Panthera's 2020 Annual Report: Conservation During Crisis

By Fred Launay, Ph.D.
President and CEO

Annual Report

Panthera’s 2020 Annual Report looks back at a year that was painful, perplexing and unprecedented. Yet, with our supporters behind us, together we protected wild cats in parks emptied of tourists, advanced techniques to study and protect cats and aided communities around the world as they faced economic and natural disasters. Download the 2020 Annual Report here. 

2020 was painful, scary and, strangely for a generation-defining time, often monotonous. As a leader who was accustomed to seeing our impact and working through our challenges firsthand (and very much not accustomed to staying in one place), the great test I faced was how to manage a globe-spanning organization from behind a computer screen. It was a frustration shared by many of our talented staff, especially those who prefer sleeping bags to mattresses.

But beyond the pain and the frustrations, I felt great hope. As you’ll see in the pages of our 2020 Annual Report, all of us together defied the great odds 2020 presented us and found ways to continue prioritizing and protecting wild cats. With a pandemic and roller coaster economies afflicting human communities throughout the world, it would have been so easy to forget about the wild cats that protect our most iconic landscapes and act as our beguiling bequest to future generations. Panthera not only survived 2020, but we also made real progress for wild cats with sometimes ingenious adaptations, absolute tenacity and the generosity and encouragement of our supporters. Together we blunted the worst impacts the pandemic could have had on wild cats and maximized habitat and cat population recoveries where wild cats were getting a much-needed respite from poachers who could not cross borders.

This Annual Report is not simply a list of achievements; it is a chronicle of how we reacted when fear and confusion ruled the world, our adaptations when travel restrictions fundamentally changed how conservation is implemented and funded and the lessons we will take with us as the world attempts to return to “normal.” In a year dominated by pandemic, fires and extreme weather, together we showed that wildlife conservation is not a “backburner” issue. It was because of your dedication to wild cats that we were able to keep employing and feeding families living in Angola’s Luengue-Luiana and Mavinga National Parks, provide monthly packages of food and supplies to families in the Brazilian Pantanal devastated by both COVID-19 and wildfire and transform anti-poaching teams into disaster relief teams when back-to-back hurricanes slammed Honduras.


In addition to helping the rural communities severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and extreme weather events, we were able to make incredible progress for wild cats across the globe:

After implementing a site security and wildlife monitoring program in 2017 in Gabon’s Plateau Batéké National Park, Panthera documented increases in key wild cat prey and the leopard population in this home of Gabon’s only lion.

We initiated a range-wide survey of the African golden cat.

Our wildlife surveys indicated a more than 300% increase in lions resident on the Busanga Plains World Heritage Area in Kafue National Park, Zambia, since 2016. We protected this progress even as tourism disappeared from the site by intensively tracking and protecting 102 lions.

We established a fully operational anti-poaching team in Deramakot Forest Complex in Malaysian Borneo to protect Sunda clouded leopards, flat-headed cats, bay cats and marbled cats. The majority of the members of the patrol are Dusun Indigenous people.

In the Kenyir Core Area of Malaysia’s Taman Negara National Park, our anti-poaching patrols did not detect a single snaring incursion, marking the first zero-snare year since Panthera starting working in this landscape in 2014.

Our program to protect cattle from jaguar attacks and reduce retaliatory killings of jaguars near Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica, resulted in 0 jaguar killings detected, down from an average of two per year.

Panthera produced and transmitted radio advertisements in Bolivia educating people on the laws protecting jaguars and advising ranchers on preventing jaguar attacks. These ads had physical reach across almost half of the country, a necessary adaptation due to travel restrictions.

Our scientists, based on 13 years of data, identified more reliable and robust metrics to measure recovery of tiger populations and success of conservation initiatives.

Panthera vigorously opposed the captive breeding of wild cats for commercial trade and exploitation, efforts that helped inform the South African government’s decision this year to end the commercial captive breeding and use of lions.

As you read this report, I hope you recognize your own role in these accomplishments. As the world was captivated by Tiger King, Panthera’s supporters informed their friends and family that the human drama was distracting from the real threats facing tigers in the wild. As protected areas lost the tourist revenue that funded anti-poaching patrols, you stepped up your generosity to ensure wild cats stayed safe even if tourists could not observe them in person. As many worthy causes and organizations asked for your attention, you did not forget that there is no wild without wild cats. Thank you for everything you do for wild cats and Panthera, and I hope you enjoy our 2020 Annual Report.