Big cats facing extinction risk – prey loss an important factor

Researchers, including those from Oxford University in the UK, investigated the cause of extinction of seven large cats from the Ice Age: four different types of sabre-toothed cats, the cave and American lions and the American cheetah.

By Zee Media Bureau | Updated: May 11, 2017, 18:12 PM IST
Big cats facing extinction risk – prey loss an important factor

New Delhi: A new study suggests that big cat species like lion, tiger, leopard and cheetah are at a high risk of extinction due to the decline in their prey.

Researchers, including those from Oxford University in the UK, investigated the cause of extinction of seven large cats from the Ice Age: four different types of sabre-toothed cats, the cave and American lions and the American cheetah.

They discovered that if these animals were alive today on average, only 25 per cent of their preferred prey species would still remain across their former natural ranges - the majority have gone extinct, partly due to human pressure.

The team believes this devastating loss of prey species was a major contributing factor to the extinction of these big cats.
Researchers also used the database to work out whether a similar decline in the availability of prey species now could lead to the demise of some of the world's most well-known big cat species.

They discovered that if all the currently threatened and declining prey species within big cat natural ranges were to go extinct, only 39 per cent of the African lion's prey and 37 per cent of Sunda clouded leopard's would remain.

Researchers believe that if this prey loss trend continues this poses 'a high risk of extinction' to these two big cat species in particular.

They also report that prey diversity within the geographical ranges of tiger, leopard and cheetah puts them at risk too.

(With PTI inputs)