The latest episode of BBC’s incredible new documentary series Dynasties, has thrown lions into the spotlight once again. Not since Cecil the Lion captured the public’s hearts following his illegal execution has the general public had a chance to consider the hard lives and devastating threats that lion’s face in the wild — from both humans and non-humans.
The new Dynasties series – which once again follows the Marsh Pride made famous in Big Cat Diaries – sees this infamous lion pride struck down once more by targeted, poisoned meat left out by farmers looking to protect their livestock. The pride faced a similar fate in 2015, highlighting frequency of just one of the major factors threatening the world’s big cats. (You can read more about that here).
As well as human-wildlife conflict, big cats across the globe face issues concerning habitat loss, the exotic pet trade, use in traditional Chinese medicine, “canned” hunting, commercial breeding farms, exploitation for entertainment, disease and poaching.
Trek for Big Cats
I’m always excited to hear stories of inspiring individuals going further to support and educate about our planet’s vulnerable species – and Trek for Big Cats is no exception!
It comes at a time when it feels lions and other predators need our attention, and represents a fundraising campaign and a movement to create awareness around the plight of the world’s endangered and iconic cats.
The small team of of three conservationists (Gareth James Legg, Tracey Bruton and Lucas Svoboda) trekked to the base camp of Mount Everest – the highest peak in the world, at 8848 metres – dressed as three of the most iconic big cats; lion, leopard and tiger.
A roaring success!
The Trek for Big Cats team began their month-long expedition at the start of November, and after almost a year of planning and a lot of dedication and passion, they have successfully completed their monumental climb!
The team chose to trek to Mount Everest base camp due to the area being home to large cat species, such as the snow leopard.
Battling high altitude, dust, thin air, fatigue and the cumbersome nature of their mascot suits, the team felt that the struggles and hardships experienced on their trek paint an interesting analogy on the daily struggle that the world’s big cats go through to survive in their natural environments.
Why the Big Cats?
The team chose to support big cats in particular, as they help to keep ecosystems healthy by maintaining a balance in predator-prey numbers. They are also very important attractions in eco-tourism, and generate income for wildlife conservation.
Trek for Big Cats have used their expedition to highlight the recent boom in the big cat bone trade industry. The bones are used to make wine for traditional Chinese medicine.
Initially using tiger bones, the dramatic decline of tigers has led to the demand shifting towards lion and leopard bone.
The team are also raising awareness of these shocking statistics:
- On the whole, there are less than 4,000 tigers left in the wild. The critically endangered South China tiger is ‘functionally extinct’ from illegal hunting, with the Malayan and Sumatran tigers on the brink of extinction.
- Lions have undergone a catastrophic decline of 43% in the last 21 years, having disappeared from 90% of their former range.
- Worldwide, leopards have vanished from 49% of their historic range in Africa and 84% in Eurasia. There are around 60 Amur leopards remaining in the wild.
Paws for thought
By creating global awareness about the plight of the big cats, the team hoped to educate the public by giving them a Call to Action to play an active role in protecting big cats for future generations.
“We are hoping that our expedition will inspire people around the world to stand up for the plight of the big cats and their environments to ensure that these big cats remain living for many generations to come,” said Trek for Big Cats co-founder (and leopard mascot!), Tracey Bruton.
“Trek for Big Cats would like to give solutions to ordinary people to assist with our cause, for instance not taking part in pay-to-pet facilities or selfies with big cats, “canned” hunting or trophy hunting, buying big cat body part souvenirs, or using traditional Chinese medicine or foods that contain big cat body parts.”
“We had a phenomenal response on the trail with trekkers and locals, as well as with local Nepalese news and media.”
If you’d like to follow their future fundraising efforts, to donate to their fundraising page please visit: https://trekforbigcats.com/
Trek for Big Cats worked with the following collaborators and supporters: Born Free Foundation, Blood Lions, Youth for Lions, International Campaign against Canned Hunting, Friends for Free Wildlife, Himalayan Trust Nepal, The Humble Company, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Foundation, and the International Palm Oil Free Certification Accreditation Programme.
Learn more about big cats
Want to hear more from the people working with big cats?
- Exclusive interview with those working on the ground to save lions
- Rescue and relocation with Drew Abrahamson
- Claws Out: Beth Jennings exposes the truth behind volunteering with lion cubs
- Read about TigerTime Now, acampaign established by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation
- Read Part 1 of my interview with ‘The Big Cat People’ Jonathan & Angela Scott
- Part 2 of my interview with Jonathan & Angela Scott about The Marsh Pride
- What’s was it like to work on the BBC series Big Cats?
- Discover Alan Rabinowitz and his work to save the jaguar
Want to know more about lions?
- Read about the plight of lions at CITES 2016
- What happened when the story of Cecil broke?
- Lion Aid raises funds in Cecil’s honour
- Blood Lions: a Born Free Foundation documentary
- Global March for Lions