Most Endangered Cats in the World

Updated on May 9th, 2017 to reflect new taxonomic decisions made by the IUCN Cat Specialist Group’s Cat Classification Task Force.

Being cat obsessed, I always want to find out more about these amazing animals. So recently I was searching for the most endangered cats in the world. I ended up finding conflicting results (I think this is partially due to the fact that listing certain species is ‘sexier’ than others and that some addressed subspecies while others did not). So I decided to do my own research. It took some time, looking up every subspecies of wild cat, but it was well worth it.  And now, in honor of Endangered Species Day, which was this last Friday I decided to put together a list of the ten most endangered felines in the world. Now a list depends on the parameters set and since the exact numbers of breeding individuals for many subspecies or even species is not known, I will deal only with the numbers that are known.

This is the overall list of the most endangered wild cats in the world, including subspecies and species.

1. Balkan Lynx (Lynx lynx balcanicus)

Balkan Lynx SilhouetteStatus: Critically Endangered
Population Size1: 20-39
Population Trend: Decreasing


2. Asiatic Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus venaticus)

Asiatic Cheetah Silhouette

Status: Critically Endangered
Population Size2: Less than 40
Population Trend: Decreasing


3. Arabian Leopard (Panthera pardus nimr)

Arabian Leopard SilhouetteStatus: Critically Endangered
Population Size3: 45-200
Population Trend: Decreasing


4. Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis)Amur Leopard Silhouette

Status: Critically Endangered
Population Size4: Less than 60
Population Trend: Increasing


5. Iberian Lynx (Lynx pardinus)

Iberian Lynx SilhouetteStatus: Critically Endangered
Population Size5: ~ 156
Population Trend: Increasing


6. Javan Leopard (Panthera pardus melas)

Javan Leopard SilhouetteStatus: Critically Endangered
Population Size6: Below 250
Population Trend: Decreasing


7. Barbary Serval (Leptailurus serval constantina)Barbary Serval SilhouetteStatus: Critically Endangered
Population Size7: Below 250
Population Trend: Decreasing


8. Northwest African Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus hecki)

Northwest African CheetahStatus: Critically Endangered
Population Size8: Below 250
Population Trend: Decreasing


9. Sunda Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) – This subspecies includes the formerly accepted Javan Tiger and Sumatran Tiger subspecies, together lumped into the Sunda Tiger since the reclassification of 2017.9

 

South China Tiger SilhouetteStatus: Critically Endangered
Population Size10: 342-509
Population Trend: Decreasing


Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya)

Sri Lankan Leopard
Status: Endangered
Population Size11: 700-950
Population Trend: Decreasing

There are a few really interesting things to note when looking at this list. One thing for example is that all but two of these subspecies and species’ population numbers are decreasing (the exceptions being the Amur Leopard and Iberian Lynx). This downward trend is really not a great sign for the survival of these cats in the long run.

Another interesting thing is that seven out of the ten cats are larger cats (though not all of them are classified as Big Cats). Larger animals require larger areas to contain enough prey to sustain themselves. As their habitat is constantly disappearing so do their numbers decrease. The only plus side of this is that if we can protect these large cats, so do we protect lots of habitat not only for them but many other animals as well.

Another thing to note is that only one species (not subspecies) has made the list, the Iberian Lynx. It proves how threatened of extinction this animal really is. Some tiger and lion subspecies have gone extinct due to humans in recent times, but if the Iberian Lynx was to disappear for good, it would be the first cat species to go extinct since the Saber-toothed Cat, which died out 11,000 years ago.

On a personal note, in creating this list, it was amazing was to discover the Balkan Lynx, a subspecies of Eurasian Lynx I had never heard of, and it is the most threatened cat of extinction!

