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Big cats…around the world

| 02 Mar 2018

In 2013, the United Nations General Assembly assigned 3rd March as a day dedicated to wildlife around the world. World Wildlife Day aims to raise awareness for wild animals that are becoming more endangered. In the limelight this year are the world’s big cats. Unfortunately, these majestic predators facing a number of threats, most of which are caused by human activity.

Cheetah in the middle of the savannah, Kenya

The biggest threats that face big cats are the loss of their habitats ­- whether that’s through deforestation, human development or global warming; the wildlife trade where animals such as tigers, lions and leopards are used in traditional Asian medicine as well as their fur being used for coats and decorative purposes; and their loss of prey, which in turn leads to them feeding on livestock and the owners retaliating as they see it as a threat to their livelihood.


Over a century ago, there were over 200,000 wild lions living in Africa. Since then, there has been a catastrophic decline of approximately 80% and they are now considered vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In Africa, lions are now restricted to the largest and best-managed protected areas and the West African lions are classified as critically endangered. Sasan Gir National Park in Gujarat, India, is the only place outside of Africa where you can spot lions. Numbers of Asiatic lions are on the rise, although still considered endangered: you can search for them on Cox & Kings’ Wildlife, Tribes and Temples private tour.

Did you know?

You can hear a male lions roar up to 8 km away and they are the only big cat with a mane!

Where can you find lions?

In reserves and national parks across Sub-Saharan Africa. Some of our favourites include Selous and Serengeti in Tanzania, Masai Mara in Kenya, Etosha in Namibia, Kalahari and Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana, South Luangwa National Park in Zambia and the Kruger National Park and Madikwe Game Reserve in South Africa. Find out more about Cox & Kings’ Africa holidays here.

Lions in the Masai Mara

Lions in the Masai Mara, Kenya


Speckled with black rosettes – so-called as they are shaped like roses ­– and tan or orange in colour, the jaguar is a fierce big cat found across Latin America, from Mexico to Argentina. Threatened by deforestation, particularly in the Amazon, loss of wild prey and habitat as well as illegal hunting for its fur, the numbers of jaguars across the Americas is rapidly decreasing: they are already extinct in El Salvador and Uruguay.

Did you know?

The name jaguar comes from the Native American word yaguar meaning “he who kills with one leap”.

Where can you find Jaguars?

Most commonly found in rainforests, you can spot them in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. Jaguars are often seen in Brazil’s Pantanal between July and October, speak to one of Cox & Kings’ Latin America experts about a tailor-made holiday to the Pantanal.

Jaguar in the Amazon

Jaguar in the Amazon, Brazil


These beautiful black and orange striped creatures – each of which has a unique pattern – are rapidly becoming the world’s most endangered big cat, already extinct in 10 countries where they were formerly found. The South China and Sumatran tigers are critically endangered; there have been no sightings of South China tigers in the wild for over 25 years. Unfortunately, due to deforestation in India they are also losing their natural habitats. What’s more, tigers are often poached for use in Chinese medicine and to meet the demands of the $20 billion a year illegal wildlife trade.

Did you know?

Tigers have night vision six times better than humans, which helps them hunt in the dark.

Where can you find tigers?

Asia: predominantly India but also in Bangladesh, Malaysia and Burma. Cox & Kings’ escorted tour Taj, Tigers and Trains includes Ranthambhore National Park, which is a great place to try to see Bengal tigers, while the Indian Wildlife Odyssey  tour focuses on wildlife sightings in a number of different national parks.

Group of wild tigers, Bandhavgarh National Park

Group of wild tigers, Bandhavgarh National Park


Although they have similar markings to jaguars, leopards have a lighter skin colour. There are also black leopards, but these are harder to spot as they tend to hunt at night. Leopards are more widely spread in comparison to their fellow big cats, currently found in 75 countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia. They can live in a wide variety of habitats from the Congolese rainforest to the arid deserts of the Middle East. Even so, they are still vulnerable and in sharp decline.

Did you know?

When a male wants to alert another male of his presence they cough. Not very subtle. When they’re relaxed, they purr like domestic cats.

Where can you find leopards?

Sub-Saharan Africa, northeast Africa, Central Asia, India and China. They are already extinct in Hong Kong, Kuwait, Libya, Singapore, Syria and Tunisia. You can search for leopards on a number of Cox & Kings’ holidays in Africa, one of which is the Tanzania Wildlife Safari, solo traveller tour as well as on the Indian Wildlife Odyssey escorted tour.

Leopard cubs in the Masai Mara, Kenya

Leopard cubs in the Masai Mara, Kenya

Snow leopards

These stealthy snow leopards –known by locals as ‘mountain ghosts’– have big furry paws and move around inconspicuously. Sadly, making them even harder to spot, they’re being driven to higher altitudes due to climate change. Normally, they live between 2,500 and 5,500 metres above sea level and as they move higher they struggle to hunt as there’s a lack of wild mountain sheep and goats. In addition, they are sold on the black market for Asian medicine and their fur used for coats.

Did you know?

Snow leopards can leap as far as 15 metres.

Where can you find snow leopards?

Most commonly found in China and the Tibetan plateau as well as the Indian Himalaya, Ladakh in particular.  Speak to one of Cox & Kings’ India experts to include Ladakh in a tailor-made holiday.

Snow leopards on the lookout

Snow leopards on the lookout


Found in 28 countries in the Americas, from the southern tip of Chile to southern Alaska they are one of the least endangered big cats. Easily adaptable, they can inhabit every type of forest, montane deserts as well as open steppe grasslands. Despite not being a serious concern for extinction to the IUCN, they are still illegally hunted and poached.  

Did you know?

Pumas are very musical – using whistles, screams, squeaks and purrs to communicate – but they cannot roar.

Where can you find pumas? 

For a chance to spot pumas, Cox & Kings suggests visiting Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile. Please speak to our Latin America experts to organise a tailor-made holiday to Chilean Patagonia.

A puma on the hunt

A puma on the hunt 


Renowned as being the fastest land animal on our planet, unlike the other cats, cheetahs hunt during the day. They stalk their animal and once they’re within sight they sprint, but usually only for 200-300 metres. However, they are struggling to find their prey because humans are hunting the same animals and so cheetahs attack livestock instead. The Asiatic cheetah is almost extinct in Asia: there is thought to be as few as just 50 in central Iran.

Did you know?

They can reach a rapid 112km/h in just three seconds: more impressive acceleration than the average sports car!

Where can you find cheetahs?

Across Africa –  primarily the south – and very small numbers in Iran. See Cox & Kings’ Africa suggestions here.

Cheetah family lying on a termite mound, Tanzania

Cheetah family lying on a termite mound, Tanzania

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