For wildlife lovers, the opportunity to see the world's magnificent big cats in the wild is one of the most sought-after experiences of all. Embarking on a dedicated Jaguar tour to the spectacular Brazilian Pantanal, for example, provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to enter Panthera onca's natural habitat for up close and personal sightings. |
For anyone with a passion for wildlife, the subject of conservation is never far from their hearts and minds. An experience as intense and exciting as a Jaguar tour brings the issue into sharp focus because, for certain species of big cats, the situation has become critical in habitats around the world.
One big-name conservation programme is getting behind dedicated scientists and conservationists to support their work to preserve the seven big cat species of the world. Through education, research, on-the-ground work and raising global awareness, the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative is making a difference.
"We believe in the power of science, exploration, education, and storytelling to change the world." – National Geographic Impact Statement.
Spotlight on Big Cats
The initiative was founded in 2009, with the aim of halting the decline of all species of big cats in the wild. Conservationists and filmmakers Dereck and Beverley Joubert set up the initiative with a long-term vision and, to date, it has partnered with 64 different projects across 27 countries to prevent the habitat loss and conflict with humans that threaten the species' survival.
How It's Happening
Along with local community groups, corporations, and NGOs, the National Geographic initiative works collaboratively with researchers, field-based conservationists, environmental experts, and educators to increase global awareness of the issues facing the world's big cats. Using a three-pronged approach, their methods are focused on halting the reduction in numbers of big cats in the wild.
The initiative assesses, by measuring and recording species' populations in various parts of the world and analysing the success rate of conservation methods.
It protects, by supporting and nurturing local community projects in big cat habitats, encouraging their harmonious coexistence.
It communicates, by raising global awareness and spreading the word of the plight of the world's big cats through their National Geo WILD 'Cause an Uproar' campaign. The campaign promotes education, on-the-ground conservation and fundraising incentives for the public to get involved.
Building a Future
Following their philosophy that it's essential for conservation efforts to be focused in areas where wildlife and humans coexist, the National Geographic initiative has, to date, helped create and build more than 1,000 'bomas'.
Bomas are purpose-built livestock enclosures, which serve to protect against predation from big cats, therefore reducing the possibility of retaliatory hunting by local farmers or ranchers protecting their livelihood.
For such a simplistic solution, the bomas have proven to be highly successful in halting the decline in population numbers of big cats by preventing the cycle of killing before it begins. (The initiative runs public 'Build a Boma' fund raising through the Cause an Uproar campaign.)
A Conversation About Conservation
Through projects like the National Geographic Big Cats Initiative, and many others on the ground around the world in big cat habitats, awareness is growing for the urgent need to focus on these magnificent animals' preservation before it’s too late.
While the public can get involved via fundraising and education programmes, ethical wildlife travel experiences, like going on a Jaguar tour, for example, also help raise the profile of conservation efforts by raising the profile of the species' habitat and the issues it faces.
Marissa Ellis-Snow is a freelance nature writer with a special interest in Jaguar watching. Being passionate about her subject, Marissa chooses the expert-led Jaguar tour itineraries organised by Naturetrek, which have brought her unforgettable sightings of a wide range of wildlife in some of the most spectacular regions on Earth.
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