2021 began with hope. We took inspiration from the highly adaptable wild cats whom we work tirelessly to protect, who seem to come back stronger after every challenge. Looking into the future, we wished for a better world, where the struggles of COVID-19 would slowly start to fade away. After a year of isolation, we saw a glimmer of the life we once knew. Unfortunately, however, 2021 brought its own difficulties. As the leader of a global organization, I myself had to adapt to best support our staff, and, of course, wild cats during this trying time. We persevered, and, as a result, we achieved so much together.
We have so much to celebrate. As you’ll see in Panthera’s 2021 Annual Report, we worked hand-in-paw with our global partners to implement innovative, proven solutions to conserve wild cats. From lions in Senegal to bay cats in Borneo, our science-driven, community-oriented conservation approach helped protect wild cats and their cubs. Around the world, our staff took to their work with renewed vigor, eager to succeed and protect majestic felids. Poaching, deforestation and human-wildlife conflict would not let up in 2021. Neither could we.
But this Annual Report is not only a list of our many conservation successes. It is also a narrative of the progress we made for the betterment of the next generation of cubs and kittens. In 2021, Panthera saw a period of growth and improvement. We celebrated Board Member Razan Al Mubarak on her election to the presidency of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Other women also made great leaps; Panthera scientist Wai Yee Lam helped forge coexistence between farmers and tigers in the Malaysian Forest Reserves. Not only did we grow in size and capacity, but so too in our resolve and commitment.
Most prominently, 2021 saw a transfer of leadership to the next generation. Longtime Panthera donor and Board Member Jonathan Ayers was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors, with the organization’s Co-Founder and Board Chair of 15 years Tom Kaplan now helming The Global Alliance for Wild Cats.
Panthera made many concrete gains for the next generation of wild cats in 2021. For wild cats to thrive, the next generation must be given a fighting chance. And in 2021, we were able to do just that. Some conservation wins we’d like to spotlight include:
- In Saudi Arabia, we partnered with the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to monitor and grow Critically Endangered Arabian leopard populations. And on April 23 of last year, a ray of hope was born as part of our RCU reintroduction program — a female leopard cub;
- We worked hard and saw encouraging signs of recovery of Critically Endangered West African lion populations in Senegal’s Niokolo-Koba National Park. Alongside the country’s Direction of National Parks, we put GPS collars on the first ever lions in Senegal;
- Panthera worked with a variety of partners to preserve the wildlife of Luengue-Luiana National Park, Angola after years of wildlife decline. Community game guard patrols and conversation with local communities have produced encouraging signs for the wild cats of this region;
- We dedicated ourselves to studying small cats in southern Africa. We developed a non-invasive program to study black-footed cats in South Africa and began a partnership to study serval ecology;
- In Asia, Panthera continued its fight to protect tigers in Thailand and Malaysia. Our Malaysia program fought back against poaching efforts, leading to a number of poaching arrests. Further south, on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, we strengthened programs aimed at studying and protecting wild cats, especially small cats threatened by deforestation and poaching in Sabah;
- Snow leopards also received a boost. We were able to begin long-awaited projects in Kyrgyzstan, engaging local communities in dialogue to foster understanding of snow leopard conservation;
- In Brazil, Panthera brought new hope to jaguars. After devastating wildfires that decimated wildlife populations in the Brazilian Pantanal in 2020, including affecting an estimated 600 jaguars, the ecosystem began to recover. Thanks to much-needed rain, the efforts of our staff and a concerted commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change, 2021 showed signs of renewal and a better world for jaguars; and
- Pumas in Washington State, United States also received a boost. This year, the Olympic Cougar Project was revolutionized by EarthRanger software, which allows scientists and research teams from six First Nations to gather a host of information about the area’s cougars. Last year, EarthRanger signaled the mating of two collared cats and hope for a new generation — several puma kittens were subsequently born.
As you read through our 2021 Annual Report, please join us in celebrating these puma kittens, recovering lions and Arabian leopard cubs that signal a prosperous future for the next generation of wild cats. Importantly, be sure to celebrate your own role in our collective accomplishments. Without you, your commitment to our cause and love for wild cats, none of our efforts would have come to fruition. Your support and encouragement sustained us. By engaging your friends and family and becoming involved with Panthera, you made our critical wild cat conservation work in Senegal, Malaysia and Brazil possible. You are the force driving Panthera. Thank you for everything you do to support Panthera and wild cats. I hope you enjoy our 2021 Annual Report.