Last week I was in Wyoming for the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival in Grand Teton National Park, courtesy of Darlene and Jeff Anderson. The festival happens every two years to celebrate wildlife film making and this year’s theme was about the Big Cats. Looking back @ Jackson Hole, I thought the best way to highlight my experience would be to shed some light on Panthera, an organization that is at the forefront in big cat conservation. Panthera’s CEO, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz, was awarded the JHWFF Life Time Achievement Award for his extraordinary career in cat conservation. I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Rabinowitz speak in Wyoming and was inspired by his work.
I have never seen a big cat with my own eyes but in 2007 I had my first and only encounter with a wild cat. A year after the ‘100 Days’ expedition I did another expedition on a log raft that crashed and flipped on a log jam 100 km south of Dawson City. With my expedition down the drain, Cliff and I set off in another boat to find help in Dawson with the rest of the team stranded in the wilderness. As we followed the shoreline something caught my eye. Perched up on top of the rock face, an adult Lynx sat in complete silence as it curiously watched us. We stopped our boat and for a few minutes, only 5 feet away, stared eye to eye with this beautiful creature before it walked off into the forest. This was my greatest wildlife experience and something I will never forget.
While many of you adore and love domesticated house cats as the cute and cuddly pets they are, their wild cousins, especially the big cats, are in trouble and need our help. The term big cats refers to lions, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and cougars. With cougars being the exception (barely), all the big cats are in BIG trouble. From the illegal pet trade and habitat loss, the future of the big cats is almost certain to lead to extinction unless we do something about it. Panthera’s mission is to ensure the future of wild cats through scientific leadership and global conservation action. So if you love cats, I urge you to do something by supporting the work of Panthera. I just donated $50 to Panthera and I hope you can contribute too because the threat of a world without wild big cats is almost guaranteed unless we do something to stop their demise.