9 Best Charities for Big Cats (Complete 2021 List)

9 Best Charities for Big Cats (Complete 2021 List)

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Dennis Kamprad

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There are 38 known species of wild cats in the world, yet 10 of them are listed as endangered, or near threatened, and 13 are classed as vulnerable. However, thanks to the conservation efforts of big cat charities worldwide, many populations are now on the increase. So we had to ask: What are the best charities for big cats?”

The best charities for big cats in terms of overall conservation impact are The Big Cat Initiative and Panthera. Charities such as the Wild Animal Sanctuary and Carolina Tiger Rescue do excellent work rescuing and caring for big cats kept in unsuitable conditions.

Whether you want to ensure tigers are still around for future generations to appreciate, or you want to ensure that no big cat is forced to live in abusive captive environments, or used in industries solely for the purpose of entertainment, there is a charity for you. Keep reading to learn more about what the best charities for big cats are all about, how they work, and what your best way would be to make a contribution.

Here’s What All the Best Charities for Big Cats Have in Common

The charities on this list were chosen based on their mission, impact and transparency ratings, and achievements. They operate all over the world, from Kenya to Thailand, working to save vital habitats and mitigate human-wild cat conflict to ensure that we do not lose these majestic creatures from our planet.

Many of the charities on this list work directly with local communities, providing them with the tools and knowledge they need to protect their livestock and patrol areas to remove fatal snares set up by poachers. Others focus on providing sanctuaries for big cats previously kept in backyard zoos, or as circus performers. Yet all of them share the same goal – to remove the threats facing big cats so that they can thrive in the wild. 

These Are the 9 Best Charities for Big Cats

Below are our favorite charities for big cats (you can click on their link to directly jump to their section in this article):

(At the end of this article we’ll also share our six-step approach on how you can select the best charity to support.)

The Big Cat Initiative: Halting The Decline Of Big Cats 

The Big Cats Initiative was set up in 2009 by the National Geographic Society and Dereck and Beverly Joubert who are globally recognized conservationists and filmmakers. The initiative was set up to fund big cat conservation efforts on a global scale and to safeguard their essential habitats. Today, the charity works with other conservation organizations and big cat experts to assess wild cat populations, fund on the ground conservation projects, and raise awareness of the plight of big cats worldwide. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The National Geographic Society holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 100% finance and accountability score from Charity Navigator

Supporting innovative projects to protect big cat species and help communities thrive.”

The Big Cat Initiative

What they do: The Big Cat Initiative offers grants to conservationists working on initiatives to protect big cats and their habitats, focusing on areas where big-cat-community conflict is prevalent. They also offer classroom and education resources, as well as Big Cats Programs, to educate and inspire the next generation of conservationists. 

What they’ve achieved: To date, The Big Cats Initiative has awarded 150 grants in 28 countries around the globe, reducing threats for 2,800 big cats living in the wild. The charity has also built 2,000 livestock enclosures to reduce human-wildlife conflict and has removed 13,000 deadly snares from big cat habitats. The Big Cats Initiative was integral to the launch of an innovative new lion alert system in Botswana, fitting satellite tracking collars to wild lions which then relay a signal to local communities when a lion is close. This allows villagers to take steps to protect their livestock without seeking revenge on fragile lion populations. This initiative has seen a 50% reduction in livestock losses and has saved the lives of countless lions. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to The Big Cat Initiative through their website, or attend any one of their educational and fundraising events, where 100% of the proceeds go towards the charity’s conservation work. 

Panthera: A World Where Wild Cats Thrive 

Panthera was founded in 2006 by Alan Rabinowitz and Thomas S. Kaplan. Affectionately known as the Indiana Jones of Wildlife Protection, Alan Rabinowitz studied jaguars, clouded leopards, tigers, civets, and leopards throughout his life, whereas Kaplan was awarded the “Hero of the year” award in 2012 for his work as an environmentalist. Today, the charity is the only organization in the world exclusively dedicated to the conservation of the world’s 40 species of wild cats.

Their impact and transparency ratings: Based on their financial report, Panthera spent 80% of their income on conservation projects and 20% on company support services and functions. The charity also has a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“Ensure a future for wild cats and the vast landscapes on which they depend.”

