The Fading Call of the Wild, a report released by the world’s leading wildlife conservation organizations, details the increasing threats and plunging populations of big cats and rare canids living in the wild. Faced with a striking loss of habitat and prey due to over-development of land and direct killing by poachers and others who see them as a threat, wild cats such as lions, cheetahs and snow leopards, and wild dogs like the Ethiopia wolf and bush dog face an uncertain future.
Eighty percent of all wild cat species are experiencing population declines, as are 25 percent of wild canids - the family of foxes, wolves and wild dogs. The report looks beyond the raw numbers and delves into the plight of 15 of these species that are considered ecologically vital, detailing their current numbers in the wild, changes to the population in the last ten years, and conservation solutions for improving their status. The 15 species were chosen because they are considered umbrella species that, if conserved appropriately, protect their corresponding landscapes and other species dependent on those ecosystems.
A snapshot of the report’s findings include:
•A century ago there were as many as 200,000 lions living in Africa, today there are fewer than 30,000. Lions are now extinct from 26 countries that they formerly occupied. The single greatest threat to lions is killing by people who own livestock. Herders and ranchers shoot, trap and poison lions across their range.
•There are fewer than 500 Darwin’s Fox living today. The animal are found only in Chile and their restricted distribution makes them highly vulnerable to extinction. The gentle and curious canids are not fearful of people which contributes to their endangerment, however timber exploration and land development are the two biggest factors that have pushed the animals to the brink.
•There are fewer than 7,000 snow leopards in the wild today. Snow leopard poaching is rampant with their bones and hides frequently confiscated in illegal shipments of wildlife parts bound for markets in China and throughout Asia.
•Fewer than 500 Ethiopian wolves remain with more than half found in the Bale Mountains. The highly social animals live in packs which makes them especially vulnerable when their populations decrease. Entire packs are wiped out by rabies outbreaks, while those that survive face rapid loss of habitat.
• One of the most ecologically and genetically unique animals, African wild dogs exist in less than seven percent of their historic range, and are extinct in 22 countries that they formerly inhabited. Accidental snaring and rabies have decimated populations throughout Africa, and fewer than 8,000 of the animals remain.
Source and photo: International Fund for Animal Welfare