London, May 11, 2017: Big cat species, especially African lion and Sunda clouded leopard, face the same challenges as their ancestors that went extinct towards the end of the last Ice Age, a new study says.
The team researched the cause of extinction of seven large cats from the Ice Age including four different types of sabre-toothed cats.
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The seven big cats that went extinct during that period are those which lost the greatest proportion of their prey, showed the study published in the journal Ecography.
Using a new global database of felid diets called FelidDiet, the researchers assessed whether Ice Age extinction trends could be applied to populations of big cat species now.
They discovered that if all the currently threatened and declining prey species within big cat natural ranges were to go extinct, only 39 percent of the African lion’s prey and 37 percent of Sunda clouded leopard’s would remain.
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The researchers believe that if this prey loss trend continued, this would pose a high risk of extinction to these two big cat species in particular.
Prey decline puts tiger, leopard and cheetah at risk too, the researchers 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,” said Chris Sandom from the University of Sussex in Britain.
“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 in East Africa and of clouded leopards in Indo-Malaya look set to go down the same drain which their counterparts in other regions have already been flushed,” said Professor David Macdonald, Director of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.
“We need to buck this Ice Age trend once and for all and to reinforce the urgent need for governments to protect both big cat species and their prey,” Sandom added. (IANS)