Panthera

What they do: Panthera partners with like-minded organizations, scientific institutions, and local communities to implement protective strategies for wild cat species in 39 countries, through their various conservation projects. Their main focus is on the seven species of big cats; pumas, lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, snow leopards, and cheetahs, however, they also study and protect smaller cat species through their Small Cat Program. In addition, the charity offers five different grants and one fellowship program to support junior conservationists working with cat species in the field. 

What they’ve achieved: Panthera’s Jaguar Corridor Initiative, set up in 2010, is the only conservation plan in the world dedicated to protecting jaguars across their entire 6 million km2 range. These corridors, combined with the charity’s efforts to mitigate human-jaguar conflict in local communities, allow Jaguars to safely roam their entire range without coming into contact with humans. So far, the charity is leading the protection of these corridors in 11 of the 18 jaguar range states. Panthera has also patrolled 20km of key tiger habitat to deter poachers, which has directly impacted the 12% tiger population growth annually since 2012 in the Manas National Park, India

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Panthera through their website or you can set up an online fundraiser to raise money for the charity. You can also support the work of Panthera by shopping online through AmazonSmile

Wildlife Conservation Society: We Stand For Wildlife 

The Wildlife Conservation Charity (WCS) was founded in 1895 by Andrew H. Green, Henry F. Osborn, and Madison Grant, to conserve the world’s 14 largest areas of wilderness which provides homes for over 50% of the world’s biodiversity. Alongside their various conservation projects, the charity manages four wildlife parks in New York as well as Bronx Zoo, which they use to raise awareness and educate the public on the threats facing a range of wild animals including big cats, elephants, gorillas, and condors. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Wildlife Conservation Society holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

A world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas.”

Wildlife Conservation Society

What they do: The Wildlife Conservation Society uses the scientific evidence discovered by their 170+ Ph.D. scientists to develop conservation strategies to protect wildlife around the globe, including tigers, leopards, cheetahs, snow leopards, and jaguars. In addition, they run a WCS Graduate Scholarship Program that provides access to international graduate education programs, including post-doctorate courses, to inspiring young conservationists working in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and North America. They also raise awareness of the threats facing wild species around the globe, through their five wildlife parks.

What they’ve achieved: To date, the Wildlife Conservation Society has supported the creation and expansion of over 245 protected wildlife areas around the world. They have been leaders in Jaguar conservation for over 30 years, protecting 5,000 jaguars in over 40,000km of jaguar habitat across Latin America. Through their tiger project, they have worked with local governments to conserve more than 50% of the world’s remaining tigers in 8 of the 11 remaining tiger ranges across Asia. The four wildlife parks and the Bronx Zoo owned by the Wildlife Conservation Society, educate and inspire over 4 million visitors every year. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Wildlife Conservation Fund through their website. You can also support the Bronx zoo and the work of the charity by symbolically adopting an animal.

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance: Committed To Saving Wildlife Worldwide

San Diego Wildlife Alliance (SDWA) was founded in 1916 as the Zoological Society of San Diego and then later San Diego Zoo Global, by Harry M. Wegeforth. The charity’s mission is to save species worldwide, including all big cat species, through conservation efforts in the field, as well as innovative animal care and breeding programs at the San Diego Zoo. The charity also founded the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and has since become a leader in animal and plant conservation around the world. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar and a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“A world where all life thrives.”

San Diego Wildlife Alliance

What they do: San Diego Wildlife Alliance seeks to inspire visitors to the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park through citizen science programs and various education programs. The charity also carries out conservation work across eight global conservation hubs, including advocacy for the protection of tigers from wildlife trafficking in the forests of South East Asia, and the protection of the Amazonia which is the largest remaining habitat for jaguars

What they’ve achieved: The San Diego Wildlife Park and Zoo currently hold 15,600 animals representing over 700 rare and endangered species including Amur leopards, African lions, and caracals. Their conservation efforts cover 1000 species in 42 countries across the globe. To date, San Diego Zoo has successfully bred 157 cheetah cubs, which means the organization has one of the most successful cheetah breeding programs in the world. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to San Diego Wildlife Alliance through their website. You can also support their conservation efforts by symbolically adopting an animal, or by simply visiting the zoo or safari park and joining in with one of their many annual education and fundraising events

Four Paws: For Animals Under Direct Human Influence 

Four Paws is a global organization founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler, to advocate for the humane treatment of all animals, including big cats. Today, the charity has offices around the world and runs 12 sanctuaries for big cats and bears that have been kept in unsuitable captive environments. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Based on their financial report, Four Paws spent 86.23% of their income on conservation projects and charitable activities, 7.33% on disaster relief and emergency response, and 6.44% on internal services and external communications. 

