It’s Caturday: Can Leopards, the ultimate survivors, endure what’s coming?

Shrinking habitat, along with diminishing prey and conflict with people, pose the top threats to leopards’ long-term survival, as well as escalating climate change and mushrooming human population. The scale and speed of habitat loss in many regions is startling.

National Geographic reports that “though leopards are the most resilient big cat, they have declined by more than 30 percent over the last 22 years—which is three generations. They have disappeared from entire swathes of their historic range and may now be extinct in 26 countries that they formerly roamed. These findings, released on June 27 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), are part of an update to its Red List of Threatened Species. “

Snow Leopard cubs

IUCN lists leopards as “Vulnerable,” a category given to species facing a high extinction risk due rapid population declines or other factors. But some subspecies are in critical condition. 

Leopards face urgent threats to their survival regardless of where they live. The assessment notes that their numbers have “dramatically reduced due to continued persecution from increased human populations.” Because leopards are adaptable and secretive, living in places that most wild cats won’t, it’s difficult to evaluate their status.

Leopards are interacting more with human structures and living space, causing conflict. Pictured, a leopard climbing through a fence in Hoedspruit, South Africa. Owen Grobbler

But the new leopard report mirrors a mostly grim trajectory for big cats worldwide. It’s also bad news for many animals they live beside. With few apex predators, changes cascade throughout increasingly unbalanced ecosystems.

NOTE: At 2:30 on the clip, the leopard pounces on her dinner. If you don’t want to see it, just stop the clip there….. <3