A couple of weeks ago as part of my role as a National Geographic Insider, I had the honor of participating in a conference call with Wildlife Biologist Luke Dollar to learn all about National Geographic’s two exciting campaigns: Big Cat Week and Build a Boma. I have always been a true lover of wildlife and nature and had the honor of seeing big cats in the wild on safari in South Africa in 2005. Little did I know that big cats are in huge danger and face the threat of extinction if we do not act soon to protect them.
Luke Dollar is professor at Duke University and Pfeiffer University in North Carolina and is one of big cats biggest advocates with over 20 years of conservation work. Luke is a wildlife biologist focusing on conservation, research and development and has logged more than eight of the past 18 calendar years in the field. His scientific research began in Madagascar focusing on Madagascar’s top predators, specifically the fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox). His work there brought him to National Geographic as an Emerging Explorer in 2007 and today Luke is the program director of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.
The Big Cats Initiative was launch in 2009 due to the long, tireless work of husband and wife conservation team Dereck and Beverly Joubert to protect big cats. Over the past 75 years, the big cat population has significantly declined. The lion population has decreased by over 90 % in this time period. As the population of Africa booms to over a billion people, there remain only 30,000 lions and 10,000 chetahs left in the wild. As humans and big cats move into each others habitats, there is a crisis of co-existence and sadly the big cats are losing.
The mission of the Big Cats Initiative is to stop the decline of big cats through three initiatives:
- Assessment: Need to know where we are at with each kind of big cat in the wild.
- Protection: Is the meat of the initiative. National Geographic is one of the most prolific grant making NGOs in the world and has issued over 43 grants in 18 countries totaling $1.3 million since the start of the Big Cat Initiative.
- Communication: National Geographic uses their platform of magazines, books, and TV shows to tell the stories of big cats and give them a voice to the world hoping to increase awareness of their plight and inspire people to help protect them against extinction.
Believe it or not, the biggest threat to big cats is man. The majority of big cats are killed by herders in retaliation for cats killing their precious livestock. One of the most effective strategies for saving big cats is by reducing human and animal conflict through the building of bomas.
The goal of the boma fence is to create a nonpermeable fence to protect livestock from getting out and lions from getting in. A boma fence is usually made out of thorny bush that is gathered in a circumference of about 75 meters around the livestock to keep the lions out. Fortified by chain link fences or living wall format, the trees and bush grow into a fence. Once the lions can’t get access to the livestock, they return to hunting their normal prey and leave the livestock alone.
This month, National Geographic has launched the “Build a Boma Campaign” as a highly cost effective way to protect livestock and big cats against retaliatory killing. A boma costs about $500 to build and install and has a 20-year lifespan.
The implementation of bomas has had a lot of success saving big cats however there are tremendous needs for Bomas through Eastern Africa, in particular in Kenya and Tanzania, which have half the lion population on earth. Thousands of bomas are needed in order to protect big cats from extinction. National Geographic’s Build a Boma Campaign is hoping to raise enough funds to build 1,000 Bomas which will protect livestock against lions and leopards.
Want to learn more about Big Cats?
Stay Tuned for the following exciting events during National Geographic’s Big Cats Week (starts Friday November 29th):
- Kick off show on Friday November 29th: Man v Cheetah on National Geographic WILD Channel. Watch cheetahs run against NFL running backs.
- There is a premier show every night for a week along with some re-airing of videos all on National Geographic Wild Channel.
- Google Hangout 12.3.13 at 12:30 pm EST– during big cat week, cause an uproar google hangout with Boone Smith, Erin Henderson (of Minnesota Vikings – he donates $1,000 for every sac he makes to BCI with his sacs for big cats pledge), Luke Dollar, NG photographer Steve Winter – tues Dec 3 at 12:30 EST. Instructions on causeanuproar.org
- Little Kitties for Big Cats – you can post a picture of your own kitty with a donation (there is a competition for kitty of the week). Has funded at least two NG field programs. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/big-cats/little-kitties/
You can also follow along at Twitter using hashtags #BigCatWeek and #NatGeoWild.