A world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding.”

Four Paws

What they do: Four Paws advocate for the improvement of legal standards surrounding the care of captive big cats and bears, as well as calling for bans on trophy hunting, canned lion hunting, and the use of wild animals as circus performers. They do this by liaising with governments around the world to update animal welfare legislation, and by calling for transparency among the companies involved in these activities. Their 12 sanctuaries now care for a vast variety of abused and abandoned animals worldwide, as well as animals that have been rescued from disaster and conflict zones. 

What they’ve achieved: In 2020, Four Paws rescued and looked after 135 big cats. The LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary (the largest of their big cat sanctuaries) now cares for over 100 big cats in an area consisting of 1,250 hectares. In 2020, their disaster relief team, which includes vets, rescuers, and disaster management experts, saved 10,000 animals from tsunami and drought situations in Kenya, Sri Lanka, Australia, and Zimbabwe and provided over 10 tonnes of food for animals in need. Today, Four Paws has offices around the world, including the UK, Australia, South Africa, and the USA as well as sanctuaries in 11 countries

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Four Paws through their website or show your support by signing any one of their campaign petitions. You can also help raise awareness of the work of Four Paws charity and support them financially by purchasing items from their online shop

The Wild Animal Sanctuary: The World’s Largest Sanctuary For Rescued Carnivores

The Wild Animal Sanctuary was established in 1980 by Pat Craig after he rescued a jaguar cub outside of his family’s home in Boulder, Colorado. The sanctuary now covers over 10,500 acres of land in order to care for lions, tigers, and other carnivores that the charity has rescued from abusive and controlling environments. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: The Wild Animal Sanctuary holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 4-star rating from Charity Navigator.

“To prevent and alleviate cruelty to animals which are abandoned or were subject to deprivation or neglect, by providing care and boarding.”

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

What they do: The Wild Animal Sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing wild carnivores kept in unsuitable conditions and abusive environments in the United States. The sanctuary also has an education center which is used to educate visitors on the need for sanctuaries like theirs and offers information on how to end the captive wildlife crisis. Over the years, the charity has built 120 species-specific enclosures to house rescued carnivores including African lions, lynx, bobcats, and tigers. They also respond to calls to rescue large carnivores living in backyards, apartments, garages, and other horrific situations across the US.

What they’ve achieved: The Wild Animal Sanctuary is now home to over 600 rehabilitated carnivores, including 115 tigers and over 70 lions, making it the largest carnivore sanctuary in the world. The sanctuary attracts and educates 170,000 visitors annually. Since 1980, the charity has also responded to over 1,000 requests from private citizens and government agencies to rescue carnivores kept illegally or in abusive circumstances. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Wild Animal Sanctuary through their website. You can also adopt one of their animals or volunteer your time to help care for the carnivores at their sanctuary.

Wildcats Conservation Alliance: Saving Wild Tigers And Amur Leopards For Future Generations

The Wild Cats Conservation Alliance is an initiative set up by the Zoological Society of London and Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation (DWF) in 2018. The charity was formed as a merger between two well-respected wildlife funding programs; the Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA) and 21st Century Tiger. Today, the charity funds specific scientific-based cat conservation projects, focusing on the protection of Amur leopards, the Sumatran tiger, and the Amur tiger.

Their impact and transparency ratings: According to their financial report, Wildcats Conservation Alliance spent 97% of donations on conservation projects, thanks to the donations and support of the Zoological Society of London and the Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation. 3% of their income went towards overheads to the Zoological Society of London. 

“Working towards a world where tigers and Amur Leopards are safe and thriving in the wild.”

