Asian big cats like tigers and snow leopards are some of the most recognizable animals around. But while they may seem ubiquitous in our cultural landscape, their actual existence in the wild is threatened. Focusing on saving these iconic animals means much more than just a single species.
When these amazing predators have a future in the wild, that’s an indication that their ecosystems are also thriving. In other words, what’s good for a tiger means good for its ecosystem and people, too!
Big cats keep ecosystems in balance
Here’s a look at a few benefits that come from protecting tigers, snow leopards, and their habitats.
Countless other species share their habitat
The loss of a perfect predator like big cats can set off something called a ”trophic cascade.” Rates of prey will increase, overgrazing and degrading the health of the landscape. This can lead to intensifying wildfires, disease and other ecological consequences.
While we can’t predict the true effects or even know them for years down the line, conserving predators benefits our environment in many ways.
Big cat habitat is a source of water for hundreds of millions of people
More than 30% of Asian elephant populations live within tiger territories, including in Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal and Thailand. And all Sumatran rhinos and Sumatran orangutans – both critically endangered – live within the tiger’s range.
Snow leopards share their mountain home with threatened Tibetan Gazelle, Argali and Chiru. So when we invest in protecting carnivore habitats, we are also helping save many other species.
Protecting tiger habitats fights climate change
Protecting big cats can contribute to the protection of water sources in Asia. Snow leopards’ mountain habitat is a major source of water for 330 million people, and tigers can share the same habitats as the nine most important watersheds in Asia, supplying water to 830 million people.
Big cat conservation supports economies
Protecting the habitat of tigers means protecting forests that give us air to breathe, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and help mitigate climate change. In fact, forest landscapes protected for tigers are estimated to store more carbon than forests in other parts of Asia. For example, forests protected for Amur tigers in Russia’s Far East can absorb a whopping 130,000 tonnes of carbon per year, equivalent to just under 25,000 cars.
Without big cats, we’d lose a cultural icon
As more and more people head to explore the world, big cats are providing opportunities for those who live nearby. A single tigress in India’s Ranthambore Tiger Reserve was responsible for generating over $103 million in revenue during her first 10-year lifecycle.
In turn, she employed over 3,000 people while coming out of a project created by Travel Operators for Tigers. Her offspring continue her legacy today.
Without these animals, tourism would become a decrease in economy among local populations which is what WWF projects have shown happening due to COVID-19 and other environmental concerns like that of polar bears and ice-covered areas.
The cultural significance of big cats is seen in the faiths and folktales across the world. In some Indigenous countries, these big cats have a special place in their culture and knowledge systems. They help to sustain endangered cultures and communities by preserving the landscapes that they often share with big cats. Help us protect our global ecosystem by donating $10/month for lion conservation on May 4th.
The cultural significance of cats is unique and profound. They are integral in many Indigenous belief and folktales, including Native American cultures around the world. With a sensitive approach to conservation, you can help preserve endangered communities and ecosystems. Simply donate today by May 4 to make a real difference for big cat conservation.