New York, NY - Signifying a major advancement for one of the world’s most ambitious endeavors to save wild cats, philanthropist Jonathan Ayers, the former Chairman, President and CEO of IDEXX Laboratories, and his foundation, The Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Trust (The Conservation Trust), have joined Panthera’s Global Alliance for Wild Cats with a commitment to invest at least $US 20 million over the next 10 years for wild cat conservation.
The $20 million pledge will support a range of critical and strategic wild cat conservation measures, with a particular focus on the preservation of small wild cats scattered around the globe from Brazil to Borneo to Botswana, including the clouded leopard, ocelot and black-footed cat, among 30 other small and little known wild cat species.
A self-described “cat person” whose felines are considered family, Ayers dedicated his remarkable 17-year tenure at IDEXX, the veterinary diagnostics and software leader, to advancing the health and well-being of pets and livestock. In recent years, turning his attention to the survival of cats in the wild, Ayers has become a passionate supporter of Panthera, the global wild cat conservation organization. Most notably, Ayers and his wife Helaine established The Conservation Trust in 2018, helping to kick-start Panthera’s Small Cats Program.
Global Alliance and Panthera Board member Ayers stated, “As I embark on this exciting phase of my life and career, I cannot imagine a more meaningful venture than dedicating one’s full-hearted passion to protecting these extraordinary animals – the charismatic wild cats of the world – whose existence is so essential to the health of our planet. Coming from a school of science benefiting the more familiar felines of our earth, this union with a scientific leader like Panthera is a natural extension of my lifelong interest in nature and cats – both big and small, domestic and wild.”
Ayers continued, “Wild cat conservation is a very tangible cause on which I know I can have an impact. One of the things that drew me to Panthera is its focus on wild cats – and focus leads to impact. Panthera’s suite of talented scientists, my fellow Global Alliance members and I all share a deep-rooted dedication to unearthing the science that will help conserve wild cats, reversing species’ declines, elevating their unsung plight with our voices and making their preservation a global priority for all.”
Conceived by Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan, Panthera’s Founder and Chairman of the Board, and his wife, Daphne Recanati Kaplan, in partnership with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, The Global Alliance for Wild Cats was founded in 2014 as a coalition of environmental philanthropists who share an exceptional commitment to conserving large-scale wildlife habitat and biodiversity by protecting the world’s wild cats – species whose ranges account for 25% of the planet’s land surface. Global Alliance members, who currently hail from China, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States, each have pledged $20 million over 10 years to wild cat conservation and offered to recruit other wild cat advocates to reach the coalition’s combined goal of $200 million to save wild cats.
Panthera Founder and Chairman Dr. Thomas S. Kaplan stated, “In the 15 years since Panthera emerged on the scene as a start-up venture, we have had many champions and heroes join with us to take the organization to where it is today: a brand name for scientific excellence, cutting-edge research and innovative partnerships in cat conservation that spans 39 countries where wild cats still roam free. Even so, in my experience few have stepped forward with the gusto, vision and personal passion of Jon Ayers. By focusing the spotlight not only on the big cats but also on the 33 out of 40 species of wild cats that are known as ‘small cats’, he has already proven to be a game-changer in cat conservation. The same may well be said for Panthera. Jon’s preternatural leadership abilities and professional expertise will be invaluable as we accelerate and deepen the impact of the Global Alliance. His prodigious talents, when combined with an acute appreciation of both the magnificence and the vulnerability of wild cats, makes him a singular partner in this noble cause.”
Kaplan added, “In business, the ability to see around corners has always been the most highly sought and jealously cherished trait in leaders. At IDEXX, Jon foresaw that millennials are more committed to protecting the health of their pets than earlier generations – a thesis that engendered great financial results. With Panthera, he also got the investment thesis right away: namely, that saving wild cats – the charismatic umbrella species within their landscapes – provides the most leveraged opportunity to preserve the beauty of our natural world for future generations. I speak for every member of the Global Alliance when expressing my profound gratitude to Jon for deciding to invest not just his financial resources, but also his intellectual capital, in the furtherance of wild cat conservation. Indeed, the entire world should be thankful that wild cats now have Jon as a full-time protector.”
A Spotlight on Small Cats
The Ayers Global Alliance membership will shine a critically-timed spotlight on small cats. Unlike the big seven, few can name or recognize the world’s 33 small cat species, much less know of their dangerous proximity to extinction. Despite their numbers, small cats do not receive the lion’s share of funding, with some estimates suggesting the 33 species receive less than one percent of all wild cat conservation funding.
Overturning this trend, Ayers’ funding of the Panthera Small Cats Program supports the implementation of novel ecological and conservation initiatives for 14 small cat species across 13 sites, with plans to focus on greater numbers of species and sites as the Program grows. Scientists will develop conservation action plans armed with new scientific data filling existing knowledge gaps on basic small cat biology – including population sizes, threats, home ranges, behaviors, dynamics with other species and epidemiology. Many of these projects will constitute the first of their kind ever enacted on behalf of these species. Ayers will also support conservation and research in the world's Catscapes, or those landscapes with the richest diversity of cat species on each continent.
Ayers at IDEXX
During his career at IDEXX from 2002 through 2019, Ayers led the company in investing more than 80 percent of the industry’s research and development in diagnostic and information technology, providing novel offerings that appreciably advanced the standard of care for veterinary medicine. Under his leadership, the company grew annual revenues from $380 million to $2.4 billion, while its share price enjoyed a more than 40-fold increase.
The Global Alliance announcement commences a new chapter for Ayers, who stepped down from his day-to-day executive leadership role at IDEXX in October 2019. He continues to guide the company’s growth and innovation as both a Board member and Senior Advisor.
Panthera, founded in 2006, is devoted exclusively to preserving wild cats and their critical role in the world’s ecosystems. Panthera’s team of leading biologists, law enforcement experts and wild cat advocates develop innovative strategies based on the best available science to protect cheetahs, jaguars, leopards, lions, pumas, snow leopards and tigers, along with small cat species, and their vast landscapes. In 39 countries around the world, Panthera works with a wide variety of stakeholders to reduce or eliminate the most pressing threats to wild cats—securing their future and ours. Visit panthera.org
About The Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Trust
In 2018, Jonathan Ayers, the former Chairman, President and CEO of IDEXX Laboratories, and his wife, Helaine, established The Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Trust to support conservation of the 40 species of felids in the wild. The Ayers Wild Cat Conservation Trust is endowed by gifts of IDEXX stock from the Ayers family. The foundation focuses solely on supporting the funding of global wild cat species conservation initiatives and organizations.