Embracing the Roar: A Guide to Working with Big Cats for Conservation

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Working with Big Cats

Introduction

The allure of the wild has captivated human imagination for centuries. Among the most majestic and awe-inspiring creatures, big cats stand out as the epitome of strength, grace, and untamed beauty. Working with these magnificent predators is not just a career choice; it’s a calling to protect and preserve some of the planet’s most endangered species. In this article, we’ll delve into the importance of working with big cats, explore diverse career paths in this field, and highlight crucial conservation efforts aimed at safeguarding these majestic creatures.

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The Importance of Working with Big Cats

Beyond their undeniable charisma, big cats play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of their habitats. From lions roaming the African savannas to tigers prowling the dense jungles of Asia, these apex predators are crucial to the health of their ecosystems. By controlling prey populations, they prevent overgrazing and help maintain biodiversity. Moreover, their presence regulates the populations of herbivores, ensuring a balance that supports the overall health of the environment.

However, big cats face numerous threats that jeopardize their existence. Habitat loss, poaching, and human-wildlife conflict pose significant challenges to their survival. Working with big cats becomes not just an adventure but a responsibility to contribute to the conservation and protection of these species. Through education, research, and hands-on involvement, individuals can make a difference in securing the future of big cats and the ecosystems they inhabit.

A List of Careers Where One Can Work with Big Cats

1. Animal Geneticist

Animal Geneticists analyze the genetic makeup of animals in order to discover which genes cause them to behave in certain ways.

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How to become an Animal Geneticist

The minimum requirement for entry into this career is a bachelor’s degree. Most geneticists do study further, up to a doctorate degree (PhD), in order to specialise in a specific genetic field.

Study Focus:

Possible majors to study include animal science, biology, and animal reproduction.

Short Courses:

There are several courses that will assist in developing the desired knowledge, including statistics, database creation, and laboratory science.

Career Name – Animal Geneticist
Category – Health
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Science, Mathematics
Minimum Required Education – Bachelor’s Degree
Species Worked With – Pets, Critters, Farm Animals, Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

2. Conservation Officer

Conservation officers and managers oversee wildlife conservation projects, including those focused on big cats. They develop and implement strategies to protect habitats, prevent poaching, and mitigate human-wildlife conflict.

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How to become a Conservation Officer

​To become a conservation officer, some countries still prefer a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. But for most entry-level positions, they require an associate’s degree (college diploma). For more specialised positions, a bachelor’s degree might be required.

Study Focus:

Some study areas, such as biology, geology, wildlife sciences, ecology, criminal justice or police sciences

Short Courses:

They will also, when necessary, complete available short courses to further their knowledge.

Career Name – Conservation Officer
Category – Law & enforcement, Marine Conservation, Wildlife Conservation
Skills Required – Life skills 50% – Career skills 50%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Physical Education, Language
Minimum Required Education – High School Certificate / Bachelor’s Degree
Species Worked With – Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

3. Environmental Journalist

Journalists specialising in environmental issues can use their skills to highlight the challenges facing big cats. Through storytelling and investigative reporting, they contribute to public understanding of and support for conservation efforts.

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How to become an Environmental Journalist

To become an environmental journalist, you must have at least a college diploma.

Study Focus:

Study towards a major in journalism, writing, language, or communications to perfect your skills.

Short Courses:

Courses are essential, especially when you do make use of computer software to type, edit, and share your stories. Learning how to make and edit videos will also be good.

Career Name – Environmental Journalist
Category – Media / Business / Marine Conservation / Wildlife Conservation
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic Subjects – Language, Business Studies, Biology
Required Education – College Diploma
Species Worked With – Pets, Critters, Farm Animals, Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Indirect

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

4. Wildlife Biologist

Wildlife biologists and researchers study the behaviour, ecology, and biology of big cats. They contribute essential data to conservation efforts, helping understand the species’ needs and challenges.

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How to become a Wildlife Biologist

The minimum required qualification is a bachelor’s degree.

Those who want to specialise in specific animals study further for a Master’s degree.

Subject focus:

The most important subject to focus on will be biology, microbiology, zoology, or ecology.

Short Courses:

It is important to try to complete as many short courses as possible. You might be allowed to do some of them while still in school.

Career Name – Wildlife Biologist
Category – Wildlife Conservation / Specialist / Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Theme Parks
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Biology, Science, Chemistry
Minimum Required Education – Bachelor’s Degree
Species Worked With – Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

5. Wildlife Photographer

Capturing the beauty and struggles of big cats through visual media can evoke powerful emotions, raising awareness and support for conservation initiatives. Wildlife photographers and videographers document the lives of these animals, helping to tell their stories to the world.

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How to become a Wildlife Photographer

To become a wildlife photographer doesn’t require formal training, but many do go on to study for a college diploma or even a bachelor’s degree.

