How Can We Coexist with the World’s Five Endangered Wild Cat Species?

By Panthera

Bengal tiger approaches

Around the world, mammals, birds, fish and other species are disappearing before our very eyes. Habitat destruction, climate change, poaching, pollution and human-wildlife conflict are driving as many as three species to extinction every hour. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) manages a staggering list of over 44,000 species threatened with extinction. Five wild cats (one-eighth of all wild feline species) are officially listed as “Endangered”:

  1. Tigers
  2. Andean mountain cats
  3. Bay cats
  4. Flat-headed cats
  5. Iberian lynx

But together, we can coexist with wild cats and turn the tide in favor of these iconic species. In partnership with Panthera, communities worldwide are learning to live with these Endangered species — changing our shared future before it’s too late.

Tiger walking


The largest wild cats are also the only big cat species listed as Endangered. When tigers are Endangered, ecosystems are endangered as well. Habitats and other species in which tigers live rely on these apex carnivores to balance and shape them. The estimated remaining 4,500 wild tigers need biodiverse, healthy ecosystems with sufficient large prey to thrive. But across Asia, tiger habitats and prey are being lost at an unprecedented rate due to:

  • Widespread poaching
  • Habitat destruction and fragmentation
  • Prey loss
  • Human-cat conflict

This makes coexistence more critical now than ever before.

How We Can Coexist

Tigers are most endangered in Southeast Asia, including Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia (Sumatra), where forests are being cleared and suitable habitats are becoming empty because of wildlife poaching. Panthera supports Malaysia’s Department of Wildlife and National Parks (PERHILITAN) and indigenous Orang Asli community members to prevent tiger poaching in peninsular Malaysia. Despite the odds, recent studies have shown a decline in poaching events — positive news for this big cat. Thanks to the commitment of local community members, there is still hope for Malayan tigers. 

And it’s not too late for Sumatran and Indochinese tigers, too — habitat recovery, anti-poaching work and prey recovery may all be within reach. In Thailand, we monitor tigers and their prey populations in the Southwestern Forest Complex (sWEFCOM) to better understand how we can help the species. Like in Malaysia, we also support partners in conducting patrols that protect wildlife.

andean cat

Andean Mountain Cats 

The Americas’ only Endangered cat species is a little-known felid with gray fur, a long furry tail, splotchy spots and an elusive range. Scientists are still delving deeper into the lives of these small wild cats. Due to human-cat conflict, poaching, habitat loss from mining operations and the looming threat of climate change, the last estimate of Andean mountain cat population numbers in 2016 found there were less than an estimated 1,400 mature individuals remaining.

How We Can Coexist

Panthera supports the Alianza Gato Andino in Chile to protect this cat species. The team has deduced that the population is decreasing, primarily due to habitat loss. However, Panthera-supported work with local communities has proven successful – suggesting that Andean mountain cat conservation and coexistence can help increase the chances of survival for these small felines.

Flat-headed cat in Borneo

Flat-Headed Cats and Bay Cats 

Native to forests of Southeast Asia, flat-headed cats are some of the smallest wild cats on Earth, with an unusually shaped skull and semi-omnivorous, aquatic diet. They are also one of the most threatened and rare wild cat species on the planet. Rapid habitat loss and overfishing in the region are accelerating this small cat’s decline, making coexistence with people a necessity.

How We Can Coexist

The first step towards coexistence is learning more about the species. Panthera and partners across flat-headed cat range deploy remote cameras to capture some of the only known high-quality footage of flat-headed cats. So far, we have built a ten-year data set studying the five wild cats that inhabit Malaysia: flat-headed cats, Sunda clouded leopards, leopard cats, marbled cats and bay cats. These data are supplemented by surveys in Thailand and Indonesia, as well.

Bay cat

Living alongside flat-headed cats is another Endangered species: the bay cat. Bay cats (also known as Borneo bay cats) are only found in the dense forests of Borneo, making them incredibly difficult to study. As with flat-headed cats, studies in Malaysia and Indonesia are creating a small window into their daily lives. This information will be used to build partnerships that engage people in neighboring communities to coexist with wild cats and other iconic Bornean wildlife like orangutans, proboscis monkeys and pygmy elephants by reducing habitat loss. 

Iberian Lynx 

The last Endangered wild cat species is, fortunately, on the rise. Iberian lynx, which only inhabit small pockets of Spain, once faced rapidly approaching extinction. Captive-breeding campaigns led by the European Union and Spanish government have brought this species back from the brink. However, there are still estimated to be only 400 individuals remaining in the wild due to the persistent threats of habitat loss and hunting. While Panthera concentrates its work in other corners of the world, it supported a Small Cat Action Fund grant in 2023 to understand dispersal movement patterns for young Iberian lynx finding new territories. 

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Even more wild cat subspecies and subpopulations, including West African lions, Arabian leopards and more, are considered Endangered or Critically Endangered. Without a concerted push to protect these species and subspecies, ecosystems will lose carnivores that ensure the smooth functioning of water and nutrient cycles, controlling prey populations and indicating healthy forests. Get involved by signing up for Panthera’s newsletter and learning more about Endangered wild cat conservation — tigers, Andean cats, bay cats, flat-headed cats and Iberian lynx rely on our support.