Wildlife is a major part of the ecosystem. The value of wildlife and its various contributions, including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific and more to sustainable development are huge.

But unfortunately, most of us ignore the same and every year, sections of the wildlife face the danger of extinction.

On 20 December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared 3 March of every year as International Wildlife Day – a day to celebrate and create awareness about the globe's wild flora and fauna.

This year the theme chosen by the UN is: "Big cats: predators under threat".

According to See the Wild website, around 80 percent of the 40 wild cat species are shrinking and about sixteen of them are considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered.

The Big Cats:

Big cats like the tigers, snow leopards, and leopards are now facing many threats, which are mostly caused by human activities. The overall population of these animals is declining at a disturbing rate due to the loss of habitat and prey, poaching and illegal trade, World Wildlife Day website reported.

These animals are sought after for their body parts. China has a huge demand for such products as people there use them in their traditional medicine. These animals are also hunted for their coats (known as pelts).

Many of these wild cats have already been classified as extinct. The rest also are on the verge of extinction. For example, the American Cheetah went extinct about 10,000 years ago. This was shortly after the last Ice Age, and possibly due to human encroachment on its territory.

And now recently the African Lions have been put in the Endangered Species Act Protection category. There are only about 20,000 lions living in Africa. Lions are extinct in 26 African countries and have completely vanished from over 90 percent of their historic range.

They are listed as "vulnerable" on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, Panthera website reported.

However, not just lion, even tiger, leopard and jaguar cheetah, snow leopard, puma, clouded leopard, and more are also now being protected and come under the bracket of 'Big cats'. These species are mainly found in Africa, Asia, and North, Central, and South America.

The Sumatran tiger from Indonesia are critically endangered and may soon vanish from the planet. Fewer than 400 Sumatran tigers exist today, World Wildlife website reported.

And the reason for this is the deforestation and rampant poaching.

Snow Leopard
Many species of cats like the tigers, snow leopards, and leopards are sought after for their body parts Jamie McDonald/Getty Images


Losing these majestic predators would create a devastating impact on our ecosystem.

Although there are major threats to these animals, many notable efforts to raise awareness about the same has been taken.

Some governments and NGOs like the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Panthera, National Geographic Society's Big Cats Initiative, and many others are taking steps to save these predators.

According to the National Geographic Society's Big Cats Initiative which was founded in 2009, they fund the on-the-ground research and innovative conservation projects to protect the felines.