Study Focus:

If you do want to study further, a major in photography or photojournalism will be great.

Short Courses:

Courses in handling a camera, as well as photo editing is a must!

Career Name – Wildlife Photographer
Category – Media / Business / Marine Conservation / Wildlife Conservation
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – Art, Business Studies, Biology
Required Basic Education – High School Certificate
Species Worked With – Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Indirect

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

6. Wildlife Veterinarian

Specializing in the medical care of wild animals, wildlife veterinarians provide crucial healthcare to big cats, both in captivity and the wild. Their work includes disease prevention, treatment, and research.

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How to become a Wildlife Veterinarian

To become a veterinarian, you’ll need to complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) program, which typically takes four years after completing a bachelor’s degree. After graduation, you can choose to work in private practice, research, public health, or specialize in areas such as surgery, dermatology, or exotic animal medicine.

Career Name – Veterinarian
Categories – Health / Business / Farming & Livestock Management
Skills Required – Life skills 40% – Career skills 60%
Basic School Subjects – STEM, Language, Business Studies
Minimum Required Education – Doctorate Degree (PhD)
Species Worked With – Pets, Critters, Farm Animals
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

7. Zookeeper

Zookeepers care for big cats in captivity, ensuring their physical and mental well-being. They play a critical role in public education, raising awareness about the conservation status of these animals.

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How to become an Animal Keeper

There are animal organisations that advertise for Assistant or Junior Animal keepers, where you only need a High School certificate, Diploma or GCSE equivalent with some experience in working with animals (mostly wildlife).

Career Title – Animal Keeper (Zookeeper)
Category – Animal Care / Marine Conservation / Wildlife Conservation / Zoos, Aquariums, Museums and Amusement Parks
Skills Required – Life skills 35% – Career skills 65%
Basic School Subjects – STEM, Language, Physical Education
Minimum Required Education – College Diploma
Species Worked With – Critters, Wildlife
Kind of Interaction with Animals – Direct

Helpful Links

Career Profiles:

Important Conservation Efforts to Help Save Endangered Big Cats

Panthera’s Teton Cougar Project:

Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organisation, conducts vital research on mountain lions (cougars) in North America. The Teton Cougar Project focuses on understanding cougar behaviour, population dynamics, and their role in ecosystems.

International Tiger Project:

Led by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the International Tiger Project works across tiger range countries to protect habitats, strengthen anti-poaching efforts, and promote conservation policies. With fewer than 4,000 tigers left in the wild, these initiatives are crucial for their survival.

Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF):

Cheetahs are the fastest land animals and are also one of the most endangered big cats. The Cheetah Conservation Fund works in Namibia and other cheetah-range countries to address the critical issues facing these magnificent creatures, including habitat loss and human-wildlife conflict.

Lion Guardians:

Operating in East Africa, Lion Guardians is a community-based conservation organisation that focuses on mitigating human-wildlife conflict between local communities and lions. By employing local Maasai warriors as “lion guardians,” the organisation helps protect both livestock and lions.

Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Program (GSLEP):

Snow leopards inhabit the high mountains of Central Asia and are under threat from poaching and habitat loss. GSLEP is a collaborative initiative involving 12 countries in the snow leopard range working to conserve the species and its mountainous ecosystems.

African Cat Project:

The African Cat Project partners with organisations in Africa that are working on important and impactful big cat conservation projects.

We facilitate, provide funds for, and support the rescue, rehabilitation, reintroduction, monitoring and research of lion, leopard and cheetah populations in southern Africa.

Conclusion

Working with big cats is not just a career choice; it’s a commitment to the preservation of some of the planet’s most iconic and endangered species. From the sprawling savannas of Africa to the dense jungles of Asia, big cats face numerous threats that demand our attention and action. By choosing careers in wildlife conservation, research, and education, individuals can play a vital role in ensuring the survival of these majestic creatures.

Conservation efforts are diverse, ranging from on-the-ground projects addressing human-wildlife conflict to global initiatives aiming to protect entire ecosystems. As we navigate the challenges of the 21st century, it is crucial to recognize the interconnectedness of all life on Earth and the importance of preserving biodiversity. By working with big cats, we contribute not only to their survival but also to the health and resilience of the ecosystems they inhabit.

The journey of working with big cats is both rewarding and challenging. It requires dedication, resilience, and a deep understanding of the intricate relationships between these apex predators and their environments. Whether as a biologist studying their behavior, a zookeeper ensuring their well-being, or a conservation officer safeguarding their habitats, each individual contributes to the larger tapestry of efforts aimed at securing a future where big cats continue to roam free. As we embrace the roar of the wild, let us remember that our actions today shape the legacy we leave for generations to come.

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