music; ambience: Amur leopard growling
â€œTheyâ€™re difficult species to study, of course. You know, if theyâ€™re not the Serengeti lions, you know, used to tourist vehicles that are lazing around and very easy to observe, most cat species are amazingly elusive. Theyâ€™re amazingly shy. They do avoid people.â€
They may not be as widely seen or heard as the Serengeti lions, but the rest of the worldâ€™s wild cats are no less important. Welcome to Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. For biologist Luke Hunter, of the Panthera organization, losing any of the worldâ€™s 36 species of wild cats would be tragic.
â€œSo, the large carnivores really are these iconic symbols of wilderness areas, and I like the idea that when you go into a wilderness, even though youâ€™re probably never going to see a large carnivoreyou know, the mountain lion here in the U.S. is fairly abundant in some western states, but theyâ€™re next to impossible to seebut itâ€™s a nice sensation, I think itâ€™s a nice sensation when youâ€™re out there knowing that theyâ€™re out there, that big cats are out there. And I think itâ€™s sort of, it kind of grounds humanity because, of course, you know, they are dangerous animals. They are part of our evolution where, you know, humans arose in Africa where, you know, the great guild of large carnivores arose in Africa. Lions evolved in Africa. We coevolved with these species, and theyâ€™re part of our evolutionary thinking, part of our ancestry.â€
Of the various threats to the worldâ€™s wild cats, Luke Hunter cites loss of habitat as the most significant.
â€œWild cats need large, fairly wild areas with large populations of their prey species. So, that means wilderness. You know, they just need, not necessarily pristine areasI think thatâ€™s a bit of a myth that the areas must be absolutely pristinebut they certainly need to be limited in the amount of these human activities that impact them. And, of course, the most impactful is just removing habitat. If thereâ€™s no habitat, of course, there can be no cats.â€
Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner.