Message from Erik Solheim, Executive Director of UN Environment

This year’s World Wildlife Day focuses on the most fierce and spectacular of earth’s creatures –big cats. People and big cats share an unusual relationship. We have long associated them with courage and power; the king of the jungle. We name luxury cars and sports brands after them. And they are synonymous with high fashion. But we haven’t been paying enough attention to their protection. If we don’t start now, then all we may have left is the name of a brand, or a photo in a children’s book.

Big cats are predators under threat. Their numbers and habitats are shrinking rapidly.  The mighty lion has vanished from 90% of its natural habitat, and is found only in parts of Africa and one forest in India. As recently as a century ago, there were as many as 100,000 wild tigers in Asia. Today, there remain approximately 3,900 of these magnificent big cats in the wild.

When you protect big cats, you protect the habitats that regulate climate, provide clean air, rainfall, and protect the rich biodiversity, human and animal, that depend on them.

More and more, this relationship is challenged by land degradation, habitat loss and wildlife trafficking that threaten the survival of big cats around the world. As farms, cities and townships encroach on the habitat of big cats, they are pushed out of the wild, and increasingly, into direct conflict with people.

It’s a conflict with no winners.

But there are success stories to encourage us to increase our efforts. In India for example, a sustainable cashmere programme in the mountainous snow leopard terrain is helping sheep herders implement sound grazing and wildlife protection plans. It’s helping them earn better livelihoods through a “sustainable cashmere” certification, and protect the beautiful snow leopard.

UN Environment partner, Discovery Communications, and WWF have launched Project Cat, which is protecting nearly 2 million acres in India and Bhutan with the aim of doubling the global tiger population by 2022.

We want to hear many more success stories that we can report on in the months and years ahead!  World Wildlife Day 2018 is the perfect opportunity to get involved, learn more and act now to help secure a future for the iconic big cat.

On 3 March, the UN #Wild for Life campaign will launch the Big Cat Celebrity Challenge.

You can help secure a future for your big cat kindred species by joining our celebrity champions as they lead a charge for jaguars, lions, snow leopards and tigers- a joint effort to raise awareness and protect these endangered big cats! 

If your team gathers the most votes, UN Environment and partner organizations, CCG - Investors in Wildlife, Discovery Communications and Panthera, will make a donation to a project impacting your team’s flagship species.  

From maintaining land corridors to installing tracking cameras, your effort will help ensure these precious cats have our attention—and our protection

So join our team leaders on 3 March by choosing a team and making a pledge.  The winner will be announced on Earth Day 22 April!

In this challenge, the only winner will be wildlife. The more we work together, the more we can accomplish. Let's ensure that big cats remain in our imagination, and on our planet, for years to come!