Sources:

  1. Balkan Lynx Population (2015): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/68986842/0
  2. Asiatic Cheetah Population (2016): Cat News, Special Issue, Number 10, Autumn 2016: Cats in Iran
  3. Arabian Leopard Population (2008): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15954/0
  4. Amur Leopard Population (2014): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15954/0
  5. Iberian Lynx Population (2015): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/12520/0
  6. Javan Leopard Population (2008): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15954/0
  7. Barbary Serval Population (2015): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/11638/0
  8. Northwest African Cheetah Population (2008): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/221/0
  9. Sunda Tiger Reclassification (2017): Cat news, Special Issue, Number 11, Winter 2017: A revised taxonomy of the Felidae
  10. Sunda Tiger Population (2008): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15966/0
  11. Sri Lankan Leopard Population (2015): http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/15954/0

 

Conservation Struggles in Yemen

The country of Yemen has amazing natural areas, many of them undiscovered and most definitely under appreciated by the local as well as the international audience. Due to its geographical location, Yemen has many endemic plants while also supporting animals found in Africa as well as Asia. The survival of these species is a fragile one; if the country and its people continue to disregard the potential of these areas they may forever be lost.

A case study for this is the Hawf Protected Area at the border of Yemen and Oman. Due to an escarpment right next to the coast and the seasonal monsoons, a cloud forest persists at this location. Beyond the initial mountain range, the normal desert ecosystem of the area exists.

Cloud forest and escarpment, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Cloud forest and escarpment, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Cloud forest, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Cloud forest, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Desert wadi (valley) system at sunset, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Desert wadi (valley) system at sunset, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

In these habitats you can find endemic plant and animal species like Golden-winged Grosbeaks, South Arabian Wheatears, Tristam’s Starling, and Desert Rose Plants.

Golden-winged Grosbeak (Rhynchostruthus socotranus) male, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Golden-winged Grosbeak (Rhynchostruthus socotranus) male, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Tristram's Starling (Onychognathus tristramii) male, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Tristram’s Starling (Onychognathus tristramii) male, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

South Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides) male, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

South Arabian Wheatear (Oenanthe lugentoides) male, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) plant at sunset, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Desert Rose (Adenium obesum) plant at sunset, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Not to mention, the ocean is simply beautiful, warm, clear, and provides its own unique wildlife.

These ecosystems are under much pressure though, it seems like all the environmental issues one can throw at an environment are impacting these ones.

There is hunting pressure of predators, large ungulates, and small game. Increased roads provide better access to formerly inaccessible nature areas. Overgrazing by camels, cows, sheep, and goats leave less for native herbivores.  Logging of trees destroys the dense cover needed by many species. Finally, pollution, specifically trash that is thrown anywhere and everywhere, can cause direct effects on animals as well as simply making an area less attractive to tourists.

Hunter with Kaloshnikov, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Hunter with Kaloshnikov, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Road dissecting forest, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Road dissecting forest, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Road and livestock paths on mountain side, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Road and livestock paths on mountain side, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Livestock paths on mountain side, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Livestock paths on mountain side, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Camel feeding on acacia, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Camel feeding on acacia, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Camel browsing on acacia, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Camel browsing on acacia, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Cows grazing, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Cows grazing, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Sheep grazing, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Sheep grazing, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Clear cut area, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Clear cut area, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Trash in Hawf city, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Trash in Hawf city, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

And the ecotourism potential in this area is huge. The people are willing to host foreigners and openly welcome them. The environment is gorgeous and provides a home for many endemic species as well as charismatic megafauna like Arabian Leopards, Striped Hyenas, Arabian Wolves, Honey Badgers!!!, Sea Turtles, and Dolphins.

