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The 7 Rarest Wild Cats in the World (Slideshow)

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The 7 Rarest Wild Cats in the World (Slideshow)

Of the 41 species of cats living in the world today, there are seven species that stand out as being extraordinarily rare.

Some of these wild cat species are naturally solitary and secretive, so they have been rare as long as they have existed. Others used to have giant and robust populations, but have been pushed back by the wake of human activity. Each of these species may have fewer than 4,000 individuals living in the wild—and their habitats and food sources are shrinking daily. As such, all of these rare cats’ populations are now declining.

What can you do? For a start, you can learn about them and understand how their plight came to be. Of the seven rarest species of wild cats, six species are Endangered, while one species is considered Critically Endangered. Only a few of them are widely known. Which of these majestic, threatened creatures did you already know?

(Note: this article describes all of the Endangered and Critically Endangered species of wild cats. It does not tackle any subspecies of wild cats, which may be just as threatened as the species; for instance, the Amur Leopard (Panthera pardus orientalis), a subspecies of leopard, has only 19 to 26 individuals left in the wild.)

 

7. Snow Leopard (Uncia uncia) — above

Snow leopards live in the mountains of Central Asia, at altitudes of 10,990 to 22,000 ft (3,350 to 6,700 meters). Their paws are wide, like snowshoes, which helps them walk across the snow, and they have fur on the bottoms of their paws to help them grip steep, slippery surfaces. Their biggest threats are insufficient prey (due to humans’ illegal hunting of their prey), poaching, and conflict with local people. There are an estimated 4,080 to 6,590 individuals in the wild, but fewer than 2,500 of these are likely or able to reproduce.

Photo Credit: Dingopup (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0, GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

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Molly Allison-Baker

Molly is a nature and travel enthusiast who is passionate about endangered languages, natural history, and women's and LGBT issues. In her free time, she enjoys rock climbing, reading, and hanging out with her three cats.

87 comments

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4:43PM PDT on Apr 2, 2014

It is indeed both an extremely common and detremental phenomenon of human beings in which vastly disproportionate funds are concentrated on a species simply because "its cute". There are dozens of beautiful and inteligent south American large and small cat species being completely overlooked, i assume because their rarely filmed, the Linsang, Margay and Geoffroys cat all receive a minute amount of support despite being in more danger.

Every species has a right to our best efforts. Why do we burn so much energy on saving just one, the Panda.

Surely we have enough respect, insight and a duty to admit that the panda is beyond our help. There are no viable safe release zones, their very difficult to breed in captivity is indeed both an extremely common and detremental phenomenon of human beings in which vastly disproportionate funds are concentrated on a species simply because "its cute". There are dozens of beautiful and inteligent south American large and small cat species being completely overlooked, i assume because their rarely filmed and aren't imediately as visually appealing as a huge fat and bored panda being kept alive for our amusement.

The panda has unknowingly caused the extinction of many species, by being near impossible to artificially breed in captivity. Remaining suitable natural habitat is so scattered and isolated that released individuals would not be able to meet another mate. Make the right choice and recovery your efforts to essential lesser know

2:59PM PST on Nov 9, 2013

The amur leopard should be on this list.

6:51AM PDT on Aug 26, 2013

I am glad that you included these cats in your article. Everyone's heard of tigers, but people need to learn about the others.

and yes, subspecies, like the Florida Panther and the Iriomote cat which barely survives on a Japanese Island.

3:18AM PST on Jan 3, 2013

It was great to red about some new species I have never heard of bfore but it´s sad to notice they may become extinct in a near future.

11:53AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

Why not include subspecies? I'd be over the moon if there were as many as 2,000 Amur leopards! that would be an extraordinarily high number. beats 35 (of which 6/7 are females), the official figure of WWF anyway!

10:25AM PST on Nov 24, 2012

Nice to see! Hope they will be protected from extinction!

8:12PM PDT on Oct 28, 2012

I hope we come to our species-senses before we decimate life on this planet.

2:51PM PDT on Oct 20, 2012

all are beautiful animals but the Borneo Bay cat?! I've never heard of it and i LOVE this cat. wow

9:04PM PDT on Oct 9, 2012

So sad what man has done to these beautiful animals.

2:01AM PDT on Oct 8, 2012

Thank you for very informative article about rare cats.Cheers

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