Wildcats Conservation Alliance

What they do: Wildcats Conservation Alliance works with members of the public, zoological societies, and businesses to raise funds for Amur leopard and tiger conservation efforts across multiple countries including Cambodia, China, Bangladesh, and Thailand. They also run anti-poaching initiatives to combat the poaching of these big cats as well as their prey items, and work with local communities to mitigate wildlife-human conflict and inspire individuals to embrace positive change.

What they’ve achieved: In 2019, Wildcats Conservation Alliance patrolled 152,558km of Amur leopard and tiger habitat, removing snares and apprehending poaching efforts. In one year, the number of detected snares fell by 31% in the five protected areas of Russia, which shows the effectiveness of these patrols. In 2019, Wildcat Conservation Alliance engaged 35,583 individuals from local communities through their conservation education programs. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Wildcat Conservation Alliance through their website. Alternatively, you can set up a fundraising event or take part in a challenge event to raise money for the charity. Or you can purchase items from their online shop where 100% of the profits go directly into conservation work for Amur leopards and tigers.

Born Free Foundation: Protect them. Protect Us

The Born Free Foundation was founded by Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers in 1984. Both Virginia and Bill were actors who starred in a conservation film alongside an elephant calf named Pole Pole. In 1969, Pole Pole was gifted to the London Zoo however Bill and Virginia were horrified at the distressed state she was in when they visited her. They immediately campaigned to give the young elephant a better life but she sadly died. This experience inspired the launch of Zoo Check which eventually became the Born Free Foundation. Today, Born Free is an international charity that works to protect and conserve wild and captive animals in all corners of the globe, including tigers, leopards, and lions.

Their impact and transparency ratings: The American branch of the Born Free Foundation holds the Gold Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 3-star rating from Charity Navigator. According to their financial report, Born Free Foundation spent 59% of its income on conservation efforts and 33.3% on raising funds.

“Ensuring all wild animals are treated with compassion and respect and are able to live their lives according to their needs.”

Born Free Foundation

What they do: Born Free Foundation works with local communities around the globe to mitigate human-animal conflict. In addition, they manage 12 sanctuaries for rescued wild animals that were previously living in unsuitable and abusive captive environments, including the Bannerghatta Tiger Sanctuary in India, and the Shamwari Big Cat Sanctuary in East Cape, Africa. They also run regular campaigns to end the use of animals in the entertainment industry and run center-based and community-engaging education programs for school children in Kenya, South Africa, and Ethiopia, to inspire a love of conservation. 

What they’ve achieved: Today, Born Free Foundation runs conservation initiatives, education outreach programs, and animal sanctuaries in 20 countries around the world. In 2019, they built 9 predator-proof enclosures to protect 2,637 livestock animals across Amboseli National Park in Kenya, where human-lion conflict is rife. In total, Born Free has erected 275 perimeters which have resulted in 0 lion attacks and has allowed the local lion population to increase with no retaliation from local communities. Since opening in 2009, their Ethiopian Rescue Centre has rescued over 250 captive wild animals, including 9 cheetah cubs seized from illegal wildlife traders in Eastern Ethiopia. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to the Born Free Foundation through their website. You can also support the charity by adopting an animal or by purchasing items from their online shop

Carolina Tiger Rescue: Saving And Protecting Wild Cats In Captivity

Carolina Tiger Rescue was founded in 1973 by Dr. Michael Bleyman, a professor of zoology genetics, biochemistry, and nutrition at the University of North Carolina. The sanctuary was set up as a captive breeding facility for wild cats and other carnivores that were endangered or living in unsuitable captive environments. Today, the 55-acre site is home to ten species of animals, including caracals, ocelots, and servals, that have been rescued or adopted. 

Their impact and transparency ratings: Carolina Tiger Rescue holds the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, as well as a 100% encompass rating for finance and accountability from Charity Navigator

“Working towards a day when wild cats are living in their natural habitat and are not exploited by humans.”

Carolina Tiger Rescue

What they do: Carolina Tiger Rescue saves wild cats around the country and cares for them at their sanctuary in Pittsboro, North Carolina. They also educate the public on the behavior and needs of these animals through private tours of the sanctuary and through the kids education section of their website. In addition, Carolina Tiger Rescue advocates for the end of illegal wildlife trafficking by working with local legislators and like-minded conservation organizations, and other big cat sanctuaries across America. 