This is why the work that David Stanton of the Foundation for the Protection of the Arabian Leopard in Yemen is doing is so important. By focusing on a large predator as the Arabian Leopard he ensures that if he is successful, the large scale habitat it needs to survive protects not only the cat, but all the species that call that environment their home as well. Coupling that with convincing the local people that tourist money is a whole lot more than they can get for selling a goat has the real potential of benefiting both the people and the wildlife there. Though it is an uphill battle, David is fighting it well and I personally think he is undertaking the correct steps to lead to a better Yemen for humans and animals alike. You can personally help out by donating to David’s foundation by contacting him at his email address contact@yemenileopard.org

David Stanton and Yousuf Mohageb giving workshop on the benefits of protecting the Arabian Leopard, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

David Stanton and Yousuf Mohageb giving workshop on the benefits of protecting the Arabian Leopard, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Yemen: A Different Culture

Though one can do as much reading about a place they have never visited before they embark, one never knows what it is truly like until they arrive. Enter military guards, anti-government soldiers, ‘ancient’ architecture, and a whole new set of smells. Arriving in Sana’a was truly a very unique experience for me. I didn’t have much time to explore as we left for the Arabian Leopard research area of the Hawf Protected Area the next day.

Stone buildings of Hawf city, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Stone buildings of Hawf city, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Camel walking across road in Hawf, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen - Yes, this is normal

Camel walking across road in Hawf, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen – Yes, this is normal

Enter a small town, no soldiers, less guns, few cars, one restaurant, and again a whole new set of smells. Hawf is located right near the border of Yemen and Oman, right at the south eastern part of Yemen. The people are extremely friendly, welcoming, and giving. This area is not quite as conservatively Muslim as the more western parts of the country and much of the clothing is influenced by Oman.

Yemeni man wearing head scarf, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Yemeni man wearing head scarf, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Sa'ad, our driver in Hawf, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Sa’ad, our driver in Hawf, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Boys near mosque, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Boys near mosque, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Though the ‘city’ of Hawf only consists of about 700 people, there is still a big difference between the people who spend most of their time there versus the Bedouins that live in the mountains. Since the city is located right on the water, fishing plays a large part in the culture. This includes

Ali, a local fisherman making fishing net, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Ali, a local fisherman making fishing net, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Fisherman bringing fish to shore at sunset, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Fisherman bringing fish to shore at sunset, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Selling fish at the market, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Selling fish at the market, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Fisherman tossing sardines for drying, to be used as Camel food, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Fisherman tossing sardines for drying, to be used as Camel food, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Boy hooking worm for fishing from shore, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Boy hooking worm for fishing from shore, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Boy fishing from shore, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Boy fishing from shore, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

There, you can also find some of the more usual things in a small city.

Making bread in city, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Making bread in city, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Mechanic under car, Yemen

Mechanic under car, Yemen

Grocery store and owners, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Grocery store and owners, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Appliance store, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Appliance store, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

The Bedouin life however is much different. It is much more dependent on the surrounding environment as they move their encampments with the seasons. Daily life consists of making bread, feeding and watching camels, and of course drinking lots of tea.

Bedouin camp, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Bedouin camp, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Older Bedouin, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Older Bedouin, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Bedouin making bread, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Bedouin making bread, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Bedouin feeding Camel ground up sardines, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Bedouin feeding Camel ground up sardines, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Bedouin making tea, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Bedouin making tea, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

In the end though, the Yemeni culture is deeply rooted in helping one another out and sharing time and belongings with each other. Friendships and familial relationships are the most important and anything and everything is done to maintain those bonds. When looking at this culture, independent from any other culture, the importance of community and selfishness becomes quite apparent.

Volunteers helping to pull boat ashore, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Volunteers helping to pull boat ashore, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Dinner shared between friends, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Dinner shared between friends, Hawf Protected Area, Yemen

Santa Cruz Sentinel Article about My Upcoming Photo Project

sentinel-article

 

Meghan Rosen from the Santa Cruz Sentinel and UCSC’s science communication program was nice and interested enough to write an article in the newspaper about my upcoming assignment to photograph the critically endangered Arabian Leopard in Yemen. Not only did she ask great question — our interview/conversation lasted about an hour and a half — but she also wrote a great and factual article. If you are interested in reading it, here is a direct link.