Lions and Tigers and Leopards in the Woods: 5 Destinations for Viewing Big Cats
Calling all cat people! In celebration of International Cat Day, we called on a global wild cat conservation organization to share where in the world we can get the best views of our favorite felines in their natural environment. And at the same time, support communities to rebuild the eco-tourism that supports big cats’ preservation in the destinations people and wild cats share.
Panthera has shared a list of five destinations worldwide where eco-tourists are almost guaranteed to encounter jaguars, leopards, pumas, tigers, and other big cats in the wild -- while helping both the animals and local residents alike bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.
The wild cat conservation organization has achieved conservation success in wild cat territory around the world by recognizing that one of best ways to protect wild species is to help local communities benefit from them.
The plus for visitors is that, as big cats stop seeing humans as a threat, not only do wild cat / human conflicts drop and humans become vested in protecting wild cat habitat. Less fearful of humans, big cats become more visible in the wild, giving visitors better experiences – and so on, and so on… in a win-win-win cycle for the cats, their neighbor humans, and visitors like you.
Here are five of Panthera’s biggest success stories, where you can marvel at how, no matter how supersized wild cats are, they remind us so much of our feline friends at home.
Ask your expert travel advisor about planning a trip to see in person one of these iconic wild cats in their natural environment.
Jaguars in Brazil
Panthera’s Pantanal Jaguar Project in Brazil (pictured, top) is a shining model for big cat conservation, demonstrating how scientists can mitigate conflict between humans and wild predators by implementing eco-tourism, livestock vaccinations, and other initiatives benefiting local communities.
The world’s largest tropical wetland, the Pantanal is home to the highest concentration of jaguars on earth, and visitors might catch sight of the big cats swimming the Cuiaba river, hunting prey, or even venturing out with cubs.
Jaguars in Colombia
Modeled after their community-based approach in the Pantanal, Panthera’s work in Colombia’s Llanos, a vast tropical grassland plain east of the Andes, is on track to replicate its success. The organization has a two-pronged approach -- helping ranchers protect livestock from jaguars without killing them, and training locals to be jaguar tour guides.
As a result, visitors are twenty times more likely to see a jaguar now than in 2016, and tourism has doubled in a region still recovering from Colombia’s troubled cartel and political past.
Like the Pantanal, the Llanos are part of Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative, an ambitious conservation program that seeks to preserve the genetic integrity of jaguars by protecting them across their entire six million square kilometer range from Mexico to Argentina.
Pumas in Patagonia
Nicknamed “the end of the world,” Patagonia -- the southern parts of Chile and Argentina -- offers an opportunity to see pumas against a backdrop of granite spires, sweeping vistas, glaciers, and pampas. Ecotourism is relatively new to the region, where pumas and ranchers have long been in conflict.
Over the last few years, Panthera’s Puma Program has been working with tourist ranches to create an ethical standard for puma tourism. The relationship is mutually beneficial: in return for allowing Panthera to set the many camera traps needed to monitor puma populations, Panthera shares data that helps landowners plan puma-sighting tours.
Leopards in South Africa
Sabi Sands Game Reserve boasts the highest concentration of big game in South Africa and also one of the most habituated, meaning tourists enjoy frequent and close wildlife encounters. Famous for its amazing leopard sightings, the reserve is helping Panthera with one of the most comprehensive long-term leopard studies ever undertaken.
Working with guides from the reserve’s photo-tourism lodges, the Sabi Sands Leopard Project has monitored more than 600 leopards over the last 35 years -- a unique dataset that provides important insight into the lives of leopards, as well as an essential baseline that can inform future conservation strategies.
Tigers in India
Located in northern India, Ranthambore National Park is reputed to have the least shy tigers in the nation; in fact, Panthera doesn’t run a conservation program within the park because its thriving wild tiger population doesn’t require an intervention.
But a Panthera Partner Wildlife Photographer who lives and works in India can testify that it’s one of the best places in the world to photograph tigers. In one trip a visitor can capture the animals against a surprisingly diverse range backdrops, from mountains to lakes to grassy plains.
Start your Eco-Trip!
Photos courtesy of Panthera.
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