National Geographic and TOMS Partner to Promote Awareness of Big Cats

National Geographic, one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations, and TOMS, the One for One® shoes and accessories company, have partnered to support National Geographic’s big cats conservation efforts. Big cats (lions, tigers, cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, and other big cats) in the wild are disappearing at an alarming rate and may disappear altogether within our lifetime. Africa’s Lion Population Has declined 90% in the last 75 years,  Cheetahs have disappeared from more than 75% of their range, and there are more Tigers in captivity than there are in the Wild.

Snow Leopard. Photograph by Michael Nichols

Snow Leopard. Photograph by Michael Nichols

Big cats worldwide are all under threat—for many populations, local extinctions are imminent. As few as 3,000 tigers, 7,500 snow leopards, 10,000 cheetahs and 30,000 lions likely remain in the wild. More humans populate the planet than ever before, encroaching further and further into previously natural areas. When human and big cat populations collide, the big cats typically lose. Dwindling big cat populations in the face of rapid human expansion have led us to a critical time in the history of these species. Before we can reach a natural balance and look to restoring lost wild lands for big cats, we must first stop the rapid decline of these ecologically important top predators from their natural habitats. The Big Cats Initiative seeks and funds programs to save these majestic animals in their natural habitats.

In response, National Geographic, with filmmakers, conservationists, and Explorers-in-Residence Dereck and Beverly Joubert, launched the Big Cats Initiative, in 2009, a comprehensive program that supports on-the-ground conservation and education projects combined with an accompanying Cause an Uproar global public-awareness campaign designed to reverse this decline through on-the-ground conservation and education projects.

The threats of wire-snare poaching, trophy hunting, and illegal bush-meat trade are destroying populations of lions and other big cats. The Big Cats Initiative grantees combat these threats on the ground in Africa, Asia, and other areas with large populations of big cats under the threat of extinction. Their activities include: team patrols to prevent lion snaring, testing lion carcasses for signs of poison, anti-poaching team patrols and medical treatment for snared lions.

Vatari, anti-poaching patrol member, showing animal snare, Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda

Vatari, anti-poaching patrol member, showing animal snare, Parc National des Volcans, Rwanda. Photography by Gerry Ellis/Linden Pictures

Wire poaching snares set for the commercial bush-meat trade can frequently injure or kill lions that accidentally set the snares off. The Lion Anti-Snaring Team targets areas of high risk or use by lions and studies snaring patterns. The team tranquilizes snared lions and gives them medical treatment before releasing them. The team’s actions have rescued a large part of the local lion population from serious injury or death.

A major cause of big cat decline is retaliatory killing, which occurs when farmers and herders take revenge on big cats for attacking their livestock. In recent years, the big cats’ natural prey species have vanished. Without enough native prey to survive, the big cats turn to livestock—especially unprotected livestock—for food. Big Cats Initiative grantees are working to promote coexistence between local pastoralists and big cats by reducing the amount of human-wildlife conflict with these activities: training local villagers to be conflict officers, building and improving protective livestock corrals, using tourism as an incentive to raise income and offset livestock losses, placing tracking collars on big cats that work as a warning system for villagers, using guard dogs to protect livestock herds and relocating problem animals from conflict areas

photograph by Jonathan Torgovnik

The Warrior Watch is the first program in northern Kenya to actively involve warriors in wildlife conservation. The overall goal of Warrior Watch is to promote human–predator coexistence, reduce human–wildlife conflict, build capacity, and increase awareness of the importance of wildlife to the local area by engaging Samburu men in the process. photograph by Jonathan Torgovnik

Relatively few people in farming or herding communities around the world value the presence of carnivore species, but the successful conservation of big cats depends on the cooperation of these communities. Big Cats Initiative grantees help communities gain an increased understanding and appreciation of carnivore species. They also promote the use of sustainable management practices, including nonlethal carnivore control, to facilitate coexistence. Their activities on the ground include: conservation workshops, big cat movie nights and education and medical care for children and adults

National Geographic collaborates with multiple local and international NGOs, corporations, local community groups, and individuals on this effort. Partners include the African People and Wildlife Fund, the Anne Kent Taylor Fund, Cheetah Conservation Fund, Duke University, Ewaso Lions Project, the Global Tiger Initiative, Great Plains Conservation, Oxford University’s WildCRU, Panthera Ruaha Carnivore Project, and Zambia Carnivores Program, among others.

The new special-edition line with TOMS has been created to promote awareness of this critical issue. Together, they will develop the TOMS and National Geographic Big Cats Collection, a special-edition line of footwear, sunglasses and a backpack inspired by National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative. Each design in the TOMS and National Geographic Big Cats Collection will feature National Geographic branding and imagery from the Society’s image archive. (National Geographic’s net proceeds support its nonprofit work in conservation, exploration, education and cultural preservation.) The collection will be available this fall at TOMS retail locations,

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Our Big Cats Initiative is one of the cornerstones of National Geographic’s work in animal conservation and wildlife protection,” said Krista Newberry, senior vice president of Licensing, North America, for National Geographic. “We are pleased to partner with TOMS to raise awareness of big cats and to further our commitment to protecting these majestic creatures for generations to come.”

The story of TOMS remains one of the most inspirational told. In 2006, American traveler Blake Mycoskie befriended children in a village in Argentina and found they had no shoes to protect their feet. Wanting to help, he created TOMS, a company that would match every pair of shoes purchased with a pair of new shoes given to a child in need. One for One®.

Realizing that One for One could serve other global needs, Blake launched TOMS Eyewear in 2011 to help restore sight to persons in need with every purchase of sunglasses and optical frames. In 2014, TOMS Roasting Co. launched with the mission to provide clean water to developing communities with the purchase of premium coffee.

The most recent TOMS give is tied into the TOMS Bag Collection, which launched in early 2015 and helps to provide safe births to mothers and babies in need through skilled birth attendant training and birth kits.

I am excited to announce our partnership with National Geographic as part of the TOMS Animal Initiative. It’s been a dream of mine to work with big cats and this incredible organization. I look forward to sharing the new collection and continuing our journey together to drive awareness,” said Heather Mycoskie, TOMS chief animal lover.

To find out more about the Big Cats Initiative’s work to stop the decline of lions, leopards, tigers and other big cats, visit