The Build a Boma Campaign
Build A Boma campaign (www.causeanuproar.org). Bomas are $500 each and the campaign is hoping to raise enough money to build 1,000 new bomas. Inspired to help save big cats? Why not think of giving a gift to lions this holiday season by raising money to build a bona.
Big Cat Initiative premier episodes on National Geographic Wild include:
Man v. Cheetah
Premieres Friday, November 29, 2013, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Take nature’s fastest land mammal vs. two of the quickest and most elusive athletes in all of professional sports: who wins … and what shocking secrets are revealed? Nat Geo WILD gets a front row seat as the Tennessee Titans’ Chris Johnson — the NFL’s fastest running back — and the Chicago Bears’ Devin Hester — the super-agile wide receiver and kick returner — take part in an extraordinary first-ever one-on-one challenge against a cheetah. It’s the race of a lifetime that has never been attempted before as cheetahs from Busch Gardens Tampa’s Cheetah Run attraction race NFL’s finest. Who will win? Could a human beat the animal kingdom’s fastest cat? Anything is possible.
Premieres Friday, November 29, 2013, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Take Kobe Bryant’s ability to jump, add Michelle Kwan’s grace and beauty, then mix well with Stephen Hawking’s problem-solving genius — and you’ve got the recipe for Super Cat. We’ve combined the most amazing features of big cats to showcase the most awe-inspiring capabilities ever seen in action. Watch this ultimate feline live all nine lives as its superpowers of strength, endurance and stealth are put to the test.
Premieres Saturday, November 30, 2013, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
Soon after the summer rains have fallen, lioness Manyari’s pride faces trouble when two nomadic males seek a pride of their own to lead. With a sixth sense for imminent trouble, Manyari makes a bid to escape to ensure the survival of her young cubs. Forced to fend for herself and her cubs alone in the wild, Manyari sacrifices her own security for her offspring’s safety. Constantly looking for food and shelter, and doing her best to stay out of marauders’ lines of sight, this former queen and her cubs make the odyssey to find safety and security.
Cougar v. Wolf
Premieres Saturday, November 30, 2013, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
Wolves and cougars are increasingly at war because wolf packs continue to multiply and spread into parts of the Rocky Mountains dominated for decades by cougars. Now, big cat wrangler Boone Smith tracks the most recent wolf and cat skirmishes as he delves into why these two big predators carry on the cats vs. dogs rivalry. In his big cat forensic investigation, Boone’s goal is to pinpoint the places where cougar-wolf conflicts most often occur by gathering clues about each creature’s hunting, feeding and fighting behaviors. Boone applies all the skills he’s acquired tracking big cats around the world to unravel the truth about what happens in a cougar v. wolf showdown.
Game of Lions
Premieres Sunday, December 1, 2013, at 10 p.m. ET/PT
From award-winning filmmakers and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert comes their next feature film, exclusively for Nat Geo WILD. According to Dereck Joubert, there are 20,000 lions left on Earth. Only 3,500 of those are males. Although they are born at a 50/50 ratio, by the time they reach maturity, only one in eight male lions survive. We follow the journey of the lives of young males in the African bush and their potential to be king. From the birth of a male to his exile from his pride, our cameras follow along as males roam the jungles in an effort to spread their bloodlines through the kingdom. The Jouberts take an unflinching look at what happens to these lions in this spirited, moving and heartbreaking film.
Betty White Goes Wild!
Premieres Tuesday, December 3, 2013, at 9 p.m. ET/PT
“If it hadn’t been for Hollywood, I’d have fulfilled my other childhood dream … to be a zookeeper,” says Betty White when speaking about her love for animals. We take a rare look into one of White’s true passions — big cats! Head with her to the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos to get up close to big cats. White weaves her natural wit as we look at the cats’ individual behavioral traits and learn where they live, how many are left in the wild and the challenges they face.
Additional programming to air during Big Cat Week includes Swamp Lions, Cat Wars, The Last Lions, Built for Kill: Lions, Tiger Dynasty, Lion Army, Cheetah: Fatal Instinct and Lion Battle Zone.