What they’ve achieved: In May 2021, Carolina Tiger Rescue (alongside the US Department of Justice and other sanctuaries) executed the rescue of 68 endangered big cats from the Tiger King Park in Oklahoma, due to regular Endangered Species Act violations by the establishment. The charity also runs regular events, including their Black Tie and Tails Ball which raised $83,325 in 2020 for the animals in their care. Public donations in 2019, helped the charity to rescue 7 new servals from an illegal backyard breeder who kept the cats in RV trailers with litter boxes overflowing with feces and urine. 

Ways to contribute: You can donate directly to Carolina Tiger Rescue through their website. There are also plenty of volunteering opportunities at the sanctuary or you can get your kid to join one of their summer camps to care for the animals, with all payments going directly to the care of the animals.

How Can You Select the Best Charities to Support?

The charities on the list are, we deem, the best charities for big cats. However, you may have a particular charity you want to support. Let’s look at what you can do to ensure your contribution has the most significant impact.

  • Check out the charity website. Charities that are worthy of your donations are transparent in their mission and their figures. Familiarise yourself with their history, mission, and values. Their website usually is the best place to start.
  • Identify the charity’s mission. Without a goal, the charity is likely to fail. If the charity’s mission isn’t clear, it’s probably worth looking for a charity that does have a clear mission. 
  • Check if the charity has measurable goals. An effective charity has clear goals. You want to know your donation will help the charity reach its goals. But if it doesn’t have targets, it’s likely to fail or squander your gift. The charity should be able to account for its spending and supply evidence of the work they do.
  • Assess the successes or goals the charity has achieved. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it kept missing its targets. In the same way, charities are like this too. If no one is assessing the progress a charity makes in reaching its targets, the chances are not making positive change.
  • Check the charity’s financials and stats. Trustworthy organizations will publish financial statements and reports each year. Some might be exempt from having to do so, but they should be able to provide them to public members who are interested in donating.
  • Locate sources who work with or benefit from the charity. Word of mouth and first-hand experience of a charity’s work lets you know the charity’s quality. If you’re able to do so, check out the charity for yourself or speak to someone familiar with it. This way, your donation will go to the right place. 

How Can You Best Support These Charities?

After you’ve made your decision, it’s time for you to decide on how you’d like to help the charities you’ve chosen. Check how you can help – each charity runs specific programs that have unique aims. Find out what the aim of such programs is and whether they are right for you. 

Here are a few ways you can help your chosen charity:

  • Donate money. You can find donation pages on the website of most charities. Your donation can be a one-time payment, or you can set it to be deducted regularly at different intervals. You can mostly pay via credit card, but some charities also take PayPal or Bitcoin payments.
  • Buy their official merchandise. The charities can also raise money by selling merchandise. So, you can support them by buying the mugs, shirts, caps, pens, pencils, and any other such items they may be selling. Ideally, you should buy as much as you can to share and spread the word about the charity’s activities.
  • Donate a percentage of your online purchases. If you bought anything on sites like Amazon lately, you’d find a prompt asking you to donate to your favorite charities through their AmazonSmile program. You can set this up so that your chosen charities will get a fraction of your online purchases.
  • Engage in volunteer work. As you’ve seen from our descriptions above, some charities engage in a lot of local and grassroots programs. You can help by taking on and organizing the program in your local area.
  • Help their fundraising efforts. You can spread the word about the charity in your workplace, school, church, etc., and hold creative fundraising drives on social media or offline within your small circles.
  • Share their stories. Most charities have compelling stories that you can share with your audience to attract more people to the cause.

Final Thoughts

Now it is just up to you to select the charity that resonates most with you. And whichever charity you end up choosing and contributing to, we are sure that they will immensely appreciate your support. Hopefully, the information within this article has made this selection process a bit easier for you to support charities dedicated to big cats – based on the causes that matter most to you.

Stay impactful,



PS: Finally, I want to leave you with a thought-provoking TED talk from Dan Pallotta, a leading philanthropic activist and fundraiser, about what is wrong with the way we think about charities – and what we can do about it:

Sources

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