Nairobi, Kenya (1 March 2018): Big cats like lions and tigers cannot survive unless they have plenty of wild animals to eat. Those wild animals cannot survive in sufficiently large numbers unless their habitats remain intact. Humans have been encroaching on these habitats, while poverty, greed and ignorance have been driving the illegal trade in wildlife. So big cats, like many other species of wild animals, are under threat as never before.

“UN World Wildlife Day 2018 will feature a star-studded cast – cheetah, clouded leopard, jaguar, leopard, lion, puma, snow leopard, tiger,” says CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon. “These most majestic predators on our planet are facing many and varied threats, primarily caused by human activities, be it habitat loss, poaching, human-wildlife conflict or climate change.”

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is working with UN partners, member States, and leading non-governmental organizations to organize a high-level event at UN Headquarters on 2 March to observe the day.

“There is a pressing need for international, national and personal actions to ensure the survival of all big cat species,” says UN Environment wildlife communication expert Lisa Rolls.

CITES is also co-organizing an International Big Cats Film Festival with Jackson Wildlife Film Festival. The aim is to galvanize the power of media to inspire wonder, catalyse change and move the dial on the conservation of big cats.

A success story from Kenya’s South Rift

Successful wildlife conservation requires community buy-in and consensual, integrated land management, underpinned by good governance.

SORALO in Kenya stands for the South Rift Association of Land Owners. It’s a trust created in 2004 to push for joint management of 15 group ranches which form a bridge between the famous Amboseli and Maasai Mara National Parks. Key to its success is buy-in from local livestock-herding pastoralist communities.

SORALO’s Rebuilding the Pride project, covering an area of about 850,000 hectares (more than three times the size of Luxembourg), aims to increase lion and other carnivore numbers across the South Rift, linking the cats living in the Mara, Amboseli and Tsavo National Parks into a viable meta-population. The programme aims to reduce human-wildlife conflict, prevent range fragmentation and maintain healthy prey numbers.

“The main goal of the program is to rebuild lion prides (and other carnivore numbers) by promoting the coexistence of pastoralists and predators. The… program intends to prove that coexistence of pastoral livestock and wildlife is not only possible, but is the best hope of sustaining large viable carnivore populations,” says the project’s website.

Wildlife diversities and densities in the South Rift rival national parks, with all large mammal species found there in stable numbers, with the exception of rhinos.

UN Environment initiatives

In 2016 UN Environment commissioned the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Institute for Environment and Development to write a report titled Wild Life, Wild Livelihoods analysing best practice on community wildlife management.

The report is a response to Resolution 2/14 passed at the second meeting of the UN Environment Assembly in May 2016. The resolution calls for “an analysis of international best practices with regard to involving local communities in wildlife management as an approach to addressing the unsustainable use of, and illegal trade in, wildlife and wild products”.

Last year saw the launch of Conservation Futures, a partnership between UN Environment, the Luc Hoffmann Institute, the Oxford Martin School and the World Economic Forum. The initiative aims to drive radical new thinking on conservation ahead of the December 2018 Summit of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and beyond.

See this study on Kenya’s South Rift:  Seasonal movements of wildlife and livestock in a heterogenous pastoral landscape: Implications for coexistence and community based conservation (October 2017)