World Wildlife Day 2018: Why we love big cats!

It’s World Wildlife Day! Today is the global celebration of our Earth’s biodiversity — the many beautiful and varied forms of wild animals and plants found throughout the world. World Wildlife Day is celebrated annually on March 3rd, the day of the signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in 1973.

In 2018, we celebrate World Wildlife Day under the theme “Big cats: predators under threat” to bring awareness to our magnificent big cats, such mountain lions, bobcats, jaguars, leopards, and more, found in many parts of the world, from Nevada to Africa and Asia. Big cats are among the most powerful creatures to grace our wild planet, but they are also the most fragile. They are facing many threats to their survival in the wild, including loss of habitat and prey, poaching, smuggling, human-wildlife conflict and climate change.

Predators play important roles in maintaining the health of ecosystems. Large carnivores, like mountain lions, help shape landscapes by limiting the number of large herbivores grazing on plants. Smaller carnivores, like bobcats, keep rodent populations down which helps to reduce disease-transmission and keeps them out of our food and homes.

A recent study in Argentina suggests that carnivores may provide additional ecosystem services as secondary seed dispersers. Birds are the Earth’s primary seed dispersers and when predators feed on them, they may be ingesting partially or undigested seeds, which they carry with them until they pass through their own digestive systems, at which time they become dispersed to new areas. How cool is that?!

We are pretty lucky to have our very own big cats in Nevada!

Diana Lakeland

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