This is a picture of African Lion taken in Kenya. CREDIT: Dr Chris Sandom

Ice Age to Present: Big Cats Face Extinction Due to Prey Loss, Says Study

When a global team of researchers undertook a project to study whether Ice Age extinction trends could be applied to present day lions and tigers, they were surprised to find that next in the line are the African Lion and Sunda clouded leopard.

Using a new global database FelidDIET, the team of scientists from the universities of Sussex, Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCru), Aarhus and Goteborg discovered that extinction of seven large cats from the Ice Age, four different types of sabre-toothed cats, the cave and American lions and the American cheetah was due to no prey.

Even if these animals had survived, only 25 percent of their preferred prey species would still be around, thus making them too extinct. Chris Sandom from the University of Sussex said: “If primary big cat prey continues to decline at such a rate then big cats, including lion, Sunda clouded leopard, tiger and cheetah are at high risk of extinction. We need to buck this Ice Age trend.”

The team concluded that devastating loss of prey species was a major factor to the extinction of these big cats. If this prey loss continues, it poses ‘a high risk of extinction’ to African lions and Sunda leopards.

David Macdonald, Director of the University of Oxford’s WildCRU, echoes similar views when he said, “The Churchillian aphorism that those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it was painfully in mind when we saw how many of the prey of lions and East Africa and of clouded leopards in Indo-Malaya look set to go down the same drain down which their counterparts in other regions have already been flushed.”


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