National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative

The National Geographic Society has been inspiring people to care about the planet since 1888.



Big Cats Initiative

Big cats worldwide are all under threat—for many populations, local extinctions are imminent. As few as 3,000 tigers, 7,500 snow leopards, 10,000 cheetahs and 30,000 lions likely remain in the wild. “We no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to big cats. If there was ever a time to take action it is now,” says National Geographic’s Explorer-In-Residence Derek Joubert, co-founder of the Big Cats Initiative. Populations of lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars and other top felines are declining at an alarming rate. They are victims of habitat loss and degradation as well as conflicts with humans.

In response, National Geographic, with filmmakers, conservationists, and Explorers-in-Residence Derek and Beverly Joubert, launched the Big Cats Initiative, a comprehensive program that supports on-the-ground conservation and education projects combined with our Cause an Uproar global public-awareness campaign.  We work on integrated solutions for a complex problem. Our goal is the long-term survival of big cats.

Photo © National Geographic

Photo © National Geographic

Reducing Threats to Big Cats

The threats of wire-snaring poaching, trophy hunting, and illegal bush-meat trade are destroying populations of lions and other big cats. The Big Cats Initiative grantees combat these threats on the ground in Africa, Asia, and other areas with large populations of big cats under the threat of extinction. Their activities include:

  • Team patrols to prevent lion snaring
  • Testing lion carcasses for signs of poison
  • Anti-poaching team patrols
  • Medical treatment for snared lions

Keeping the Peace

A major cause of big cat decline is retaliatory killing, which occurs when farmers and herders take revenge on big cats’ for attacking their livestock. In recent years, the big cats’ natural prey species have vanished. Without enough native prey to survive, the big cats turn to livestock, especially unprotected livestock, for food. Big Cats Initiative grantees are working to promote coexistence between local pastoralists and big cats by reducing the amount of human-wildlife conflict with these activities:

  • Training local villagers to be conflict officers
  • Building and improving protective livestock corrals using tourism as an incentive to raise income and offset livestock losses
  • Placing tracking collars on big cats that work as a warning system for villagers
  • Using guard dogs to protect livestock herds
  • Relocating problem animals from conflict areas

Photo © National Geographic

Photo © National Geographic

Community Outreach and Engagement

Relatively few people in farming or herding communities around the world value the presence of carnivore species, but the successful conservation of big cats depends on the cooperation of these communities. Big Cats Initiative grantees help communities gain an increased understanding and appreciation of carnivore species. They also promote the use of sustainable management practices, including nonlethal carnivore control, to facilitate coexistence. Their activities on the ground include:

  • Conservation workshops
  • Big cat movie nights
  • Education and medical care for children and adults
To learn more about National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative, please visit our website: or follow us on social media.