Panthera’s Small Cats Program creates targeted conservation strategies for the world’s most threatened small cat species by understanding their unique ecological needs and threats.
Small Cats Program
There are 40 recognized species of wild cats in the world. Most people are familiar with the big and medium-sized species, but few can name the 33 smaller cats. Panthera’s Small Cats Program is expanding our focus in wild cat conservation to bring the increasingly threatened small cat species to the world’s attention and enact science-based conservation action on their behalf.
Only a handful of studies have investigated the ecology of small cats, and subsequently, there are huge knowledge gaps about species population sizes, threats, and more. This lack of data can significantly hamper conservation action and make many highly-threatened small cat species appear as low priorities on the conservation agenda. Moreover, while some species may be considered common, little is known about how changes in land use and other threats impact them.
Small cat species inhabit 5 of the world's 7 continents.
The strategy of Panthera's growing Small Cats Program is to operate at key sites on every continent where small cat species occur.
The State of Small Cats
Ranging in size from the diminutive rusty-spotted cat, weighing around 5 pounds when fully grown, to the 50-pound Eurasian lynx, small cat species inhabit five of the world’s seven continents (excluding Australia and Antarctica) and are superbly adapted to an array of natural and increasingly unnatural environments, from deserts to rainforests to city parks.
Compared to big cats and other carnivores, very little is known about the world's small cats. Supremely elusive, some are nocturnal, others are arboreal, and all are rare and secretive, making them especially difficult to study. Many small cats are in danger of extinction, and some are so cryptic that scientists haven't even been able to study them in the wild, and can only describe their appearance and approximate geographic range.
While 12 of the world’s 18 most threatened wild felids are small cat species, they still receive a fraction—some estimates say less than one percent—of all the funding committed to wild cat conservation. Today, conservation strategies don’t even exist for the majority of small wild cat species, though they most certainly face serious risks from habitat loss, poaching, land conversion, and conflict with humans.
The 33 small cat species’ listings range from “Least Concerned” to “Endangered” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.
Small cats face big threats, so it’s critical we conduct the fundamental science to accurately inform conservation action. The Small Cats Program will provide the conservation attention they desperately need, so that no wild cat, big or small, will be left behind in the race against extinction.