found on the Indian subcontinent. Panthera works to conserve the Arabian leopard, Critically Endangered in its arid desert home. Panthera and the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) have entered into a historic partnership to recover their populations. Excitingly, on September 28, 2021, the Royal Commission for AlUla announced the birth of a female Arabian leopard cub as part of their captive breeding program, providing hope for the future of this big cat whose numbers hover at just 200 in the wild.


It’s not only big cats which face extinction, but also a variety of small cats, including bay cats, flat-headed cats and Andean cats. Bay cats and flat-headed cats are threatened in Malaysian Borneo, where the bay cat is endemic. Panthera is working in partnership with relevant agencies and local communities to improve site security and scale up biological monitoring with the intent to conserve these species. We are also working to save Andean cats, who are the most threatened cat in the Americas due to habitat degradation and destruction and retaliatory killing by humans. 

From some of the smallest of the small cats to the biggest of the big cats, wild cats need our help to stave off extinction. On this Endangered Species Day, consider donating to Panthera to protect these creatures who make this world a better place. You can help rangers protect lions in Senegal, teams in Malaysia monitor dwindling tiger numbers and scientists in Borneo study flat-headed cats. But most importantly, you can spread awareness of the compromised state of these incredible Endangered cats. We cannot let them share the same fate of the extinct Cape lion or Javan tiger. With your help, we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure their survival.